An ancient Chinese proverb once said there are three things one must do on the path to becoming a true artist:
- Handcuff yourself to a lamp-post outside Forbidden Planet until a comic is sold out.
- Perform a straight jacket escape upon request of Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer.
- Host an art competition about what one does when one is not on Twitter.
Without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls:
Sean Von Gorman
Jack Chambers: First of all, Sean, you’re my first ever interview so I’d like to say a special thank you very much for giving me the opportunity.
Sean Von Gorman: Jack, It’s my pleasure. I promise I’ll be gentle.
SVG: Well, at the time of writing, Joey and I have never met. We are saving ourselves so when we do meet it will be all the more special.
He sends me orders through a tiny speaker in my luxurious penthouse, like in Charlie’s Angels. We actually met via Twitter. He was looking for an artist for a horror anthology story he was working on and I sent him a link to my art. My style didn’t quite fit what he was looking for so I had his cat kidnapped until he agreed to work with me on this project. I put together the six pitch pages that you can see on the Kickstarter page and off Joey went to submit it to proper and distinctive comic companies. One by one, they passed on us and I said “Joey, I think we’re famous enough to just do this ourselves. Let’s just Kickstart this bitch!” Of course, he was powerless to resist my audacity. Thus, the Pawn Shop Kickstarter was born.
SVG: I’m certainly on my way to being the next great supervillain.
JC: That’s a great point you raised actually, about using yours and Joey’s fame to aide your project. People know Joey from being the current IGN Comics Editor and Footprints and they know you from your Houdini-inspired stunts, relationship with Neil Gaiman & Amanda Palmer and your previous comics. With projects like Gail Simone’s Leaving Megalopolis and the enormously successful Sullivan’s Sluggers by James Stokoe/Mark Andrew Smith, it seems to be becoming more common for well established writers & artists to use crowd funding for their next project.
SVG: Absolutely, crowd funding is not only a fantastic resource for funding projects, it’s also a way of advertising your product before it even exists. We will definitely see a rise in quality creator-owned projects that publishers won’t have any idea of what to do with.
JC: Do you think this shift of famous creators using this method is just the next step in creator-owned work? Or it a last resort for when, like you said, you get passed on by publishers?
Also, an argument I heard recently was that these projects from “famous people” are taking attention, and possibly backers, away from smaller creators and, as a result of this, there will be a decline in what made Kickstarter etc so great in the first place – A place for people to create things where they otherwise couldn’t.
Since you’ve done some of the coolest and most dedicated publicity stunts I’ve ever seen in the comics industry, do you think fame works as just another factor in the big scheme of things or is it unfair for it to be used it on things like crowd funding sites?
SVG: Sure, you can make the argument that projects started by celebrity creators are taking attention away from lesser known creators, but it’s only human nature. If you offer two products to someone, they will usually go for the one by someone they have heard of. Why? Because when they spend their hard-earned buck, they want some guarantee that’s it’s going to be worth it.
Additionally, Kickstarter is only the beginning of a project. Say you get funding and make the book and have it in stores, then you’ll be competing with EVERY other book in existence.
As for those projects being “overlooked” by more famous projects, I’d suggest that they are not doing an effective job of being noticed. With new self publishing venues like Kickstarter and Indy Planet, there are more independent comic books than there have ever been, creators have to take this into consideration when trying to get attention for their projects.
At the end of the day, I hope to inspire others at coming up with creative ways to promote their books. It will only create a more interesting marketplace.
JC: Considering you & Mr Esposito have never met, what is the collaborative process between the two of you like? Are you involved in the scripts at all or does he send them when they’re finished and just bark orders through the penthouse speakers?
SVG: We email constantly, he sends scripts to me in New York from his home in North Korea (NB: In this instance North Korea = San Francisco). Then I’ll gently point out any incorrect info about NYC. In the end, I have a good amount of say of what you see on the page.
JC: Continuing with Pawn Shop, I noticed that, unlike your previous work, Secret Adventures Of Houdini and Sock It To Me, it’s a full colour book. How much different is your process when working in colour compared to black & white?
SVG: It’s actually very different. In most of my other books, I’ll ink the panels then go into it with black water-color and improvise the various grey washes to give it a real creepy, moody vibe.
With Pawn Shop, I’ve never had a full color graphic novel before, much less one colored by hand! So there is much more thought beforehand as to the choices I make in terms of color and how that effects to mood of the scene. The palette for Pawn Shop has been fairly bright as it’s a bit if an idealized vision on NYC. There is a lot of heart and emotion, I try to make my colors help those moments really pop!
