Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Interview with Lukasz Kowalczuk for Szlam.net

Typical beginning. Say a few words about yourself. 

I'm an illustrator and comic book artist living out of South Carolina, USA.  I've been a fan of science fiction, fantasy, and comic books since my childhood. The first movies I remember seeing as a child were RoboCop and Star Wars. The first tv show I watched was Doctor Who. Those early fictional influences gave me a life-long interest in drawing imaginary worlds. From the age of 10, my life's goal was to write and illustrate my own comic books. When I graduated high school, I studied Fine Art, Graphic Design, and Illustration at a nearby college. I then attended graduate school at the Savannah College of Art and Design where I earned an MFA in illustration. Since finishing my education, I've worked for the last 6 years as a freelance illustrator. I've spent the last two years developing several comic book ideas. So far, I have five stories in development that I would love to complete in the coming years. At the moment, I'm only showing two of the comic books to the public, "The Adventures of Death Elf and Woose" and "Skull Gun Bunny". Once I've finished the initial ten issue story line for each of those comics, I'll start finishing the other stories that I've planned and show them to the public. 

How would you describe your connection with G.I.Joe. Obsession? Love?

The G.I. Joe artwork that I've been doing has a deep emotional connection to me. When I was very young, my mother left my father and took me and my sister to live with her. From ages 5 - 18, it was very difficult for me to spend time with my dad. I had conflicting emotions about my dad, but he loved me deeply. When he couldn't see me on my birthdays or holidays, he would mail me G.I. Joe vehicles in the mail. I'd hear a knock at the front door and suddenly find a huge UPS package with a "Cobra Rage" Vehicle inside of it along with a card from my dad. The times I did get to visit my father, we would often go to the local toy store where he would let me pick out one or two action figures as gifts. Every time I see a G.I.Joe, it reminds of me of how much my father sacrificed to spend time with me. They remind me of the love of a father who would drive 10 hours every other weekend to spend a single day with his son. I decided a year ago, that I wanted to draw the Joes my Dad bought me when I was little, as a way to express my appreciation for what he did for me. 

Any signals of interest from Hasbro? Like "Oh, these fan arts are great! Work for us!"

Nothing yet. I've been trying to figure out who to contact at Hasbro to talk about licensing information . It would be a dream come true to work with them.  So far, I've simply been drawing the G.I.Joe characters for my own enjoyment, but it would be amazing if I could someday do some artwork that appeared on an official G.I. Joe product or comic book.

Do you collect action figures?

I collected action figures from age 5 - 20. I grew up buying and selling action figures at local flea markets in South Carolina. G.I. Joe and Kenner's Power of the Force (Star Wars) were the two lines that I really liked to collect. Once I went to college, I could no longer spend the time or money that I used to on my hobby. About two years ago, I had the sudden urge to buy more action figures, but I decided, due to my financial situation, to draw the action figures I wanted to collect, instead of purchasing them. If I had the money, I probably would have an art studio filled with action figures. 

Any other favourite series?

I've always had fond memories of Dino Riders and Bravestarr, two action figure lines from the late 80's. Exosquad for the 90's was also another favorite series of mine. I used to love the 90's kenner toy lines, especially the Terminator 2 and The Shadow movie toys.

Geek Wars are impressive. Are they your idea or are there any other artists drawing such "fights"?

I'm sure if you go to a website like Deviant Art, you'll probably find other people doing something similar to what I've been doing. Lots of people draw different characters fighting each other. The element that makes mine more interesting is that I try to design a poster around the fighting characters, and if I have time, I actually show the fight take place. The Geek Wars idea came from a friend's suggestion that I do a piece of artwork with Ben Kenobi vs. Gandalf. I liked the idea and made the poster one Sunday afternoon. I then posted it on Deviant Art and Facebook and asked friends to vote on who would win the match. After a week of voting, I drew the outcome of the fight. I took a break from making the posters when I started working on my comic books, but I have a list of 10 more fights planned out. I just need the time to finish them.

What would you say for Scrooge vs Duckula? (it's just popped out in my mind)

That's a hard question to answer. The way I see the fight going, Scrooge would beat Duckula black and blue, but eventually he would get tired of beating him up. Duckula, being a vampire, wouldn't be injured by the beating. He'd simply stand still and make funny comments. Scrooge would eventually loose his temper, throw down his walking stick, and walk away angry. Duckula wins!

Tell me few words about your own projects. How many of them you are working on now?

I have lots of ongoing projects. I work as a freelance illustrator, so my freelance jobs come first. When I'm not working on freelance jobs, my primary projects are writing and illustrating Death Elf and Woose and Skull Gun Bunny comics. When I'm not working on those, I draw the G.I.Joes. My goal is to eventually draw every classic Joe from the original toy line. I also have plans to draw my way through the Dino-Rider, TMNT, Pirates of Dark Water, Bucky O'Hare, Toxic Crusader, Bravestarr, and Exo-Squad toy lines. When I'm not drawing the toys, I'm working on the Geek Wars Posters. All that pretty much keeps me busy most nights. 

Skull Gun Bunny is finished and it's online for free. Do you think it's good idea to give it away like this?

What I've found out in the world of comics, is that unless people know who you are, they won't read your comic book. I'm a relatively unknown artist, so as I create the first couple of issues of my comic books, I'm going to make them available for people to read on my website. I want people to be aware of what I'm making so they know what my work looks like and how I write it. I've also found that by having some of my comics available for free, potential publishers can read my projects without having a printed comic in their hands. Less than a month after posting the first issue of Death Elf and Woose, I was given a very well-paying freelance project based off of the artwork from the comic. 

How many copies did you print? There is any way to buy it in bigger distribution or only from you and during conventions?

At the moment, I've been printing my comics in very small numbers and selling them at conventions as an exclusive product. I'm still learning the business side of making comics, so I'm sure my production methods will change in the future. Once I have several issues of my comics completed, I do plan on mailing them out to some larger publishers to see if they can help me produce the comics in larger quantities.  I'm looking into some e-commerce websites to see if they can help me set up a way for online customers to purchase and receive my work without shipping being very expensive. 

I asked about Hasbro. Any feedback from comic publishers, websites, etc.?

So far most of the feedback that I've received has been from fan sites and blogs. 
I've had some great feedback from several G.I.Joe fan sites this year. The Comics Alliance website wrote a very nice little article about my Joes in the early spring. I did some Alice in Wonderland artwork that has recently been posted on several Alice in Wonderland fanpages and tumblr's. 

Plans for rest of 2013?

The rest of the year will be pretty busy. 
I'm getting the test print of Skull Gun Bunny in a week or two. Once I proofread that, I'll send the comic to the printers in September. I'll be doing several comic book conventions in the fall, most of which will be in North and South Carolina. I'm currently working on the page breakdowns for the second issue of Death Elf and Woose. 

My goals by the end of the year are to finish the second issues of Death Elf and Woose and Skull Gun Bunny, to complete another 10 - 20 Joes, to draw the X-men from the 90's cartoon show, and to finish my current list of Geek Wars posters.

Traditional last few words for Szlam.net readers :)

 Thank you for taking an interest in the geeky world of comics and action figures. 

Thanks and cheers, 
Lukasz Kowalczuk

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