by Whitney Grace
After reading The Cursed Pirate Girl from Archaia Entertainment, I knew I needed to speak with the author Jeremy Bastion and ask him about the detailed world he created. It took some time tracking Jeremy through Twitter and email, I finally located him in the middle of the fabled Omerta Seas he writes about in his comic. It would take another few weeks to physically get to the Omerta Seas, but I knew it was worth the journey. After losing my luggage and almost drowning several times, I finally made it to Jeremy’s dingy in the middle of the ocean and spoke to him about his career and The Cursed Pirate Girl.
Whitney Grace (WG): What inspired you to get into comics?
Jeremy Bastion (JB): Well, I’ve always been a drawer. That’s just what I did all the time. I have a cousin who, when I was much younger, would bring a bunch of comics over when she’d babysit and would copy the drawings from the books. It was my first introduction to comics and I immediately knew what I wanted to do in life. Once I learned people could draw pictures for a living, I was sold.
WG: What other projects did you work on before you started on The Cursed Pirate Girl?
JB: I wrote a story I was going to turn into a thre book mini series called Phantom Corp. It was a supernatural G.I. Joe kind of thing–female Commandos with supernatural abilities and big guns versus werewolves and zombies and vampires and so on.
It didn’t really catch on like I had hoped. I finished book one and self published it (which you can still order on Comixpress.com) I took it to a Motor City Comicon and sold maybe four issues.
That was the same show that David Petersen self published a little book called Mouse Guard and then we collaborated on a book called Ye ol Lore of Yore. He sold eighty copies of Mouse Guard and I think we sold around fifteen copies of Ye ol Lore of Yore.
I felt a little defeated so I put Phantom Corp. on the shelf and decided to try something different. The very next thing was Cursed Pirate Girl.
JB: What are some of your favorite graphic novels?
Hellboy is my very favorite, Mignola has such an amazing style. I arrived to the Hellboy train a little late and decided- okay, I’ll try this, a lot of people seem to like it- and became addicted. I went right back to the comic shop on my lunch break and picked up two more trades. It was a slow day at Putt-Putt mini golf, my day job, so I had fun examining my new books.
The Marquis is another favorite, which is what black and white comics should look like. It is super imaginative and takes place in a really well thought out setting with an amazing sense of architecture, morality, and creature design. It’s beautiful, dark and original.
I am a pretty big fan of Mouse Guard, I might be a little biased but, when you’re talking about a fully realized universe, you just can’t get any better than Mouse Guard. I’m kind of lucky in that I get to see it all come together. Dave is someone I get to hang out with on a regular basis and let me tell you, people think I’m nuts as far as what I put into my book, I got nothing on David Petersen. The layers of the different cultures, religions, species, it just goes on and on.
And that … guy… can produce it so quickly and just keeps getting better and better. Argh! That’s what keeps me trying to improve, really. The fact that I can see a great comic-smith in action, helps push me to become a better storyteller and artist.
Other books I’ve more recently become obsessed with are Chew, Locke and Key, and Siegfried.
WG: What is The Cursed Pirate Girl about?
JB: The basic story is: an orphan girl goes on a quest to find her father- that’s it. So I started with that premise and then thought to myself ,”how bizarre can I get with this? I want to make something REALLY different with character design and setting, this is going to be fun!”
Cursed Pirate Girl calls herself the Cursed Pirate Girl. Her father comes to her in her dreams and tells her stories of the Omerta Seas and teaches her how to fight. So she’s known his presence, but she’s still a lonely little beach bum living in pretty much isolation.
She needs to find her dad, so she finds a way to the Omerta Seas with the help of a talking parrot and then has to search out the pirate captains of the Omertas and figure out which one is her dad. I keep trying to challenge myself with what crazy kind of thing will she encounter next.
WG: I see a lot of Winsor McCay and John Tenniel influences in your work. Were these part of your inspiration and what else influenced you?
JB: Oh yeah, one of the books my cousin Erin gave to me for Christmas one year was a nice hardcover Little Nemo in Slumberland collection. It blew me away. I am quite jealous of Winsor McCay’s mind. The out of the box thinking that went into a weekly strip that was then completed with such a level of skill, was… well, mind blowing, he was on such a higher level of imagination. In the realm of the fantastic, I’d say he’s my favorite. I’ve always been drawn to the old-fashioned pen and ink style of people like Tenniel and Joseph Clement Coll and Franklin Booth.
