Welcome back to another spotlight interview. This time we interviewed comic creator and artist Craig Rousseau!
Craig has worked for a bunch of comic publishers including Marvel and DC. He is well remembered for a long run on Impulse with DC and he is the co-creator and artist of the Perhapanauts with Todd Dezago.
Craig and I talked about the new books he has coming out including Killing Red Sonja from Dynamite Entertainment and a re-release of Kyrra: Alien Jungle Girl from Scout Comics.
We also reminisced about some of his other work and talked about what his art process looks like today.
It was a great chat. I hope you enjoy it.
Below you will find the audio recording of our conversation. We also transcribed the majority of the interview for you, but there are still a couple things that you will only find in the audio.
Interview with Craig Rousseau on 3/10/2020
Pop Culture Squad: Thanks for doing this. Let’s talk about Killing Red Sonja from Dynamite. How did that gig come about? What can you tell us about the story for that particular book? I believe it is a five-issue series?
Craig Rousseau: I believe that it is six, but I could be wrong. So, it actually it came about because I’ve worked with Nate Cosby in the past. He was my editor over at Marvel way back when, and every now and then, I would do a cover or a pin-up or a couple of pages for him over at Dynamite. And I said, ”Hey, if anything ever comes up, I would love to work with you again.” Originally, he was looking for an artist to do some samples for Red Sonja/Vampirella, and quickly, we realized, that I was much more attuned to drawing grumpy old men and weird monsters and not so much hot chicks in bikinis.
PCS: Or onesies?
CR: Yeah! So, after a few quick samples, we kind of switched gears, and he said “I think we have something else that might work better for you.” That is when he pitched the idea of Killing Red Sonja. Which, I thought, was a lot of fun and really much more my wheelhouse.
PCS: That is awesome. How’s it working with Mark Russell and Bryce Ingman on that?
CR: You know, it’s been great. Really, they have been sending over the scripts fully formed and letting me really just cut loose and go wild with it. Every now and then I might have to change something, because they have something in mind further on down the road or something has to tie into the main Red Sonja series book, but for the most part, it’s been them throwing a lot crazy stuff in the script, and me getting to draw it.
PCS: That is great. Have you caught up on what Mark’s been doing in the main Red Sonja line at all?
CR: You know what, they send me a bunch of the copies digitally, so I was caught up for awhile and then I haven’t read the last the last few. I have to get back on that.
PCS: The war is over. It’s good. It’s one of my favorites right now. Have you been a fan of Red Sonja in the past?
CR: To be brutally honest, I had a passing interest in her, I’ve bought books here and there, mostly because they looked interesting, but I don’t know much about her character arc or her whole story. So, interesting in that the book is called “Killing Red Sonja”, but she really doesn’t show up in the book. She is more of the MacGuffin in the story. It’s about the kid who is on a quest to kill Red Sonja.
PCS: Which is excellent. It’s a great way to bring that storyline together without having to take up the main work of the main series.
PCS: So, let’s move on to Kyrra: Alien Jungle Girl the Nonstop edition that you and Rich Woodall have coming out next week from Scout Comics. What’s up with that?
CR: Ok. Well, with that is pretty much like the first 20 or so pages of our original run over at Dark Horse, or even before that when we self-published on the web for a while. Then we had done twelve chapters in Dark Horse Presents that were collected in a trade. The trade went out of print, then Dark Horse gave us the rights back, and since Rich was working working on Electric Black over at Scout right now, he suggested the idea of bringing it there and they were very happy with that idea.
I think this format is kind of wild because they pretty much printed the first issue as like a sampler, like “Hey if you like this story, buy the trade that will come out in a few months.” So, it’s a primer or a teaser or what have you.
PCS: OK, so that was my question. I wasn’t sure how this will come out. So, you will be releasing the trade it with Scout?
CR: Yeah. So, this first issue comes out, Non-Stop number one, that comes out March 18th. It will be pretty much the first twenty pages or so of the story, and then trade will come out. I want to say they just announced in the solicitations this week or today. So, I think its going to be in the stores in June.
We are working on twenty new pages of story, so that if you bought the Dark Horse trade, there is still something new in this for you. There is a new cover, there are twenty pages of new story, there is going to be some pinups from other artists and maybe some behind the scenes stuff that we can fill it out and make it feel a little more unique.
PCS: Well, that is great. So, what is it like coming back to something like that? Doing new pages and new story with that.
