Talkin’ Comics with Joe St. Pierre, Creator of New Zodiax & Founder of Astronaut Ink

Joe St. Pierre’s outstanding comic book career began in the early 1990’s as a penciller of Rai during the first era of Valiant Comics. Joe has also worked as a penciller/writer for Marvel, DC, Image, IDW and Dynamite. Joe is credited for numerous illustrations featuring Spider-Man and the Spider-Man family.

I had the pleasure of meeting Joe and sharing a few laughs with him at this year’s Summer Northeast Comic Con in Wilmington, MA. I checked out Joe’s art portfolio during the show and I found it to be utterly magnificent. I was very impressed by the amount of detail contained in each of his art pieces. Simply put, each piece was able to tell its own story. Joe was available for commissions and I couldn’t resist asking him for his rendition of Valiant’s Ninjak. As my colleagues at Comic Crusaders can attest, Ninjak is one of my favorite independent characters.

When I saw the completed Ninjak piece, I have to admit, I was speechless. Joe captured Ninjak’s lethal approach to perfection. I consider myself very lucky to be able to own this mesmerizing art piece.

I ran into Joe again at this year’s Boston Comic Con. I had brought with me a phantom variant of Unity #1 and asked Joe if he could draw a full body sketch of X-O Manowar on its cover.

Joe did an amazing job of depicting the fury of the Visgoth King as he unleashed the raw power of his alien armor.

I caught up with Mr. St. Pierre recently to further discuss his career and his own publishing company, Astronaut Ink.

How did you become interested in comic books?

I don’t exactly recall, but it was pretty early in my life. We have family pictures from back in the day, and I’m holding a comic book at 4 years old or so. I may have been born with one in my hands 🙂

Can you describe your journey into the comic book industry?

The journey started pretty early as well. I have been making my own comics since I was 6 or 7. I submitted drawings to Marvel Comics back when I was 9 or 10 years old, had my career planned from that point on—I was going to draw Spider-Man for a living! I got my first rejection letter back then too. I was so disappointed.

But that didn’t seem to stop me, as I continued to draw comics art, and from my college years on, I submitted art samples to the bigger publishers on a fairly regular basis. There was no internet at the time; I used to make photocopies of my pencil samples, and send them off in packets via snail mail to the various editors I was interested in working with.

My first break came when as a fan I was reading Magnus Robot Fighter and Solar, which were being published by a new company called Valiant. I was so impressed with the energy and quality in those books. I sent samples over to them on a Monday and got a phone call two days later with a job offer. I didn’t realize the mail worked that quickly!

Your debut in the comic book industry was with the first incarnation of Valiant in the 90’s. Would you mind sharing with our readers what you worked on during your time at Valiant and describe what your experience was like at this point early in your career?

Well the experience was nearly mind-blowing. My first assignment as a pro was on Rai #1, a sci-fi samurai set in the future. It was written by David Michelinie, who was one of my favorite writers at that time. Loved his Iron Man and Avengers work. My editors were icons in the industry: Jim Shooter, Bob Layton, Don Perlin. Barry Windsor-Smith was an important influence on me as a noob, he was an impressive force of nature, whose only interest was in making great comic books. I credit Barry and Bob with allowing me to expand beyond penciling into writing as well as helping to improve my penciling skills. I did some fill-in stuff here and there after Rai, and then was given Secret Weapons to write and draw. In retrospect, the whole experience was truly a rare moment in comics history, and I count myself lucky to have been a part of it.

You have also worked with both Marvel and DC. Which of their characters did you enjoy working on the most and why?

As I mentioned earlier, I was on a near holy mission from a very young age to be involved with Spider-Man. So when I got to draw Peter Parker and his crew, that really was a landmark moment in my life. I have the distinction of being the artist who has penciled the most #1 issues featuring Spidey or his cast of characters, at six. I also drew Fantastic Four, Gambit, Aquaman, Green Lantern, Batman, Steel, some of my faves. I also published a mini-series with Image called MEGAHURTZ. It was my first attempt at a creator-owned storyline, and I had a blast with that.

