Avril Brown Presents:
Nathan Edmondson is the author of the upcoming OLYMPUS comic, debuting in May, as well as several other projects coming out later this year. He was nice enough to take some time and share a bit of himself with the readers of Comics Waiting Room.
AB: How long have you been writing? When did you know for sure you wanted to make writing your passion AND profession?
NE: I've been writing since first grade. I've been telling stories since before that (I started lying to my parents at a very young age: "Mom, I didn't steal it. It grew in my pocket.")
I had always enjoyed writing, and found it natural and fluid and the right kind of outlet for my ideas, but I remember distinctly the moment when I realized I would be fulfilled by writing. It was at dinner when I was writing my first novel in high school. Someone asked what it was about, and my dad answered for me. While I listened to him describe how the book had come across to him, and saw how people were interested in it, I was electrified. These were things that had been in my head, and now, like fish dropped into a stream from an aquarium, they were moving on their own into the world. This was something I could live for.
Later I realized how important it would be to write with meaning. Constructing stories is not easy, but it's not sufficient, either. I wanted to make an impact. All the writers I admired had made an impact for decades, centuries after their deaths. I wanted to do that as well, and more, I felt that it was necessary to strive for that.
As far as a profession...well, that emerged against the odds, which makes it nothing less than a blessing.
AB: Blessings are sweet. Clearly you have an attachment to classic Greek mythology. Did you read these as a kid and got hooked or is this a love which developed later in life? Which are your favorite stories and why?
NE: I do have an attachment, but it's more a fascination, a desire to know more. I love to go to Greek Mythology, as some kids love to go to Chuck E Cheese.
As a kid, I didn't read too much Greek mythology, no. My dad did read some stories to me. I distinctly remember, when I was about five, hearing of Icarus tragic fall from the sky. My dad also loved astronomy and would explain who Cassiopeia, Sygnus, and Orion were as he pointed out the figures in the sky.
So I didn't have a working knowledge of the real histories and stories, but I understood the immensity, the importance of them, if only because I knew what they meant to my dad. I picked up my interest in Greek mythology and made something of it after studying in the arts of the neoclassical, renaissance, and Hellenic periods.
My all time favorite story is undoubtedly that of Cupid and Psyche. I'm moved by Psyche's innocence and the near tragedy that follows her lack of trust in the love she shares with the god who saved her. And the end is a sort not often found in myths.
AB: My dad is also an astronomy nut and used to tell me about the constellations. I used to love standing there in the dark, listening to him talk of legends from so long ago, and stars so far away. If you could be any mythological figure, god or mortal, whom would you be?
NE: In the Classical myths, I'd have to pick Daedalus from Greek Mythology, or Hermes.
AB: Hermes certainly makes a splash in OLYMPUS, but Pollux and Castor are the real stars. What made you decide on these two brothers for your main protagonists?
NE: I simply saw them in my mind as two very cool characters with a lot of possibilities. Everything you see in the comic--their humor, their traits, their outfits--it was all what I imagined when reading their brief descriptions. I felt like I could see them on a page, see them on a movie screen, see them on my couch. So I knew one thing: I had to keep them off of my couch. That would be tough to explain to the fiancée. So I put them in a comic.
Also, the story is about them. They are the focus of this book. Their relationship is the mortar in the bricks.
AB: I do love a strong sibling relationship; my sister and I are tight. You mentioned in a previous interview on Comics Bulletin that you are not very familiar with comic books. What was the deciding factor which catapulted you into the comic industry?
NE: Realizing that I could write one. After that, seeing sample pages returned from the first artists I was working with energized me like I'd plugged into a drum-playing-bunny. I wanted to see what panels, what pages came next. I was instantly hooked.
Countered with the fact that I was exposed simultaneously to several books which proved to me that comics has more to it than corny caped crusaders and four-color-fantasies (which was my conception at the time), I suddenly said, "Hey, here's somewhere I can prove myself." Comics is, like the army, a place to be all you can be.
AB: Sir yes SIR! You also stated this interview, and I’ve heard this advocated by other writers as well, that traveling is paramount to well-rounded writing. What are your suggestions for someone who desperately wants to take that advice but happens to be flat broke?
NE: That you can experience something by traveling a block away. The point is not that exotic places give one what one can't find anywhere else--although sometimes they do--but rather that one should seek all opportunities to learn. To balance that, a foundational education, one in tradition and logic, will help to prevent one from being too influenced by every outside opinion. But myopia is a terribly obvious shortcoming in writing, and remedied only by education and experience.
