Comic Books have been around for decades, but recent years have seen a resurgence in the art form. While Marvel is rolling out blockbusters based on beloved comic book heroes, comic book shops are popping up everywhere and collectors are rejoicing.
Cleveland is fortunate enough to have an incredibly talented comic artist drawing up a storm in our happy little city. John Greiner, more commonly known as John G., is the artist behind the Shiner Comics and the artwork for Melt Bar & Grilled, Cleveland Cinemas, Scene Magazine and much, much more. We hung out with John to find out if he prefers pizza to tacos and what goes into creating and printing an epic Comic Book adventure.
I’ve drawn ever since I was a kid. I used to imitate Vincent Van Gogh with crayons when I was just a pup. I’ve been drawing professionally for a little over a decade.
One of the first comics I bought on my own was issue #268 of The Uncanny X-Men. It’s just this stand-alone flashback story about Wolverine and Captain America fighting ninjas in WWII. It was drawn by Jim Lee, and it blew my mind.
I sketch everything in pencil, really rough, and refine it until it’s what I want. Then I use a brush and ink, Micron pens and white-out. It can get kinda messy but I’m way cleaner than I used to be, I used to splatter everything with a toothbrush to add grit and texture to everything. I assemble and color everything in photoshop.
The cover is the point of entry for every reader. It might be the most important part. It’s a sales pitch and work of art; it needs to be eye-catching feat of design but also at the very least give some idea of the tone of the comic, if not show off a little of what the comic is about. I mean, if the rest of the comic isn’t good then having a compelling cover is a giant bummer because it ultimately let you down.
I think doing posters for bands has similar sensibilities. You’ve got one chance to hook someone into your world and go to the show or buy your comic- but if you do a good enough job, that person will cherish that comic or steal that poster off the venue’s wall and keep it forever.
I always, always, always make a mock-up using scrap paper just to get a physical, tangible artifact that I can look at and feel and get some idea of the weight of what I’m trying to do. These are not sacred at all, and it’s awesome to have a little disposable version of what I’m trying to do that I can write on, make notes and just generally beat to a pulp. Then it’s a matter of reverse engineering the final product; step by step, page by page.
Oddly enough, I’m starting a new one right now, so I’m kind of in the middle of this process. The first step is to start a new sketchbook where I brainstorm as many ideas as I can and just throw it all down without really worrying about it being perfect or even making sense. The idea is that “there are no bad ideas in the writer’s room” (no idea where I heard that). Then you start to pull on a thread and see where it goes, try and see the big picture and then where the pieces fit. Then refine it until you’re ready to go, then go.
I resize and format everything depending on what the project is. I almost exclusively use Photoshop to color and assemble things like additional layers. Honestly, I try to do as much by hand as I can, so that the only thing left to do is color. Sometimes I’ll letter the comic on a separate piece of paper, but I still do it by hand. For the past few years I’ve really simplified my coloring process too, just flat colors with a layer of shadows and one for highlights. Then sometimes I will do what’s called a “color hold,” where you change the line art from black to a color, but even that I keep to a minimum.
Well, that’s a question I could spend the rest of my life answering and still not feel satisfied I answered with any authority. However, I think in the past couple decades it’s gotten easier and easier to go from raw idea to finished, printed product. It’s just a matter of choosing how you’re going to create and print your comic and what’s best for the story you’re telling.
The comic book community appears to be growing very very fast. I don’t have any stats to back this up, but in the past ten years I feel like there are more people interested and involved than ever. It’s also been very encouraging to get to see an entire generation of women really assert themselves on the comic shop shelves and at conventions. I hope that continues to evolve and this wave of inclusiveness just becomes the status quo.
My favorite comic artist is Mike Mignola. He’s an incredible illustrator and storyteller. He created Hellboy, which basically launched a huge sprawling world of weird horror folktales. His career has definitely been something that I’ve looked up to and been a good model to aspire to.
I’m ramping up a new project, and I did a deep dive into three things for inspiration: Mike Mignola’s Amazing Screw-On Head and Other Curious Objects, Jamie Hewlett and Alan Martin’s Tank Girl and Jack Kirby’s Kamandi. All of them have this Gonzo, flying-by-the-seat-of-your-pants vibe, and feel like they were just making them up as they were going along. I like that energy a lot, and even though I can’t help myself from thinking of the big picture, I’m more inspired by that approach rather than just the art or even the stories of those comics.
This question is obviously a trap and my answer will define how I am perceived by you and your readers forever, potentially even after I’m long gone. I’m going to side with pizza. I love tacos, but when I’m up against a deadline, the chips are down and my back is to the wall… I pick up my phone and someone brings a pizza to my front door. It helps me know everything’s going to be alright.
I’ve always loved both, but I have two cats: one big goofy Tuxedo dude named Rider and a little all black runt named Chalita. Recently I’ve had the occasion to spend a bunch of time with a little scruff-buddy dog and I’ve gotten really attached to him!
Anyway, I think my cats are going to play a heavy role in this new project I’m working on. You’ll be the first to know when I get that show on the road!
John co-founded the award winning Genghis Con and is known for his rustbelt horror series The Lake Erie Monster. Issue 6 of The Lake Erie Monster was just released, and we’re stoked to have printed the Comic. It’s truly a treat, and we can’t wait for everyone to get their hands on it.
We can help you create a Comic Book adventure of your own! Printed with the highest quality offset printing in vivid full color, the final chapter of your epic adventure will be printed with care.