Ugli Studios Presents #1 is the first comic book from freelance illustrator Jason Lenox. It showcases his talent in two stories. In The Great Vermin, a group of space-suited exterminators take on the chilling task of wiping out an entire species. This short, fast-paced tale fits right in with classic EC Comics science-fiction – of which we are big fans.
Through the Eyes of Grizelda takes a unique spin on a swords & sorcery tale. Foregoing the traditional fantasy dialogue, Lenox instead tells the story from the perspective of the evil sorcerer’s cat. We don’t usually go for swords & sorcery, but the unique point of view and the energetic artwork sold us on this one! Lenox’s strong compositional skills and unique shading style join with some electrifying color to deliver the visual punch of Grizelda.
We enjoyed Ugli Studios Presents #1 and we’re pleased to present to you an interview with artist Jason Lenox today. You can pick up a signed, full color copy of Ugli Studios Presents #1 at the Ugli Studios Store.
********************Interview with Jason Lenox********************
MWSNM: You’ve done a lot of design work for role playing games, film posters, and businesses. How did you work through the challenge of setting up narrative stories as opposed to the more static work you’ve been doing?
JL:I try to imagine any comic script like a movie and watch it in my head, sketching out key moments of action, narrative exposition, and storytelling. This is opposed to a pin-up image that is just a character, creature, or setting like I do for RPG’s or a movie promotional poster like Zero Charisma. A poster like ZC’s is more of a montage of images that looks cool, or gives a theme. It doesn’t really tell a story but is more of a “vibe.” It’s totally unlike adapting a comic script.
My internal process is take the script, read it, then let it sit in my head for a day. Then I read it again, let it sit, and then try to make that mental set of images. Then, I do thumb nails from there on about the third day. It’s always so exciting to get a script, to have that first read-through to see what raw imagery comes to mind, and then refine it from there with more in-depth pencil work. It’s always interesting to save those initial sketches and look back on the final piece after it’s been colored and lettered.
MWSNM: You completed the black and white art for Grizelda then ran a Kickstarter campaign to get the coloring completed by Dani Kaulakis. A lot of independent artists are turning to Kickstarter to fund projects. Can you tell us about your experience using Kickstarter?
JL: Kickstarter is all about how willing you are to get directly involved with it and how many hours of hard work you want to put into it. I emailed, talked, and promoted to hundreds of people in person, email and social media. From that, I got 38 actual “backers” and exceeded my goal. But, it was only about a 5% rate of “donors” based on the total amount of people I approached or communicated with about the project, many of whom I knew. Now, I’ve seen larger projects by more well-known people make more money, but they got a lot of small media exposure – and in some cases big media press help. So, the total amount of people they were exposed to went up and thus, larger amounts of money are possible.
For a start up like me, $1000 was a good goal. I was able to exceed it, and I was financially able to do everything I wanted to do with the comic from a production standpoint. All of that potential relates to your overall general popularity and reputation. So, when you set your goal, you have to know if you are able to reach 600 people or, in the case of a well-known published artist, maybe 50,000 people, and apply that 5% backer formula to the total you might reach. I’ve recently seen other people that had great projects and modest goals that didn’t get much in the way of backers. But, my guess is they didn’t market it very hard, which all comes back to putting hours of hard work into it. People just don’t show up to give. You need to bring them in like a tent barker at a circus, kicking and screaming sometimes.
Now, the bonus of doing a video to promote the fundraiser is the video gave me a lot of positive buzz and got people talking. We made a mini-trailer for the comic, and it was a great production from SAS Multi Media Studios out of State College, PA. I’m still using it to tell people my story and promote the comic, so it was a great experience to force me out to talk about my project, make some money to fund it, and keep the conversation going. And, Dani Kaulakis was worth every penny of it. Her work is gorgeous, and she is a total pro to work with on a project like this!
MWSNM: Was telling Grizelda from the point of view of the sorcerer’s cat your first idea? Or did it come to you as you worked out the story?
JL: No, the original idea I had that David really fleshed out was to tell the basic story of a lowly minion – a skeleton – in the service of an evil wizard, and to do a POV story of the skeleton’s exploits in the castle while heroes had it under siege where the skeleton would be the key to evil’s victory. However, while we were working on The Great Vermin, my little cat Kix kept running across the drafting table to get petted, running over the artwork. After talking to David about this, we started discussing, “What if instead of a skeleton, it’s about a selfish cat that just wants to sit on the wizard’s lap to get petted?”
David added the element of it being a “beast in disguise,” and my designs turned the “demon kitty” into a Godzilla-type monster, which nobody really expected – even me! I love old Toho monster movies. So, one of the future ideas is to have these characters interact with other Wizards and their unique giant monsters as they war across the mythical broken lands of Xendria we introduced on that incredible map from Joseph Freistuhler from our first adventure in UGLI STUDIOS PRESENTS #1.
MWSNM: You described your work as “in the vein of classic EC Horror anthology comics.” Can you tell us a bit about how you discovered EC Comics and a few words about your favorite EC stories & artists?
JL: I discovered EC’s as reprints in the 80′s at my Grandparents’ on trips to the local bookstore in Altoona, PA – and loved the work of Al Williamson. EC always had great artwork, and I pride myself on trying to get some of the same high detail pen and ink work, and fun storytelling, and of course some great twist endings!
Discovering EC’s classic works was a gateway to other classic anthology sequential comics. I moved on to loving DC’s Weird War Tales and then to the dark worlds of Heavy Metal where I became a fan of Alain Voss, Juan Jimenez, Jose Ortiz, and Fernando Rubio among others – all of whom produced great anthology-style short stories that rocked.
I’m also a student of The Outer Limits (60′s and 90′s versions!) which to me were like TV (now DVD) versions of the great EC/Weird War Tales/Heavy Metal tradition. And, in the written world, I look to Philip Jose Farmer as my pinnacle of short story writing. I love his work.
Matthew, thanks for taking the time to interview me. I hope everyone can check out my work in UGLI STUDIOS PRESENTS #1!
Jason with his Thundarr the Barbarian Poster, available from Ugli Studios.