J. Bone has worked as both a successful inker and a successful cartoonist working on a variety of projects for more than a decade. He’s inked a number of artists, but most prominently Darwyn Cooke on “The Spirit,” “Batman/The Spirit,” “Wolverine/Doop” and more. As both penciler and inker, Bone has worked on a long run of projects from “Alison Dare, Little Miss Adventure” and “Jingle Belle” to “iZombie” and “DC Retroactive: Wonder Woman.”
December is a big month for Bone, with two books from two different publishers. December 11 saw
CBR News: You’re coming off a few projects at IDW. You did a short story in “The Rocketeer Adventures” anthology and went onto draw “The Rocketeer: Hollywood Horror.” How did you get the gig and what was it like working with Roger Langridge on it?
J. Bone: “The Rocketeer” came my way because of my work on “The Spirit.” Scott Dunbier was my editor when I inked Darwyn on that book for DC. Then when he moved to IDW we kept in touch. I think I may have even asked him about drawing one of the short stories for “Rocketeer Adventures” around the same time Darwyn drew his short. When the chance to draw “Hollywood Horror” came up, and knowing my love for the character, Scott was probably pretty sure I’d be into it.
Roger Langridge was fantastic to work with. I think because he’s an artist himself, Roger has a natural ability to include different character types and moments. I like acting through characters I had a lot of fun moments to play up. Plus I think he and I like a lot of the same old movies because he included two of my favorite oldie movie characters — The famous Charleses! I remember with each script I’d write to Roger and Scott excited about who I’d be drawing in each issue. I’m also a huge Doc Savage fan. Yeah, the script pretty much had everything I’d want in my first big Rocketeer story.
Afterward you worked on “The Spirit/Rocketeer,” and you were pretty familiar with both.
I was. Since I was confident in my approach to Cliff and Betty I just had to find my connection to “The Spirit.” It’s been a few years since I inked Darwyn’s art on “The Spirit” so I kind of had to figure out how to draw him in my own way. Though I still had to follow what Paul Smith had started in the first issue of the series, so there was that to also consider.
Fortunately Mark wrote the guys in such a way that I found the connection I needed in the script. Cliff is jittery and a little frantic while “The Spirit” is relaxed and an old hand at the hero biz. He’s also older than Cliff, I think. I drew Cliff almost as a kid, with bigger gestures. “The Spirit” is always leaning, or has his hands in his pockets or is otherwise doing things that suggest he hasn’t a care in the world.
You’ve worked with Darwyn Cooke for a while and I’m curious what you learned from working with him?
I’ve definitely learned a lot artistically from working with Darwyn. I think I’ve continued to refine how I draw in the 13 years I’ve worked in comics. I’d already started with similar sensibilities as Darwyn and he introduced me to some of his favorite artists like Milt Caniff and Frank Robbins. Both of those guys are really amazing with brush and ink which is my preferred way to ink. I try to be confident and just go into a page and draw with the brush rather than simply tracing over the existing pencil art.
I also learned how to meet deadlines. Or, if you know you’re going to be late, don’t make excuses. Be a professional. Tell your editor when you’re going to finish and do it.
At this point are you interested in focusing on your own art and not inking but working as a penciler-inker?
That’s a good question. I’ve been penciling and inking my own work since the start of my career. There was a good period of inking Darwyn for a number of years — and I realized how much I missed it when I got the chance to ink him again for the “Rocketeer/Spirit” variant cover drawn by Cooke. Actually I inked and colored that puppy. Right now I’m enjoying focusing on my own art and trying something new with my inking. In the latest books like “The Rocketeer/Spirit” and my upcoming Image book “The Saviors,” I’m trying something a little different with my inks. That’s been rewarding.
There are a few pencillers I’d love to ink someday. But for now I’m busy with “The Saviors.”
The final issue of “Spirit/Rocketeer” and the first issue of your new project, “The Saviors,” both come out this month. Talk a little about this book and how you got involved in your newest project?
