Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Eric Shanower - Cartoonist Survey # 201

Cartoonist, author and illustrator Eric Shanower was born in Key West, Florida on October 23, 1963. As a child he read and fell in love with the stories by L. Frank Baum and the illustrations by John R. Neill. Inspired by his reading he started writing and drawing his own stories that were continuations of the Oz series. Eric graduated from Novato High School (California) in 1981 and then in 1984 graduated from the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art in Dover, New Jersey. His first work as a professional cartoonist came the day after he graduated from the Kubert School when he was hired to letter an issue of First Comics’ Warp comic book. Over the years he polished his Oz stories and in 1986 the first volume of his series of Oz graphic novels, The Enchanted Apples of Oz, was published by First Comics. Four more volumes of the series were released, and in 2007 IDW Publishing collected all five graphic novels into a large single volume titled, Adventures in Oz.

In 1991 Eric came up with an idea to tell the story of the Trojan War legend in comic book form, combining the Greek myth with archaeological findings to make it as historically accurate as possible. The result is his Age of Bronze series that premiered in 1998. Published by Image Comics, the Age of Bronze comics are first serialized in individual issues of the comic book and then collected into graphic novel format. So far 31 individual issues have been issued and have been collected into three graphic novel volumes. The whole Age of Bronze project is projected to fill seven graphic novels. Eric was awarded two Eisner Awards for Best Writer-Artist for his work on Age of Bronze, one in 2001 and another in 2003. Age of Bronze is popular around the globe and has been translated into Spanish, French, Polish, Italian, Croatian, and Indonesian.

In addition to his Oz and Age of Bronze series, Eric’s work has been published in numerous, books and magazines by Marvel Comics, Archie Comics, Random House, DC Comics, Nickelodeon Magazine, HarperCollins and many others. In 1994 he and his partner David Maxine co-founded Hungry Tiger Press which publishes Oz books, Oz-related comics and compact disks. He recently has been writing comic book adaptations of L. Frank Baum's original Oz novels for Marvel Comics, which are being illustrated by Skottie Young. The comics are being collected into graphic novel form. The first collection of these adaptations, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, won the 2010 Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards for "Best Publication for Kids" and "Best Limited Series or Story Arc." Outside of the comic and illustration world, Eric is a trained ballet dancer and has performed in many theatrical productions. He lives in San Diego with his partner, David. Visit
Eric’s website, the official Age of Bronze website and stop by Hungry Tiger Press to purchase all things Oz. Hungry Tiger Press also has a blog where you can learn more about the world of Oz.

What is your favorite pen to use?
My favorite pen nib is a Hunt 22B.

Do you draw in pencil first and if so do you use a standard pencil or a mechanical one?
I draw in pencil before I ink. I currently prefer a Staedtler Mars F, though my preference has changed over the decades, and occasionally it depends on what’s available at the art supply store.

Do you do your coloring by hand or on the computer?
I color both by hand and on the computer.

If you do your coloring by hand, what do you use?
When I color for reproduction, I usually use Dr. Ph Martin’s water colors. When I color for permanence, I usually use colored inks.

What type of paper do you use?
I mostly draw on Strathmore 2-ply Bristol board, 500 series, vellum surface.

What thing(s) do you hate to draw?
I hate to draw automobiles.

Do you buy your supplies from big chain art store catalogues/websites or a local one that you physically go to?
I buy art supplies from all sorts of sources, including big chain art store catalogues and websites, and local art supply stores that I go to.

Are there any rituals that you do before starting to draw?

Do you listen to music while you draw and if so what genre?
I usually listen to music while I draw. Genres I listen to include current pop, 1980s alternative, 1970s hits, 1960s hits, 1950s hits, swing, ragtime, musical theater, a cappella, romantic period opera, and classical.

Did you read comics as a kid and if so what was your favorite?
I read comics as a kid. My favorite changed over the years. At different points my favorites were Tintin, Richie Rich, Shazam!, Justice League of America, Fantastic Four, and X-Men.

What is or was your favorite comic strip?
I’ve had a number of favorite comic strips. They’ve included Steve Canyon, Peanuts, Little Nemo in Slumberland, Pogo, and Ernie Pook’s Comeek.

What was your favorite book as a child and do you still own a copy of it?
For many years while I was a child my favorite book was Ozma of Oz by L. Frank Baum. I still own a copy.

Did you have any formal art training and if so where did you receive it?
I had many art classes as a child. After high school I attended The Joe Kubert School of Cartooning and Graphic Art.

Do you feel that the Internet is a blessing or a curse?
I think that the Internet is both a blessing and a curse, but those are both pretty extreme labels that I wouldn’t generally use about the Internet.

Did either of your parents draw?
My mother draws a little bit.

Who in your life is/was the most supportive of your art?
The person in my life most supportive of my art is my partner David.

Do you keep a sketchbook?
I don’t keep a sketchbook.

Have you ever taught cartooning/drawing and if so did you enjoy the experience?
I have been an assistant teacher in a drawing class. I did not enjoy the experience. I don’t understand why many other people can’t even begin to try to draw on paper an object in front of them. This disconnect baffles me, though there obviously seems to be one. I get frustrated if I’m involved in this situation, and that’s not helpful to anyone.

Do you feel that talent or passion is more important in drawing?
Choosing between talent and passion, I guess I’d say that passion is more important in drawing, but I think they’re part of the same thing.

Do you collect anything and if so what?
I collect books, comics, and a little artwork.

If you were an animated cartoon character who do you think you would be?
I have no idea who I’d be if I were an animated cartoon character. I’ve done voices for a couple animated projects, but I certainly don’t think I’m either of those characters. In 1988 people said my hair looked like Hermey the dentist’s hair.

Are you a righty or lefty?
I draw with my left hand.

If you weren't an artist what would you want to do for work?
If I weren’t an artist, I’d be a writer.

In one or two sentences describe your drawing area.
My drawing area consists of a standard drawing table that I’ve had for more than 25 years, with lamps that every so often need to be replaced because they fall apart, and a chair that also needs replacement less frequently than the lamps; this set-up faces a window. At one side of the table are shelves where I keep the telephone and projects I’m working on, at the other side is a tabouret with drawers where I keep most of my supplies, nearby is my pencil sharpener on a small table with more supplies, and the room is lined with book cases jammed with all sorts of publications.

Do you play any musical instruments?
I don’t currently play any musical instruments.

If you could give one piece of advice to someone who wants to pursue drawing as a career what would it be?
Retain as much ownership and control over your published work as you possibly can. If you have to sign away all your rights or enter work-for-hire contracts at times because you need the work, the money, or the exposure, okay. But limit these situations as much as you can and plan to implement the federal thirty-five year reversion for all-rights contracts. And while you should produce professional-level results in those situations, DO NOT lose your heart to that work.

Who is your favorite artist?

My favorite artist is John R. Neill.

Thank you very much for your time Eric!


P.L. Frederick said...

Nice interview. Boy oh boy can Eric draw.

Eric, you are at a whole other level. :o) Anyone who can "simply" draw what they see like you can, wow. Sounds like that ability is innate in you and not even conscious. (If it were conscious it'd be explainable, it'd be teachable.) That is a gift. Love the combination of Trojan war and ballet.

Dave, so you have official moved into the 200th interview. And yay for us, your readers!

David said...

Thanks Paula! Hope to see you soon.