JC: On a similar note, the tone is very different to your previous books, no monsters or anthropomorphic socks (to my knowledge at least), in what ways does that change your artwork?
SVG: I think the work remains the same, really. In everything I do, my favorite parts to work on are the relationships and emotions the characters are dealing with. So it’s just a lot more of my favorite stuff!
JC: I understand you’re also working on more SAOH at the moment, how far into it are you at this point?
SVG: At the moment I am finishing up new pages that will be included in the new edition of Secret Adventures of Houdini: Book 1. The new edition will contain the material from the self publishing release and also includes a new introduction that expands on Houdini’s motivations in the story. We visit Harry on the day his mother dies and we meet Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, establishing his place in that world.
JC: And, with Houdini in mind, is there a possibility of more daring escapes from you? A chinese water torture cell or buried alive perhaps?
SVG: Many more. We are organizing a nationwide tour around the States and hopefully hitting the UK next year. We will be bringing our special brand of mayhem to your local comic shop. One of the outings will be in Salem, Massachusetts on Halloween. If I cannot escape I will be burnt at the stake!
JC: I love how I can never tell how serious you’re being.
SVG: Oh yes, I’m just like the Joker in that way.
JC: Along with the new edition of SAOH and Pawn Shop, is there anything else you’ll be working on in the not too distant future? More Sock It To Me and/or Neil Gaiman’s Fantasy Camp perhaps? Or something completely and utterly new? Feel free to break some news!
SVG: Sock It To Me will be released between Houdini and Pawn Shop. It will be a digital exclusive, available on venues such as Comixology, and a collection in print is on the horizon. I’ve finished art on the second issue already and I’m currently working on a new story arc that will poke fun at company wide event stories such as Crisis and Infinity Gauntlet that will incorporate every character I’ve ever created EVER dating back to Junior High. Most people have never seen any of them so I’m very excited.
JC: You said earlier that, ultimately, you hope to inspire other people. Your style is certainly not typical of the majority of comics around at the moment so I’m interested to find out who inspired you to do art in the first place? And is there anyone who currently inspires you?
SVG: As of this writing, Mike Wieringo was a huge influence on me and, sadly, the 5th anniversary of his death was just a few days ago. Alex Ross is another one that stands out. Kingdom Come is one of my favorite graphic novels of all time. I love how we got a follow-up with Thy Kingdom Come in the pages of Justice Society of America!
JC: Along with the rather noble pursuit of inspiring other people, do you have a more selfish goal as an artist? Something like “One day I want to do a [insert iconic character] book” or “I would love to work with [insert writer here]“? Do you have a specific long-term goal?
SVG: I will one day work on books for ‘the big three’ (NB: DC, Marvel and Image). Marvel is aware of me and they are afraid of me.
I would love to work with Mike Allred at some point. I love everything he does, especially Madman! I’m sure I could bring a lot of real world experience to the project!
JC: Last, but by no means least, the proverbial floor is entirely yours for shameless plugs/shout outs to family members/praise to deities and all that good stuff.
SVG: SUPER SAIYAN PLUG MODE!
Secret Adventures of Houdini will be available worldwide on November 21st! The book will be in the September previews so please ask for it at your local comic shop and pre-order! The more copies we can pre-order and sell, the faster we can get to work on the second one.
Also, if anyone would like us to make a stop at their local comic shop during our tour, please feel free to reach out to us or reach out to your comic shop directly. Especially shops overseas as the travel expenses will be out-of-pocket and any help the stores can offer in getting us there, (air fair, hotel room etc) will guarantee us coming down.
The only thing I can promise is that seeing me in person will be the single most fantastic creator appearance you will ever experience!
JC: Thank you for being so generous with your time.
SVG: My pleasure!
Well, there you have it, folks. A combination of The Joker, a Bond villain, Harry Houdini and, somehow, a Charlie’s Angel – Sean Von Gorman is inspirational, entertaining and truly unique.
Oh and he’s genuinely willing to travel to your local comic shop.
If you want to contact Sean for appearances, artwork or just an interesting conversation, he’s always available on Twitter @VonGormanArt and/or at his website: seanvongorman.carbonmade.com.
Lastly, there’s a currently a week left until the deadline for the Pawn Shop: Love and Life in NYC Kickstarter so click HERE (or on any of the other links throughout the interview) to give a final boost to the exciting Esposito and Von Gorman collaboration.