Sunday, October 18, 2015

Artist Interview: ROB BURNS by Dave Wolff

Interview with ROB BURNS

You are an inker for William Shatner’s graphic novel Quest For Tomorrow. Issue #2 of this novel which you inked for has sold well and the next two issues have yet to be released. Describe how you got the inking job for the series?
I started by sending my portfolio to all the independent comic companies and small companies. I ended up getting an email from Darren Davis, the editor for Blue Water. He asked me to send him some of my pencils and inks. After that he asked if I had ever done any sequential art and asked if I could do a one page piece of any subject and tell a story without dialogue. I ended up doing a page with Galactus and Thanos and he seemed to like it. I was sent a couple pages of the pencils to see my style of inks on someone else's work and couple days later I was told I had the job. I was originally just inking issues #3 and #4 but the original inker dropped out before he completed issue #2, so I ended up inking it after I finished #4.

How many independent comic companies did you contact before you heard back from Darren Davis?
I think I ended up sending my portfolio to around twenty or so companies. I am happy I was contacted by Blue Water. I worked on five books with them (two have been published) and I have gotten a lot of exposure from it. My books have been seen all over the world due to CNN and FOX News coverage. I have received a lot of work since then doing commission pieces.

What is sequential art and how experienced are you at it? In what ways are you developing your sequential art for when you design comic storylines?
Sequential art is basically what a comic book is. You tell the story through the panels, like a storyboard for a movie. I am okay at it and always getting better. As of now I have put a hold on my sequential art, but when I was doing it I just read the script a few times and tried to picture it as a movie, did a quick outline then started on my panels.

How often are you currently doing commission pieces? Are people generally satisfied with your interpretation of their ideas? Are there any commission pieces you consider the finest of the bunch?
I usually do three to four pieces a month. I have yet had a complaint on any of them. Batman are always my favorites to do.

How much material have you collected for your portfolio since you started compiling it? Do you have an internet site where people can view your work?
I have great deal of material. I have all the pages from the books I have done, plus countless personal pieces and copies of the commission pieces I have done. I have a Facebook page with my art but I haven’t updated it in a while.

Is Blue Water among the more well-known independent comic companies around? How long have they been publishing? Are the titles you mentioned are being published by Blue Water among your favorites? How would you describe their publications in terms of artwork and storylines?
Blue Water is pretty big for an indie company. They have over fifteen titles including The Misadventures Of Adam West, 10th Muse, and a Vincent Price horror series. They started in 2007. My favorite title they have is Insane Jane...artwork is amazing. They have a handful of series...but the do mostly bio comics

More than a few people I interviewed are fans of Vincent Price. Have you watched any of his movies, or movies of other horror icons for that matter? What contributions do you think they have made to horror cinema?
I am a huge classic horror fan. I love all the Vincent Price, Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing movies. House On Haunted Hill, The Flesh And Fiends, From A Whisper To A Scream, and probably my most favorite is House Of The Long Shadows. Horror movies today cannot compare to the old movies...the classics are the best ones. Now it’s all about gore

Which of the books that you worked on have been published by Blue Water? How much exposure has your work gotten from CNN and Fox? Were you ever interviewed for either of those channels?
So far Quest For Tomorrow #2 and Political Power: Herman Cain. All the other books I have worked on are still waiting to be colored. I got a lot of work from the news coverage. I was never interviewed by CNN or FOX. I was contacted by a local news channel but the interview never happened due to my schedule.

Shed some more light on Political Power: Herman Cain? What’s the main thrust of this novel?
It was a really weird job. I inked the book and it took me about a week. I haven’t even seen the issue except in digital bits.

What were the reasons you chose Galactus and Thanos to base your story on? Were these favorite characters of yours?
I think I chose Galactus and Thanos because at the time I was tired of drawing superheroes and I wanted to try the villains. I am a huge Batman fan and it is mainly because of the Joker; a hero is nothing without the villain. When I sat down and decided to do my sequential page I decided I wanted to go with a Marvel villain, and I came up with the idea to use the two biggest and baddest.

What did Darren Davis like about your tale featuring Galactus and Thanos? What is the plotline of said story?
He loved it; the story was Galactus was just cruising through space devouring planets. He stumbles upon Thanos and decides to pick a fight.

What exactly did Davis love about your fiction about Galactus and Thanos, between the storyline, artwork and dialogue? How does the battle between those two supervillains turn out in the end?

He liked that I told so much of a story in just three panels. The battle ends when Galactus eats the planet along with Thanos!

It’s common among comic fandom to consider which superhero or super villain would prevail in a confrontation. Before composing your short fiction with Galactus and Thanos, had you often wondered which of them would defeat the other?

I knew from Infinity Gauntlet that Thanos would have the upper hand, but I know without the gauntlet he would have no chance.

How would you describe the storyline or Quest For Tomorrow for those who haven’t read it yet?
Jim Endicott is thrown into new worlds on his sixteenth birthday. He is being hunted in another dimension and he is forced to begin a hunt of his own. A quest for his own tomorrow.

Can you tell the readers anything about Jim Endicott’s character and experiences from what you have read so far?
I know little about Jim Endicott. I did inking so the story was already laid out for me. The dialogue I didn’t get to see until I got my copies of the book. I haven’t fully read the story yet. I had to order a copy of the first issue so I could get the beginning of the story, but I am waiting for the final two issues to come out so I can get the full story.

