The perfect to place to hide on a rainy Wednesday afternoon is a comic shop with all of the new comics on the shelf. I decided to head to my local shop one day and read the new stuff. Just as I was about to pick up the latest Batman, another hand reaches for the same issue I was. A tug of war ensued, until I relented when I found out who it was. Stuary Sayger and I were fighting over the same comic book! The only reason I relented was to get an interview with home, so here we are.
Whitney Grace (WG): You’ve doodled in funny books for a while now, what are some projects fans might be familiar with?
Stuart Sayger (SG): I’ve done lots of things. I broke in with my creator owned title, Shiver in the Dark. Titles I’ve worked on for other publishers include: 30 Days of Night , X-Files, Bram Stoker’s Death Ship. Recently I’ve been producing a lot of work for Warner Brothers including, T-shirts, Posters, etc. I also created several pieces for the Man of Steel movie.
WG: Forgive me, but I’ve never read Shiver in the Dark. The idea is intriguing, however. Persuade me to read it.
SG: Shiver in the Dark is my own baby. I wrote it, drew it, and published it. it’s really my own playground. it’s a story about a spoiled girl named Grace who comes from a privileged background and has been able to get through life making pretty selfish choices. Things unfold into a story of the forces of evil vs. the sweet innocent victim, except the victim isn’t so sweet, and certainly isn’t innocent. She is dragged into a dark magical world that she really isn’t interested in via a book that she stole, not knowing that it was magical!
I was interested in writing a book about someone who might not be that likeable. I’m tired of stories about someone who is “the chosen one.” What about a person who is talented but lazy? Gifted but selfish? The world isn’t fair and sometimes good things happen to bad people and vice versa. I want to look at those questions.
WG: What were some of the challenges you faced from self publishing?
SG: The number one hardest part of self publishing is getting your self in the chair to do the work when everyone around you is saying that you are crazy for making a comic book. If you can write, if you can draw, then you can make a comic book. Publishing and selling that comic book is another issue. I grew up working in a comic shop from when I was thirteen years old, so meeting the public and talking about comics is very easy to me. If you aren’t interested in being a PUBLISHER and doing the work of BEING a publisher than don’t publish a comic book.
WG: What was the positive fallout from your comic or what happened next for you?
SG: Shiver in the Dark was well received right out of the gate. When the first issue of Shiver in the Dark came out there were virtually NO horror comics being published. 30 Days of Night had yet to be published. Zombies as a thing in comics didn’t exist at all. I was fortunate in that I hit a niche that was hungry. Amazingly, some people at Diamond comics liked my book and commented that they hadn’t seen me submit it for distribution. Which was true, I hadn’t. They said that they liked it and wanted to carry it. I was rather surprised, but delighted!
One of the things that made Shiver in the Dark stand out was that I used many different mediums when making the art in the book. The art style changed from page to page, and even panel to panel to match the mood emotion of the story. I thought that this was a fun fresh approach to telling the story.
Fans seemed to respond, and many pros bought the book as well. Shiver in the Dark #1 sold well enough that I marched on creating issues two and three 3. I even sold out of issue one, having to reprint it with additional material. The book was finding its audience and exposing fans and publishers to my work. A chance encounter with an art director at DC comics who liked it picked up the series and took them back to the DC offices.. A few months later those issues had caught the eye of the editors of the Lego Bionicle comic at DC Comics. After a try out request I was offered the job of penciler and inker on the title.
WG: Bionicle was a popular franchise for a long time and you drew the comic book. Were you working directly for Lego or was it via a third party?
SG: Bionicle Ignition was handled through DC Comics, though the scripts came from Lego. It was a big project that was translated to eight languages and sold all over the world. I’d heard that during it’s run it was the largest circulated comic in the world. I remember meeting some German publishers at the San Diego Comi-Con who told me that they were publishing my Bionicle issues in Europe. They asked me to sign a copy. That was an exciting moment.