And while money of course had something to do with my travels, I was in no way rich enough to traverse the globe at my pleasure. So I would say, if your heart is in it, there's a way to do it. Seek experience, whether it be across the African Savannah or in the aisles of Sav-a-Lot. They will both offer something.
And travel is perhaps overrated. My wonderful writing mentor once told me that it was very important that I be able to describe a place I hadn't experienced. One should be able to write about things that have been seen only in the mind.
On the other hand are writers who draw their strength but what they can see and feel--Stephen King writing about Derry, Maine, for example, or Arthur Conan Doyle about Baker Street. Yet both of these writers were able--and often did--write about places they had never been, and places that didn't exist.
So how does one "get there", or become able to do that? Start trying it. Then see where you're at.
AB: Thanks for that; my depleted bank accounts are cheering in joy. Any other words of wisdom you can pass along to aspiring writers?
NE: Not really. I'm still seeking my own path, and I think the journey is part of the right to be a writer. A creative writer shouldn't be told how or why to write. They should be compelled, and seek advice along the way.
Don't put too much stock in creative writing courses, but don't shun them either. The most important thing is to READ THE CLASSICS. Read the Great Books, from Aristotle to Austen. Understand what makes them great. Learn all you can, and then forget it and start writing.
AB: Do you have a ritual to get into writing mode, or are you simply always there?
NE: Yes to both. It's hard for me to get my mind out of writing, or creative mode, as my fiancée will tell you. Especially when I have several projects going at once. And even when I don't, I'm constantly coming up with ideas, playing around with scenes and characters like toying with a mental Bebop toy.
Writing, like any other talent, is most efficacious when one mechanizes it by way of what Flannery O'Connor called "the habit of virtue." This is more important for some writers than others, of course, but for me, it's vital.
I'm most efficient, clear headed, and focused first thing in the morning--6 or 7 a.m. I have to get to the keyboard first, before anything, before TV, before news, before phone calls. I love it when it's still dark out. I try to eat the same simple breakfast while working. The more of a habit I can make my work the better, and the less I have to think about doing the better I do it.
AB: Which past projects are you most proud of? Which ideas in the future would you most want to attempt?
NE: I can't say about past projects yet--I only have a few and the twilight of time has yet to show me which ones will shine. There is one that I have in development, a grand project, an opus, and I feel that it will be something I'll be remembered by. All I can say about it, I suppose, is that it involves...feathers.
There are a LOT of things I want to try. I have a running list of "what's next." I'm always scouting for artists.
AB: The feathers certainly have me intrigued. Michael Crichton, rest his amazingly creative soul, is one of my favorite authors as well. What is your favorite book of his? Personally, mine’s a three-way tie between ‘Jurassic Park,’ ‘Sphere’ and ‘Timeline.’
NE: 'Sphere,' hands down. Building a plot as beautifully complex, intriguing, and ingenious as that one and then placing it within the framework of not a science-fiction, but a psychological viewpoint is nothing short of masterful. Of course, 'Sphere' wasn't the only book in which he pulled that off, but it's my personal favorite. There's no book I don't like, however, no discussion of his I haven't learned from.
AB: If he was around today and you could ask him one question, what would it be?
NE: You sure know how to bring a tear to one's eye.
I used to wonder this, especially after I nearly won his NEXT context online (I came in first place, but didn't fulfill all the contest requirements).
I think, I'd ask him what was on his mind. I imagine anything he said after that would be worth whatever it had taken to get there.
AB: And now for the random question of the day, what is your absolute favorite dessert?
NE: A tortuous question for someone who gave up sugar for Lent....but it would be a toss up between the Spanish Tarta de Santiago, Le Choux Eclaire, and my grandmother's cheesecake.
AB: Mmm, French desserts...drool. Well thanks so much for taking the time to share some of your thoughts with the readers of Comics Waiting Room, and we'll keep our eyes peeled for feathers and more OLYMPUS!
Christian Ward, the artist of OLYMPUS also decided to take a bit of time out of his artistic schedule to share some information about himself with the inquiring minds of Comics Waiting Room readers.
AB: So, you’re an artist AND a Londoner. That’s pretty damn cool. What’s your favorite area in London? Do you ever go there to create your art, or do you work mostly from home?
CW: I love London, it's a great character in itself. I remember when I first came here to live, I loved Covent Garden (I must have a thing for jugglers) but as it's become a home my favorite parts have become the quieter back streets and little places dotted around here and there. The East End, where I work as a teacher, in particular is great. There's a great coffee shop near where I live that I go and draw in. Coffee and drawing, what could be better.
