Artist Steve Willams pencils are both energetic and filled with emotion. He’s penciled characters such as Depthon, Brick, and MacSorly RCMP. Currently working on GIs vs. Zombies #1 for Red Leaf Comics, Steve is both an artist and creator. CBI publisher John Michael Helmer caught up with Steve to discuss his career in comics and where he’s headed…
JMH: Where were you born and raised?
STEVE: I was born in North Little Rock and raised in Dardanelle, AR for most of my life. I still live there and I enjoy the lake and the beautiful scenery. It’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve been to. The only drawback is the humid summer where the heat hits you like a hot blanket every time you go outside.
JMH: Tell CBI about yourself…
STEVE: I have a wonderful and devoted wife who puts up with me and my dogs. We have 7 dogs and 8 cats. Someone actually stopped by my house a couple days ago thinking we were an animal rescue. All our animals have been spayed or neutered and I do wish that everyone would do the same for their pets. Pet overpopulation is such a huge problem and people need to be a bit more responsible.
I also collect Dukes of Hazzard memorabilia, especially toy General Lees. I love to get the older, hard to find General Lees as well as the well crafted Danbury Mint and Ertl Authentics which have so much detail put into them, even the hoods have actual spring hinges!
I also enjoy playing and working on my computer. I use a Linux OS called Kubuntu. I love it! It’s the most stable and consistent my piece of crap Dell has ever run. I can’t wait to get a new computer though. I might buy me a ZT or Systemax system which is made, or at least assembled in the USA. I’m really pushing for ‘Made in the USA’ products right now, even if I need to pay a premium. There are quality products out there made by our countrymen and we can really help out our country by investing in them.
JMH: How long have you been drawing comics?
STEVE: Geez, I really don’t know. I know I was drawing them when I was 13 or so. I had an art class I was in and all I did was draw superheroes. Actually, that’s pretty much all I did in school. My grades were terrible! If there was one piece of advice I could give anyone that has great talent and wants to work hard at it, it would be to study hard at school, get good grades, and have something else to fall back on while you work on your talent.
JMH: How did you break into the industry drawing comic books?
STEVE: Surprising Comics publisher Mark F Davis gave me my break with Surprising Theater #2. I did the cover, helped design Brick, the Skyscraper villain, and did a 2 page Depthon story in it.
JMH: Do you have any formal art training?
STEVE: Yeah, but I slept through it mostly. Drawing plants is nothing compared to drawing Spiderman. I regret it now because talent can be improved by sculpting, painting, and all sorts of art mediums. I didn’t know that then. I just thought all I needed was a pencil and paper.
The best bit of training I ever had was watching How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way. I’ve seen it a few times and like to look through the book every now and then to refresh myself.
JMH: Who are your artistic influences?
STEVE: Jim Lee for sure. The guy is amazing! I really dig his work ethic more than anything and he practices with different mediums as well like watercolor and such. He’s always trying to improve. I would love to meet him and see him draw. I would just sit there, watching, taking notes, seeing how he puts a page together and everything. He’s a master storyteller!
There’s also Adam Kubert, Rob Liefeld, J. Scott Campbell, David Finch… oh the list goes on and on. All these guy’s are great! Every one of them is a master at their craft.
JMH: How do you focus when drawing?
STEVE: It might seem strange, but I put on meditation music. I listen to trickling water and soothing sounds. I find it very easy to relax and let my creative energy flow when there’s nothing on my mind except what’s right in front of me.
JMH: What types of technology do you use to draw?
STEVE: For art programs, I use GIMP. It’s a great, free program that’s a lot like Photoshop and it’s quite powerful. I don’t do much else than touch up my work with it though. I sometimes make a mistake and use it to insert a correction or two.
JMH: What was the first comic book you ever read?
STEVE: I was too young to remember my 1st book, but I remember my mom getting me the 1st part of Batman: Year 3. The book that got me hooked was Punisher War Journal 8. Before that book I always thought that comics were like Superman, Batman, Spiderman, basically good guys just saving people and I was into more gritty, Dirty Harry like stuff. Punisher was right up my alley. And it had Jim Lee art too!
JMH: Do you read any of the new comic books that are being published today? If so, which ones?
STEVE: I’m really digging the Red Hulk. I think that Thunderbold Ross as Hulk is great! I’ve checked out the new Punisher book as well as stuff published by Red Leaf and Surprising Comics. I’m really digging Skyscraper and the Golden Age Leaf. I think that there should be more done with those characters. Stu Berryhill, the artist who works on the GA Leaf does a fantastic job rendering a 40′s style story. I’m looking forward to see more stuff by him.
JMH: Print vs. Digital. Your thoughts…
STEVE: I like both and don’t see why we can’t have both. Digital is simply more available to us right now, it’s just needs more of a push. It seems friendlier to the independent market and makes distribution across the world possible. Print is still a great way to go, but it’s not getting the distribution it used to and I don’t think most people want to pay $3 for a comic when you can pay $6-8 and get a book or magazine with 5 times the literary value. Comics cost half as much and don’t use even a quarter of the paper.
JMH: What sources do you use for a cover image?
STEVE: Google. Everything else comes from my imagination.
JMH: What other mediums or genres have you drawn for?
STEVE: Not much else. I’ve done commissions and entered contests, but that’s about it.
JMH: What project are you currently working on now?
STEVE: I’d like to start doing portraits for people and other commission work. I just finished GI’s vs. Zombies, which has a killer story. It was very challenging and I enjoyed working on it.
JMH: What future projects do you have in the works?
STEVE: I want to do a vampire book about 2 vampire hunters with a very unique relationship. It’ll be a buddy book unlike anything ever done. It’ll be more like a dark comedy, action book. Also, I’m getting tired of these ‘Vampires are just misunderstood and are actually nice and sociable’ type stories other mediums are coming out with. These vampires will be bad, suck your blood, spill your guts, and want total world domination type of monsters. The way I think it should be. There will also be a werewolf in there named ‘Fluffy’. He’ll have fleas.
JMH: Do you have any words for aspiring artists?
STEVE: Work on your weaknesses and make your storytelling dynamic. Don’t be afraid of something you’ve never drawn before, just plow into it whether you know what you’re doing or not. If nothing else, you’ve got some practice. Draw the reader in by making every panel as interesting as possible. Don’t take shortcuts. Also, you will be selling yourself as well as your work, so I suggest you be professional and a people person.
JMH: Steve, CBI appreciates your time. All the best.
STEVE: Not a prob!
About the interviewer –