Dan Parsons, illustrator on EMPIRE OF THE WOLF by ALTERNA comics, and recent INKWELL award winner for Small Press and Mainstream Independent Comics is one of the most talented artists in comics today. His body of work includes over one hundred Star Wars comics from Dark Horse, the super cool GHOST series, also from Dark Horse, as well as the most recent DC Convergence title NIGHTWING/ORACLE. I mean the man designed his own Sith Lord. It doesn’t get more awesome than that. He is a visionary in comics, one of the best inkers of this generation, and all around, a cool dude.
Recently Dan sat down with Comic Crusaders to talk about EMPIRE OF THE WOLF, The art of inking comics, as well as his favorite Star Wars character to draw.
LET’S START AT THE BEGINNING, WHEN DID YOU DECIDE THAT YOU WANTED TO MAKE COMICS?
My mom tells me that I was making my own comics even before I started reading them as a kid. I don’t know if that’s possible. But consciously, I must have been eleven when I knew I wanted to do comics.
CAN YOU WALK ME THROUGH YOUR PROCESS? HOW DO YOU BREAK DOWN AN ISSUE?
I read the script over and over; making some notes on the side of the script and I usually do a bunch of small thumbnails to lay out the composition of each page. Then I draw the images large on 11x 17 art board. Of course there is a bit of digging around for references in there. Luckily, with Empire of the Wolf,
I’m a big History Geek and have tons of books on Roman military history.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR EXPERIENCE AS A COMIC BOOK ARTIST? WHAT ARE SOME OF THE THINGS YOU HAVE LEARNED OR PERHAPS A MISTAKE YOU MADE THAT YOU WOULD SUGGEST ANOTHER CREATOR ENTERING INTO INDEPENDENT COMICS DO DIFFERENTLY?
My experience as a comic book artist has been a childhood dream come true, although at times it’s been a challenge. One big mistake I made when I was starting out as a self-publisher in Baltimore, was that I got totally ripped off by going with a cheaper local printer. If you are printing your first comic I would recommend using an established comic book printer.
IS THERE ANY ADVICE YOU CAN OFFER TO A CREATOR/ARTIST LOOKING TO BREAK INTO COMICS IN TODAY’S MARKET?
I would recommend getting a portfolio together that you are proud of and show it around. Comic book conventions are the best place to show your work. Show to publishers, writers, and other artists.
EMPIRE OF THE WOLF IS A BLEND OF ROMAN HISTORY AND SUPERNATURAL LORE. HOW CLOSE TO YOUR HEART ARE BOTH SUBJECTS (HISTORY AND MONSTERS) AND WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO CREATE THIS STORY THAT MIXES THEM TOGETHER?
I enjoy both genres so it was cool to mash them up a bit. History, mythology, and mystical things have always been mixed though. Think of the Romulus and Remus myth! And of course I love monsters of all kinds.
DESCRIBE THE EXPERIENCE WORLD BUILDING FOR EMPIRE OF THE WOLF. WHAT CHALLENGES DID YOU FACE?
One challenge was creating a historically accurate ancient Rome. I actually was able to find some reconstructions of what Rome would have looked like in the time period that Empire of the Wolf takes place.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE UNIVERSAL MOVIE MONSTER?
I like ’em all! Frankenstein, Dracula, Mummy and of course the Werewolf. The Mummy may be my absolute favorite. Lots of Historical context with that one!
NOW THAT EMPIRE OF THE WOLF IS COMPLETE, WHAT IS THE NEXT PROJECT YOU HAVE PLANNED?
Michael Kogge and I are working on a story that has a new take on a classic character. I’m penciling and painting this one!
YOU HAVE WORKED ON OVER A HUNDRED STAR WARS TITLES. OF ALL THE CHARACTERS IN THAT UNIVERSE YOU HAVE WORKED ON, WHICH IS YOUR FAVORITE?
I enjoy drawing Darth Maul and any of the Sith characters. I designed one of the Sith Lords for Star Wars, Darth Stryfe. That was a lot of fun to work on.
HAN OR GREEDO, WHO SHOT FIRST?
Han for sure.
YOU RECENTLY WON THE PRESTIGIOUS INKWELL AWARD FOR YOUR ARTWORK ON DARK HORSE’S STAR WARS TITLES. HOW WAS THAT EXPERIENCE ATTENDING AN AWARD CEREMONY AND YOUR REACTION WHEN YOU WERE ANNOUNCED AS THE WINNER?
I was stunned to hear that I was nominated…and that I won. I was also nominated in 2010 for 2 of the Inkwell Awards that year and won the same one as this year. It’s always a big surprise when these awards things happen. Always out left field. It was an honor to attend the ceremony this year. Klaus Janson, the Guest of Honor at the ceremony was always a big inspiration to me! It was great talking with him about or mutual love for Gil Kane!
INKERS ARE OFTEN THE UNSUNG HEROES OF COMICS. IS THERE ANY RESOURCES YOU CAN RECOMMEND FOR ASPIRING INKERS THAT CAN HELP THEM HONE THEIR CRAFT?
I would just say do what inspires you. As far as resources…if you want to learn about inking just closely study those inkers you like. Some inkers actually have tutorials on inking that you can check out online. I would also recommend getting out to a comic book show or two and showing your work around and getting some feedback from other artists.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE CONVENTION STORY?
My favorite story was from way back in the 1990’s. I was at the Pittsburgh Comic Con in its early days. In the lobby of the hotel, the legendary Mike Kaluta, was sitting in the middle of the lobby bar giving an impromptu drawing lesson to a crowd of young artists. I was on the piano providing background music. LOL
OUTSIDE OF COMICS, WHAT ARE YOUR INTERESTS?
I enjoy movies of all kinds, although mostly older ones. History was always a hobby for me, particularly military history. And I like to sneak in some music once in a while in the form of playing guitar or piano, although my repertoire is limited to Beatles…and more Beatles.
WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR GOALS IN COMICS?
To create comics I would like to see and to give back to the medium of art that really inspires me.
WHAT IS ON YOUR CURRENT “MUST READ” LIST?
There are some old Silver Age comics I am missing. LOL!
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR FAVORITE MOMENT CREATING COMICS SO FAR?
I just had a favorite moment last week at the 2015 Inkwell Awards when I was able to meet and talk with one of my heroes Klaus Janson!
ARE THERE ANY UPCOMING CONVENTIONS OR EVENTS YOU WILL BE ATTENDING YOU WOULD LIKE OUR READERSHIP TO BE AWARE OF?
I just returned from the Inkwell Awards last night where I received an award for my work on Star Wars. I will be heading down to San Diego Comic Con 2015 in a week or so to man my usual spot in Artist Alley!
Like my Facebook site at Dan Parsons Art.
Werewolves in Ancient Rome!
During a vicious battle with the wolf-king Caradog, two Roman centurions fall victim to the werewolf’s bite. Now, as werewolves, Lucius and Canisius are cursed to relive the legendary feud between the wolf-brothers Romulus and Remus. As their hostility grows, a war erupts that will not only decide the fate of the Roman Empire, but also threatens to claim the life of the woman they both love.
The graphic novel compilation of the four issue series was created and written by Michael Kogge (Star Wars Rebels books), with art by Dan Parsons (Game of Thrones production and over 100 Star Wars comics) and David Rabbitte (Star Wars Insider), coloring by both Chris Summers (Spartacus: Blood & Sand) and David Rabbitte, lettering by Marshall Dillion (Street Fighter, Game of Thrones, and Green Hornet), and the cover painting by renown fantasy illustrator Doug Beekman (Wizard’s First Rule).