Name: Zach Howard
Hometown: Don’t have one, but I live in badass Colorado nowadays.
TrunkSpace: How would you describe your art style?
Howard: Foolishly time consuming. A mix of fantastical representations of objective reality, mixed with hyper-rendering for a tangible sense of depth. My work has evolved to this over the years to help hypnotize readers into following my storytelling without distraction. I feel it is my duty as a storyteller to keep the viewers of my books trapped until they finish… no mental hiccups or it lessens the impact of anything I’m trying to accomplish. In other words, I just try to give the readers reasons to never look away and get lost in my work.
Whether I’ve ever accomplished that or not is up for debate, but it’s most definitely my goal for every page.
TrunkSpace: Your work is extremely detailed and you can really get lost in the imagery as your eyes wander to all the background aspects of the world you bring to life through that detail. On average, how long does it take you to draw a single page with all of that detail added in?
Howard: A single page takes me about two to four days. Covers and double page spreads can take me a good four to seven. I’m not exactly going to be breaking any production records anytime soon!
TrunkSpace: Has your art style changed dramatically since you started working professionally, either through technology or via a personal desire for creative diversity?
Howard: My style has definitely taken a dramatic turn over my 16 years as a pro, but technology has had little impact on it. Tech has definitely helped disseminate my work, along with give me opportunity to live wherever I wish. However, you hit the nail on the head with the latter option of your question.
One of the vices I have as a comic book artist is that I work in a field where repetitiveness is rewarded for speedier production and visual consistency for longer projects. For whatever reason I get bored easily and I need to evolve my style a bit more rapidly than what is often looked for in this industry. So I’ve had to figure out a way to make myself happy while still being able to find success professionally.
I like each book I do to have a specific feel. Each story has its own fingerprint and should evoke a specific emotional response. That desired effect forces me to adapt my style each time I take on a new job. This slows the process down considerable, but in the end makes for far better literature, I believe.
TrunkSpace: You’re currently working on a sequel of “The Cape” with Joe Hill. What can you tell us about the new series and when will it drop?
Howard: Well, Jason Ciaramella had been asking me to do a sequel for about five years, but no ideas were really getting me excited. That along with other scheduled books I had in the hopper kind of derailed any initial thoughts of continuing “The Cape.” However, I was just drawing some Marvel covers and thinking about Eric one day… Eric was missing for three days in our original story. Where was he and what did he do during that time? I drew him with new clothes and a bit darker when he returned from this hiatus, so there has to be a story in there somewhere. So I hit up Jason and Joe Hill about the thought and they ran with it.
Now we have a new and fun little miniseries that fills those missing days. Chock full of evil and Eric’s patented sense of murder. It beautifully expands the character without falling on any of the worn out sequel ideas for comic book reincarnation. Couldn’t be happier with what the guys came up with and I think the fans of the IP will be rewarded.
TrunkSpace: What is your favorite visual that you’ve put to paper thus far for the follow-up? Is there a particularly fun panel or sequence that you had a chance to draw?
Howard: Oh, sadly I haven’t gotten to the fun chaos of Eric tormenting the future victims of the new series, but Jason has given me some of his brilliant nightmares to work with. The first issue has one of my favorite double page spreads of Eric being consumed by his evil deeds and tragic relationships. It’s a great set up for me to really visually kick people in the chest as we close this first issue. Get the fans all hot and bothered while they wait for the second issue.
I haven’t gotten a chance to draw these yet, but Eric always has a mountain of creative ways to kill his intended victims, so there will be a ton of fun and visceral chaos yet to come. We plan on taking the height we hit with the bear scene in the first series, pump it full of creatine and really take fictional murder to a new level in this one.
Oh, another aspect of this story is that it involves a group of LARPers in a closed setting with Eric. So we will have a great time torturing them throughout while the pages unfold. It’ll be quite fun to work with fantasy archetypes while visualizing this miniseries. Lots more fun chaos to come.
TrunkSpace: The first installment of “The Cape” was nominated for an Eisner. What was that milestone like for you and did the book have that special feeling when you started working on it?
Howard: We all knew about halfway through the first one-shot that something special was happening with Eric as a character, and that we needed to expand the story past Joe Hill’s initial short story published years before. Every once in a while you get that feeling during a project and it needs to be exploited because it’s quite rare… at least in my experiences.
