Name: Nick Johnson
Type of Creator: Artist, Writer
List your work:
- Wolf Hands
- Dia de los Muertos
- Fight Comics
- My Modern Panic
- The Art of Dodging Shadows
Online Portfolio: nickj.ca
Art Blog: nicksoup.com
What was the first comic you read?
My parents took me to a comic store when I was pretty young and they told me I could pick one comic. There was so much to look at, so many choices, an endless rainbow of colourful spandex and benday dots. My head nearly exploded. Somehow I ended up picking an issue of SUPERMAN which featured an image of a Superman voodoo doll on the cover. No idea what it was about or where it went or why my parents let me read about voodoo stuff considering our religious leanings at the time, but they started something that day…
What inspired you to make comics? A specific story? Writer? Artist?
If I see something cool, I have to try to be a part of it. Whether it be cartoons, films, comics, music, origami, stand up comedy; if I enjoy it, I have to try my hand at it. I was into comics right after snatching up Voodoo Superman and I started drawing them right away.
Junior High is when comics really overtook my world and it was Marvel Comics, mostly SPIDERMAN, that inspired me the most. The first creator name I memorized was Mark Bagley, so he’ll always hold a special place in my heart. All work from this time was Spiderman rip offs.
Thanks to Wizard magazine and the amazing YTV show Anti-Gravity Room, I found out about amazing indie comics by guys like Brian Michael Bendis (a newbie crime guy at the time) and Jeff Smith and that fuelled my quest to make my own work and show it off to anyone who would read it.
The mini comic scene in Calgary around the year 2000 was a huge source of inspiration for me. Damian “Dorkboy” Wilcox, Scott Dutton, and Richard Harrison were putting out amazing self-published comics back then (heck, Damian still IS) and they were full of advice and encouragement.
Plus I’ll never forget the day Andrew Foley stopped by this shy young man’s comic show table to tell him his superhero stuff was “good, but THIS” pointing to a stylized sketch for an upcoming punk/crime comic I was planning, “this is really good.” It refocused my energies into more diverse storytelling, and I’ve never looked back.
What do you like about comics? What is it about them that interests you? Inspires you? Moves you?
I want to tell stories that mean something to me and the people who read them. Stories that reveal a bit about me and how I perceive the world, mistakes I’ve made and lessons I’ve learned. Not in hopes of lecturing, but of sharing. Maybe of making a connection and reaching a person or two who might say “Damn, I feel like that sometimes.” What better way to tell that kind of story then by fusing the power of text AND image, using them to compliment and contrast each other.
I’m talking like an idealist but I haven’t been jaded by the world yet so I’m just going to dig in my heels and enjoy it!
What is the most important thing people need to know about comics?
You can use them to say anything you want. But that comes with its own amount of responsibility. Ideas have power.
As an artist, what medium do work in? Pencils? Ink? Digital?
Up until I purchased a Cintiq a few months ago, I would have said pencil and ink with digital colours through Photoshop. But my last couple projects have been purely digital. My layouts have gotten a lot faster and sure I don’t miss wasting all that paper. Still dig pencilling away in my sketchbook though!
As a writer, pen or keyboard?
I use a pen when the thoughts are flying fast and furious and then, after the invoked demon has abandoned my husk of a body, I type the chicken scratch onto the computer.
What’s the first thing you do when you sit down to work? Do you have a routine?
First thing I do is usually turn on music or the TV, depending on what I’m doing. Routine is pretty important to productivity, I find. I basically try to work Tuesday to Thursday evenings, reward myself with fun times on Friday and then I work some Saturday and Sunday afternoons.
Do you listen to music when you work? Other background noise?
If I’m writing, I gotta drown myself in some story specific music to get myself in the correct headspace. Usually it’s a band that has the perfect sound for the story I’m working on. Then when I’m ready to rock, I’ll play some quieter music in the background. If I’m doing art stuff, I’ll either listen to a horror film podcast, watch TV shows I’ve already seen, or listen to movie commentaries.
Working from home presents endless opportunities for distraction, mainly in the house cleaning or cats-need-attention department. But my main challenge is work/life balance. I work on comics and various projects to relax, and when you work all day as well, you just end up working all the time and ignoring other important things in life, like human contact and exploring the world at large.
If you had to pick one comic as a favourite, what would it be?
CASANOVA by Matt Fraction, Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon
What is the:
Most romantic comic you’ve ever read?
Been awhile since I read it, but BLANKETS was rather lovely. Jesse and Tulip riding off into the sunset at the end of PREACHER was pretty damn romantic too…
Most exciting comic you’ve ever read?
Tie between CASANOVA and Grant Morrison’s epic BATMAN run.
ALL STAR SUPERMAN by Morrison actually makes me want to be a better person. As does his Batman work actually…
SCOTT PILGRIM by Bryan Lee O’ Malley
30 DAYS OF NIGHT is the only comic that ever, literally, frightened me. The first time I saw Ben Templesmith’s art I was like, “Nope!”
THREE SHADOWS by Cyril Pedrosa is one of the most powerful stories I’ve ever read. ESSEX COUNTY by Jeff Lemire actually made me misty in the eyes. As did an issue of 100 BULLETS. The one with Mr. Shepherd and the coyotes…<sob>…oh god…
Who is your favourite comic character?
Casanova Quinn. Although his twin sister Zephyr is a very close second.
What three words would you use to describe your work?
Energetic. Colourful. Violent.
What is your favourite place to go in Calgary?
Any pub where I can draw and talk story with my pals. Lately the Bear n Kilt has been good for that. But Dickens rocks too because I can dance and play music there sometimes.
Future projects you are working on/would like to work on:
- Upcoming anthology by Calgary cartoonists called WISHLESS.
- Writing an original graphic novel that’s been on my brain for a decade.
- Another chapter of WOLF HANDS eventually. I promise!
Horror films, spaghetti westerns and fashion magazines
You are stranded on a desert island, you must have:
Which 3 albums?
- IAMX – Kingdom of Welcome Addiction
- The Decemberists – Hazards of Love
- Of Montreal – Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?
Which 3 movies?
- Grosse Pointe Blank
- Before Sunset
Which 3 foods?
- Chips, chard and chicken
Which 3 television shows?
- Batman: TAS
- The I.T. Crowd
- Invader Zim