Interview: Comic artist Jon Malin talks “Graveyard Shift”, heroism, and who he most wants to punch in the face!
Last week, the crowdfunding campaign for Graveyard Shift launched via Indiegogo where it became an instant success. At the time of this writing, the Graveyard Shift project has raised more than $30 thousand with a few weeks still to go.
Graveyard Shift is a 46-page graphic novel created by comic industry veterans Mark Poulton (writer) and Jon Malin (artist). Graveyard Shift comes hot on the heels of Malin’s recent success with Jawbreakers: Lost Souls,* which has raised nearly $400 thousand since launching on Indiegogo earlier this year. We reached out to Malin to ask a few questions about Graveyard Shift and his professional experience as an artist. He was gracious enough to respond, and his answers below are represented “as written.”
The Splintering (TS): You’ve described Graveyard Shift as X-Men meets the Universal Monsters (Dracula, Frankenstein, etc.). Given that there have been a number of interpretations of the Universal Monsters, are there any other versions of those characters that have influenced your take on them in Graveyard Shift?
Jon Malin (Jon): How much of a direct influence is questionable but I was a kid of the 80’s/90’s so Monster Squad, Howling, American Werewolf, Fright Night, Silver Bullet, Bram Stokers Dracula, Life Force, Interview with the Vampire, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and I know Mark Poulton, the co-creator of GRAVEYARD SHIFT and I both loved The Lost Boys, the films where you don’t become a mindless drone as a vampire but still have free will which is fun because those are the films where you might love being a Vampire. Kevin Grevioux, whom I worked with on New Warriors had his Underworld films which were big action Vampire/Werewolf films, we’d be somewhere in that realm as well for sure and can easily see GRAVEYARD SHIFT being a film in that spirit but with more sci-fi and stand-ins for popular horror.
TS: Your art has been described as having a “90’s style.” How would you describe your personal art style? What does calling it a 90’s style mean to you?
Jon: “90’s style” was used as a deal breaker in the early 2000’s and still to this day by those in hiring positions. Writers and Editors(many are wannabe writers themselves) being bitter art snobs were jealous of the success of the Image guys and to insure that another Image revolt would not happen tried to wipe out that influence. What they didn’t understand was the influence was simply “commercial art”. So now we have what I consider airplane safety manual art in the mainstream where it should be high octane superhero art, created to excite the eye. The top guys in the comics industry to this day are largely the same from the 90’s and still doing commercial art but the creators filling up the ranks behind them, writers and artists are largely not that interested in superheroes or high octane art but love the money and what’s left of the attention but some clearly can’t stand superheroes or the fans.
TS: The time constraints of illustrating for publishers like Marvel or DC sometimes results in artists cutting a few corners. Now that you’ve completed your work on Jawbreakers: Lost Souls and are moving forward with Graveyard Shift, how would you characterize the way a crowdfunded book changes your creative process, and how does that affect the final art?
Jon: Timothy Lim says he’d love to see people following the French model of releasing books about once a year and I largely support that, I’d love to see someone like Travis Charest create their masterpiece. It’s a goal of mine to one day be be able to create my own masterpiece, something I write and draw but that’s a year or two away at best. The crowd funding model allows for your best work, if you don’t offer your best then just like any business you will turn people away so my goal is to give my best.
TS: Your take on Xaxi in Jawbreakers showed that you are really letting loose with sexy characters, and so far, and the art revealed for Graveyard Shift indicates that you’re not shying away from violence, either. How would you characterize the level of mature content in Graveyard Shift?
Jon: We’re making a high octane superhero comic book. If it was a film it’d be either PG-13 or a soft R. This is a book for the 14 year old me and probably you. We’re going to tell an X-MEN type story that MARVEL is to paralyzed to tell these days with current leadership. Nothing in GRAVEYARD SHIFT goes beyond the content that you’d find in an early IMAGE comic like SPAWN.
TS: Blink very graphically eliminates Gideon in the finale of Cable issue 154, and it looked to me as though you relished drawing those pages (or maybe I just relished reading them?). Either way, what types of pages do you particularly prefer drawing?
Jon: I like it all when properly balanced. The big action when given the room, the quiet scenes when properly paced, the crowded page when I know it’s claustrophobic appearance is intentional to give the reader a psychological feeling before we open it back up for a big release. More often than not I find the writers are cramming to much in the wrong places and opening up the art for the wrong type of splash… like people standing in a kitchen talking about nonsense.
TS: You’ve known the Graveyard Shift co-creator Mark Poulton for years. What’s the funniest story you can tell us about him?
Jon: We went to the Green Lantern movie with a few others, I fell asleep in the theater, couldn’t stand it and he loved it. That’s funny– to me. 🙂
TS: How would you describe a good writer/artist relationship? What were some best things about working with Richard Meyer on Jawbreakers and with Poulton on Graveyard Shift?
Jon: Flexibility. Tell the story but look for opportunities to add a little extra layer of magic or fix a hole. In both cases I had flexibility to add little flourishes and had creative input.
TS: A year from now, how would you describe success for the Graveyard Shift project?
Jon: Early delivery achieved, we estimated for February 2019 but my goal is by Christmas 2018. Positive reaction from backers, a larger followup for book 2 both in content/backers and early delivery achieved for a second time.
TS: Superheroes in mainstream comics haven’t acted much like heroes in recent years. For you, what attributes are absolutely necessary for a character to be considered a “hero”? Where do you see these kinds of heroes in everyday life?
Jon: Heroes in fiction and real life are always trying to do the right thing, especially when it’s hard and carries actual risk. It can be physical or reputation. I see heroes every day, some small and some larger than life, some put it all on the line and some pay with their very lives. Police, firefighters, soldiers, teachers, parents, mentors, anyone giving inspiration instead of despair.
In comics the threats must be bigger, the challenge almost impossible and the climax fulfilling.
TS: There are a lot of different personality types in the Marvel Universe, some far more annoying than others. Since you’ve stepped away from Marvel for the time being, if you were transported into the Marvel universe, which Marvel character would you most want to fight?
Jon: So, lacking super powers, I wouldn’t want to get whooped by anyone! I think I’d take a good shot against the guy who killed Uncle Ben.
TS: What would you do with the power of the Beyonder?
Jon: Create abundance on Earth, get off Earth, explore the universe, bring back knowledge and hopefully vast amounts of wisdom through experience.
We would like to once again thank Jon Malin for taking the time to answer our questions and to have some fun with us. You can follow Jon Malin on Twitter @JONMALIN and on YouTube MORTAL ENEMY. You can also visit the Graveyard Shift Indiegogo page here.