Following a lengthy career as a graphic designer for several big name companies you may have heard of, Mitch helped co-cound Popgunpulp Comics with writer Scott Dillon. Click below to find out how Mitch came to work on The Activity, just how much research goes into each an every page and just how important a solid graphic design background is (or rather, should be) for creating comic art.
And don’t forget to pick up The Activity #1 from your local comic book shop in just 24 short hours!
Mitch Gerads: As I understand it, Nathan found me from my work over on Comic TWART (http://www.comictwart.com). I was probably the only guy on there who wasn’t on a Marvel book at the time so he gave me a call and just kind of pitched the very beginnings of an idea to me just to see if the subject matter was something I was interested in. We had a few phone calls that week and we really just clicked from the get-go, both personally and professionally. It’s a big decision to take on a creator owned book for a freelance artist and Nathan’s past credits with Image lent a sense of security. This was also before Who Is Jake Ellis? started and I am a big fan of Tonci’s work, so when I made that connection I was completely on board.
JM: What is it about working on a book like The Activity that appeals to you?
MG: I am a HUGE military thriller fan, always have been. I love superheroes, trust me, my weekly pull list is crazy out of hand, but nothing gets me more jazzed than special forces/black ops/spy/military fiction and definitely non-fiction. The crazy part is the line between the fiction and non-fiction is VERY blurry. Something both Nathan and I have discovered from the people we’ve talked to when preparing for this book. The men and women of the special forces are the real world equivalent of Batman. All the comparisons are right there, just less capes and boy wonders.
JM: What are some classic spy/espionage stories that have influenced your work on the book?
MG: There’s SO many. Like I said, this is my favorite genre of any media so I pull inspiration from novels, movies, video games, you name it. I could go on and on, but some standouts that I think directly influence my work on this book are novels by Vince Flynn and Brad Thor, Mark Bowden’s accounts of real world events from his books, Black Hawk Down and Killing Pablo, the Bourne movies, TV shows like The UNIT and Strikeback. Just about anything I can get my mitts on. Oh, and the Call of Duty games. I’m pretty obsessed with those, ha.
MG: It was mostly a matter of developing these character’s back stories in both their careers and personal lives with Nathan that inspired my approach to the design of each character. This is kind of a fun question because I took a unique approach to how I came up with each person’s visual look. I basically took all the info that Nathan and I had put together and designed each character as stereotypical as I could based on their life stories so I would have a distinct starting point, then I just kind of tweaked these stereotypes into becoming unique individual people visually.Continued below
JM: Have you done any research into real world military technology and ordinance in order to draw this book?
MG: Absolutely. Nothing bugs me more than how military/special forces tend to be represented or drawn in current comics. Everyone seems to represent them as the Punisher or Rambo. They’re not. They are precise and controlled in their movements. They hold their guns in a certain manner, again, controlled and calculated. ALL these things I work very hard to accurately represent in The ACTIVITY. Nathan and I do our research about everything in this book we are representing and if it’s not completely accurate, then it’s at least respectful to the reality of whatever it may be.
JM: On a similar note, how much research into the locales that the team will find themselves in have you done? The first issue alone takes place on three different continents, yet each location feels distinct and accurate.
MG:That’s great to hear you say! Nathan is very concerned with this book taking place in our current global climate so it’s very rare that he writes a script that doesn’t take place in a specific location in a specific city, etc. It’s one of the most fun parts about working on this book, honestly. This team operates EVERYWHERE.
JM: The first issue of the book has a very dynamic, widescreen feel to it that brings to mind some of the best hollywood blockbusters. How do you go about bringing this quality to your work on the book?
MG: Presentation of setting/story/etc. is paramount to me. A good story isn’t just about the characters. It’s about the location, the people, and what is happening and what is being affected to both. I always give each location a unique color palette so you always know where a scene is happening. This becomes a really great tool because then we can jump around more than a usual comic book can and the reader never gets lost. I also tend to illustrate this book more like a movie than a comic in the manner that I make sure light and weather make every shot cohesive. I want the book to feel as real as possible, but still remain “Hollywood” exciting. You’ll also notice the book jumps around between white and black panel borders depending on the light in any given scene. My whole goal on this book is to make it as unique and immersive as I can.
JM: What has the nature of the collaboration between you and Nathan been like? Have you developed the story together, or is your input more in the area of visuals?
MG: This is absolutely the most collaborative project I’ve been a part of. Nathan originally pitched me the most basic of ideas and we really built up this whole book together. I’m not joking when I say that we talk 5-6 days a week pretty extensively. Forming story ideas and directions together. It’s been crazy rewarding.
JM: How has working on this book been different from any work you’ve done in the past?
MG: I think my answer to this question has a lot to do with my answer to the last one. Nathan and I could not be more on the same page, so we’re able to form the book that both of us are insanely excited to bring to the market.
One of my favorite little details about our collaboration on this book is we’re both committed to tell the story of our team, not to soapbox on any political agendas. This book is not that kind of book at all, it’s the missions and complications that our team deals with as part of their job. It helps that Nathan and I are on pretty much opposite sides of the political spectrum, so there’s kind of a 4th wall dÃ©tente, haha.
MG: My work as a graphic designer is integral to ALL my comic work. I know it’s asking a lot, but I can’t recommend GOOD graphic design courses enough to up and coming comic book artists. Actually to a lot of established comic artists as well. It boggles my mind how much really really bad graphic design makes it into the work of the most talented illustrators. I think good graphic design just teaches you so many fundamentals about presentation in any media that it can’t help but make your illustration work so much better.Continued below
One of the graphic design elements I’m most excited about in The ACTIVITY is the cover structure. I was really excited to play with the typical elements of how a comic book cover is presented and make something a bit more unique, clean, and impactful. I think the book is all those things in general, so it’s a good marriage. At least I hope it is, ha.
JM: In your mind, what do you think fans can expect from The Activity moving forward?
MG:The Harlem Globetrotters stop by to solve a mystery and…oh wait….wrong thing…
I think fans have a really exciting ride ahead of them. Each issue a new operation, a new global hotspot, we learn more and more about the members of Team Omaha, and all the other people and units that they work with. I really mean it when I say this book is something I think the industry is really ready for. It starts big in issue 1 and trust me, it only gets bigger with each issue. These men and women are the tip of the spear and this book will never let you forget it.
JM: While you have the digital floor, is there anything coming down the pipeline or even currently out there, that you’d like to plug or promote?
MG: I’m just really excited to put The ACTIVITY on the market and I can’t wait to hear what the fans think as well. Oh, and come see both Nathan and I at Emerald City Comic Con in 2012!