[DISPATCH] An Interview with MAPS Artist Brent Schoonover
The Midwestern Man of Mystery stopped by to discuss his intimate new story, commercial art, and more!
Welcome to the latest edition of the [DISPATCH], a weekly direct report from us to you, with news, recaps, exclusive content and more.
We’ll have a brand new comic headed your way tomorrow featuring pencils by Brent Schoonover, inks by Rafael Pérez Granados, and colors by Chris Sotomayor. That’ll be available to read exclusively for our paid subscribers. If you haven’t yet:
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Tomorrow, we’ll be releasing MUZEO DE KLERA, the latest comic from the upcoming [MAPS] Graphic Novel Sourcebook. Ahead of its release, we sat down with artist Brent Schoonover to discuss the story, his influences, and some very cool non-comics projects he’s had the pleasure of working on. Enjoy the below, and then come back tomorrow for the debut of MUZEO DE KLERA.
3W/3M: Let’s start off with a doozy. How did you get involved with the 3 Worlds / 3 Moons Universe?
Brent Schoonover: Honestly, Stephen Wacker reached out to me out of the blue, which was awesome as I remember sending him samples many, many years back when I was trying to get in at Marvel. I ended up getting in there while he was still in editorial but never got the chance to work for him, sadly.
Your story takes place on Therra at the Muzeo de Klera, whose mission is “to preserve and catalog the once great mysteries of the solistemo.” While the Muzeo was designed by Mike and Mike, did they also give you the relics housed within, or did you need to create any of those mysteries for your pages? If yes, what was the design process for those like?
I was given a design of the Muzeo for reference and some screen grabs of how it appeared briefly in other stories. Naturally, I also read several of the stories that those images appeared in as well. As for the relics I was allowed to sort of have fun and do my own thing. I have to admit my natural instinct is try sneak some fun Kirby-like monsters in there when I can. I could have really gone nuts with that stuff.
Do you find yourself thinking more about science or magic? Is that different for your life vs. your work life?
I would say I probably thought more about science. Which is totally different than my work life. I’d say I’m probably Team Magic ’cause that falls more in imagination and not having to know how it all works. I was terrible in science classes as a kid.
Are there any visual tricks you employ to convey the feeling of a longstanding relationship between two characters being introduced in the same story, or do you rely on the dialogue to express some/all of that?
Great question. My biggest influence on this story sort of came out of the sad passing of John Romita, Sr. I had just gotten some of the script around the time of his passing, and he has always been an influence, but once he passed I really found myself sort of looking back at his amazing body of work and I came across some of the art he did on romance titles. He did some wonderful emotional scenes with those titles and I really got sucked in to trying to bring some of that to this story as it felt right to me.
I think it’s definitely fair to call his passing seismic, as he’s truly one of this industry’s all-time giants. Speaking of artists that have inspired you, you’ve described your style as a distinctive blend of “retro and contemporary influences.” Do you find that that the “retro” influences actually give the work a more timeless quality, or is that a byproduct of your various influences and working on contemporary projects?
I hope the influences help with a timeless quality, but that’s probably more for the readers to decide. But I tend to go with the latter. It’s something that’s just sort of in my DNA. Before I really knew what I was going to be doing storyline-wise, I was already sort of pulling an influence file that was a bunch of Al Williamson Star Wars art; Alex Raymond Flash Gordon strips; even Kirby’s Sky Masters comic strip stuff. Just some of the best sci-fi stuff I could think of to get me really in the right head space. Of course, then I get this touching love story that takes place in one location so that sort of changed everything. But I still ended up with a significant retro influence.
You worked with inker Rafael Pérez Granados on the story. How does working with an inker change your approach, if at all? Does that tend to be a very close collaboration or is there enough framework in the pencils that you’ve indicated what you’re after and then you let the inker do what they do?
It’s very rare for me to work with an inker. I have been working solo for so long. I tend to work digitally and my pencil stage is a big blur between my layouts and going right into inks. So when I realized we might be getting a little tight on deadline for this one (I am currently working on a new monthly book that isn’t announced yet) I reached out to Rafael about helping me out. I have really dug his work and thought it could bring something a little different to my line art. We both work digitally. What I like about his work is that it has a nice energy in action scenes but also quieter ones, and this story is a bit quiet. Not in a bad way, but in the sense that it relies more on emotions. And I thought this would be a fun chance to try and experiment and see what Rafael brings to my pencils. I did end up having to go tighter on those than I normally do, but I told him I wanted him to feel like he had free rein over them, though, as I didn’t want him to feel like he’s just being a “tracer.” (Cue that scene from Chasing Amy.)