CR: It’s been a lot of fun. Although. I was drawing one of the main villains, and my first thought was, “Who the hell designed this character? Oh, wait, that was me.” It was a pain in the butt, but it was fun going back and fleshing out a little more of the story and trying to figure out how we can but these new pages in and not feel like we are screwing up the story that we told already.
I guess, if it does well, and sales warrant it, we’ve got the seeds of volume two that we are setting up. So, if it does well, we will do volume two next year.
PCS: That would be fantastic. What does your process look like now these days, and how has it changed? Are you all digital? I see daily, or almost daily, head sketches and stuff like that? And am assuming that is all digital.
CR: Oddly enough, daily sketches, head sketches are on bristol board, and I then scan them and color them digitally.
One of my friends had started collecting sketches from conventions and that ballooned into him owning a lot of those sketches and he was saying, “You know. I don’t like a lot of modern comics, but I like your take on these characters that I grew up with, so maybe instead of buying comics every week let me buy a sketch from you. I’ll put my comic money towards my sketches collection.”
So, we have a running tally, where he gives me a long list, let me pick who I want to draw and he will pick from those.
PCS: I need large size poster of the collection.
CR: Yeah, it’s getting kind of crazy. I think at last count my Marvel head sketches were up a round over two hundred different Marvel characters and sixty something Batman characters. Now I am working on the DC ones. So, its enough to make a gigantic set of sheets or shower curtain, or something crazy like that.
PCS: That’s not a bad idea.
CR: Those are all on board. For comics, Kyrra, I still work on boards because I want to feel the rest of the book did, but all the Red Sonja stuff and a few other projects, I’m doing right now, I’m doing all digitally on my iPad.
PCS: And how do you like that?
CR: You know, I love that fact that I can bring it anywhere I want to work and not have to feel tied down to my drawing board. I like the ability to flip things around and change size and undue, undue and then figure out the right way to draw it.
PCS: I have had lots of discussions with different artists. Thom Zahler, who is pretty much all digital except for covers, but he says he can do just about everything he wants to with just the iPad. And then someone like Dean Haspiel, doesn’t even know what to do with the digital, he is all paper and erasers. So, what do you think of the size your using in terms of the iPad verses, other people using a large Cintiq?
CR: You know, I mean, in my studio upstairs I have a 22-inch Cintiq that I used a lot, but once I got the iPad Pro, I realized I can pretty much do enough for print. I mean, I’m not worried about making these 600 dpi poster size images, but they are perfect for print. So, I can move right along on those. There are a couple of programs that I use, but Procreate has given me a lot more freedom and a looseness that I wasn’t able to capture in my inks, that I am figuring how to do digitally. I think that is a lot of fun.
PCS: That’s great. I am going to do the thing most creators hate, but when will we see more Perhapanauts?
CR: Well, that a good question, that I don’t hate it at all. Todd (Dezago) and I have been hashing out the story for months and months. I have already gotten about twenty-five pages of the next book drawn, and we are trying to figure out how to get a proper launch for a Kickstarter or publishing plan. So, it’s very much probably going to be announced some point officially later this year.
PCS: Awesome. That’s great. Here is a bit of a left field question. Because I was doing my research and looking around and I remembered Future Quest. What was it like getting to draw the Impossibles for comics?
CR: You know, I honestly of all the characters in the Future Quest storyline those are the ones I wasn’t familiar with, so I had to go download some copies on iTunes, and I thought it was a lot of fun then I saw Doc Shaner’s designs, and they were a blast. But they were kind of very loosely done, those characters because it was a much more realistic take on it. So, it was it was fun working with (Jeff) Parker. I love working with Parker. I don’t think we do it nearly enough. Initially, I think when Parker said, “Hey, want to draw some Future Quest?” I was like, “Wow, OF COURSE!” And then they said, “It’s the Impossibles.” And I said “Whoa, of course.” It was fun. I didn’t have a connection with these characters as much as the other ones.
PCS: How much of a connection did you have to the rest of the Hanna Barbera Cartoons growing up?
CR: You know, growing up, I used to watch The Herculoids all the time. And Space Ghost and Birdman, but for some reason, I kept on saying, “Hey, why can’t they do Samson and Goliath?” And Parker said “No, they aren’t going to do that, so stop bugging me about that.”
PCS: That is awesome. I really enjoyed that whole series and I have talked to Jeff about it too.
CR: I love it. I love the fact it was good. At the same time, I kept on saying, “Man, I want to see Doc draw this whole book.” I was stepping in, and I didn’t want to step on his toes, but it was an honor to be a part of that project.
PCS: Sure. Let’s go back, what made you want to be a comic book artist?