WG: Many stories based off toy lines aren’t good. What made Bionicle a good comic (other than your art)?
SG: I think that one of the things that lead to Bionicle‘s success in general was that the universe was rather tight and tidy. Greg Farshtey wrote the comic book as well as, I believe, all things related to Bionicle. The video games, the movies, the picture books, the bios of the toys themselves, Farshtey did it all. Lego managed the property so that the events that happened and the characters involved in the stories were all completely consistent across all platforms. If you liked any Bionicle material , you would like it all!
WG: How much influence did Lego hold over the comic?
SG: I really don’t know how to answer how much influence Lego had over the comic. I know that Lego commissioned the comic book from DC comics so I can only assume that they told DC what they wanted and that DC would then advise Lego as to their options. Unless I’m mistaken, I believe that Lego is the largest privately owned company in the world that doesn’t have publicly owned stock. That tells me that this is a company that has VERY hands on ownership with a lot of vision and direction. I feel pretty confident that the comic book that Lego got was the comic book that Lego wanted.
WG: When you weren’t working on Bionicle, what did you do in the mean time?
SG: Bionicle Ignition was a bi-monthly title, which reflected the new Lego Bionicle toys as they were being released, so the scripts didn’t arrive with a lot of lead time before deadlines. This would mean that when I would finish an issue I would often have a few weeks before the next script would arrive. During those times I did a lot of work for other companies. I worked on the collectible card game VS for UpperDeck. I also continued to promote my own title. I also remember Wizard Magazine asking me to make a two page pin up of Frankenberry, Booberry, and Count Chocula for their magazine. There is always something to draw.
WG: How did you art attract attention? Did you have an agent or did companies and publishers contact you directly for a job?
SG: Breaking into this industry I really acted like an artist, an agent and a publisher all in one. I went around the country promotion Shiver in the Dark to fans, comic shops, other creators and publishers. I was wearing all those hats at once. It allowed me to do meet a lot of people and really immerse myself in the mechanics of the commercial comic book world. I will tell you that many of the jobs that I’ve gotten have come my way from meeting editors and art directors at comic book conventions. I’ve left the San Diego convention several times having lined up my next year’s employment. Breaking in to this industry is hard, and it’s just as hard to STAY in this industry. Being talented in necessary, so is being able to sell yourself. If you can do those two things and make a deadline then you at least have a fighting chance. Without ALL three of those skills you will have a hard time making it in comics. I meet people at conventions all the time who are more talented than I am. But often the discipline is missing. It’s a hard truth.
WG: What is Bram Stoker’s Death Ship? (Persuade me on that one too)
SG: The whole four issue series fills in some undisclosed events that take place early in the original Bram Stoker Dracula novel. Dracula is transported via boat from Transylvania to England. Within the pages of the original Dracula novel the reader learns from torn pages of the captain’s log that something very bad happened to the crew on the voyage, but details are few and unclear. Bram Stoke’s Death Ship tells the missing tale!
WG: You’re adapting Robert Kirkman’s Thief of Thieves as a video game. How are you doing that?
SG: It’s all done! The comic book was adapted into an online video game by programmers for whom I was commissioned to make the art. The adaptation puts the gamer in the shoes of the thief. Players design their own characters, using a selection of facial features that I drew to navigate through a world that I drew. It’s kinda like being trapped on my drafting table. (HA!) The game is designed to be played on touch screens specifically using Internet Explorer 10…. Here’s a link! http://www.ie10bethethief.com/
WG: What’s the difference story and art wise about working on videogames and comic books for you as an artist?
SG: They are actually very much alike in that in both cases I’m working for an art director who has particular points that I need to hit as an artist and other where I’m given more freedom. In most all cases where I’m approached to be a part of a project, the art director is familiar with my work and my strengths. They know what I can do and what I’m good at. I usually get to more or less be myself. If there is a big difference I would say that in comics images don’t need to have hard defined edges. I can paint a figure for a comic book and have it printed exactly as I’ve painted it with rough or fuzzy edges. Such things are very hard to pull off in a moving digital form.
