“Covers”–‘Captain Confederacy’ #9, also: “The Creators Q & A”: Vince Stone (‘Captain Confederacy’ artist)


 Ok…Usually after the cover I give you some lame issue recap and remind you that you can read the whole CAPTIAN CONFEDERACY saga for yourself HERE.  But one thing eating at me week after week of  re-reading these comics and re-drawing their covers is I’m always left filled with QUESTIONS!  QUESTIONS about the series!  QUESTIONS about the art!  QUESTIONS about the writing!  QUESTIONS only the creators–writer WILL SHETTERLY and artist VINCE STONE–could answer.  And thanks to the miracle of the internet and the amazing time donation of those creators, we finally have some ANSWERS:

Ladies and Gentlemen, VINCE STONE…

ME:  What kind of illustration schooling did you have (if any. “Hard Knocks” counts)?  What was your illustration experience pre-CAPTAIN CONFEDERACY?  Did you do any zines/mini-comics/work for other publishers?  What about post CAP?
VINCE STONE:  Well, in my youth I was a very asthmatic child and often had to stay indoors – so I would entertain myself by drawing (a lot). In 1972, I met lifelong friend Ed Keller – and he introduced me to the magical world of comics. We would often attempt to write and draw our own comics – to varying degrees of success. Then in 1983, I attended the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon & Graphic Art – what an eye-opening experience! I learned more about drawing/story-telling in the single year I attended than at any other point in my life. If anyone is serious about comics (or animation) as a profession, I highly recommend attending. By the way, Adam and Andy Kubert were second year students when I was there and Lee Weeks was in my class – not that I’m name-dropping. 😉
      After the first Captain Confederacy series ended, Ed and I tried our hand at making a real comic – The Apex Project. We managed to publish two issues (under the company name – Steller Graphix – Stone + Keller = Steller – how clever!) – but then the Captain returned for the Epic miniseries. Ed and I never finished the Apex Project – which is my fault – I was a little tired of working all day and drawing all night. It was not long after the Epic series that I was promoted to manager of the Graphics Department at Atlas – so that took up even more of my time. Other than that, I drew a couple covers & logos for Promethean Studios in the mid ’90’s. I had met Phil Adams (Promethean publisher/writer) at the Chicago Comicon (a real nice guy) – probably in the late ’80’s. He bought a couple pieces from me and when he started his own company asked me to help him out with ads, logos and a few covers. 
  While looking up information for these questions I found out that I had been “covered” before – by none other than “The” John Byrne! I had drawn the cover for Promethean Studios, S.O.B. #2 which Phil Adams liked, but he was working with someone who knew John Byrne and they thought it best to have a big name artist do the cover to help sales. They asked Mr. Byrne to pay homage to my cover (too cool) – which he did – but I don’t think S.O.B. #2 ever made it to press. Dang. If you’re interested, here’s a link to the page: http://home.comcast.net/~pradams6/PSSOB.htm (less than half way down the page)
ME:  Who were your influences going into CAP?  Do you still read comics?  If so, who are you into today?
VINCE STONE:  Early on, my influences were the usual guys for my generation, John Byrne, George Perez, Neal Adams, etc. – I also had a passing fascination with Howard Chaykin. But, my all-time favorite artist is (and probably always will be) Gil Kane. His images & page layouts were so dynamic, his anatomy was second-to-none and he could draw amazing animals (something I’ve always struggled with). Recently, I’ve become very fascinated with the work of Alex Toth. Although his art may look very simple – the design & thought behind each line is quite complex.
     During the late 1990’s and early 2000’s I pretty much lost interest in comics. My friend Ed (who probably has about 25,000 comics in his collection) would gift me a few books now and then hoping to get me interested again. But I didn’t start buying monthly titles again until I read the first issue of Robert Kirkman’s Invincible online – it was the artwork of Cory Walker that really got my attention. (I still pick up anything Cory draws.) Most of the stuff I pick up today is pretty mainstream: Fantastic Four, Captain America, Avengers, Green Lantern, Invincible, Walking Dead, Amazing Spider-Man, etc. – or whatever catches my eye.
     Some of the current guys I like are Oliver Copiel, Cully Hammer, Chris Sprouse, Steve McNiven and old standbys, Steve Rude & Alan Davis.
ME:  What were your “weapons of choice” when illustrating CAP?  Did it change for series 2?  What are you using as drawing tools today?