CR: I grew up reading comics as a kid. One of my friends and I would pool our money. We would harangue our parents to bring us to the city in the the next town over to the comic shop and I would buy the Avengers, and he would buy X-Men, and we would sit and copy panels and we would draw it. We would spend hours doing that, and then I went all the way up through High School thinking, “I’m not sure what I want to do.”
Then I ended up going to college for Illustration and Fine Arts. Then, I thought comics was just comics, I’m going for fine arts. I’m going to be an illustrator or a painter or do something a little bit more, but I kept coming back to comics, because I was still buying them and still loving them. So, I did my senior project on comic book pages, and I learned a lot about it. They were pretty awful, but it was a good learning process.
Through that, one of the other kids in the class with me has a connection at Marvel, who was able to say, “Hey, if you send some samples, I can give you some feedback.” It kind of opened the door enough that I got my foot in, to get samples in, and get a couple of small jobs doing Pogs of all things. It was my first professional work was Pogs at Marvel. And I did one page out of a comic book based on a CD based on Saturday Morning Cartoons. It had a a cover by Bill Sienkiewicz and art by all these other fanatics artists, and I got in there by sheer luck.
PCS: So, let’s talk about Bart (Allen). How much do you love drawing Bart?
CR: I love drawing him. I cut my teeth on him in comics. Again, my first sample of comics Vertigo, but they were kind of weird kinda funky cartoony Vertigo almost. The editor who saw the samples said, “I kind of think you would be ok to fill on Impluse.” Then I kind of toned it down and got really cartoony, and then I had two years to hone the craft working on the book and really getting a feel for the character.
Toward the end, I was like I think I’m ready to find something new. I love drawing him but I think I’m ready to try new projects which worked out well, because they were going to fire me at that exact time because it was coming up to issue #50, and I thought, man, it was a perfect time for me to leave, and for someone else to come in. They thought the same thing. So, it worked out very well.
PCS: It’s an interesting way to take that. Just to take it that way.
CR: They were going for a whole new team on the book, and it was funny because that is when I said, “You know Paul, I think I need to try something new.” He said, “Well, that make that conversation so much easier.” And then, like an hour later, I get a phone call from Todd, saying “Dude, I’m writing Impluse now.” And I said, “Dude, I just quit Impulse.” So, we didn’t get to work together.
PCS: That’s funny. That’s very funny. Can we talk for a minute about your involvement with the Ringo Awards and what that means to you?
CR: Absolutely! You know when they talked about a replacement for the Harvey Awards and they wanted a name that inspired people and someone who loved comics, who would be a good person to inspire the awards and immediately Marc Nathan said it was Ringo (Mike Wieringo). Then immediately Mark Waid and Todd were on board and Matt (Wieringo), and I just kind of hung out with them, and I was just kind of helping out. The first year, I was unofficially part of the group.
I really wanted, no real role in it, but I was there to hang out, and they were like you are here enough you might as well just be part of the panel for now on. So, I think I fell into it in that sense. It really goes to show how much of an influence he still has on comics and love of comics which I think is just awesome.
PCS: I’ve been going to the Baltimore awards show, let’s put it that way for the past five or six years I guess. So, it is always the best award show, and it always the best show in my opinion, no offense to any other shows out there, but there was a big change, a very positive change, when it became the Ringo Awards. That first awards show was incredibly moving in every way, and I think David Peterson’s speech was one of the best ever.
PCS: I really like that you are involved in that.
CR: I love the fact that it involves us having a conversation of “Man, what would Mike be liking these days? What would Mike be reading in comics? What would inspire Mike? What is inspired by Mike?” That is how every year we come up with Spirit of the Ringo Award.
It may not be the best selling book. It may not be most popular book out there, but it literally has the Spirit of Ringo. We’ve picked books that he would have liked, and Matt certainly has a good sense of what his brother would have liked and didn’t like and is always right there upfront with some great ideas and choices.
PCS: That is awesome. So, we know, we have, Killing Red Sonja. There is some Perhapanauts in the near future. There is hopefully more Kyrra. Is there anything else we are going to be expecting from you?
CR: Yes. On and off I’ve been working on a book for my friend Darin Henry, who self- publishes on a line of books called Sitcomics, and I have drawn three issues of a book called Startup. It’s about a single mom who gets super powers.
Darin is a Hollywood writer. In his spare time, he has decided to publish his own line of comics. He has written these issues, and I have drawn three of them. He is calling them “binge books”. It is really a sixty-four page comic, so I’ve really drawn nine issues or ten issues of this story so far.
