Tuesday, March 16, 2010

20 Questions w/ Paul Guinan: Steampunk

I first met Paul Guinan at the Spokane Comic Con '09 and was introduced to his book Heartbreakers Meet Boilerplate. He was working on a new book staring Boilerplate and got me excited about it... though I have yet to buy my copy (sorry Mr. Guinan)
Finding Mr. Guinan to always be of a pleasant disposition, I endevored to interview him for my blog. But schedules as they were after the premiere of Boilerplate: History's Mechanical Marvel, I resolved to shoot him 20 questions via email. Here is the result!

1. In Heartbreakers Meet Boilerplate you use photographs instead of traditional pencil drawings. Could you tell us about this process a photo goes through to become a panel in your comic book? Would you call this a modern form of Rotoscoping?

GUINAN Rotoscoping, an animation technique that involves drawing over footage of live actors, is a good analogy for how I approached the art in Heartbreakers Meet Boilerplate. Nearly every image began as a series of photos, which I then digitally composited and drew/painted over. I call my technique Paintography™! Hopefully it produces an effect that immerses the reader into the reality of the story. I was flattered that a select panel of judges nominated my work for an Eisner Award in the category of "Best Multimedia Artist."

2. Would you encourage others to use this technique, or would you prefer to keep the competition to a minimum?

GUINAN Of course anyone is welcome to give it a whirl, and other artists are already using a wide variety of digital techniques. Some of them are similar to mine, but I don’t think anyone’s doing anything exactly like it. As a photo-based technique, it has limitations—for example, if I were drawing a Western, I’d have to get cowboy outfits and horses.

3. Does this style affect how much action you can put into a panel?

GUINAN It might affect the type of action I can pull off, but not the amount of action, scenery, and characters. The biggest challenge in Heartbreakers Meet Boilerplate was compositing all the clones played by my wife, writer Anina Bennett, who had to change outfits constantly.

4. Are you limited or liberated by this way of making comics?

GUINAN It’s a mixed bag. I mentioned some of the limitations already. On the other hand, I am liberated from having to sweat over rendering details like architectural perspective drawing, or how light falls on the clothing folds of a hunched-over figure—that sort of thing.

5. Your wife (Anina Bennett) is the face behind Queenie and the Heartbreakers. What was her response when you told her she was going to be the basis for the Heartbreakers?

GUINAN She giggled like a schoolgirl. Nah, just kidding. Although I’ve always used Anina as a model in my work, the original model for the Heartbreakers in the late 1980s was actually her stepsister, Tamara Braun. Tamara later went on to become a soap opera star. Anina started modeling for Queenie and company in the mid-1990s, after we moved to Portland. By the time we did the Boilerplate crossover graphic novel, they looked so much like her that the transition to photo-based art was seamless.

6. How did you talk your friends into posing for your comic book?

GUINAN I say, “Wanta play a part in my next graphic novel?” And the response is always “Yeah, that’d be way cool!” It seems everyone loves comics these days.

7. Do your friends get residuals for their modeling work?

GUINAN They get copies of the book and bragging rights to being a comic book character. Plus our eternal gratitude. Our friends know that these kinds of creator-owned graphic novel projects don’t make much in the way of profits. When the Hollywood deal comes through, though, I’ll remember my pals!

8. As you know I'm deploying to the desert soon so I have to ask, may I take Boilerplate with me to Iraq?

GUINAN Boilerplate would want to go instead of you, since its purpose is to replace human soldiers in military conflicts.

9. You’ve said of your new book, “It’s more a history book than about the robot. It’s kinda a sneaky way to get people to read history. I just snuck the robot into parts of history.” I gather you are a history buff. Has this project added to your love of history? What time period do you find most fascinating and why?

GUINAN I’m a huge history buff, with a bent towards military history. The turn of the 19th/20th century was the origin point of our present-day culture and economy. From major inventions or discoveries such as airplanes, electric lighting, and telephones, to rights and protections we take for granted such as child labor laws, national parks, and women’s suffrage—it all began at the dawn of the last century.

10. You were the guest of honor at SteamCon in Seattle, WA last fall. Could you tell us about that experience and will you and Boilerplate be attending the next one?