How easily were you able to take up the narrative of Jim Endicott after it had gotten underway?
It was pretty easy; the penciler was pretty good. I had to do some corrections as far as keeping continuity.

How long have you been working for Blue Water since you inked for Quest For Tomorrow?

I started in 2013 doing work on Quest For Tomorrow. Since then I worked on a political book about Herman Cain (which I chose because the pencils were awesome) and I did a couple other projects for them. I am still in contact with Blue Water and often get offered new books, but due to my work schedule and my family I have passed on them, but if the right one comes along I will take it. Right now I am helping them find new talent and helping unknown artists get some exposure.

Have you ever met William Shatner in person while helping promote Quest For Tomorrow? Do you do any promo work for the comic at conventions?
I haven't met Shatner in person. All of his work on the book was done before I was brought on board. I have done a few conventions and some signings at local comic shops.

Were these local conventions you were promoting the Quest For Tomorrow, or have some of them been out of state? Which comic shops have you appeared at for in-store signings?
I have only done local cons so far. Hopefully I will get to do others. The main comic shop I deal with is one called Epikos. They are awesome. They let me come in and sign, and they sell my books and art. They even have some of my art hanging up throughout the store.

Is Epikos one of the local stores near you? What material do they provide for their target buyers? Do you make many convention appearances each year? How often are conventions held near you?
They are a store I used to go to two to three times a week, but I moved a few years back so I only get to visit about once a month. They have everything: comics, board games, Magic The Gathering and video games. I try to make at least one a year. I have tons of conventions within an hour or 2 from me. Nashville and Atlanta have the Wizard Cons. Tons of celebs.

What comic publications did you read when young, and what gave you the inspiration to work in the comic field?
I read mostly Batman and X-Men when I was young. I loved the Jim Stalin and Jim Aparo Batman stories. I fell in love with the Rob Liefeld New Mutants, and the Todd McFarlane Spidey books and the Jim Lee X-Men. I started going to a local comic shop when I was around 13, and I became hooked on comics and ended up spending all my free time and all of my summers there. The owner of the shop was a guy named Teddy Whittenbarger and he was a comic artist, I would go in his store and check out the books and help him sort books and help him with anything he needed and he started to show me how to do sequential art. He gave me pointers on drawing and page layout. He showed me a lot about inking, all of the secrets that I still use today. I say without the experience of the little shop called Comic World and the countless hours I spent there with my friend Ted learning the art of comics, I would never have found this awesome world.

Teddy Whittenbarger is another interviewee you can read about here on Cerebral Agony’s blog. What pointers did he give you that proved beneficial to you?
He introduced me to inking and taught me how to ink with a brush instead of a pen. I still ink mostly by brush using the techniques he showed me. Still use the same ink he recommended, Higgins Black Magic Ink. I also use Pentel Brush Pens.

You mentioned the Joker from the Batman series earlier; what actor has done the best job portraying him in your view?
I like Heath Ledger, but when I read any story with the Joker in it I hear Jack Nicholson’s voice. Jack is my favorite Joker.

When did you become a fan of Batman? In which era was Starlin and Aparo active and why do you relate to their stories?

I think the first Batman issue I ever bought was Batman #426 the first part of Death In The Family. I was hooked before I finished the issue. I like the Starlin/Aparo stories because they are dark, Batman doesn’t always win, and sometimes the heroes die. Their stories make me think about the Keaton Batman, which is my Batman.

How important do you think it is to have storylines such as Starlin and Aparo devised for the Batman universe?
I think they are important. Readers like variety and that’s why so many artists have done Batman. In the 60s they had the toned down kid version of Batman, like the Batman TV show, the 70's had Marshall Rogers and Neal Adams and they made Batman a little edgier. But the 80's had Frank Miller and Starlin/Aparo which brought the darker side of Batman. George Perez and Denny O'Neil did some awesome Batman work.

On the subject of villains in the Batman universe, what did you think of the Knightfall storyline featuring Bane?
In what ways do you think adding villains like Bane added variety to the Batman universe? What did you most appreciate about the X-Men and Spider Man comics you read most avidly?
I have a trade paperback of the full story and I have read it about eight to nine times. Before Bane came along there were a few decent villains (in my opinion). The Joker, Mad Hatter, and Scarecrow were the best. Now after Bain you have a whole slew of new evil doers. I loved the insane battles; anytime Wolverine had a fight it was epic.

Do the film versions of X-Men and Spider Man generally remain faithful to the comics you most remember reading?
The only ones that come close to the comics are the Amazing Spiderman movies... and X-men First Class and Days of Futures Past... all the other movie versions were way off from the comics.

You mentioned something about digital comics. Do you have an opinion about comic s released in digital format? Between digital and printed, which format do you prefer and why?
All my comics that I have worked on are in digital and print format... I like digital for the fact I am always on the go and I have over 3,000 comics on my phone to read... but nothing beats the printed version in your hands.

Are there any new projects you are currently involved in, that you want to briefly mention?
I am working on a project of my own; right now I can’t give any hints. But it’s gonna be awesome and hopefully out this year.

Rob Burns on Facebook

-Dave Wolff

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