The story of IDW Comics’ Monocyte revolves around two eternal warring races, the technology-based Olignostics and the nature-based Antedeluvians, and the human slaves that have been caught in the middle. Azrael, the personification of Death itself, sets in motion a plan to restore himself to full power by awakening Monocyte, the long sleeping, immortal necromancer who wishes for nothing more than a permanent death. Having agreed to each other’s terms, Monocyte begins a quest to bring Death to all who would oppose it.
Recently, I had the opportunity to chat with Chris Newman, one of the creative forces behind IDW’s Monocyte. Chris Newman was one of several impressive artists who contributed to this stellar series.
Colin Hollister: One of the things I enjoyed most about Monocyte was how great of a challenge it was intellectually. In fact, I’m not ashamed to admit there were several times I had to go back and re-read certain scenes just to try and wrap my head around it! Certainly, the themes traversed throughout the series are open to individualistic interpretation, but while I have you here I would be remiss if I didn’t ask: can you speak to what the journey of Monocyte meant to you?
Chris Newman: I see Monocyte as a push in the right direction for graphic novels. Creatively, it really stands out, and the mood is overwhelming. I’m really hoping we see more like it soon.
CH: The world portrayed in the pages of Monocyte can be as surreal and twisted as it can be spiritually illuminating. Tell us about your creative process. How do you prepare mentally to enter such an excessively dark and conflicted landscape?
CN: [Monocyte artist] Menton3 and I have a pretty similar taste when it comes to mood in our work, I think. The surreal style is always something I’ve had a passion for, and when it’s as twisted as Monocyte, I’m all for it. I really enjoy pushing realistic scenarios into a stranger place, so painting this novel felt natural, and not much preparation was needed.
CH: With work featured alongside talents such as Menton3 (Silent Hill, ZVR: Aventure), Barron Storey, Bill Sienkiewicz, George Pratt and many more, it’s fair to say you’ve got your foot placed firmly in the comic medium’s door. How did you get your start in the industry, and what advice would you give someone trying to do the same?
CN: It was a complete joy to work alongside Menton3 and [series co-writter] Kasra Ghanbari; they were both incredibly generous throughout. I got involved in this project through Menton, who contacted me via email one day asking me if I’d like to work with him. I was struck with excitement upon reading and eventually got a good fill of the story and mood from both writers. This was a dream come true for me; I always had a passion for the medium but no experience. They found me through my online gallery without any prior communication, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it turned into awesome. They gave me the chance to work in their studio and show me the ropes. I even started their garbage can on fire.
My advice to all artists seeking work in this industry is to paint your heart out, every day. Create an immense emotional attachment to your work and style will come, you’ll see yourself in your art, and others will too. Put every drawing or painting you do online; keep it accessible to all eyes. Lastly, study anatomy until your head feels stupid.
CH: How greatly did comic book norms such as deadlines and editorial affect your art process? Were they more of a hindrance or a help?
CN: Issue #4 of Monocyte was fast. I had a little less than a week to do all eight pages if I recall correctly, so there wasn’t much time to plan. I love painting quickly (I’m a speed painter!) so this wasn’t a problem. Overall, I love story telling, and finding new compositions, so I’d say the medium made materializing scenes and ideas in my head a joy. Working with panels was probably the most difficult leap I had to make, but it really pushed me to think more about placement. It was definitely more of a help than a hindrance, and it’s aiding my painting process to this day.
CN: You can find me in TOME, coming out in December, which features some pretty amazing artists including Menton3 and one of my other favorites, Ashley Wood. Currently I’m working in the video game industry on an action-rpg-platformer. I’m hoping to do more graphic novels in the near future, and I have one of my own in the works.
CH: Chris, thank you very much for your time. It was a pleasure speaking with you about Monocyte, and I hope to hear from you about your future works as well!
CN: Thanks, Colin! I’d be more than happy to fill you in.
Monocyte has recently been released in hard cover form along with several cool extras and can be found at your local comic store or wherever fine books are sold.
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