Doughnuts & Danger Zone With Jeff Stokely
As most of you know, I had the opportunity to sit down and chat with some pretty amazing comic book creators last month at San Diego Comic-Con. And one of these insanely talented individuals is one of my personal favorites: artist Jeff Stokely. We chatted art inspirations, perspective, upcoming projects, doughnuts and Kenny Loggins….read on.
Lauren – So, Jeff, the first thing that I want to discuss with you is your background in art. I was an art major so I always find it very interesting to see where people draw inspiration from and how they got started. Is this something that you always knew that you wanted to do? Did you have any formal training or are you self-taught?
Jeff Stokely – I did not go to school for art. I am primarily self-taught, but the extent of my artistic training, so to speak, would be a month of animation at CAL Arts, which is a month-long program. It allowed me to complete the program and figure out that I really didn’t want to be an animator. So….that’s part of where I get my flexible style, I think. Being able to make something emote – most animators have a more expressive range of emotions. But that’s really the extent of my formal training.
LE – It’s interesting…I find that a lot of comic book artists are self-taught and haven’t gone through “art school” or formal programs.
JS – Yeah – I mean, I’ve always wanted to do it, though. I’ve always loved comics. But I’ve always loved animation as well. So doing that program kind of gave me a much greater respect for animation….knowing how hard it is. I just realized, though, that comics is where I really do thrive – I do better with that medium of storytelling.
LE – So you knew from a fairly young age that comics were where you wanted to end up?
JS – Not immediately, of course. But there was an age when I really started to realize what comics were…and I was like, “You can get paid to do this?” So I just started doing it….drawing and sketching.
LE – Very cool. What were your favorite comics growing up? Were there any specific titles that really inspired you?
JS – My biggest influences…well, I loved Spider-Man growing up. I loved all of the regular titles. One of the first big breakthroughs for me though, was seeing Joe Madureira’s Battlechasers. I didn’t realize that comics could look like that. I saw it and thought, “I want to draw that.” So that definitely influenced me. A lot of the early Image books were fun and influential too.
LE – Have you been inspired by a lot of art outside of comics? Because you have a pretty unique style in the realm of comic illustrators.
JS – Oh, yeah! I love anime….all sorts of animation. There’s a sense of movement that they have that we don’t as illustrators. I read a lot of manga and Japanese comics…I read a lot of European comics….there’s just such a wide range there, I guess. I also love graffiti. I used to tag and all of that stuff. I mean it’s probably best that I don’t anymore. Ha! Comics have been a good outlet for that. Definitely.
LE – Nice. Well, it’s definitely interesting that you say all of that, though, because your art actually has a lot of movement. The anime inspiration makes a lot of sense. There is also an almost…retro quality to your work, too. Especially in Six Gun, I think.
JS – Yeah, that sort of…western vibe. And motion is something that is an oddly simple world-building technique. You just show someone’s hair blowing in the wind….some dust…it’s odd, almost subliminal. That’s why I like it.
LE – You’ve got a really solid grasp on perspective, too, which is something that I have always found difficult and something that not many people execute well. It completely eludes me..
JS – Yeah? I do feel like I just know perspective. I mean, if anyone reads or hears this, they’re gonna think I’m a total hack…but I don’t use any programs. I know how perspective works, so for the most part, I eyeball it. My Translucid covers – I never rule any of it out.
LE – I never like rulers when working on perspective because it seems to lose something….
JS – Yeah! Exactly. I remember seeing the making of Princess Mononoke…and Miyazaki is actually painting the background himself. Just painting the background, like no big deal…and they’re asking him why he’s painting it. He says, “The perspective doesn’t look right.” Like everything is lined up properly and it just doesn’t look right. It wasn’t organic. So, he literally puts two vanishing points in the spot where there shouldn’t be two. It’s a single point perspective shot. He makes two vanishing points. And you can’t tell because it’s a split second on film. I like stuff like that. It’s just more organic and it looks better.
LE – That’s extremely brilliant, but I’m not surprised because he’s a genius. So, I’ve discussed this in a few of my reviews recently, but it is truly exciting to see the direction that current comic book art is going in – I mean that is what always initially draws me to a new title. The work is so much more consistent throughout each issue…as opposed to the great detailed splash pages and smaller inconsistent frames we used to see. I feel like many of the newer comic artists do a better job making each frame seem like a beautiful little piece of art.
JS – Wow,yeah. I mean, you do still have to pick and choose your battles. I think it’s really obvious in my art. You’ll see pages where I use a lot of detail and put in the time and effort…but most of the time I try to do it so it’s relative to the story.
