Creator Michael Kraiger’s character Zone has appeared at both Fantagraphics and Dark Horse Comics. He’s worked at DC, Marvel, and self-published his own stories. Michael sat down with comicbookinterviews.com Publisher John Michael Helmer and talked about his career in comics and what he has lined up for the future…
JMH: Where were you born and raised?
MICHAEL: I was born and raised aroundCleveland,Ohio.
JMH: Tell CBI about yourself…
MICHAEL: I am an instructor at The Kubert School, an editor for Teshkeel Media Group and a freelance artist. I’ve published my own work ZONE, with Fantagraphics and Dark Horse Comics. I spent several years working on staff for Marvel, both in production and editorial. I wrote a whole bunch of stories for DC Comics CARTOON NETWORK books, colored Disney comics, etc. I’ve done everything in comics but get rich.
JMH: How long have you been drawing comics?
MICHAEL: I remember I started copying the characters from newspaper comic strips in the fifth grade. I began drawing my own strips in high school.
JMH: How did you break into the industry drawing comic books?
MICHAEL: A couple of guys I had gone to The Kubert School with put together a proposal for an anthology comic book and shopped it around to different publishers, we eventually went with Fantagraphics and they published ten issues of THREAT!
JMH: Do you have any formal art training?
MICHAEL: I studied drawing, painting and print-making at the Cleveland Institute of Art. I also spent two years at The Kubert School.
JMH: Who are your artistic influences?
MICHAEL: When I realized that drawing comics could be a career I was influenced by Barry Smith and Michael Kaluta. The more I got interested in comics the more different artists influenced me. Vaughn Bode, Jeffery Jones, Moebius, Robert Crumb, Richard Corben, the newspaper guys – Windsor McCay, Walt Kelly, Noel Sickles, Milton Caniff and Roy Crane. The more you learn about comics the more you realize the importance of the work of Alex Toth, he’s been a major influence for years.
DC Comic’s OUR ARMY AT WAR was the comic I started reading off the spinner racks, the work of Joe Kubert and Russ Heath pulled me in.
Beyond comics, there’s a slew of illustrators and fine artists that influence me.
JMH: How do you focus when drawing?
MICHAEL: Listening to Music orDVD’s of my favorite films. I also like the studio atmosphere where you’re working in a larger room with other artists, then the focus is on performance, doing your best so when someone looks over your shoulder you get the, Wow!
JMH: What types of technology do you use to draw?
MICHAEL: I use a Staedtler Mars Lumograph 2H pencil as the basis for everything I draw. For inking I use Windsor Newton series 7 brushes, for pen work I used to use rapidograph pens but now use Faber Castell PITT artist pens. If I’m taking the work further I’ll scan it and use Photoshop ®.
JMH: What was the first comic book you ever read?
MICHAEL: I don’t recall the first comic book that I ever read – I do remember the POGO animated special that aired on television in 1969 got me reading the newspaper comic and that led to reading other comics and comic books.
In junior high I was reading DC Comics war books but in high school I met a guy who was so into comics I realized that drawing comics was a possible career option. My friend brought comics to school and showed me Michael Kaluta and Denny O’Neil’s work on the SHADOW #6, Night of the Ninja and CONAN #39, The Dragon of the Inland Sea by Roy Thomas and John Buscema, I had to go out and buy them. The next book I picked up was SAVAGE TALES #4, with art by Gil Kane, Neal Adams and Barry Smith. Those four gentlemen drew the definitive CONAN in my opinion.
JMH: Do you read any of the new comic books that are being published today? If so, which ones?
MICHAEL: I follow Mignola’s HELLBOY and B.P.R.D. books. I read THE WALKING DEAD. I’ve been reading SCALPED since the beginning and read CRIMINAL when it comes out. I also look for interesting books like CRICKETS by Sammy Harkham and UPTIGHT by Jordan Crane.
I’ll pick up new work by David Mazzucchelli, Chester Brown, Dave Cooper, Dan Clowes, Adrian Tomine, etc. I’m getting back into LOVE and ROCKETS, I lost track of it for a while there.
JMH: Print vs. Digital. Your thoughts…
MICHAEL: I prefer print. I enjoy a few web comics but I don’t want to read anything over a couple of pages digitally. Turning a page is preferable to scrolling. You can also look at several cover images laid out on your coffee able at the same time.
JMH: What sources do you use for a cover image?
MICHAEL: It all comes out of my head – personal reference photos or my sketchbook. Honestly, it’s been a while since I’ve done any cover work.
JMH: What other mediums or genres have you drawn for?
MICHAEL: Years ago I did a lot of advertising illustration, I’ve done limited editorial work for newspapers and magazines. I’ve done a number of non-sport sketch card series.
JMH: What project are you currently working on at now?
MICHAEL: As an ongoing project I’m working on http://michaelkraigerszone.blogspot.com/ which is dedicated to my characterZONE, which I hope to spin off into new stories. I’m doing a bunch of painting which is solely for my own enjoyment and improvement.
JMH: What future projects do you have in the works?
MICHAEL: I’ve got two graphic novels written, a 40 to 60 page comic book story half way laid out and a seasonal Christmas card business that all need attending to. It’s difficult to sit down at the drawing table after a day of teaching or editing.
JMH: Do you have any words for aspiring artists?
MICHAEL: Keep experimenting, keep improving and testing new skills. The number one bit of advice is to do what you have a passion for and you’ll find a place for it or people will find you.
JMH: Michael, CBI appreciates your time. All the best.
MICHAEL: Thank you.
About the interviewer –