Friday, April 23, 2010


If you’re not buying the whole popcorn and Caro syrup bio, posted to the right, I’ll throw you a bone.  Here’s an interview I did a while back.  Are you sick of my self-promotion, yet.  Brother, I sure am.
The interview was conducted, via email, by Kevin Warzecha.   Despite saying some very nice things about me, at interview’s end, he seems a reasonable right-minded person.  I wrote the bio starting at “Lucas has been around a long time”.  I suppose he added the bit at the beginning, to make me seem less of a nut.
John Lucas:
Biography: John Lucas is an American comic book inker and penciller, whose style has been compared with that of Russ Heath and Jack Kirby. A prolific freelance contributor to both DC and Marvel Comics, Lucas has also produced a great deal of small press work, as well as ‘Valkyries’ (with Steve Moore) for 2000 AD. Lucas has been around for a long time.  His first work came just as the Black and White boom was going bust, with art for Caliber Press and Mojo Press.  This led to work on Starman 80pg giant and Will Eisner’s Spirit Adventures. He has since had a smattering of work at most of the major publishers. He has drawn Superman, Wolverine and a bunch of other stuff no one will ever hear of.  The last few years, John has been making his bones as an inker, with work Civil War: Frontline, Exterminators, Fear Agent, Wolverine Xmas Special and, most recently, Deadpool. Lucas currently lives in Ft. Worth, TX.
Interview Q & A:
#1: Did you wake up one day, and decide you wanted to be a comic book inker, just like someone wants to be a fireman, or a policeman, or Superman – or did the opportunity present itself to become part of the industry and you used it as an in to begin showing your work?
Actually, I never imagined being an inker.  It just kind of happened.   I had been knocking around comics as a penciller, for a while- picking up the odd job.   In fact I’d been pushing to ink my own stuff, but wasn’t allowed to.  A combination of my inks not being up to snuff and the assembly line demanding the work be pushed through.  Finally, I was given a back-up in detective comics- a thing called The Barker about circus freaks solving the murder of one of their own.  Since it was just a back-up, they let me do full art chores.  When I started turning in pages, Michael Wright, the assistant editor on the book, commented on my inks.  He said I could teach a tutorial.  Since my penciling career wasn’t, exactly, setting the world on fire, I started hunting inking gigs.  I really didn’t want to have to go back to working a day job. With the help of an agent buddy, I landed Generation M over at Marvel.
#2: Was there ever a project that you were in the running for, that you did not get but felt would have been the perfect forum to showcase your abilities? What was it and what most appealed to you about it?
Dan Didio talked to me about drawing Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew.  I would have murdered that.  Paul Levitz wanted the artist on the original book to do it, though.  So…
I love drawing cartoon animals.  My taste in comics runs strongly toward Golden and Silver Aged books.  Most of my artistic heroes are taking dirt naps.  So, even though Capt Carrot is a super hero comic, it takes place in an animal world.  It would have been an opportunity to work in one of the dead genres I love.  I’m a cartoonist at heart.  I love drawing broad expressive characters.
#3: If you were trapped on a desert island with one book only to translate into comic book form, but an unlimited supply of paper, pencils, pens, brushes and ink, what would your Magnum Opus be? 
My first impulse was Burroughs’ Mars books.  Along with Conan it was my first exposure to adventure fiction.  I love Conan, but John Carter has all the alien landscapes and creatures.  It would, probably, present a wider variety of things to draw.
Upon deeper reflection, Alice in Wonderland came to mind.  I’ve never read it, but the images are so deeply imbedded in our imaginations.   The fantastic characters, some of them animals, and the mean spirited humor would be a blast to draw.  The fact I’d be reading it for the first time adds to the appeal, too.  I’ll make sure to take it on all my travels.  Fingers crossed.
#4: What music would be playing while you crafted your masterpiece?
I’m so bad at desert island discs.  I worked at an indie record store in Austin TX for eight years and consider myself a recovering music nerd.  But even in my heavy duty record hound days, I’d freeze at this question.  Maybe Physical Graffiti.  It’s great and it’s long.
#5: If the phone rang right now and a major publisher told you they loved your work and wanted to bring you onboard on your choice of titles, which would you prefer?
Captain Marvel.  NO contest.  I love the Big Red Cheese.  It combines all the elements I love in comics.  Action/adventure-Humor- Animals walking around in clothes acting like people. A distant second, Angel and the Ape.
#6: The concept of inker is still so very often misinterpreted outside the industry. In one sentence, what is your personal definition of an inker?
I don’t have a definition, just an approach.  Being a cartoonist, and having been the recipient of some less that stellar ink jobs, I try to imagine what the penciller would do if they had the opportunity to ink themselves.  I try to find influences within the art I’m looking at, that I can relate to, and apply that.  So far, most of the guys I’ve worked with have been happy.