WG: So do you define mostly has a gamer or a comic book nerd? Or which came first the pixel or the pencil for you?
SG: I’m a comic book guy. I don’t play many video games, (though I’m currently working my way through Super Metroid for the FIRST TIME EVER). I really liked the original Metroid and had always wanted to give the sequel a shot. So here I am, 20 years late. ( Ouch!) I’m a book lover. I like paper, I like to look at images via reflected light, not projected light. I like paints and pigments more than pixels. Having said all of that I do engage in some digital work. The truth of the matter is that computers can’t do what paints do, and paints can’t do what computers do. I see no reason to not have both tools in your arsenal for story telling. My attitude is this: pick the look you want and do the things that need to be done to get you that look! When I make comics I will use any and all mediums. Oil pastels are something that I go to a lot. They aren’t that common in modern comics but I get great results out of them and I’m not about to stop.
WG: After you big movie break with Man of Steel, are you working on any other movies? What does an artist do on a big budget film like that?
SG: Each job is it’s own stand alone thing. I had a great time working on Man of Steel and would love to do it again, but each project is different. Each project has it’s own deadlines, art directors, budgets, etc, etc, and what happens with one has little baring on what happens next. I would love nothing more than to put my inks to work on some of the other movie projects that are being talking about these days.
The art jobs needed on a big project like Man of Steel are staggering. There must be thousands of artists who work on a project of that caliber. I produced some style guide pieces, which were referenced when creating the movie’s look and feel. In my case the images I was asked to make were fully finished and print ready pieces so that they were also used on T-shirts, mugs, posters, etc relating to the film. If you have a Man of Steel backpack chances are it has my art on it!
WG: What are your most current projects?
SG: IDW X-Files 2014 Annual came out and I drew a thirty-seven page story for that issue. I’ve lined up a few conventions this summer to go out and meet fans and do some signings and reconnect with the industry. I can’t tell you how much I would love to go back to work on my own title Shiver in the Dark . There are things are bubbling on that front. I hope to have more to report on that soon!
WG: It’s a stroke of luck! You’ve been picked to redraw any comic story line or adapt any single work that you love. The only rule is that it must be in your art style. What would you choose?
SG: OH YEAH! I’m going to cheat and give a few answers here. I would love to draw a The Prisoner comic book based on the Patrick McGoohan TV show.
I would also LOVE to do Rip Van Winkle. I think that would be great, the writing would be so much fun! The stories that ALWAYS interest me most are stories of self discovery and self examination.
If you are looking for a comic book property that I would love to work on… well, everyone knows that I’m a big Batman gan, so that is obvious. But I think that I would REALLY enjoy making a new Millie the Model comic! It would be beautiful and intense, like the worst Sternako nightmare filled with gorgeous gals! (If you’re read Shiver in the Dark you can probably already imagine what this book would look like! )
WG: Marvel or DC?
SG: WHAT? C’MON, WHAT ABOUT ARCHIE… DARKHORSE, IDW? All the other guys? Heck, I’m a fan of Charlton, Fiction House, Harvey, Dell, Gold Key, Valiant. What about Fox ( remember them?) Standard, AVON. Gosh I love those Avon one-shots! I like MLJ and Centaur!
WG: Paper or plastic?
SG: No one says, “No”, to cold hard cash!
WG: Digital or paper?
WG: I’ve gotta go with paper on this one. My love for comics goes back to when I was but a wee tot! I own the drug store spinner rack that I bought all of my childhood comics off of. When I spin that rack (and it squeaks) and I pick out an old favorite issue of Michael Golden Micronauts, Jim Aparo Brave and the Bold, or Dan Decarlo Betty and Veronica I am guaranteed a good time. I find an old favorite and go to read it before bed. it’s the best!
WG: Lastly, do you have anything to declare?
SG: My all time favorite comic book cover is FOUR COLOR #199 ( REALLY! ).