GUINAN It was an all-around terrific experience! Boilerplate was a huge hit. The author guest of honor, Tim Powers, declared it “the most fascinating history book I’ve ever read”—and he’s read a lot of them. Anina and I did readings from the book, and I MC’d the combination high tea and steampunk fashion show.
Most of the convention attendees were dressed up, in straightforward Victorian outfits as well as elaborate costumes with Jules Verne-like accessories. Best of all, everyone we met was smart, creative, and well-mannered. Steampunks rule. Anina and I plan to go back this year.

11. What has the tour experience for Boilerplate been like? Are you comfortable plugging your own work?

GUINAN Anina based this letter from Boilerplate’s inventor, Archie Campion, on my attitude: “So accustomed had I grown to working day in and day out, utterly absorbed in constructing my mechanical soldier, that upon its completion I felt at first a sense of great relief and accomplishment, followed at once by panic. Having created this marvel, I now face the far more onerous chore of peddling it like a street vendor.”

12. How did Periscope Studios come together?

GUINAN David Hahn organized the studio back in 2002, with nine members. It was originally called Mercury Studio. Today we’re up to two dozen members, and the remaining founders are myself, David Hahn, Steve Lieber, Ron Randall, and Karl Kesel. Studio members do work for all the major comic book publishers as well as commercial clients such as movie studios and ad agencies. We all also do small-press, online, or self-published comics, which generally allow more room for creative freedom.

13. Any chance I could talk you into letting me visit the studio?

GUINAN Well, since you’ve had your inoculations, I think you’ll be safe. Come on down!

14. The website says you’ve all worked for DC at some point in your careers. How did it feel to get your first job from one of the big guys? How did Chronos come about?

GUINAN I started out doing advertising storyboards, then worked as a staff artist at First Comics, then freelanced for First, DC, Marvel, and Dark Horse. Since I came up through the ranks, instead of “breaking in” by sheer persistence, freelancing for DC was just another gig.
As for my stint on Chronos, I blame the greatest comic book editor who ever lived: Archie Goodwin, the namesake of Boilerplate’s inventor. He knew how much I wanted to work with him on some kind of period piece. When he green-lighted a heroic revamp of the time-traveling DC villain Chronos, Archie approached me with the opportunity to redesign the character, co-create, and draw the monthly series.

15. In your autobiography cartoon strip you mention the Heartbreakers. What kind of influence did the 1970’s punk rock band have on you as a bellbottomed youth?

GUINAN I was even more into the Ramones, Buzzcocks, and Clash. All part of my raging-hormone years. It’s nice to see teenagers slouching around in the same clothes and listening to the same music I did—makes me feel relevant in my dotage. The generation gap died sometime in the 1980s, as far as I can tell.

16. Have any of the surviving members of the band contacted you about the homage to their name?

GUINAN Not yet. I’m also still waiting for Jenna Jameson to admit that her broken-heart tattoo is based on our comic book.

17. Do you ever miss working on television? What could bring you back?

GUINAN An 11:30 p.m. time slot on NBC.

18. What was the first comic you ever owned/read?

GUINAN I can’t remember the very first one, but I can tell you that my favorite comic as a kid was Jack Kirby’s Kamandi. When that series came out, I had straight, shoulder-length blond hair; I was totally into Planet of the Apes, gangster movies, and Westworld; and I lived in Chicago. So when the apes vs. Chicago robot gangsters story arc ran in Kamandi, I flipped out—this comic was being created just for ME!

19. What/who is the most important influence on your comic book career?

GUINAN All of the 1970s naturalist comics illustrators: Nick Cardy, Russ Heath, John Severin, Gray Morrow, Curt Swan, etc. When I started drawing professionally, Howard Chaykin’s page layouts were also a huge influence.

20. Who would win in a battle, Mr. Hero or Boilerplate?

GUINAN Hmm, good question. Boilerplate has a super-durable body, tremendous strength, military training, and simple power source. I’d need more detailed specs on Mr. Hero in order to make a proper judgment. But if I had to pick, of course my money’s on Boilerplate! What do you think?...