Let me make clear, I haven’t hated all the inks I’ve been subjected to, but the ones that were truly awful leave marks that last forever.  And if you’re a guy who has it in mind to ink himself, even the best intentioned inker is going to have a tough time matching what you have in mind.
#7: Who are your artistic heroes from past and present, as far as artists in the comic field are concerned?
Another desert island? Thank god I’m sitting next to my bookshelf as I type this, or I’d be lost at sea.  Frazetta, Wood, Eisner, Toth, Kirby, Beck, Hughes, Nowlan, Golden and John Severin are probably the biggies. There are other guys I love, Russell, Hampson, Bellamy, Bernet, Corben, Stevens.  The list goes on forever, but the first list of guys is who I always go back to.
#8: If you had to name the one most influential artist, regardless of medium or time period that has most inspired you artistically – who would it be?
I work in comics.  So, it has to be KIRBY.  Eisner is a close second, though.
#9: If there someone outside the artistic professions, regardless of that they do, or have done – that you bring their personal philosophy into your own work?
Probably Kurt Vonnegut.  He was the first guy I read who made me think, “Oh.  You can tell stories like that.”
#10: If tomorrow you could never draw or paint again, but had a choice what you wanted to do with the rest of your life, what job would be number one on your list?
If this involves my being imbued with youth and ability, I’m going to have to go with center field for the Yankees.  Without being bitten by the radioactive ghost of Mickey Mantle coming into play, I’d, maybe, go with late night disc jockey.  Owning a pub?  A soul food restaurant?
#11: Pen or brush, if you could only use one – which would it be?
#12: If you were not limited to a budget, what brand of paper & ink would your preferred type be?
Strathmore, I suppose.  It’s not terribly expensive.  I, recently, switched to Koh-I-Noor ink.  Again, not terribly expensive, as art supplies go.
What about if you were on a shoestring budget?
I have, from time to time worked on cheap crap paper.  It takes some getting used to, but I’ve been able to adjust.  It mostly, just slows me down a bit.  I’ve done work on the cardstock you get from Kinko’s.  It reproduced fine.  The publisher was happy.
#13: In your opinion, what is the most common mistake that new inkers make when they begin working on a page?
I really have no idea.  All I can suggest is that you draw.  The few guys I knew who were trying to be inkers- this is back in olden times when I was just a scruffy teen/twenty-something with a dream, didn’t draw very well.  So, if they were faced with something that was a little loose or was suggested, they were lost.  With no foundation, they had no idea how to fill in the gap.  As an inker, you’re sometimes asked to tighten and finish.  A couple of times I’ve had to do this over guys whose art couldn’t be more different than mine, but I had to make it fit.   Could I have done that if I didn’t feel comfortable drawing?
#14: After you have set up your workstation for the day, where do you begin when inking a page?
There’s no rhyme or reason to it.  I guess, sometime if there’s a giant head, I’ll start there.  I must be the worst interview ever.  I don’t usually give much thought to what I’m doing.  Every now an then, my brain kicks in to solve a problem.  For the most part, it’s all pretty automatic.  I’ll look a page over.  If there’s a spot that needs special attention- tightening up or added textures, I’ll spot it before pen/brush touches paper.  If I don’t think of the solution when I spot it, it’ll, usually, come to me while I’m working.
#15: Do you work on more than one page at a time?
Early on, I’d skip around, but it was too hard to track progress.  I knock ‘em out one page at a time.
#16: Do you find that you work better early in the morning or later at night?
I used to work at night.  When I moved in with my wife, I slowly came around to waking up with her.  Now, I work a pretty normal work day.  If deadline demands it, I pull longer days.  I, almost, never work past 9:30.
#17: In your opinion, is it more productive to block off a solid piece of time every day and require yourself to work, or do you return to the inking periodically throughout the day amid other tasks?
Probably, the routine works best.  Life gets in the way, though.  Normally, I’d be working, but I had to run to the bank and the post office today.  Since I was already doing errands today, I decided to piggy-back this interview.
#18: When you are in the groove, how long does it take you to ink a moderately detailed page? What was the longest it took you to complete a standard sized but highly detailed page?
Maybe 3-4 hours.  It depends on the penciller and the project, though.  Obviously, a super graphic guy isn’t going to take as long.
#19: Without giving away too many details, what was your greatest marathon session to complete a deadline?
When I was young and single, it wasn’t unusual to work for 20+.  I think the longest was around two days with no sleep.  I have all kinds of stomach problems now.  I’m pretty sure no sleep, stress and bad diet have a lot to do with that.