VINCE STONE:  I think I started out trying to stay true to what I was taught at the Kubert School – pencilling full-size, inking with conventional brushes and quill pens. I wasn’t as skilled with these tools as I would like – especially when I did the first issue – which is painful for me to look at. (Which is why when reprinting the 1st issue came up I wanted to redo it.) After the first issue, I started researching how other creators worked (specifically Gil Kane) and attempted their methods.
   When I received a script from Will I would read through it a couple times and then start designing very loose thumbnail pages (about 2″ x 3″). Once I had the whole story laid out I would start drawing intermediate roughs (about 5″ x 8″). Once I was relatively happy with how the pages flowed I would blow these pages up to 10″ x 15″. I was never really comfortable using pencils – so I hardly ever use them. I read that Gil Kane would blow up his layouts and use a light table and ink his pages without pencilling. So that’s what I did – and still do whenever I draw. I usually just sketch with ball point or gel pens and do final inks with a variety of markers – nothing fancy. As you probably realize, it’s not really the tool you use – but what you do with it.
     Today I use whatever can make a mark on a piece of paper – typically a wide selection of markers/pens with varying tip sizes. Almost everything I draw ends up in the computer for touchup and coloring. If I had a real need, I would probably get a Cintiq tablet and try my hand at drawing digitally.
ME:  Like lots of young artists your style really changed/grew/became more confident as series 1 of CAP went on, so much so that you guys even re-did issue one–what do you feel you learned during this first series?  What did you take into series 2 and learn from that (especially since that series was in color)?  Your art is even more streamlined today–so have you any drawing philosophies today you wish you could share with a 1987 Vince Stone?
     In the beginning, I really didn’t have a style – I was just trying to mimic (albeit poorly) all the artists I admired. It wasn’t until issues 10-12 that I felt I was starting to find a style. I even inked some of those issues with “real” brushes (I was feeling a little more confident with these tools) – it gave everything a more substantial look.
    If I remember correctly, our Epic series was one of the first comics that used computer color (this was 1991 – almost 20 years ago – I hadn’t even touched a computer yet). Will Shetterly did the coloring for the series and he had specific instructions on how he wanted the art. I was supposed to try and connect all of the lines that would contain individual colors – this would allow for easier color fill with the program he was using – not as easy as it sounds. One thing I would do differently is add more shadows/black areas – sometimes the pages had a little bit of a coloring book feel – but we were still learning the process.
     I would probably tell my younger self – keep things simple! Really understand the basics before you try to get fancy. I would also have told myself to get into computers before 1994.
ME:   All in all, what issue(s)/page(s)/panel(s) are you the most proud of?
VINCE STONE:  I did like how some of my covers turned out (11 & Special Editions 1 & 2) – I was so impressed with Steve Rude’s painted covers for Nexus back in the ’80’s that I started experimenting with acrylic painting.  Like a lot of artists, I’m extremely critical of my own work and are never really satisfied with any of my finished products – but I keep trying.
ME:  It seems like the second EPIC mini-series was supposed to be a possible springboard for future non-self published CAP adventures, and that sadly didn’t work out.  Do you think CAP will ever return someday?  Have you guys at all considered a “COMPLETE” CAP print-on-demand collection with all the usual frills of a bunch of ‘behind the scenes/from the vault’ kind of stuff?
VINCE STONE:  You never know – Will can probably answer the “Complete” Cap question better than me. (I’d have to see if I still had some of my preliminary/design sketches packed away some where.) I know that my “real” job wouldn’t leave a lot of time for drawing a comic book again. I’m the Creative Design Manager at Atlas Van Lines (been there 25 years now) – which is just a fancy way of saying I run the Graphics department. My little department of 3 people does the following: prints brochures, booklets, stationery, forms – cuts vinyl decals for trucks & trailers and even designs websites, logos, etc. I had just started working at Atlas when I began drawing Captain Confederacy – I would work 8 hours at Atlas – come home and draw about 6 hours – go to sleep – then repeat day after day. That’s OK when you’re 20 (and don’t have a wife) – don’t know if I could do it at 45.
ME:   Given the way you were married, STAR TREK seems very important to you (as it is me).  What lessons have you taken from STAR TREK? Anything that carries over into your art?  Or is a cigar sometimes just a cigar?
