As promised, here is part two of my interview with Batman and Robin artist Cameron Stewart. If you missed the first portion of the discussion where Cameron reveals what it is like working with Grant Morrison, what he does to prepare for specific projects and how some of his projects have led him all over the world, then be sure to read it here. This interview is probably one of the most interesting I have ever had the pleasure to conduct and is likely to be of interest to anyone looking to break into the comic book industry. So sit back and enjoy!
CS: There are a lot of different artists who's work I love. One is Frank Quitely. I think he has such an incredible grasp of storytelling. His places always feel fully thought out, [and] his environments feel real and three dimensional and fully thought out. His characters feel like they belong in them [the environments] and they all have weight and volume he really captured motion. There is a panel in 'Batman: The Scottish Connection' where Batman is leaping off the top of a church and [then a] somersault onto the ground, it is a single drawing, but when I look at that panel, it almost looks to me [as though] Batman moves. There's such a fantastic atmosphere in that drawing. His work just really draws me into the story. I've learned a lot from him.
CV: What about as a kid? Growing up who's artistic style did you draw inspiration from?
CS: When I was a kid I idolized Brian Bolland. I was maybe 12 or 13 and I had this sketchbook and every page of it was essentially a recreation of all these Brian Bolland drawings. I remember I would sit and just copy them and I would change the superficial details of the drawing [to make it my own]. [For example the picture] would no longer a picture of ' Animal Man,' but a picture of ' The Flash,' and it was mine, and no one would know I was ripping them off. But if you look at them now you'll see they are clearly these rip-offs of Brian Bolland's drawings. What I would do was draw most of it at home, but I would not do one of the feet or an arm or something, and then I would go into school the next day and sit in a really conspicuous place and finish off the drawing and people would walk by and be like, "wow, did you draw that?" and they would think I drew [the picture] right there on the spot. It's funny, even to this day I still like Brian Bolland's work, but I don't personally count him as an influence currently; [yet] people still see it [the influence]. I met Bruce Timm years ago and he was looking at my stuff and he said, "You're a Brian Bolland fan, aren't you?" and I did not think it was visible at all, but I guess it's sunk in so deeply that it's inescapable.
== TEASER ==
CV: How did you get your start in the comics industry and is it something you have always wanted to do?
CS: Yeah, that is something I [have] always wanted to do, I can't remember ever wanting to do anything else. I mean, My mom still has drawings of superheroes from back when I was six. I got my start at the San Diego Comic Con. I had a portfolio of drawings I had done of mostly DC characters and a little self-published mini-comic--and by self published I mean I made it at Kinko's--and I remember, (this was back before 9/11 and I was able to bring my stapler on the plane) I stapled all the comics on the plane on the way to SDCC. So I took my comic and showed it to artists whose work I liked and I got some feedback, showing my portfolio. I was pretty surprised because I had no expectations. I thought I was just going to go and make connections and get constructive criticism. At best I thought I would hear "that's pretty good kid, but you've got a long way to go" and that was all. What wound up happening was that I saw Grant Morrison who was signing for Justice League and I had this idea to get an old Grant comic from before his superhero work [for him to sign] thinking that he would be super impressed that I was, like, a real fan. Of course [as a fan] you think, once he knows I'm a real fan he's going to be my best friend. So I went to a local dealer and I bought St. Swivens Day-- which I had at home but I didn't have with me--and I got in the Justice League line. I put it [the comic] in front of him, and it worked. He was kind of surprised that I had it. So I said, "I don't know if this is the time, but I wanted to show you my portfolio," and I remember I was shaking, I was really scared. I remember I had some pictures of ' The Invisibles,' and one of the pictures was this pin-up of King Mob and he really liked it. He said it was like one of the best drawings he had seen of that character, and I was completely floored; it felt incredible. There's this moment where you think like, "Oh, he's just being nice," but then he said "You need to talk to my editor." I was really freaked out.
