Hello gentle readers!
Even after all the great reviews we’ve received and inspiring interviews we’ve done over the last month, I still feel an irrepressible urge to talk more Karma Police. There is just so much good stuff that goes on behind the scenes here at KP central, and while I’d like to ramble on about my inspirations for the series or delve into how time is perceived in a particular 16-panel page, I realize that the main attraction here is the amazing creative team that put this thing together.
With that in mind, I decided to reach out and interview artist Tony Gregori and colorist Jasen Smith in the hopes of learning more about their creative process, what it takes to work as a team, and whether or not they hated me for one specific page in issue #3 (hint: they did just a little). Let’s get to it…
When did you guys first start working together, and when did you realize that you made a good team?
Tony Gregori – I think we started working together on Michael Sarrao’s Unmasked, before then Tim Daniel and I tried getting him to work on a book with us called Throwback but we weren’t able to work it out. I was a fan of his work from afar, I saw some stuff he did with John Broglia and I really loved the vibrancy of his work, it is very unique. I think we are a natural fit, have a lot of the same sensibilities ,and we understand each other pretty well. We’re close friends now, he’s one of the few people I confide in, so when there’s an obstacle we’re able to talk it out and get to the bottom of it.
Jasen Smith – Yeah, the first thing was Unmasked and then Armada X. Michael Sarrao brought us together to work on those two books. Then we were crossing paths again and again from other guys wanting to pitches and short stories. In the beginning I wasn’t sure how I wanted to color Tony’s work. He’s got a mixed bag, detailed backgrounds, simple characters. It’s like Mignola mixed with Sean Gordon Murphy.
We have already talked with a few people about the decision we made to change the coloring style on Karma Police. Do either of you have any regrets that we abandoned the original style? What is it about the second style that works so well?
TG – I liked the old style initially, but after getting in the new pages from Jasen, I was in love. It fit the book perfectly, simple yet creative and beautiful. It just grabs your attention, and it’s consistent. I have no regrets, except that we didn’t get to it sooner.
JS – I wasn’t positive on the first round of colors. I think I was more concerned about mimicking other people’s style to try and get it to work. For it just wasn’t working, not a fan of the soft airbrushed look with heavy textures. I’m more a fan of the simplistic look. Something you’d see in cartoons or what Stewart did on Hellboy. Tony and I had worked on a short for a book called, “Imaginary Drugs” and in it I did a cell shaded style and loved how it looked. I didn’t add any effects to it, and did a bunch of color-holds. I really dug how that style looked and when an editor asked us to change to a simpler look, I knew more of what I wanted to do.
To my constant delight you both went above and beyond what could reasonably be expected in terms of speed, quality and dedication to the project. Is that just how you roll?
TG – Yep.
JS – We know each other pretty well, despite living several miles away and never meeting face to face. It’s like a long distance relationship sometimes. But I think we hit our stride with Karma Police. Before, it was really about finding how to fit these two pieces of a puzzle together and now those two final pieces are together to create a work of art.
Jasen: could you choose one page of Tony’s work that really inspired you, and give us a rundown on how you made your coloring decisions?
JS – Could I pick one of my kids as my favorite? I’ve colored for a lot of different people in a lot of different styles. When I started working for Hi-Fi Color it was like being thrown into a battlefield of guys who have been fighting since the start of a war. There I am, not sure how to even load my gun. But in those situations you either give up and quit or you struggle and become better. I chose the latter and since then have learned so much more. I thought I reached my peak on coloring years ago, coloring a page that took only 8 hours was what I thought was my best. Now, those same pages take 2 hours and look much better.
There isn’t a favorite page of mine in Tony’s work, I like to compliment the artist, it’s my job to compliment his/her and not overshadow. There are pages that are so detailed that I question if he hates me though.
Tony: was there a page where you and Jasen had difficulties coming to an agreement on the final colors? What made that page such a challenge?
TG -To be honest, not really. There are sequences that we debated over, the opening to issue 4 was a source of contention for a day or so, but we came to an agreement. He wanted to start off at Defcon 5, but I knew that we’d get there eventually and wanted to It’s been a great learning process for me, listening to Jasen’s ideas, juxtaposing them against what I had in my mind for the page, and finding a common ground. I’m just proud and lucky that I get to work with him and call him my friend. He’s tireless, dedicated, and talented. And he has a great head of hair.
Okay, I’m going to have to dig a bit deeper here. Can you tell me what went into creating the massive double-page in issue #2?
TG– There wasn’t a description of the Grove in the script, if I remember correctly. You just kinda told me to go nuts. So I did some research and decided upon the Buddhist Wheel of Life as an archetype and went from there. It’s supposed to represent the wheel of cyclical existence, so I drew it in order from top to bottom. Starting off with individual souls that descend into birth on another plane, with some cities and landscapes, then some cataclysms recycling through a cycloptic deity’s hands into another plane of being, which in turn cycle back up to continue the process. I mapped it out, diagrammed it, and wrote an index for Jasen. I was visiting my parents in Florida at the time, so one night while they were asleep, I cleared off the kitchen table and drew it. Then Jasen and I went back and forth for a day or so as he colored it, figuring out what everything should look like. I think we did a decent job!
JS – I was both looking to and dreading those pages. There are so many details and it’s so massive, and it’s my job to help bring it together without making it confusing. I spent a lot longer on those pages than any others in the series. Tony had a specific way he wanted it to look and I got as close as possible to that.
When I was all done with the colors, I didn’t feel like it had enough depth, so I copied some of his clouds and blurred them a bit to push that depth a bit more.
Also, do both of you guys hate me for issue 3, page 14?
TG- That was a little tedious, but I liked doing it, to be honest. I had to redraw it, initially I had less details on the BHLs in the bg, and realized they needed more work, so I scrapped it after I was ½ done with it and started over from scratch. I was kind of hating myself at that point for not thinking it through before I started.
JS – It took so long to flat and color that page. Hate is a strong word and when I was done with page 14 I sighed in relief. Until I saw the next page which had just as many details. When it’s all said and done, those pages look great and stand out I think.
Yep, this is definitely true. Tony and Jasen are my main men, and if you want to see more of their magic, please consider backing the Karma Police Kickstarter in the next HOURS, as time is running out!