We hope you’ve enjoyed reading this interview with Scott Chantler, and we’re pleased to be bringing you this final installment. When we left our hero, he was discussing the difference between the comic and animated series . . .
Are limited series like “Tek Jansen” more fun to draw (since the characters stay fresh), or do they present their own challenges? I’ve heard writers say that writing characters gets easier when the writer starts to feel like he/she “knows” the character (i.e. when the creation takes on a sort of life of its own); does the same hold true for drawing them?
I like stories that have definite endings–miniseries, or graphic novels. Series like SUPERMAN or SPIDER-MAN that have been ongoing for decades inevitably fall into the trap of repeating themselves, and never coming to any kind of meaningful close. If you read all several hundred issues of SPIDER-MAN, they don’t make any sense as a story–it’s just an endless loop, with the character being reinvented every few years. It’s much nicer to actually finish a project now and then, rather than just abandon it to a new creative team.
That said, it *is* nice to be in the middle of a long project, and have a feel for the characters. I know Tek Jansen a lot better now than when I started.
Are there any particular ways in which “Tek’s” character traits are expressed in your art?
I try to draw Tek as if he were the most confident man in the universe. This is a character who’s convinced he’s right about everything. I try to put that cockiness and arrogance across in every frame. Also, Tek never smiles–this is the very first note I ever got from Stephen. My audition piece was a shot of Tek smirking and holding a laser pistol, and it came back with the note “Tek doesn’t smile.” He’s a funny character to us, but he has no sense of humour about *himself.* I think of him as sort of “Clint Eastwood in space.”
Do you have any other insight into the illustration process that the Colbert fans might enjoy hearing about? For instance, if you psych yourself up at the beginning of each day by belting out the lyrics to the “Tek Jansen” theme song, I’m sure the fans (and David Javerbaum) would love to know it . . .
You’re joking, but I actually find myself humming the theme song sometimes when I’m at the drawing table. I’ve watched all of the animated bits several times over, of course, and that tune is just very catchy.
Finally, I have a feeling that the “Tek Jansen Adventures” may be the first comic book some of these fans have ever purchased. Assuming that you inspire them to look into other, non-Colbert comics, are there any that you have particularly loved and might particularly recommend? As an illustrator, are there other illustrators you have admired or been inspired by and might like to point out to newcomers to the comic book world?
The important thing to remember is that comics are a medium, not a genre. Although the medium has long been associated with superheroes, the last twenty years or so has produced a plethora of outstanding work in every genre, from humour to autobiography to history to romance, and everything in between. So you don’t need to be into men punching each other in their underwear–there’s something out there for every taste. And they aren’t even as hard to find as they used to be–all of the major bookstore chains now have graphic novel sections, which seem to get better stocked every year. And online shopping makes it possible to get a hold of virtually anything.
For anyone interested in an fun all-ages read, I’d recommend Jeff Smith’s BONE series, recently reprinted in colour by Scholastic Books. It’s probably my favourite comic, ever. For anyone looking for something a little more adult, I’d suggest any of Will Eisner’s graphic novels, particularly A CONTRACT WITH GOD. Eisner is the father of the modern graphic novel, and possibly the most important writer/artist in the history of the medium. Someone who likes crime stories, or history, or just a chillingly good read, should check out Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell’s FROM HELL, which is much, much better and more sophisticated than the crappy Hollywood movie that was made from it. And anyone interested in just what the heck comics are all about and what they’re capable of should read Scott McCloud’s UNDERSTANDING COMICS, a charming and intellectual non-fictional examination of the medium itself, in comics form.
Those are some of my faves, but like I say–there’s something out there for everyone. If people like the TEK series (or even if they don’t) they should be able to find something else that they’ll enjoy with a little bit of looking.
Thanks again for this in-depth interview, Scott! For readers interested in knowing more about Scott and some of his other projects, be sure to check out this interview on the Colville’s Clubhouse site, Oni Press and www.scottchantler.com. Links to purchase his other books — Days Like This, Scandalous and Northwest Passage (1 and 2) — are also available from his website.