So in order to talk to one of the editors you have to go through a lottery system. They draw random numbers and if your number is drawn then you get a ten minute interview with one of the editors for a portfolio review. So I did that. [Grant told me to speak to his editor] Shelley Bond, who was the editor on The Invisibles; the problem was that you couldn't choose which editor to talk to. Amazingly I got picked, but I got an interview with someone else...so I was trying to trade my ticket with someone who got Shelley and no one would do it. So what I ended up doing was standing around and waiting until she was finished. I remember she was packing up to go and she had finished off her hour long portfolio reviews. I remember going up and saying to her, 'Shelley I know you're busy and leaving, but I was wondering if you would look at my portfolio,' and she [apologized and said she had to go] and I said "Grant Morrison told me to talk to you." That is when she turned to me and said, "Oh, you're The Invisibles guy!" which meant that Grant had already spoken to her about me. So that was super exciting. She sat back down and looked through my stuff. She really liked it and then gave me her card. The rest of the convention went pretty well. Three months passed and I had no contact whatsoever. I think I sent one email and got no reply, so basically I felt rejected and that they were just being nice. Then, just when I had given up, out of the blue one day I got a call and it was Shelley offering me a job. I was super excited thinking, "Oh my God, I'm going to be drawing Batman," or something but it wasn't Batman, it was Scooby-Doo. I was not terribly thrilled about [drawing Scooby-Doo], but it was a first job. Later I thought to myself; well it might be fun, I might be able to draw ghosts and haunted houses and stuff; and it ended up being about a haunted baseball diamond. It was my first job, and I remember I screwed up really badly. It had been an eight page story and I was two weeks late. Yeah I did that story, and then I did a little bit more until finally I managed to land a couple of pages in 'The Invisibles' which was what I really wanted to do. I remember I got the issue and was so excited. Then I opened it up and I remember thinking I didn't like it at all. I was really young and I was still too much of a fan to look at it objectively. I remember there being a crucial number of pages that I read [based on the script] and I remember thinking to myself 'the art [for this scene] is just all wrong!' So what does an angry comic fan do when they're upset about something in a comic? They go on the internet and complain about it; which is exactly what I did. I wrote this huge angry internet-fan-boy rant about how this sequence in 'The Invisibles' is horrible and I hit enter and posted it on the internet. I immediately remember thinking to myself 'What have I done!' I couldn't take it back. The very next day I got a call from Shelley, the editor on 'The Invisibles,' [at the time] and she tore me a new one. She said 'You're lucky you're young and that I like you, because you could have very easily ruined your career.' So I was terrified and realized I had just dodged a very serious bullet. But, the benefit of it was that Grant had also read it and had understood that A: I understood the comic, and B: I was really passionate about it; so when it came time for the trade collection, he requested that I redraw that sequence. To this day I think that is the reason why Grant asks to work with me so frequently. I think I kind of understand what he wants, and he's said that after Frank Quitely, I am his favorite artist to work with. I think part of it is that I feel like I understand what he is going for a lot of the time. I think we have kind of the same sensibility. From there it was just one job at a time and I kept getting work and it's always been the case that just as I am finishing off one project I get offered another.
CV: You've worked on a variety of mainstream comics as primarily a penciler/inker, do you have aspirations for your own creator owned story?
CS: I have been working on my own graphic novel which has been on the web for the last two and a half years or so Sin Tutelo. I am very interested in writing my own material. Even when I am working with a great writer, after working on something yourself that you are both writing and drawing, it can be very difficult to go back to collaborating with someone. There is a particular satisfaction in writing and drawing your own material that you don't get with working with somebody, so I definitely want to do more of it. I will be finishing this particular graphic novel hopefully by the year's end, and it's going really well...and I can't be too specific, but I have a very significant publishing offer for it...I was approached by Vertigo and DH, and I'll be going elsewhere for publishing for it. It's been going really well and I've gotten a lot great feedback from members of the industry which is great since I consider myself an amateur writer in this industry...this is the first thing I have ever written that has been this long and this involved, but when I get professional writers telling me it's one of the best comics they have ever read, it is really validating. Onceit is done I would like to move on to publishing more of my own material, but I am not sure I will go with an American publisher. Part of the reason I keep coming back to France is because I am building connections with editors and publishers here in France...I think there is a greater freedom in the European comics market to do the type of stories I want to do. I enjoy doing superhero comics, but it isnt where my interests as a writer lie. The stories I am interested in writing would probably stand a better chance at being successful through a European publisher, but I mean I will work with Grant for forever.
CV: Do you reflect on the work you've done on past books to see how far you have progressed as an artist?
CS: I reflect on work I did last year and see how I have improved. One of the curses of being an artist is you look back at the work you've done and you see how awful it is. I always like looking back on my work and thinking that it's terrible because it shows me how I've progressed as an artist. You can look back at things you did, recognize it's flaws, and kind of wonder how you ever missed them. I think as long as I have that it means I am getting better. On the other hand it means there is a lot of work out there that I think to myself, 'My God, I can't believe this is in print!' But yeah, I look back at that old comic and I see there is charm in it, but definitely now there is a lot that I would change.
CV: Is there a character you haven't drawn that you have always wanted to?
CS: This is one of my frequently asked questions. The answer is no, it's not about the character for me. If I want to draw Spider-Man nothing is stopping me. I am so much more interested in whether a comic is good, than what character I am drawing. If I am not engaged in the story, it reflects in the work. I mean, I really enjoyed working on Batman and Robin, and I think I was inspired on that book; but that's because I was working with Grant Morrison. I mean, it's got to be about the story.