However, and this will come off as a bit much, but I don’t really care at all about Eisners. Awards are nice for PR, but I don’t need five guys deciding my worth by giving me a plaque. I draw books for myself and hopefully fans that get something significant out of each story. My reward is to know that I’ve positively affected someone who read my book. I want it to stick with them, and maybe inspire them like I was as a young turd. Seeing someone smile and be excited to talk to me about a book I’ve done is better than any plaque I’ve ever gotten. It’s a more sustaining fuel for the future.
TrunkSpace: You’re launching a new miniseries that you co-created through Line Webtoon later this year. For those unfamiliar with the platform, can you explain what it is and how you and your upcoming title became involved with it?
Howard: Webtoons is a platform for reading digital weekly original content comic books on your phone or tablet. It was wildly successful in Asia and now they are bringing the platform to the US. They’ve rounded up a handful of established creators to launch a library of new books for readers on this side of the ocean. Luckily myself and my partners’ company, Noble Transmission, were asked to be part of this. We are now developing an OGN for release later this year on the free Webtoons app.
“Buck” is our company’s flagship title. It’s a fantasy story about the last rabbit warrior alive and how he redeems his father’s name while saving the last survivors of his species. I’ve always wanted to do a Conan the Barbarian type story, and now we can, but this time with rabbits. And a world full of crazed animals, both enemies and allies. This story is more of an all-ages tale so it’ll be available for younger readers. The violence is handled about the same level as “Star Wars” is nowadays… people die, but we don’t concentrate on the grossness or horrific depictions of death. Quite the opposite of “The Cape!”
TrunkSpace: Can you discuss any part of “Buck” in terms of the creative team involved?
Howard: “Buck” is written by Mike Raicht, drawn by legendary artist Mark Nelson, colored by Eisner-nom Nelson Daniel (who colors me on everything I do). The series was created and developed by the Noble Transmission founders… Austin Harrison, Mike Raicht and myself. I’ll be Art Directing and editing the series.
TrunkSpace: How important were comic books in your life growing up and is that where you discovered your love and inspiration for drawing?
Howard: I grew up an Army brat all around the world so I didn’t get access to a wide or consistent variety of comic books. Luckily, at the Base Shopettes I could always find the Conan magazines and those always sent my imagination spiraling. Those that grew up on military bases in foreign lands can empathize with the need to fill the days with nothing to do… that led me to drawing Conan fighting robots and ninjas. Countless hours were spent in my formative years having Conan vanquish mountains of poorly drawn adversaries. My favorite being a Valentine’s day project in school where I constructed a giant version of him out of construction paper hearts, lopping off the head of a fellow heart-constructed nemesis.
Didn’t go over all that well in class, but it’s one piece of childhood artwork I would love to get back for posterity.
TrunkSpace: Is there a particular character or universe you always find yourself returning to when you’re sketching or doing warmups?
Howard: You’ll laugh at this, but I never do warmups and only sketch when world building. I’m pretty odd and shitty like that. I like to story tell… drawing, for the most part, is just an ends to a means for me. I enjoy creating nice drawings, but they are the vehicle to express my true passion… making books. I chose drawing comic books because I love the medium and feel it best suits my passions. But yeah, I’m odd as hell when it comes to having to answer this question.
TrunkSpace: What is the craziest/oddest thing you’ve ever been asked to draw as a commission?
Howard: I have basically quit doing commissions so my stories on this will be pretty weak compared to most pros in this industry. I’ve always felt like a trained monkey when forced to do commissions. I’m a storyteller… if you want to buy my artwork, it’s all for sale and better than anything I’d draw for you personally. However, I have no desire to be a puppet for people. No, I don’t want to draw Ant-Man for you, or an even worse, a batshit crazy idea you might have. It makes me feel like a slave, and that is the worst space an artist can be in.
That being said, I do cave because I don’t like letting fans down either. So I end up doing a lot of free sketches for people… especially kids. I know kids aren’t putting my drawings up on eBay, for the most part. (Laughter)
TrunkSpace: What else can fans of your work look forward to in 2017?
Howard: Noble Transmission will also be releasing a phone app version of “Wild Blue Yonder” by the end of the year. It is a fully animated motion comic book, voice acted and has an originally-scored soundtrack (which will also be available for purchase). We can’t wait to show people this project. The artwork is even manipulable so that viewers can interact while the story plays out in real time. It’s going to be a one-of-a-kind and hopefully embarrass all the current motion comics out there.
The last half of 2017 is going to be a good one for fans of my crap.
http://spacefriend-krunk.deviantart.com/ (Deviant Art – has a full gallery in there to peruse).