LE – Absolutely. Now, you said a while back that when you were working on 6GG that you were only getting about 2-4 days off a month. Is your schedule still crazy like that?
JS – Yeah..uh no. I got a break. At one point…well, I guess at six points because there were six issues, I would be working all month-long and then when I’d finish an issue, I’d get two days off. I mean, it had nothing to do with Boom! It was all me. I need two days off to just…die. I need to die, resurrect myself and I’ll be good to go. But I would be drawing 24/7 if I could. My physical well-being just won’t let me.
LE – So, if you were given the opportunity to reboot one of the most iconic comic book characters like Cameron Stewart just did with Batgirl, who would you choose and why?
JS – Can I choose a cartoon character instead?
LE – Sure!
JS – Maybe not super iconic either cuz I have a thing for underdogs, but I’ve always wanted to do a real crazy Heavy Metal Magazine style Pirates of Darkwater. Like…borderline post-apocolyptic stuff. So, like Waterworld, but with more mythology.
LE – Yeah, and with like….less sucking. Ha. No, really though, that is an amazing idea!
JS – Yeah, like just a one-shot graphic novel would be good.
LE – That would be awesome. So what would be your dream project or collaboration? Creator-wise?
JS – Well, I really want to get into writing my own work. I know that sounds really pompous…
LE – Yeah, you’re coming off kind of like a dick…ha! Just kidding. Go on.
JS – Right? “He only wants to work with himself”. But no, other writers that I would like to work with…Rick Remender. He knows that I want to work with him. Hopefully we’ll do something together someday. And anything else with Simon Spurrier. He knows I’ll do anything he writes.
LE – Well, we already know that you guys are a great collaboration, so….I approve. You’re welcome. Ha…ok. So, your Woods cover is gorgeous. What is next? What else do we have to look forward to from you?
JS – Well, I’m working on issue 4 of the Storyteller: Witches. Each issue is a different artist/team. It’s a really great opportunity because we’re adapting a script from the original television show that was locked in the vault with all of the Jim Henson stuff…and they never shot it…never filmed it or anything. And I’m basically doing what Ramon Perez did with Tale of Sand, but I have a one-shot, so it’s kind of nice. It’s one episode length and it was kind of me proving to Boom! that I can write a comic book script. So…I’m about halfway through that right now. And it’s easily some of my best work…I’m not saying that trying to sell it, but….
LE – Uh huh….uh huh….
JS – Ha! No, it’s just fun because I was able to write it and I was able to change some stuff around and make it work for the medium….for this format. I really got to play editor with my own project and so the flow is very much mine. Like the panel pacing – that is something that artists really get to revel in, I think. Having that kind of freedom. It is my script so I can add or remove panels and not worry about a writer getting upset. So yeah, I’m working on that right now and that’ll be out in December…my issue will be. The series (of 4) starts in September. And everyone else on that series is incredible. I’m really lucky to get to work with John Rauch. His color work is amazing so I’m really happy to finally collaborate with him.
LE – Exciting stuff!! Alright…lightning round. Ready?
JS – OK.
LE – Cake or Pie.
JS – Cake.
LE – Mmmm, no. Wrong.
JS – I don’t know why….there is no reason…wait! Can I choose doughnut?
LE – Yes!!! Ok, I accept doughnuts.
JS – Scratch my original answer from the record. It’s doughnuts.
LE – Yes. Much better. Fuck cake. Ok. Betty or Veronica?
JS – Veronica.
LE – Yes. Correct. Next: Thrashin’ or Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo?
JS – Breakin’ 2. Only because I am ashamedly not familiar with Thrashin’.
LE – What?!!! You really should be. Ok, our final question…theme song. If there was a song that played every time you walked into a room….what would it be.
JS – Uhhhh……that’s a tough one……Danger Zone!!! By Kenny Loggins!
LE – BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!! I am not disappointed in that at all!
JS – Easy. I just wanna walk in wearing one of those white blazers that Kenny Loggins wear with the sunglasses….so yeah. Danger Zone.
So, there you have it. Doughnuts and Danger Zone. Jeff does the cover art for Translucid, which came out this week (issue 5 of 6). His issue of the Storyteller: the Witches comes out in December, but the series itself begins in September. Also…..if you don’t already own Six Gun Gorilla (out in trade through Boom! Studios)….number one – you’re an asshole, go buy it. Number 2 – run don’t walk.