You also offer your services on commission pieces during comic book conventions. So, I have to ask, which character do the fans ask you to draw the most?

I get quite a mix, but I would have to say Deadpool or Rai.

What stands out for you regarding the work you have done over the years, and why?

I recognize that I have expanded my skills beyond just penciling, which is the job that I started out as, and with which I am probably most recognized. I am also a writer, character designer/creator, inker, colorist, letterer and publisher. I am interested in all phases of the process.

What are some of the challenges that you have faced while pencilling and writing? What did you do to overcome them?

Good question, I like to tell stories with pictures, so I would say that for me the two are very intertwined in my head. I find very often when I’m writing, it’s describing the visuals of a scene, or when I’m penciling, I will be enhancing the story by inserting visual elements, or very often, the dialogue for a panel or page will come to me while I’m pencilling it.

Can you explain what Astronaut Ink is all about and how it came to be for our readers?

Astronaut Ink is my publishing company for my creator-owned projects. Simple as that. The first Astronaut Ink project was called BOLD BLOOD, a sword and sorcery novella which was kind of a cross between Game of Thrones and Saving Private Ryan.

NEW ZODIAX is my current project. The first issue came out in February, and sold out at the distribution level. It debuts the LIBERAIDER. Each of the next 3 issues premieres a new character from the NEW ZODIAX, making them all instant collector’s items. For instance issue #2 debuts the LION, #3 features CRICKET, and #4 introduces MULTAA, the kaiju lava creature.

Where can we purchase New Zodiax and the other titles published by Astronaut Ink?

You can buy NEW ZODIAX at your better comics retailers, or purchase it thru the Store link on my site astronautink.com

What can the fans expect from the New Zodiax series?

The premise of the series focuses on 12 characters who—knowingly or not—can channel the cosmic energies of the zodiac. I’m looking to explore all genres, from action/superhero to sci-fi to cyberpunk to horror, all with added twists that hopefully readers will say have never been done before. Along the way I’m planning to reinvent the astrological signs themselves—I definitely need quite a few issues to tell this big a tale, so please support this book!

Who is Liberaider?

The LIBERAIDER is a brilliant teenage hacktivist who acquires a metallic second skin that allows him to access the web with his mind. In an age where information can mean life and death, he styles himself as the Robin Hood of Cyberspace, who steals from the info-rich and gives to the info-poor.

You have introduced other characters such as The Lion and Cricket. Could you elaborate on the historical aspect surrounding The Lion as well as shed some light on Cricket?

The LION is the first man to ever look into the night skies, create pictures and constellations, and the myths associated with them, and to acquire power from that process. As you might imagine, he has been around for a loooong time. Whether he is a hero or villain will depend on the story he appears in. I’m planning lots of horror and history in his tales.

CRICKET makes her first appearance in NEW ZODIAX #3. She is sort of a therapist for the dead, who helps ghosts trapped here on earth to deliver themselves beyond the mortal planes. CRICKET’s first appearance seems to have made quite a splash with the fans. Reviews and individual fans have given me very positive feedback. CRICKET’s story meshes sci fi with horror and tugs your heart strings at the same time.

Will there be any other projects coming from you under the Astronaut Ink banner anytime soon?

NEW ZODIAX #4 will be released this September, so reserve your copy today!

It will continue the adventure of the LIBERAIDER as he takes on a gang of urban scavengers called THE DREGS. It is also the first appearance of MULTAA, the Giant Lava creature who protects the last bastion of civilization in the galaxy. Lots of Big Monster destruction mixed with small character moments, I am so proud of this one, it really feels to me like a twist to the genre that hasn’t been done before.

Joe, thank you so much for answering all of my questions!

For more info about Astronaut Ink, visit http://www.astronautink.com/

Until next time Crusaders!

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