That scene absolutely lives in my brain. Stepping outside of comics for a moment, you also do a bunch of commercial and packaging illustration. Is there a particular assignment that stands out as a personal favorite (and why)?
I originally graduated from the Minneapolis College of Art & Design with a double major in Comic Art & Illustration. I like to try and balance both types of projects for a lot of reasons. I think it allows me to stretch my artistic muscles a bit, which only helps. And while I love comics, sometimes a commercial illustration project can pay way more. They often aren’t nearly as fun as working on a comic book, though. But sometimes you get a great one, much like this really cool project I did for the Minnesota History Center that was a giant map of Minnesota that showcased all the historic spots you can stop and visit in Minnesota. It has a fun WPA poster vibe to it that was a great challenge. I’m really happy with how it turned out. It won several industry awards and they have been using it as a promotional item for over ten years now.
Another one, which was a total bucket list thing for me, was getting to illustrate the cereal box art for all the General Mills Monster Cereals. I’ve gotten to work on them about three times now. It’s such a fun gig and they have a loyal fanbase (me included, naturally). Hopefully I get to do it again down the road.
Very cool. Turning back to comics, your most recent Marvel book, Captain America: The Ghost Army, wasn’t actually released by Marvel. How did that project come together, and was the process different than the extensive work you’ve done with Marvel in the past?
Yeah, it was part of the Scholastic/Marvel deal. C.B. [Cebulski] and Rickey Purdin at Marvel have always been good to me and they’ve always said they love the retro feel of my work, though sometimes it can be hard to find the right project for it. So I think when this World War II Cap story came up, it was kind of the perfect project for me and they reached out. Which was really great for me as I had actually been contemplating trying to move my career into a more middle grade demographic. Writer Alan Gratz is like the king on middle grade novels and this was his first comic book work, and he did a good job.
It was a challenge as there was a lot of editors on this one, so I did get more notes than usual. And it’s also tricky trying to find a good balance of showing the violence of World War II while also not making it too much for that age demo. Overall, I’m super proud of the book. Scholastic was amazing in the promotional aspect. They sent me and Alan on a book tour after its release that went really well. They made some amazing enamel pins to help promote it. It’s been in the book fairs at school and every major book store chain carries it. It’s been a great experience.
Late last year you finished the second volume of Devil’s Highway, written by Benjamin Percy and published by AWA. Other than needing to create the visual world the story takes place in, how different is being a co-creator on something original from doing work for hire for a publisher like Marvel where you’re tackling established characters and locales?
Not as different as I was expecting. When I first started out in comics, I did a few creator-owned projects like Horrorwood and Astronaut Dad. Then I kind of went into this really long stretch of established characters at Marvel and DC. The challenge there, obviously, is all those characters have decades of history with amazing creators leaving behind a legacy that you are trying to match or top. It’s intimidating as hell, but you’ve probably been dreaming of doing that since you read your first X-Men or Superman book. But as I get older, I’m thinking less about those things and more about what can I leave behind that is mine, and that I and my family can actually own. So that’s the biggest motivation and then it just came down to Benjamin and I getting to be really close friends over the years living near each other, and sharing the same interests in true crime and horror films. The freedom to create this entirely new thing is equally as intimidating as trying to make your Incredible Hulk drawings feel worthy of being alongside all the other artists that ever left their mark on the character.
Finally, what’s next after your [MAPS] story? You mentioned a “new monthly” book earlier…
I have my first ongoing Image book coming out early next year. I REALLY, REALLY want to tell you about it, but I can’t yet. I’m hoping it gets announced at New York Comic Con.
Thanks to Brent Schoonover for taking the time out to chat with us about his work. We’ll be releasing MUZEO DE KLERA for all paid subscribers tomorrow.
And now, let’s look back at the week that was…
[COMICS] We shared a first look at pages from THE SINGURAIL, the upcoming [MAPS] story drawn by Peter Krause and colored by Ellie Wright.
[PROCESS] THE VALLARS colorist Frank Martin walked us through his approach to coloring Jason Howard on the first 3W/3M ongoing series.
Make sure you visit us tomorrow for the release of an all-new [MAPS] story, and then stay tuned for more [PROCESS] action and details on a fresh LIVE DRAW!