Spacefarers rarely have an easy go at things. NASA rarely has an easy go at things. With limited funding and antiquated technology space travel is not yet readily available to us. Thank the ancient space beings we have nigh limitless imagination. Daniel Warren Johnson (26), a Freelance comic artist from Chicago Illinois takes us into the depths of space with two space truckers and their misadventures.
All-Comic: Daniel Thanks for joining us to talk comics. How were you first exposed to comic books?
Daniel Warren Johnson: I grew up in Framingham, MA, and their public library was booming with all sorts of comics. I started on Calvin and Hobbes, and worked my way up from there! I consumed everything I could back then. It was mostly collected newspaper strips and random graphic novels. I remember reading Hard Boiled when I was really young, and that blew my mind.
AC: When did you decide you wanted to make comics?
DWJ: It took me a while to come around to comics. I wanted to draw them in college, but was turned off by some unprofessional people who worked in the industry at the time. I wanted to be able to make comics that meant something, that weren’t just there to be badass or sexy or whatever. It seemed like there wasn’t room for that, so I let it go for a while. It wasn’t until I saw people like Becky Cloonan doing their own thing that I wanted to get back into it. I guess I owe a lot to her. Maybe someday I’ll get to tell her that.
AC: How long have you been drawing?
DWJ: Since I was in 1st grade! I survived by drawing power rangers for all the bullies. That worked for about a week.
AC: Did you study illustration or are you self taught?
DWJ: All throughout middle school I took live figure drawing classes at the local art center in town, and then I was privately trained in classical art/sculpting/painting/drawing throughout all of high school. I was home schooled since 3rd grade, so I was able to take more time to devote to art, etc. I’m so thankful for that. I’m also incredibly thankful to my parents for making me go to art class. I hated going to that figure drawing class. It was 11 year old me drawing with high schoolers and adults. I was the best one there, but I’d cry the entire ride over to the art building because I hated being the only little person in the room. Thanks to my mom and dad for forcing me to go even as I was drowning myself in my own tears.
AC: Did you get a lot of support from parents?
DWJ: Definitely from my parents (see above). My private tutor in high school was named Rosetta. This tiny little Italian lady who was never happy with my work. She always pushed me to be better. I owe her a lot as well. I don’t know where she is now, but man, THANK YOU, ROSETTA. She would make me erase/paint over/re sculpt things every damn day. I learned so much then, simply because she knew I wasn’t trying my hardest. She pushed me and pushed me and it shows now. God bless her.
AC: What was the first comic you remember working on?
DWJ: I made a comic about a church retreat I went on when I was 13. I had a crush on a girl and so I made it about that. It’s the most embarrassing thing to read now!
AC: How do you describe Space-Mullet to those just starting to read it?
DWJ: It’s a sci-fi action story, based around a washed up ex space marine and his alien co pilot. It’s got a bit of Calvin and Hobbes sensibility and Starship Troopers/80 and 90s “hard” sci-fi elements thrown in.
AC: What inspired you to create start putting up your comic online for free?
DWJ: Basically, I wanted people to read my work! I had a small website of my illustrations, but no regular visitors. I knew that if I had an engaging story it would bring people back. I also just want to give people a quality experience, with no pay, and see where it takes me. It’s wonderful to hear how space mullet has inspired somebody to get back to the drawing table or get them to work on their own stories again.
AC: What has been the most surprising aspect of running this webcomic?
DWJ: I had no idea how much I’d grow. When you start a new adventure like creating a 1200 page sci-fi epic, you don’t realize how different you’ll be down the road. I can draw a lot better now, and my inking is much improved as well. When I started space mullet, I didn’t know what a t square was for! Embarrassing.
AC: Would you ever consider Kickstarter or some type of crowd funding to publish this book in a collection?
DWJ: Definitely! When chapter 4 is finished I’m going to take a look at the big picture and see what my options are.
AC: How do you get this drawn out? Physically or digitally?
DWJ: All of space mullet is traditionally done, except for the text and blue tones. I use pencil and paper for my pages and a sable brush and ink for all the line work.
AC: What are your preferred tools of the trade?
DWJ: For pencils, I usually go for a lead holder with HB lead, on vellum paper, and for inking I use speedball super black ink with Raphael 8404 brushes. Sometimes I’ll switch to smooth paper depending on what I’m drawing. Action scenes usually are smooth, and then when I have to draw people talking ill use vellum.
AC: How much time does it take to go from a script to a completed strip?
DWJ: Depends how many pages, of course, but one page of script, after thumbnails, pencils and inks, is about 6-9 hours. It depends.
AC: Did you set up your own website or pay someone to design it for you?
DWJ: Set it up myself with comic press! It’s jankety though. If I had the money I’d hire someone to do it for me.
AC: How do you maintain your website?
DWJ: Update my story on Monday and Thursday, and check my site stats like crazy!
AC: You are edging closer to a collaborative webcomic, what can you tell us about that?
DWJ: I have a bunch of things in the works, but nothing that I can talk about, haha.
AC: The double edge sword of working in comics. Daniel, if you have time, what comics, manga or web comics are you reading?
DWJ: Loving Saga, Prophet, and Daredevil right now. I’m also looking forward to James Harren’s BPRD arc coming out in January.
AC: Do you have an all time favorite creator? Be it music, comics or movies.
DWJ: Probably the band mewithoutYou. Their album “Catch for us the Foxes” saved my faith back in college. That album makes me so glad I’m alive everytime I put it on.
AC: What’s next for you?
DWJ: Well, I’m currently working on issue four of Dark Horse‘s EVE Online: True Stories with Daniel Way and in February I have a back up short story in Image Comics Prophet series. A bunch of other stuff in the pot but I’ll have to hold my tongue on it. Oh and of course, more Space-Mullet!
AC: That is a great line up of work. We look forward to all your upcoming work. Thanks for your time Daniel!
You can join me in keeping an eye out for Daniel’s future work with EVE Online from Dark Horse and Prophet from Image Comics. In the mean time you can start or keep reading SPACE-MULLET online and send all questions/comments to Daniel on Twitter.