#20: What was the earliest example of sequential art you can remember creating, and does it still exist today?
Finished?  It was an unpublished self-published book I did at 18, called Darkwing.  A buddy from High School wrote it and another friend inked it.  The writer is a guy named Mark Finn.  He’s written a bit of fiction.  You can find it if you look.  Mark has written essays for Darkhorse’s Conan comics.  He had a couple of lightning press books.  I read one and loved it, Year of the Hair.  He has a boxing character that needs to be published.  I’d draw it as a comic in a heartbeat.  He was involved in an online writing project with Bill Willingham, Matt Sturgess, and Chris Roberson called  I have no idea if it’s still active.  Bill, Matt and Chris all write for DC and Chris publishes books under the name of Monkey Brain.
#21: Do you have a favorite contemporary comic book title that you are not involved with?
I haven’t been to a comic shop in about two years.  I moved from New York and got married.  I haven’t had the time or money.  I was getting the DC comp box for a while, but chucked most of it.  I was enjoying the superman titles, but they drove me away with yet another crossover.  There was a magician book coming out from windstorm I really enjoyed, but the name escapes me.  Mostly, I buy collections of old stuff.
Now I’ve had a chance to think about it.  I love Invincible.   It’s the perfect mix of everything I love about Spiderman and Superman.  By that I mean Romita Spidey and golden/sliver age Supes.  I haven’t read it in ages, but I look forward to catching up.
#22: Do you have a favorite contemporary comic strip that you are not involved with?
Prince Valiant.  The rest is rubbish.
#23: What is your best inking secret that you are willing to reveal?
I think it’s, probably, pretty clear from my previous answers I have no secrets to reveal.  It’s a job for me.  I just want to save up some dough, so I can one day do my own work.
#24: Which book of yours slated for release in the next year should we add to our required reading list?
There are a few I’m looking forward to seeing.  One I’m really looking forward to is a horror anthology called Bella Lugosi’s Tales from the Grave.  Kerry Gammill is putting it together.  It’s a book in the tradition of Creepy and Eerie and the E.C. horror titles, and he’s secured the rights to Lugosi’s likeness.  Lugosi will serve as the Crypt Keeper.  The guy who painted those old Famous Monsters of Film Land covers is painting the covers for the first two issues, John Cassidy is doing an alternate cover and story and I’m going to scratch an itch I’ve had since I grew up reading all the  above mentioned magazines and draw an eight pager for it.  I can’t wait.  It’s supposed to come out late this year early next.
I’ve, also, been doing some work for a company that packages young readers’ comics for the book market.  It’s been a lot of fun drawing things for a market other than the male power fantasy dominated mainstream.  The three I’ve done so far are: Making Waves, a story about how a young girl and step-mother learn to work together and love one another, Now You See Me, a story for very young readers about animals and insects who use camouflage, and Final Voyage, the story of the finale voyage of 15th century explorer John Cabot. Sometime soon I’ll also be drawing an adaptation of Joe Lansdale’s Bubbahotep.
Since this is an issue dedicated to inkers I should mention I’m currently inking a couple of issues of Deadpool.
#25: Is there a question not included in the last 25, that you were eager to answer or thought of during the process of responding to the others – that you want to ask and then respond to yourself?
I always feel that, when discussing inking, I come across as crass.  So, I suppose, the question would be “do you really care and think so little about inking?”  I do, actually, care about what I do.  I won’t go so far as to say inking is a passion, but I do care.  I do my best as a point of pride and out of a sense of responsibility to the penciller.  I know the pain of having work I’ve slaved over come back to me looking as though the guys down the line just didn’t get what I was going for.  I don’t want a penciller I’ve worked with to ever feel bad or mad about a job I’ve assisted on.  The penciller has taken a blank page and filled it in with all the setting and characters-up to a point.  I try to take it that last little bit, with them in mind.
For more John online: Check out the Podcast interview with John Lucas at   * eBay auctions: knuckleduster3000 * Website Details:
A few thoughts on John: I like John. He’s a damn hard worker, and a general all-around good guy who really wants to break through and be able to do his own thing for a while. Frequently I meet people in the industry with giant ballooning bobble-heads who could easily suffer whiplash from overdeveloped egos, but John isn’t one of them. All of my business I’ve conducted with him has been quick and detail oriented. As well, he makes really nice, really wacky sketchbooks and I’m hoping some of them fall into the hands of some rich Fortune 500 types with nothing but money and nothing to spend it on. John also has a well-deserved reputation for going above and beyond on his commissions and his CAF has some excellent examples. If he has time on his roster to get yours done, be prepared for high expectations being easily met. Oh, and for Exterminators fans, John draws ridiculously cool bugs!

No comments:

Post a Comment