INTERVIEW WITH JEREMY BASTIAN
If you don’t already know who Jeremy Bastian is, do yourself a favor and look up some of his artwork after you read this interview. While his catalogue of published comic works is not large, each one is exquisitely detailed and epic in scale. This amazing creator published his first comic work back in 2005.
Ye Old Lore of Yore (2005, Comixpress) was his first published work and is also the first appearance of what would become his most well known character, Cursed Pirate Girl. Not an easy book to find, we spotlighted it awhile back here. It also featured the first professional work or David Petersen (Mouse Guard). If you find a copy, consider yourself lucky. Jeremy’s second work was published in 2006 and was the first issue of Cursed Pirate Girl from Olympian Publishing. Cursed Pirate Girl is story of a girl in search of her pirate father in 1728, but it is so much more. It has been referred to as “our generation's Alice in Wonderland.” Due to Jeremy’s classic art style and incredibly detailed and creative character designs, the book transports you to this other world and leaves you staring in awe of each.illustrated page. There were three issues of Cursed Pirate Girl published by Olympian Press. Each one is incredibly hard to find, but well worth the search. They have rough brown cardstock covers with hand stamped logos. There are also several printings of the first and second issues that have different or modified artwork that are also very collectible. The fourth issue was published by Archaia/BOOM in 2015 and was called Cursed Pirate Girl 2015 Annual #1. This issue is nowhere near as rare as the first three, but is still a cool grab if you can find it, as it is part four of a five part story. If you don’t have the time or money to hunt these issues down, they are collected in graphic novel format.
It is now 2018 and we haven’t seen new Cursed Pirate Girl, or other new comic work, from Bastian for several years. Then, BOOM! Studios announced something spectacular. Jeremy Bastian was creating variant covers for one of their new books. The book was Judas, a four issue mini-series telling the Biblical story of Judas. Jeff Loveness and Jakub Rebelka are the creative team behind the book and Jeremy Bastian is producing a variant cover for each issue. BOOM! describes the series as:
BOOM! Studios is excited to announce JUDAS, a new comic book series launching in December from Emmy and WGA Award-nominated writer Jeff Loveness (Marvel’s Nova) and artist Jakub Rebelka (Namesake) that follows the path of the most famous traitor in history. In a story perfect for fans of Preacher and The Goddamned, JUDAS picks up after the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, as Judas Iscariot wakes up in Hell and grapples with his role in “The Greatest Story Ever Told”—and how much of his part was preordained.
As a fan of Bastian’s work, I wanted to find out more about the new series, his covers, as well as get a few answers to some burning questions related to his work. He was happy to talk about his recent work as a cover artist and to go into detail on some other topics as well.
Jeremy, you are doing the variant covers for the new Judas mini-series by Boom! For your fans, myself included, that is a very great thing! While it isn't new Cursed Pirate Girl, this new book has been really good so far and your work for the first three issues has been amazing. The cover for issue #3 released on Valentine's Day was probably my favorite so far.
First of all, the subject material is very different from what you have done in the past. Tell us about the new book, how you got connected with it, what kind of research you had to do to work on this new material, and why you agreed to do cover variants for each issue.
JEREMY: My editor at BOOM! wanted me to do an alternate cover for something/anything. He also mentioned it would be cool to do a series of alternate covers. He mentioned a couple of titles and then mentioned there was an upcoming book they were going to do about Judas. I jumped on that one. I was raised Methodist so there's a bit of a religious background there and while Judas is considered the number one traitor in all of history there wasn't a lot of talk about him (about who he was). I really like the take on Judas in Scorsese's “The Last Temptation of Christ“. That Jesus asked Judas to do what he did. Judas is so important to that story and I've always thought he was very neglected in other portrayals. I didn't do any research. I was sent a couple of character images and that was all, for the first cover. I had a lot of ideas I wanted to do but then thought of this really big closeup of a broody Judas and knew that's what I wanted. I finished it and turned it in. I got an email back thanking me and saying they really liked it but nothing about doing a second one. I remembered Cam (my editor) said he'd like me to do a series of covers for one title and I thought “if I'm going to do that this would be the one to do it on“. So I dropped a couple of hints here and there that I'd like to do more. Then I got the email asking if I'd like to do one for each issue. I said yeah that'd be great. The reply was something like “great, can we have one for issue 2 in two weeks?” I managed it just barely. I think I was a day off of their deadline. With the other covers, I was sent the script and more of Jakub's work on the series with images of the Devil and Jesus. I knew I wanted my covers to be influenced by the story but with a very classical Doré/Bosch take on the people and things in them. I was looking at a lot of Hendrik Goltzius and Lucas Van Leyden too as well as books on illuminated manuscripts. I figured of all the books to use that on this one is perfect.
Did you interact much with the other creative talent working on this book while you were working on the covers?
JEREMY: I was in touch with Eric, the editor of the series. The only interaction from the Judas creative team I had was from Twitter mentions by Jeff when the book was coming out :). I did put small likenesses of Jeff and Jakub on the cover of issue four though. It is their book after all. In a way, being so separate really worked out though. I could be me, do my version of things to create an image that wasn't just a watered down/over rendered version of something Jakub had done.
Were you asked to depict certain aspects of the story with your cover images? What parts of the story does each one show?