And then I discovered the works of Arthur Rackham, Kay Nielsen, Sulamith Wulfing, Walter Crane, H.J. Ford, all of which I tried to get as many books on as possible. While I was working at an art store, I discovered what an amazing company Dover was and I placed many orders for not only art books on people like Gustave Dore and Albrecht Durer, as well as reference books on heraldry and decorative ironwork and Victorian scrollwork and medieval ornament and so many more. When we’d get the Dover order in at the store, about one-fifth would be just the books I ordered. My boss even gave me an
old spinner rack for them, until I realized how inconvenient it was, and all the books would start to droop if they weren’t packed in there. It became a waste of space.
My love of fairy tales really helped in creating this book. There’s a kind of, I don’t know if rhythm is the right word, but rhythm to a fairy tale that I tried to incorporate into my tale. I consume a lot of things visually and I can see potential in almost anything, which is how I keep myself interested in the book. The story is written, but the process of creating pages is so time consuming that I could easily lose interest. By coming to a page and asking myself, “how can I make this as interesting as possible”? It makes me want to work on it.
WG: Why did you decide to have a female heroine?
JB: I wanted an iconic character like Alice or Dorothy or Nemo, but a little fiercer. If it was a boy there would just be more expected of him.
WG: How would you describe the Omerta Seas as a fantasy world? Would you do the same for the world Apollonia inhabits?
JB: Well if you look up the word “omerta” in the dictionary it goes something like this: a code of solidarity in the face of authority- it’s Italian and a mafia thing. To me it said “pirate.”
I like to think that most of the pirates in my world are a bit more like Robin Hood because they are brotherhoods who face the king in opposition. Now, this doesn’t really come out in this first story arc, but it is something I’ve thought a lot about. I’ve written a history of the Omerta Seas which includes giants, gods, witches, and sorcerers.
I’d really like to illustrate it sometime but well, you know how long it takes me to do anything. It is a dangerous world, there are lots of people and creatures that would eat you if they could. It is also a world in which anything is possible. There is magic, there is resurrection.
There are so many things I haven’t yet thought of. Apollonia’s world is more mundane, it’s the “real world” and it is affected by Cursed Pirate Girl, because she doesn’t really belong there. She’s a stranger, a foreign entity that passes something onto those that come in contact with her.
WG: Why did you include Apollonia and what part will she play in future volumes?
JB: Cursed Pirate Girl needed a spark to set her on her path and Apollonia became the spark. The spark that ignited her father Governor Maygun into hiring an assassin to get rid of Cursed Pirate Girl for being a bad influence on his daughter. She is not done in the overall story of Cursed Pirate Girl and there is a little foreshadowing of what could come of Apollonia in the Epilogue of vol. 1. I will not speak any more on that, 🙂
WG: Do you draw predominantly in pen and ink? If so, why do you like this medium?
JB: I draw the book with brush and ink and I draw it at publication size. What you hold in your hand is exactly the same size as it is created. It’s a very small brush, size 00 but I like it very much. In my explorations of artists I admire, the two that really stand out are Dore and Durer.
I really love and admire the line work. I know they’re etchings, but the LINES! I know that might sound weird, but it’s just who I am, and I’m okay with that. There’s just something magical about being able to convey so much with just lines. The values you can accomplish, the textures, the mood.
To me it seems harder and purer, color can do it so easily, but to be able to do it with lines- that’s what I aspire to. Color can make something bad look good, but when you’re dealing with just lines, it better look right or else people will know it’s bad.
WG: Any hints about volume two?
JB: HeeHeeHeeeee! I’m having a lot of fun with the next volume, it’s also even denser than volume one. There will be three books in volume two as well, book one in volume two will be at least forty-eight pages. There’s a lot more action and purpose to book one so far. That’s not something I deliberately did, it’s just how the script fell into the sections that make up the individual issues. I’m taking my time with it, because it has to live up to my expectations and I want it to be worth the wait.
Things I can say about it, well there are a lot of skeleton guys in it, it’s the beginning
of a treasure hunt, more of Cursed Pirate Girl’s history is revealed, and there are the ruins of an underwater city.
WG: Do you have anything to declare?
Volume two will come out, don’t worry. It might take some time but there will be more coming.