Today we are thrilled to be joined by the artist Steve Ellis. Steve co-created The Only Living Girl and High Moon as well as working on a number of comics for a number of different publishers. We got to talk all about Monsterwood with Steve.
Hi Steve, we have been fans of your work for a very long time. We are so happy that we can chat with you today. Thank you for your time.
Thanks! It’s great to talk with you!
When you first heard about Monsterwood, what were your thoughts?
Jason and I met a while ago and he had all of these amazing sculptures and this really fantastic world he’d put together, it was like The Dark Crystal and Brian Froud with a darker sense. I thought working with Jason would be a way to mix the two things that I love to create, comics and fantasy art in a single project.
What made you want to be a part of this project?
I thought it would be a chance to try out a different look and feel for my work, less of the clean line superhero comics feel and more of a rich earthy fantasy world. Plus I have a lot of room to create and put together a lot of my own character and set designs. I’m also taking a lot of time to experiment with different storytelling styles with page designs and panels and I’m putting a lot of the same colors and textures I love from projects like High moon. It is exciting to work on.
How would you describe Monsterwood?
Monsterwood is a dark moody fantasy story about characters finding out how to become heroes in their own way. Each of the main protagonists, Jovis, jocasta and Scrag are living in an authoritarian regime controlled by an evil wizard named Tiberius. Each one starts in different levels of the society and each one is confronted by the problems of the world around them in their own individual way. They are all called to fix the world around them in unique ways and they each have to figure out how they are going to make their world better.
Is there a character from Monsterwood that you enjoy drawing the most?
I think Scrag and Tiberius are the two most fun. Scarf because he’s a big pile of muscle but he has a lot of stuff going on in his brain. Lots of decisions he’s trying to make, so rather than just being a big brute he’s often watching and considering the other characters around him, trying to decide how he’s going to move.
Tiberius is fun because he’s such a villain. He’s vicious, evil, manipulative, willing to sacrifice everyone around him for his own advancement. He’s diabolical which means he’s a lot of fun to act through in each scene he’s in.
How long did it take you to illustrate book one and book two?
Each one took about 6 – 8 months to draw and color. I was working on The Only Living Boy through most of that time and juggling the two projects was really difficult especially since they had some similar visuals but a different mood.
How much of a challenge artistically was it to bring this world to life?
The real challenge has been building the visuals of the world and trying to put context into the backgrounds and other visuals. They are surrounded by the ruins of a world the main characters don’t understand but that has a direct effect on their lives. Each statue and mural and ancient ruin has a meaning to it and a story behind it. Some of the stories are intricately tied into the main plot, sometimes even clues to the future of the story, whereas others are stories that Jason wants to explore in other projects that exist in the world. The world is really rich and making the visuals reflect that is a real challenge.
What has it been like working with Jason and Nicholas?
Jason makes the process really fun. He’s full of energy and excitement about the world and he really pours a lot of thought and care into it. This has been a dream project of his for many years and it shows in the dedication and richness of the world. Nick really brings sharp writing and clarity. Whereas Jason is a font of ideas, Nick brings it all together into a really strong clear story. I really enjoy working with both of them.
You are responsible for creating all of the art for the series. Was there a particular part of that process that you enjoyed the most, pencils, inking or colouring?
I think it’s inking that I really enjoy most. I don’t really do tight pencils so I storyboard the art in loose pencil form and hop right in with the brush. The color for me is there to show off the inks and add some texture. I really love the depth and intensity of inking. It’s risky to lay down lines in ink with little to no framework so it makes the work exciting. A lot of my heroes are old quill, brush and ink guys like Bernie Wrightson and Frank Frazetta whose inks were so lush and powerful and I try to bring that kind of care to my inks.
What can you say about book three?
This is really the book that the story has been building to. All of the threads have led here and the characters are all coming into their own. They are grouping together to build a rebellion from the outcasts hiding in the jungle just as Tiberius sends his Zumari warriors out to burn the jungle of Monsterwood down.
Any message for the ComicBuzz readers?
My message to Comic Buzz readers would be to thank you for reading and being interested in indie projects like Monsterwood and for being interested enough in the work that we do to read this far. When you work to create projects like this, where no one but the readers can help determine the fate of the project, you are putting a lot on the line. At the same time you are asking for people to trust that what you are doing is worth their time and money and that in the end they will walk away just as excited and inspired as we were when we made it. So i guess, If you can, back the kickstarter, and if you can’t (which I totally understand, it’s tough out there.) tell your friends and maybe join our mailing list www.skinwalkerstudios.com). Every friend of the project makes us stronger.
Be well, be good to each other,and be inspired!
Check out the campaign: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/monsterwood3/monsterwood-book-3-annihilation-graphic-novel
We would like to say thank you to Steve, we would like to wish Steve and all of his team the best of luck with their Kickstarter.