JEREMY: I had no direction other than I knew what the other covers were going to look like. I didn't want to do something too similar to what Jakub was doing. After the first cover, I really like the big closeup figure look so I went with that for numbers 2 and 3. Jesus comes in at the end of 2, so putting him in the cover might have been a bit of a spoiler, but I really dug the idea of the Devil and him being the feature for that one. The third cover had to be Judas putting the question to Jesus “did you know the whole time?” It was the part of the script in that issue that I thought was the most important because that's the question I had too. Did Jesus really pick this man up as a follower, as a disciple, knowing that he was fated to condemnation to the pit of Hell? And with the fourth one I just got back to a basic idea. It was the easiest and most fun of the covers. An illuminated manuscript style piece with our main character in the center and the two other characters above and below. In their respective places. I took a lot of inspiration from Goltzius and Leyden with how to crosshatch the lines making up the musculature of the figures while doing my own take on twisted floral elements like you'd see in an illuminated manuscript. Especially on the Hellscape side.
When did you start working on the images and approximately how long does each one take?
JEREMY: The covers took about 1 1/2 – 2 weeks each. I think issue four only took about a week. When I draw Cursed Pirate Girl I draw at print size and I use a brush with ink. These I did at print size with Micron pen. The pen line is a little more archaic, I get a broken line sometimes because I like to use pens that are almost dead. I prefer the scratchy line you get with those.
What's been the reception to these new works? Have you heard much from other artists or fans?
JEREMY: I've heard good things. When I was at Mondocon last year I showed a couple of artists that I really admire a pic on my phone of Judas #1 and the response was “that's a comic book cover?!” So that was pretty cool. I've had a couple of people say they really like them. I'm really happy with how they came out.
Now that you have branched out into doing variant cover work, would you consider doing other things things like superhero books? I can only imagine what some of your superhero work would look like. I would love to see it and I think it would be well received by comic book fans in general.
JEREMY: I would like to do that at some point. There are a couple of characters I just couldn't resist. I'm working on a poster for Mondo right now and I'm starting to get a little down about how much I haven't worked on my own story. I dream of a day when I've finished the last chapter of CPG and I can work on anything. Covers for comics, pieces for gallery shows, album art, maybe even something for myself :).
Are you an avid comic book reader? If so, what are some of your favorite books, runs, or characters?
JEREMY: I'd have to say Hellboy is my favorite book. Locke and Key was amazing! Ian Bertram on House of Penance and Tradd Moore on Luther Strode really impressed me. Some of my favorites are Guy Davis' Marquis, Gary Gianni's Monstermen, Bill Sienkiewicz's Demon Bear Saga from The New Mutants, John Totleben's work on Swamp Thing, Arthur Adams X-Men work. I've been really fortunate to see one of my favorites evolve as an artist, David Petersen's work on Mouseguard continually impresses and inspires me. And since I started CPG and setting up at shows I've had the honor of meeting a lot of my heroes I've listed above and many more that I respect and can now call friends. I feel very lucky that I can do what I do and call it a career :).
What's been your process when you work on books? Do you do it all by hand or digitally? Or is it a combination of both? The industry seems to be moving more and more towards digital, but your artwork has always had a more natural and antique feel.
JEREMY: Hah! What is this … digital, you speak of. I only use a computer to clean work up for publication. I do all my CPG work on 3 ply vellum bristol at print size (there's no reduction, what you see is how big I drew it), I pencil out everything and then I ink it with a size 00 kolinsky sable brush and speedball super black ink. The Judas covers I did on a printmaking paper from Utrecht and used Microns. This is the same paper and pens I use for convention sketches and daily sketches. The paper has a good tooth, a rag-like texture that I prefer when using pens. I just don't like smooth paper :). And when it comes to CPG I also hand letter it with a crowquill nib pen. I think it gives it that James Gillray/Thomas Rowlandson 18th-19th century political cartoon feel. I have very specific intentions when it comes to CPG and her aesthetic. I have had the luxury of working on CPG at my own pace. Unlike the covers I just finished I have no deadline for my story. It means I can have a lot of fun diving in making it a very uniquely ornamented book. It also means it takes a long time to do. I do strive to make it worth the wait though :).
Looking ahead, do you have anything in the works? Can we expect any new Cursed Pirate Girl or other new created series or collaboration to look forward to?
JEREMY: Well, I've mentioned a poster for Mondo. I cannot disclose yet which movie I'm doing one for. I can say it is one of my favorites. Other than that it's back to Chapter 5 of CPG. I can't even guess at when it might be done. Hopefully before 2020 :).
In addition to picking up these new variant covers, how can comic readers who are just discovering you get more Jeremy Bastian?
JEREMY: I just started a Patreon page that would bring more of my work into being. https://www.patreon.com/JeremyBastian/community? Otherwise, I am on Instagram @jeremy_bastian and twitter @jeremybastian and you can get Cursed Pirate Girl volume 1 at your local comic shop (hopefully) or from Amazon or at the very least from me at a comic con this year. There is a list of the shows on one of the public posts in my Patreon. There are four chapters out there. Vol. 1 has chapters 1-3 and chapter 4 is a red flimsy single issue called the 2015 Annual. I really wish they hadn't dated it like that. And if you are one of my European fans vol. 1 is translated into French -La Fille Maudite du Capitaine Pirate, Italian –La Maledizione della Ragazza Pirata and now German –Der Fluch Der Piratenbraut (which has all four chapters collected).
Thank you very much for taking the time to answer these questions! I hope our readers will go out and pick up these issues and your other works. The final issue of the four issue Judas mini-series releases on March 14th (that's today, folks!). We'll be looking for that issue and more new work from you soon! Thanks again!