“The Saviors” is an alien invasion story that starts out in a quiet desert town and then expands as our hero, Tomas, discovers just how wide spread this “little” invasion is. The project started with a conversation I had with James Robinson at a Toronto convention. I mentioned that I’d always wanted to draw a horror comic but in my cartoony style. At the time I was thinking of psychological horror, but the more we talked the more I realized I was really talking about monster books. I love the ’70s “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” which is creepy and unnerving and sometimes a little gross. And I love old monster in the desert movies from the ’50s with a sheriff and a couple of troubled teens fighting an overgrown gila monster or giant ants. James combined all of that stuff, plus his own influences, and came up with “The Saviors.”
It’s a different type of story than what people usually expect of me. The basics of my storytelling are the same, as well as the underlying drawing. I’m a mix of nervousness and excitement waiting for the book to come out.
Tell us a little about Tomas and the other main characters. You’re designing them from scratch so talk a little about what James gave you and how you approached designed them.
When it came to designing the characters there wasn’t a lot of back and forth discussion — not that I recall. James included descriptions in the script starting with celebrity likeness possibilities which also includes what sort of character “type” they’d be.
We both wanted Tomas to be not your typical “hero” character. Not even in the reluctant hero sense. In the script Tomas is first seen smoking behind the gas station where he works. I thought about what kind of guy I imagined Tomas to be, and what I could do to make him different from my usual “hero” drawing. After a lot of doodling I ended up basing him on a friend of mine. This guy, I’ll call him “Hoffman” to preserve his privacy, is 6’5″ or so. “Hoffman” has to duck through doorways, towers over people in crowds and generally stands out in any situation. I thought that’d be a fun thing to play with when depicting Tomas who really just wants to be invisible in his life. He wants everything to be normal.
Then Nate comes to town just as Tomas makes a pretty freaky discovery, blowing any chance he could possibly have for a normal, boring life.
In the script Nate is a “George Clooney” type. Initially he was to make a brief appearance and disappear, but I think both James and I saw something more in his character — especially when played up against slacker Tomas. I designed Nate as an aged version of the hero character. He’s square jawed and squinty with a confidence that suggests he knows exactly what’s been going on in this tiny desert town. I think of Nate as being much more relaxed than Tomas and kind of views the kid with a bemused recognition of his own youth.
Believe me, this isn’t stuff I’ve put into words until now. It’s all there in my mind, I guess, but when I’m drawing pages I’m only conscious of playing the characters against each other in ways that are interesting and give a little hint at something more behind the dialogue.
Finally, Sheriff Doyle. He’s our antagonist. James suggested a “Ray Romano” type. I’m not so good at likenesses so don’t look for Ray Romano on the pages when you read the book. What I did aim for was a good natured, doughy, pleasant character. Someone you’d immediately trust. He’s the sheriff, after all, and it’s suggested that he’s been the sheriff for quite a long time. As the issue progresses and more of the sheriff’s true personality is revealed he becomes a little more angular. It’ll all make sense in the context of the story. I’ll just say that he changes even more by the end of issue one.
Talk about the setting of “The Saviors” and how much do you focus on the setting in general?
The setting is a desert town. I know James named it but I don’t think it’s in the dialogue. At any rate, it’s a typical small desert town. The kind of place that a lot of ’50s monster movies took place in. The kind of movie with giant ants, mutated gila monsters or visitors from another planet. My dad used to watch those and depending on the monster, and whether or not it was my bedtime, I’d join him. We don’t actually spend much time in the town so in a way it only needed to be “that particular type of tiny town where nothing ever happens” — because that’s exactly the type of town where an alien invasion is most likely to get a foothold.
Oh, plus it’s near an army airbase. I guess that’s important, too.
“The Saviors” by James Robinson and J. Bone is on sale December 24. Read a preview of issue #1 on CBR.