AB: Too true. Your art has a very unique feel to it, sort of a watercolor painting on an acid trip. How do you create this kind of look?
CW: Haphazard probably. For me good art is very much about tension. A sense of conflict and balance between texture, colour, shape, line, space, traditional and digital. Everything I do, and I include my illustration work here, begins with drawings, then I do everything I can to bury those drawings under water colour, coloured pencils, marker pens and pixels.
AB: Who/What were your artistic influences as a child? If they’ve changed, who/what are your influences now?
CW: I never used to have clear influences and still avoid it if I can. That's not to say that my work isn't influenced by other artists, more that I'm influenced by everything I see: graffiti, street culture, contemporary design, film, music, comics. It'll all becomes part of the mix. I never think I want to be like so or so, or have this element by this person or that colour scheme over there. There're artists that I admire and drive me to be better. I love Frank Quitely, his stuff is just amazing. He's an amazing drawer and a really nice guy to boot. He's done us a great variant for [OLYMPUS] issue two.
AB: Did you always know you wanted to commit yourself to your art?
CW: Yes. But I've gone through many changes. I was obsessed with becoming a comic artist at school, but when I did Illustration at University I developed a love for painting and the comics become something I just read. In the seven years since leaving Uni, I would just paint and hold exhibitions. It was this love that then fed back into my illustration work when I began to explore what I could do digitally and then it wasn't long before I began to wonder what a comic might look like in this style.
AB: What’s the best part about being a comic book artist? The most challenging?
CW: The best part is coming full circle and achieving what was a life dream at sixteen. It feels great and being such a huge fan of comics (I never stopped reading them even though I stopped with the drawing) it's a huge thrill to see my name amongst many of my favorites. The worst part is juggling this with the day job. We actually could have released OLYMPUS as early as January, but we decided to leave it to now so that we could get as many issues in the Bank before it hits; in fact come it's release in May, three of the four issues will be done.
AB: Did you do any specific research to help you come up with the look you wanted for the characters in OLYMPUS?
CW: I did some but I never wanted to get too bogged down with being too stuck on what certain characters might look like. Nate has a great knowledge about these histories and characters, so he'll often include notes or links with the scripts which helped a lot. A friend of mine once described my art as having God Bubbles. He talked about how often in medieval art, there would be these bubbles of light and that these represented God. It always stuck with me and perhaps now it's quite apt. I'm using this when there is 'God Acitivty', filling the page with more colour, more light, more 'god bubbles' and characters that are themselves Gods often have more design elements appearing either on them or around them where they are on page.
AB: God Bubbles, I like that. I saw on your myspace page that you were involved in the Totoro Forest Project. Can you tell us a bit about that? Have you ever visited the Totoro Forest in Japan?
CW: That was a great honor. It was an amazing experience all round and I thank my lucky stars that someone thought I could stand head to shoulder with these great artists. The whole show was organized by a group of Pixar employees who basically gathered together the 'best' illustrators and animators working internationally today and asked them to produce as piece of art inspired by My Neighbor Totoro to be auctioned off to raise money for The Totoro Forest Fund. I'm a massive Ghibli fan so I just jumped at it. You can see more of the work at www.totoroforestproject.org.
AB: Given your latest posting online and my favorite page in OLYMPUS #1, you have a real talent for making blown-out brains look, well, pretty. What up with that?
CW: Brains are pretty though, aren't they? I think everything can be pretty. I think it's all about what you do with it and what you balance it against.
AB: Excellent point. What has been your favorite project thus far? What other projects do you have on the horizon?
CW: Well OLYMPUS is my first project, so I'd have to say that! In all seriousness, I love it. For all its special effects it's a simple story of two brothers and I love that. As far as what comes next I have a few things with a few different writers and eventually I want to start writing myself. For now it will be seeing how well the comic and my art is accepted and seeing if I can live the dream and do it full time!
AB: Is there any medium you want to work in that you haven’t yet?
AB: And now for the random question of the day, are you a dog, cat or neither kind of guy?
AB: I hear that. When I can afford it, I'm going to adopt a sweet-n-snuggly pit bull, and we will spoon. Thanks so much for taking the time to share your thoughts with our readers, and best of luck in the future! I know I'm definitely looking forward to more OLYMPUS at the very least, and perhaps some day soon we'll see the name Christian Ward up on the silver screen!Visit CWR at Unsungheroes!
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