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NYCC 2015: Wes Craig Interview

Interview conducted by James Ferguson

It's no secret that I friggin' love Deadly Class.  It's consistently one of the best comics on the stands month-in and month-out.  The Image Comics title written by Rick Remender is an amazing tale of a school for young assassins and features some incredibly fleshed out and real characters.  A big part of my love for this title comes from Wes Craig's artwork.  He has a style that feels like it's alive.  The figures appear to be moving on the page, filled with energy.  I had the opportunity to speak with Craig at his table in Artists Alley this year.  While I was waiting for him to finish up with a few fans, I noticed that he signs his name differently on each comic.  Each one fit in with his artwork on the cover.  This was a really nice touch.  

James Ferguson: You have this energy to your artwork that feels very cinematic.  Do you approach it as a storyboard?  How do you approach a typical scene?

Wes Craig: I try to not make it cinematic in a way, but hopefully what I'm doing is laying it out in a certain way that in the reader's mind it feels fluid, so they'll see it like a movie.

JF: To me it always feels like it's moving.

WC: That's the hope, you know? There's this thing called closure in comics.  If you show someone hitting someone, instead of doing one panel with that, you have panel one where the person is winding up and then panel two the person is already on the ground.  The hit happened in the reader's mind.

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JF: You're filling in the blanks in the gutters.

WC: Exactly.  That's the Scott Cloud Understanding Comics thing.  I try to use the language of comics to make it fluid and not static, which is hard because it is a static thing.  It doesn't move, but you try to make it feel very fluid.  I hear that a lot, so hopefully I'm doing my job.

JF: Speaking of that, is there a way that you approach an action scene with that intensity?  How do you and Rick coordinate it?  Does he just tell you that they're going to fight?

WC: He asks me what I want to do.  “Do you want me to just let you go or kind of choreograph it?” Generally I just say to let me go because it's nice to be able to do that.  I write my own stories, so I understand storytelling pretty well.  It's nice to have the freedom to choreograph the scene.  The ending of the fight has to be a certain way.  He tells me who wins and what has to happen, but the script is not broken down beat by beat in the fight.  I think that's hard to pull off.  I find it much easier this way.  I see it in my head very clearly and if I have to suddenly fit in an elbow where I saw it more kicks and flips, it's tough.  So just let me do my thing and he understands that.  He started out as a comic book artist, so he understands when it's time to let the artist do their thing.  

JF: You seem to be able to convey a lot of emotion without text or dialogue.  Is that part of that working relationship in that you are a storyteller and Rick sees there's no need to fill this in with word balloons?

WC: With that I try to do my best and hope that it's conveyed with posture and facial expression.  When I get the script from Rick, the dialogue is just basic, not the final polished version.  He gives me a rough version of it.  I draw it and then he fills in the dialogue afterwards.  Sometimes he'll do certain things that should have been dialogue, but if I can nail it through the characters' facial expressions and stuff, he might go more sparse or put nothing there.  That's a high compliment for sure if you can portray that without words.  It's tough because we're not like movies where you have music in the background to express how sad or happy a scene is.  We can only really do it with what's on the page.

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JF: There have been some incredible covers for the series so far.  Do you have a favorite one?

WC: I like this Saya one that's almost all white.  There's almost nothing going on it.  It's really hard as an artist, as you always feel like you need to draw everything around the image and fill in every detail.  It's kind of hard to pull back and realize I can leave this whole area white and it's stronger for it.  I did a cool little thing with the tattoos where I didn't draw the arm, just the tattoos that imply the arm right there.  

JF: My personal favorite is where they're falling down the road.  

WC: Yes, with Marcus and Maria.  I'm a fan of Frank Quitely and Moebius who draw rocks and stuff like that really well, with things falling apart.  I thought of that a lot when I thought of that cover.  I like that one too because I like to do things that aren't literal to the story.  That doesn't actually happen in the story.  It's just a metaphor for what's going on.  It's nice once in a while to do a cover that's not an actual thing that's happening in the comic.

JF: Do you have a favorite character to draw so far?

WC: Yeah...Maria.  Spoiler for people reading this, but I don't get to draw her anymore.  [Laughs]  I'm saying that now, but I like all of them.  Marcus is fun to draw because I can do it with my eyes closed now, as I'm so used to drawing him.  The way that he dresses is like a cooler version of me when I was a teenager.  I love drawing the little patches on his face and everything.  Maria was very cinematic with a ballet kind of thing.  While there's violence going on, she's the one that's beautiful to watch.  I love drawing Master Lin because they're all young and wrinkle-less and pretty and he's so wrinkly and small and shriveled up.  Craggy looking characters are a lot of fun for me to draw.  He always turns out well.  I'm always happy with it.  Sometimes you draw something and think that eye's off or this is off, but I can draw him kind of messed up and he looks great.  It fits.

Click images to enlarge

JF: Shifting gears a bit, are there plans for more BlackHand Comics?

WC: Yeah, I'd like to.  It's not for sure.  I'd like to do a volume 2.  I work on that in between issues of Deadly Class and there's not a lot of time there, so it's very slow going to get it done.  I changed my idea on exactly what I want to do.  For a while I was working on a volume 2 and then I had this idea for a graphic novel that I got more excited about.  It might not be a BlackHand: Volume 2, but it's something for me.  While I'm working on Deadly Class, there will be something coming out that's written, drawn, colored, lettered by me.  

JF: Would you consider writing something and having someone else illustrate it?

WC: Yeah, I have an idea right now that's actually one of the stories in BlackHand Comics called Gravedigger's Union.  That's just a short story that I did.  I have a mini-series idea, like six issues that would be cool.  It would be an interesting thing to try to do the script and have someone else draw it.  I have a few favorite artists in mind that are busy but not too busy.  If I get this script done in time then I might see if they'd be open to doing it.  

JF: Anything you'd like to tease going into the next arc of Deadly Class?

WC: Volume 3 is out now.  The next single issue comes out in December.  I'm working on issue #18 right now as I'm trying to catch up to the schedule.  In terms of teasing... shit hits the fan.

JF: Even more so?

WC: Even more so.  In a different, bigger way.  Before this, it was more personal Marcus shit-hitting-the-fan scenarios, where now everyone's in trouble because of what Master Lin said at the end of the last issue.  A lot of those kids are the rats that are going to be hunted.  We'll see what happens...It gets pretty insane though.  There are a lot of personal stories.  We don't always do the full-out assassin stuff, but this particular arc has a lot of that big action stuff.

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About The Author
James Ferguson
Lord of the Funny Books
James has a 2nd grade reading level and, as a result, only reads books with pictures. Horror is his 5th favorite genre right after romantic comedy and just before silent films. No one knows why he's here, but he won't leave.
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