Interview with Yale Stewart—Part Two

In the first half of my interview with comics artist Yale Stewart (JL8), we discussed how he got into comics, his creative influences, and the difference between web and print comics. Here we talk about JL8 itself, his process, Stewart’s professional work, and end on his advice for aspiring creators.

Levi Raab: Why set JL8 elementary school?

Yale Stewart: […] When I originally had the concept–the original concept very much was young superheroes but then I was like well if they’re young instead of being a team of superheroes […], wouldn’t the youthful equivalent be them being classmates.

And I felt that–I mean school is just–especially an elementary school, is just kind of like a universally shared experience for like 99 percent of people who would read anything. Which I think is the same reason that things about childhood do as well as they do. Because not everyone has gone to college or has a successful career so on and so forth but there’s a good chance that you at least went to elementary school and can probably relate to that. I mean there’s, it’s a factuality that you were young at one point and can relate to that. […]

And also, I mean there’s just such a wealth of material to draw from about being in, being a young person in school. […] It also gives like an easy gathering place for all of them you know so it’s not like they all happen to live on the same block or whatever so that they can all just walk over to each other’s house. […] It’s just like oh well it’s convenient and makes for good story ideas, so.

LR: Can you talk through your process for creating a strip/storyline?

YS: Oh man. Well I hate to say it but probably not. And the only reason I say that is because it can be a really amorphous thing. Like I know that there is sort of like an individual process that I have, I’m just not really sure how to describe it. Primarily because I am doing both the writing and the drawing, right? I’m kind of like one man Marvel-methoding it. I guess the best way for me to describe it is, at least when it comes to doing an individual update like an individual strip, I’ll kind of have like a broad idea of what I want the strip to be about and I’ll kind of then do like a very, very loose script which is basically just dialogue where I’ll literally just write out all the dialogue as it goes through my head or whatever and then I’ll look at that and then I’ll start thumbnailing it out. But I just thumbnail it out as I feel it should be, like I don’t do like, panel one these things happen, and panel two these things. I mean a lot of time when I’m writing it I have that in mind, but then sometimes it’s like maybe it would be better if both of these characters spoke in this panel instead of it being this character speaks in this panel and this character speaks in the next panel and stuff like that.

So yeah, it’ll be like broad idea, loose script, loose thumbnails and then I’ll kinda like go back in and sort of try to almost balance the checkbook as it were. I mean sometimes it’s not necessary but If I’m having a little bit of trouble, like maybe the way I thumbnailed it out there’re just too many panels and it’s like how can I save some space? And then I’ll go back into the script and that’s when I’ll […] break it down by panel. Like what if I have all this in panel one, this in panel two, this in panel three and then you just kind like keep trying to find that perfect balance until you eventually come to some kind of equilibrium. And then yeah, it’s just kinda of sitting down at the drawing table and just banging the thing out. […]

LR:  Have you done any “professional” comics work?

YS: Oh yeah, yeah, I’ve done a decent number of it. I did that little backup thing for Marvel in Nova a couple years ago, I’ve done some work with Image, the Luther Strode books. I recently did those Smosh issues for Dynamite [Entertainment]. I did those not, this isn’t comic works, but you know like professionally writer/illustrator work those Superman children’s books, The Amazing Adventures of Superman, those officially licensed ones through DC and Capstone. I’ve done a couple covers for Boom[! Studios], like one Adventure Time one […].

So yeah, I mean it’s not as much as some of my other more strictly published comics friends […]  but I do pick up some freelance work here and there.

LR: Do you have any advice for aspiring creators?

YS: I would probably say, I think the biggest [thing] I could say is find something that you really, really care about and do that. […] It’s kinda tricky for me because JL8, I mean it is fanart. You know I would never pretend that it’s not. But it is very much something that I did initially as a labor of love and continue to do generally as a labor of love. When I started JL8 back in 2011 it was really just meant to be something that passed around to my personal friends for us to just kinda like chuckle about. And you know I did the first one they all really liked it so I did a few more they all really liked those. So, it wasn’t until some of my buddies were like you should really put these online that I even entertained the thought of just sharing them with the general public and I mean obviously, it’s done pretty well.

But yeah like for me I just think that people can […] tell if you’re just trying to attract a readership or, and I think that’s a very flakey thing whereas people who work on passion projects like I’ll be honest you might not see overnight success but I think that the people who you do attract will respond to the fact that it is something that you’re being artistically honest about and they will be much, much more invested in both your work and you as an artist. […] So, I think when people see something like Hark! a Vagrant, or Lackadaisy, or Penny Arcade, or XKCD, or a lot of most of these things are kind of like huge juggernauts of the webcomics field at this point but they weren’t always that way. You know there was a time when Penny Arcade was just being read by like a couple thousand people or whatever, same thing with Hark! a Vagrant, XKCD, what have you, but people read it and they do it to resonate with them and I think that they see a degree of artistic honesty there.

But this wasn’t just kind of attention-grabbing work or anything like that—attention-grabbing for the sake of being attention grabbing. Obviously, it grabbed attention because it was very, very good. But it wasn’t, you know it was just like these people are making comics that they want to make and if they become successful with it more power to them. […]

Levi RaabThen if we wanna get into like the nitty-gritty technical stuff, and I feel kinda like a hypocrite saying this because I need to work on it as much as anybody, but try to be disciplined. That will go a very, very long way in a lot of respects because when you’re an artist, even when you are working for Marvel, or DC, or Dark Horse, or whatever you’re still very much your own boss. You don’t have a place to go to punch into you’re gonna get chewed out if you’re late to work or whatever. […] So, it can get really, really easy to be like oh you know I’m not really feeling it today, I’ll just work harder tomorrow, and you know there are a thousand more examples of something similar. And then you end up [… missing] deadlines and all that kind of stuff. […] It’s not like working at Target where you can just call in sick one day and the work still gets done by other employees covering you, that just doesn’t happen.

So yeah, I think those are like the big two pieces of advice I could give up-and-coming people. Just find something that you really, really care about and work on that and be disciplined about it and have a disciplined work ethic. It’ll take you far. It will take you very, very far.

– Levi Raab

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