Monday, April 13, 2009

Aris Asks Rob Guillory

Rob Guillory is the talented artist currently working on Chew with writer John Layman due from Image Comics in June. He is also working in the field of children's book illustration, and on Teddy Scares for Ape Entertainment and Shortbus Superstars!

1. How are the Chew pages coming along?

They're coming along great, man. I've penciled up to Page 14 of Issue 4 and am currently inking Page 5 of Issue 3, so they're rolling.

2. How did you get involved with Chew?

Well, it was either good karma, divine intervention or dumb luck, really. A few weeks before, I'd just wrapped a short project for Tokyopop (that was never published) with writer Brandon Jerwa. Brandon had apparently enjoyed working with me, so when Layman began looking for artists for CHEW, I was the first guy he thought of. Layman cold-emailed me the day before San Diego Comicon 2008, sent me the premise and first script, and I was blown away. I read everything on the flight over, met John the next day and the rest is history. I feel very fortunate to be the guy bringing this to life. The stars aligned, I guess.

3. Can you tell us a little bit about the project?

Sure. Well, the short version is: An avian flu pandemic has killed several million people. As a result, the US Government, in a post-9/11-like panic, institutes a poultry ban and makes the FDA into the most powerful federal agency there is. Our story is seen from the perspective of Tony Chu, a new FDA agent who is also a psychic who has visions depending on what he eats. So if he eats an apple, he'll see all its history, where it came from, the pesticides and processing it was subjected to. Likewise, if he eats something more grotesque, like human flesh, he'll see aspects of the person's past. He uses this ability to solve cold cases.

4. You are handling all the art chores, except lettering, how long does it take you to do an average finished colored Chew page?

Hmm. Well, it kinda varies depending on complexity, but I can knock out 3-4 pages a week if I have no side-projects.
5. Do you actually like the story?

I absolutely love CHEW. I've got to be Layman's #1 fan, I think. But again, I've had the pleasure of reading the first 5 issues worth of script, so I see what's really there. Let me say this: No one knows what this book REALLY is. Sure, they've read internet blurbs about it and whatnot, but that's just the surface. There's more to this than cannibalism. That's just the hook. This story is about the conspiracy behind the deaths of several million people. Think about that, because at it's core, it's about one question, I think: To what lengths would you go to find the truth?

6. How is working with John Layman?

Well, John has this reputation of being this crazy guy, and that's fine. But I think a lotta times that there's a fine line between insanity and brilliance, and this time I think Layman's crossed over to something really original.Working with him's been the best experience I've had working with another creator. He's a pro and an all-around good dude. I consider him a friend. Another thing that I think makes this book special.

7. Don't you think his cat fetish is weird?

My wife and I have 2 house cats, so...

8. Chew sounds and looks great, I believe John's first arc is 5 issues, What are your plans for Chew after that?

We'd like to go as long as we can with it. John's got around 25-30 issues in mind, and I want to be the guy to draw this story from beginning to end. No fill-ins.

9. Have you always wanted to draw comics?

Well, I grew up with comics, always drew them as a kid, but didn't ever think I could make a living doing them until about my second year of college. I made a run for it, and here I am. I think I was born to tell stories in this medium.

10. What was your first art job?

Umm... Well, the first paying gig I had was a 5-year run doing 2 weekly comic strips for my college's newspaper. Didn't pay much, but it was an excuse to keep pushing my comic work on a regular basis. Plus, I learned how to meet deadlines.

11. Is it important for comic artists to take drawing classes?

I think taking drawing classes can be incredibly important, but I also feel it's invaluable to just be as broad and well-rounded as possible. If you draw, try painting. Or sculpting. Or poetry. Whatever. Creativity is creativity, and you'll be amazed at what will inspire new growth. And on top of classes, taking the time to do individual study is crucial. If you can't motivate yourself, no one can.
12. What is Shortbus Superstars?

Shortbus Superstars is a creator-owned comic project that I created with Image writer Mark Andrew Smith (of Amazing Joybuzzards fame). It's a long story, but it's been in flux for a while because of life, basically. One of the downsides to labors of love like Shortbus Superstars is that they don't pay the rent, sometimes. It's on the shelf for now, but it's something I want to return to eventually.

13. What else are you working on?

I have a couple personal projects that I'm scripting. One is a space blaxploitation, another is a horror story. A private goal is to do a modern-day comic translation of the Bible, believe it or not. Picture Jesus wearing Chuck Taylors. Yeah... I went there.

14. Any work on the horizon from the Big Two (Marvel or DC)?

Who knows? I'm just getting warmed up.

15. Have you actually ever made sweet Monkey love?

Hells yeah. I pity anyone who has not.

16. What comics are you currently reading?

I really don't read a lot of comics these days. Honestly, I just don't have the patience for a lot of the crazy uber-continuity in the Big Two anymore, so I just stick to standalone stuff or trades. I just read Walking Dead Vol. 1 the other day, though

17. You have your pic of the litter, what comic books currently published would you love to be working on?

Hmm. I dunno. Something out of continuity. Like a Luke Cage/Iron Fist 80s throwback special. I just want free reign over whatever I do.

18. Influences on your art?

Too many to list them all. In comics, I grew up with John Buscema and John Romita Sr. and Jr. In animation, I was always a huge Warner Bros. cartoon guy, so I think that has some influence on the expressiveness of my art. Jim Mahfood was a huge influence when I first started moving to break in. Guys like Jim, Dave Crosland and Mike Huddleston where like acid to my young, Marvel-bred mind. They opened my eyes to the wealth of possibilities in the story-telling medium. And of course, Mike Mignola, Frank Miller, Steve Ditko and Dave Gibbons were big inspirations.

19. Do you think digital comics are the way to go?

Maybe. For me, they'll never replace the printed page

20. Besides John Layman, is there another creator you would die to work with?

Warren Ellis is the only guy coming to mind, for some reason. Transmetropolitan and Nextwave are personal faves.

21. If you weren't drawing you would be...?

If I was lucky, writing. But realistically, I'd probably be beating my head against a wall somewhere.

22. Advice for the kid who dreams about becoming a comic artist?

mailto:F@$ critics. Do what you love and what completes you.

23. Facebook or MySpace?

Facebook, I guess. MySpace is like this generation's Tower of Babel, man. If I see one more Miley Cyrus MySpace ad, I'm pulling my own plug.

For more of Rob's art work please visit his blog

And make sure to support Chew out in June from Image Comics. Check out the for updates!!!

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