VINCE STONE:  The Star Trek wedding came about because my wife and I met at a Star Trek club – and we thought it would be fun. I was always a fan of Star Trek – but yet again, my buddy Ed Keller got me involved in the club. Ed and his wife were members and I think they were trying to set me up with a young lady who was also a member. Ed thought this young lady was in college – turns out she was only 14!! I was almost 30 at the time – and I really didn’t want to go to jail. Moving on… eventually I did meet my future wife (Jo Ann) in the club and we lived happily ever after (at least for 13 years so far).
      Lessons learned from Star Trek? Be open to different experiences, be tolerant of others and if that doesn’t work – launch photon torpedoes! Not sure if I apply any of this to my art, but I did make a little money because of Star Trek. I used to collect the Star Trek action figures and they ran a “Design an Alien” contest promo on the back of their figure packaging. What the hell – I drew up a character and mailed it in. I actually came in second place and won $500.00 – first place was a trip to Hollywood where you would be an extra on the show and be put in costuming and makeup to look like the alien you designed. I was OK with the $500.00 instead.
ME:  Any advice for anyone out there pursuing art as a career?
VINCE STONE:  Simple. Draw, draw and then draw some more. Even if someone has natural ability, you still need to hone those skills with practice. For me, I always liked looking at another artist’s process – how they went from a blank sheet to the finished drawings we see published. That’s where all the heavy-lifting is done – how the images are assembled/structured – you can always add the polish later. If you can attend a school like Joe Kuberts – great – if not, the web is chock full of amazing tutorials by a variety of artists. Back in my day, we didn’t have the web as it exists now. It allows access to so much information that would otherwise be difficult (or nearly impossible) to get. And finally, have a basic understanding of the business of professional art. Starting out, most artists will have to handle the business aspects of their chosen profession – and if they’re not careful – could easily be taken advantage of. I was extremely lucky in this regard when working with Will Shetterly – he was very fair and would explain things to the young and inexperienced lad I was 25 years ago.
ME:   I just have to know: The cover to issue #7…was that sequential order of events based around the ‘X’ intentional or not?  If so…GENIUS!
VINCE STONE:  I’d like to say, sure… I’m a GENIUS! But I really don’t remember my thinking on that cover. Will would usually give me an idea or two about the covers – he might have said do a montage for that particular issue or he might have left it up to me. Too many years have passed for me to remember – but I probably just placed images around the central figure and tried to draw the viewer’s eye to the center of the page. Best guess.
ADDITIONAL FROM VINCE:  I don’t do nearly as much drawing as I used to – everyday life takes up a lot of time – but I have attached a couple of recent images:
1) A short time ago I was asked by a friend of a friend to design a logo (& mascot) for a local family fun center – the Two-Bit Bandit.
2) Next is the big three of the Avengers – occasionally I will draw comic book characters for myself & friends (and my father-in-law likes to take copies to the kids in Sunday School).
   Thanks again so so so much to Vince for taking the time to answer these questions.  Be sure to check out his website.  Heck, why not go BUY the trade of the first CAPTAIN CONFEDERACY series while you’re at it.  And I’m not sure when, but series writer WILL SHETTERLY will be joining us in the Q & A as well before these ‘covers’ posts are done….SWEET!

4 Responses to ““Covers”–‘Captain Confederacy’ #9, also: “The Creators Q & A”: Vince Stone (‘Captain Confederacy’ artist)”

  1. 1 Will Shetterly
    04/24/2010 at 16:07

    Vince is being much too modest. I think I might’ve given him some basic suggestions, but he always delivered work that was far, far more than I’d imagined. I wish someone would give us a zillion dollars so we could do a comic together for the rest of our lives.

  2. 04/24/2010 at 18:16

    As do I, Will. As do I. I’d really love to see that cross-dimension/reality CAPTAIN CONFEDERACY story you mentioned at the end of the second series (and if it does ever happen, I’d love to see CAP and Co. run across Fleming Hazmat and Co, even if just briefly…).

    Also, an apology to Vince…as I posted/re-read this today I realized I never asked him who designed Cap’s outfit(s) (and the other characters, as well). It was a very important question in my head when I started this whole project, and was blocked mentally when I wrote to him. So…Vince…are you out there???

    • 04/25/2010 at 20:49

      Can you confirm this Will… didn’t your lovely wife (Emma) provide me with a preliminary design for the Captain’s uniform? Other than that assistance, I think everything else came from my head. That was the most fun part of the process – designing the characters & costumes.

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