He has it priced for four dollars, and I find that insane, and he has self-publishing them for a while. I think he is looking to change that at some point, but I have been working with him on that. He also has got Ron Frenz doing something for him now. (Sal) Buscema’s been working with him. Steven Gordon, who worked on the X-Men Evolution cartoon and other stuff.
He has got quite a bit of talent in his little line of books that he has been putting out that are done-in-one stories. He is like, ”I want to tell stories that I like when I was growing up. What kind of comics appeal to me? What kind of stories?’
So, I’m working on that. Then, I have another creator owned book that I am working on with a friend that I am about two issues into that, and there is more work lined up. Contracts should be coming soon. So, that will happen later this year as well. We will talk about that a little later.
PCS: That sounds like a plan. Definitely. That’s great to hear. So, can I go back to Startup is the name of it? It’s a sixty-four page single issue, so you have done three of those, is that what you are saying?
CR: I’ve done three of those.
PCS: And each sixty-four page is a single issue is a complete story? I like this.
CR: Yes, it’s three individual chapters that break down, that would have been three regular comics but, he put them all together into one. All the characters designs have been by Ron Frenz. That has been a lot of fun working with those.
PCS: That is awesome. That is something that keeps coming up in different areas, where people are going to a longer single issue, but not necessarily a complete OGN, but definitely longer then a single twenty-four page floppy. It’s giving more story and letting it sit there.
PCS: I think AfterShock is doing some stuff like that. And some other companies too.
CR: Yeah, I know the last Perhapanauts book we had done. We did just as a graphic novel. And this next story, we had started doing chapters that we felt maybe we can release them digitally first, but organically it would become one big book. So, we’re probably not going to go floppy because we lost our shirt on floppies at Image, but we did ok with self-publishing a hardcover, which I find crazy, but that is the industry these days.
PCS: Yeah, you are definitely finding that. I can totally can see that.
CR: I think the whole thing with crowdfunding and self-publishing, is that we can get the product directly to the hands of the fans who want it. We are not having to fighting with fifty Marvel titles a week, and be on the shelf, and then within two weeks, you are off that shelf and you are off to the side of the store where no one is going to find it.
At least with stuff like this, when I see one of my friends, or guys that I like, or creator whose work I really dig, I feel like, “Oh she’s doing that book? I can’t wait to get that kickstarter.” Then you got it, and it think it’s a different beast, but I think it’s a viable beast.
PCS: I think so too. We at PopcultureSquad.com try to boost up whatever we can in terms of Kickstarters that are out there. So, don’t forget to let us know when it’s coming, and we will make sure that we can put it up there.
CR: When Rich and I were talking about doing Kyrra at Scout, we had also been talking about Kickstarting a hardcover version of it that we would sell on our own. The retail version will be through Scout and the trade paperback mass market version. So, again, we are kind of seeing how the market will react to something like that.
PCS: That is awesome. Yeah, there is definitely change afoot and you can feel it every way. I mean the big two keep doing what they are doing, and we don’t know where that is going to go, but definitely on the indie side of things, there is definitely a change. There are people exploring new opportunities, different ways of going about it. Whether it is creator owned through a publisher, or distributor, or doing it all on your own, everyone seems to finding their own way around it, and hopefully it will all work for everybody.
CR: Right. And also, you know, I think that, we were talking about the Ringo’s, when Katie Cook gave her keynote the other year and was talking about webcomics, all of us old dinosaurs out there, were like, “I don’t know about Webcomics.” I think that really, it’s the future, but I haven’t gotten there yet, but I love the idea of it.
PCS: Well, you know, you can go listen to my panel with Katie and Thom Zahler and Steve Conley and Dean Haspiel which we did last year at Baltimore. It is amazing. There were some numbers that I saw recently about what Webtoon is hitting in terms of the actually number of subscribers compared to the number of people on the planet or something like that, It’s crazy.
CR: That is crazy. Its crazy what kids will, I say kids, but what people will look at on their phone or iPad versus picking up a book. I mean, my son is clearly my son, where he comes down the basement and grabs a box of comics and will sit there for about six hours and read books, but my daughter is on her iPad and on her iPhone, and that’s where she is.
PCS: Well, I think that was all that I had. I really appreciate you doing this.
CR: Thank you for having me on.
Don’t forget to be on the lookout for Killing Red Sonja and Kyrra: Alien Jungle Girl coming soon to your LCS or online whenever we get out of this crazy world of self isolation.
Also Craig has a great Patreon Page you might want to check out.
You can also find him on Twitter at @craigrousseau and at his website craigrousseau.com