Earlier today, SCAD Atlanta Professor and Crogan Adventures creator Chris Schweizer announced the 2012-2013 academic year will be his final one teaching at Savannah College of Art and Design Atlanta. As the scholar/writer/artist noted at his own blog, “I love being a teacher, and I love being a cartoonist, and in many ways each helps me be better at the other. But I’ve come to find that I can do neither to the best of my ability without infringing on the time necessary to see the other done to the degree of quality I’d expect of myself.”
The move is not just a decision to stop teaching: Schweizer has also agreed to form a new studio with Chad Thomas (Mega Man) and Jason Horn (Ninjasaur). In conjunction with announcing the decision, Schweizer fielded a few questions from me. As a fellow resident of Atlanta, I have to add, as pleased as I am to know Schweizer will have more time to devote to his craft, I am equally sad to know he will be leaving Atlanta to do it.
Tim O’Shea: Knowing how much you love teaching, how many times did you talk yourself into staying at SCAD?
Chris Schweizer: I know it sounds cavalier, but never. Once I realized that there was a real problem with the regularity of my output, a problem that was only growing as I moved the Crogan projects to color, I had to look for a solution. I often have trouble finding my way through a problem that I’m in, both in writing and in real life, and I find that the best way puzzle out a solution is to not think of it from the standpoint of what to do next, but to decide on the ideal outcome. Once that outcome is in place, it’s much easier for me to determine the path by which to arrive at it. I was surprised that my ideal outcome didn’t leave time for teaching, or have us staying in Atlanta. Once I realized that, there was no real debating, there was only trying to figure out how best to undertake the change. Originally we thought I’d teach for an additional year after this one, to give us plenty of time to sell the house.
Cartoonist Chris Schweizer (the Crogan Adventures series) is also a professor at the Atlanta branch of the Savannah College of Art and Design and that combination can result in some cool things. Like this Crogan maquette he sculpted as an example for a character-design class.
Schweizer talks about the benefits of this kind of exercise when creating characters for a comic, but is also mindful of the dangers:
I spend a LOT of time on preproduction, but it’s a means to an end. Never, ever, ever let it be the end. It’s self-indulgent, and benefits you nothing. ALWAYS make sure your concept work is leading to stories. Otherwise you’re just playing with yourself.
Chris Schweizer is a professor of Sequential Art at the Atlanta branch of the Savannah College of Art and Design as well as the creator of Crogan’s Vengeance and Crogan’s March, so when Matt Gagnon and Ian Brill of BOOM! Studios came for a visit, he took the opportunity to sketch them along with his class. This is just a small piece of it; click to see the full drawing.
Also, congratulations are in order: Chris recently received a SCAD Presidential Fellowship, which includes a grant for a personal project; his will be an annotated sketchbook collecting his character designs, research drawings, thumbnails, and other preliminary work.
Since starting Talking Comics with Tim in 2009, I have made a frequent effort to not interview creators more than once. But as I am well into my second year, I’ve decided to ease that self-imposed restriction. Thus why I tapped Chris Schweizer again (after last year’s discussion) to do an email interview regarding his second installment in the Crogan Adventures chronicle, Crogan’s March (Oni Press). In addition to discussing the adventures of French Legionnaire Peter Crogan (circa 1912), the SCAD Atlanta professor pulls back the curtain on his creative process as well as his plans to participate in Free Comic Book Day in Atlanta (he has a 10-page Crogan Adventures story in the Oni Press Free-for-All). For my money, Schweizer is one of the good guys in the Atlanta comics scene and I appreciated the chance to interview him about his latest book. Once you read the interview, be sure to check out the 26-page preview that Oni has posted.
Shawn Crystal is a SCAD Atlanta professor I met back in October (as documented in this story). In addition to his role educating storytellers, Crystal is a professional artist equally busy building a name for himself in the comics industry. Tomorrow (February 3) will feature the release of his latest effort, Deadpool Team-Up 896 (written by Stuart Moore). As previewed last week by CBR and detailed here: “Get ready to hit the road with U.S. ACE, Marvel’s truckin’ hero! He’s back behind the wheels of a big rig with an unlikely partner — DEADPOOL — and together they’re puttin’ the hammer down, ridin’ the open road, and decapitatin’ giant killer raccoons. Good times…if they don’t kill each other first! Featuring the working-class villainy of THE HIGHWAYMAN, and the world premiere of the chart-toppin’ “Ballad of U.S. Ace,” composed and performed by Wade Wilson. What part of ‘Collector’s Item’ don’t you understand?” I was pleased to get an opportunity to talk to Crystal about this issue and creators he respects (as well as find out his David Lapham news). After enjoying this email exchange, be sure to check out Crystal’s blog as well as his deviantART page.
Tim O’Shea: The first question I have to ask–what reference does an artist use when drawing giant killer raccoons?
Shawn Crystal: There is a very popular book many artists have in their studio, and cherish like the arc of the covenant. It’s called “Homicidal Animals: A reference manual for the aspiring cartoonist.” Unfortunately, I do not own this book, so I had to resort to some more traditional methods. I started with the obvious, books on raccoons that were peppered with glamour shots of these little buggers. I also spent some time seeing how other artists had handled raccoons, mainly animators. There was some decent stuff in “Disney’s: The art of Pocahontas.” I also talked to a buddy of mine, Brad Walker who draws Guardians of the Galaxy, which has Rocket Raccoon as a team member. Researching raccoons was fairly easy; creating the chopper gang was a ton of fun. I needed to design a gang of Uzi wielding raccoons on motorcycles. The first thing I needed to find was a thread, something to make this gang seem like a team. Working for Marvel affords me the luxury of using their library, so I chose the X-Men. Well, the kid in me did. I started designing raccoons based on the themes and shapes of some of the X-Men and their costumes. I also wanted to give this biker gang a Hells Angel’s feel, ol skool choppers and leather. I didn’t want to go with the more current crotch rocket trend. I have an affinity of the art of Von Dutch, Ed “Big Daddy” Roth and Robert Williams. I pulled out the books I have on these guys and started drawing. X Men + Hells Angels + Racoons = Crazy fun designing.
Back on October 23-25, the Sequential Art Department at the Atlanta campus of Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD Atlanta) hosted a comics art forum with Sean Murphy (2003 SCAD Savannah graduate and artist on the upcoming Grant Morrison-written Joe the Barbarian for Vertigo) and Matthew Bernier (School of Visual Arts in Manhattan graduate and currently at work on a book for First Second). Since I’m a Georgia-based member of the Robot 6 crew, Chris Schweizer, a SCAD Atlanta professor and creator of Crogan’s Vengeance, invited me to the forum.
According to Shawn Crystal, SCAD Professor (as well as one of the artists on last month’s Deadpool 900 [Marvel]), SCAD’s Comics Art Forum tradition started in Savannah years ago. Crystal selects the guests that are invited to the forum. “Every year, when I pick guests, I look to pick progressive/passionate artists. Artists who are doing new and exciting things, helping to move the medium forward,” he said. “Our Atlanta Faculty throw names around until we settle on the best choice for that year.”
Schweizer echoed Crystal’s thinking. “When we arrange these events, we try hard to pick guests whose work (and approaches to their work) varies from ours, because it opens our eyes to new ideas, and it does the same for our students,” he said.