It’s Friday. Sit back and enjoy this one, like you’re listening in on a bar conversation between a writer and artist about what they love — and don’t — about comics and their careers. Enjoy:
Comic book writer Vito Delsante has had a busy fall. First, his new comic, World War Mob, has just been solicited via Diamond’s Previews for an on-sale date of Jan. 8, 2014. He also launched a Kickstarter for his creator-owned book, Stray, which has reached it’s funding goal and will end on Nov. 8. Both projects have a personal slant; World War Mob is based on a story told him by his grandfather and might be true, while Stray represents how he dealt with his father’s death 25 years ago.
However, lost in the details is Stray’s artist and co-creator, Sean Izaakse. Based out of Johannesburg, South Africa, little is known about the artist. Vito and Sean had an intimate discussion on Skype. It was a long conversation but one worth eavesdropping on. It’s been shortened some and we’ve split it into two parts. So enjoy the first part. Next Friday, we’ll bring you the next installment:
Oddly and strangely, the guys started out talking about shaving. We’ll jump ahead:
Vito: Well, how old are you?
Vito: 35, ok. I knew that we were close, but not that close. What do you think was the first comic you ever read? Can you remember that far back?
Sean: Aw, dude, I can’t, but…I can’t remember my first comic, but it was probably…the most memorable one that I can think of is probably that issue of Action Comics with…I think it was a George Perez cover. It’s that one where he’s, kind of, it’s like an homage to another cover. He’s flying and he’s pointing down to something, and there’s a yellow background and there’s a circle behind him and you can see the city…
Vito: See, I want to see that cover now, because I know I know it, I just can’t think of what it is. Action Comics, right?
Sean: I think it was Action Comics (#643, cover by George Perez, based on the cover of Superman #1. This issue actually marked the end of the weekly run).
Sean: That one for me is the most memorable one.
Vito: How old were you? Do you remember?
Sean: I can’t really say because…it could have been anytime, you know, ‘cause I got comics from little cafes or corner shops. So that could have been a lot older and just sitting there for ages. What I used to do as a kid on weekends, you would have to walk… ‘cause there were no comic shops around Jo’burg (Johannesburg, where Sean lives). There was one, in the dodgiest part of town that I went to once and it scared the crap out of me.
Vito: That’s where comic shops usually are, on the dodgy side of town.
Sean: So, what I did was…I would walk to the little CNA’s, the little corner shops, in a five-kilometer radius, and find those twirling stands with comics on them and go through those. You were almost guaranteed to never get consecutive issues. You would buy what you found and you read it. It’s like, “This is amazing!” and you know what’s going to happen in the next issue and you don’t really bother about it, even though you want to.
Vito: That’s odd to me because, growing up here…granted, this is the States and we get our comics pretty regularly, but when I was growing up on Staten Island, comic stores were just starting starting to pop up, so for me to go to a comic store, I’d have to get in a car…next to a McDonalds, there was a comic store and it was always on the way to the mall. And it’s not like it used to be, where nowadays, when you want to go to the mall, you just go to the mall. Back then, going to the mall was a big deal for some reason. We didn’t really have much money, so we would go once a month, maybe once every two? I didn’t get a chance to go to that comic store very often, until I got a little bit older. What I would do was…my older sister, Maria, and I would walk down to a newsstand on Victory Boulevard towards the ferry. Anybody that reads this will tell you…that’s a dodgy part of town.
Vito: And it wasn’t like a newsstand like there is now, at airports or the train station. This was an old school newsstand that probably used to sell fountain drinks but they said, “Screw it, we’re not selling that crap anymore.” So, they had candy, which is what appealed to my sister at the time. Before she started buying teen girl mags. And I was getting comics, and the comics were on…I remember distinctly…this whole store was Army green, you know? Very dark green. And the racks, they weren’t spinner racks, they were magazine racks and the superhero comics, Archies and whatever, were right next to Playboys. I don’t know if that means something, you know…
Vito: …you know, that comics are equal to pornography or whatever, but they were right there. So, I would see these beautiful women and then see the X-Men, which is what I was into at the time, and I would just say, “Yeah, I’d rather get Wolverine then look at this chick!”
Vito: Plus, I couldn’t really look at the chick because my sister was there.
Vito: But, yeah…X-Men was the first comic I bought. The first comic I probably read was probably a Batman or a Flash comic. My dad, whenever I saw him, would just give them to me.
Vito: But it’s interesting that your first comic was a George Perez comic.
Sean: The thing is, and I know what appealed to me about that particular comic. It’s not my first comic, because I checked, and that issue came out in 1989. I was pretty old by then. But I was drawing pictures…I’ve got a cigarette box that my parents kept and it’s got a picture of Superman, Spider-Man and Batman on it, and at the bottom of it, it says, “Five years old.”
Vito: Was it cartoons then that influenced you to do that? Or was it a different comic book?
Sean: No, it was probably comic books. My parents used to read stuff. My dad was a HUGE Green Lantern fan. He LOVED Green Lantern. And my mom used to read things like Enemy Ace…
Sean: Yeah, my mom loved Enemy Ace and Magnus, Robot Fighter. Those were her two favorites.
Vito: That’s so interesting! I wonder if…Magnus, Robot Fighter I can see being the anomaly of the two, because Enemy Ace was more realistic. And then what does it say about women that they want to read more realistic things? Like in the ’50s, they wanted to read romance comics…if that. I don’t know if women ever wanted to read romance comics. I think men believed that they wanted to.
Sean: I don’t know. But…oh, I found the cover of…this is not my first experience with the X-Men, but my most memorable cover that I can remember of the X-Men. Back then I used to dig Wolverine as well…
Vito: Yeah, me too. (Looking at the cover of Uncanny X-Men #159, cover by Bill Sienkiewicz.) That is REAL close to when I first started buying X-Men. The first issue I bought was Binary, holding Wolverine like the Madonna, the Pieta. I think it was a Dave Cockrum issue, too. (NOTE: This is an interior panel description. The issue was Uncanny X-Men #164, cover by Dave Cockrum).
Vito: You know what’s weird is, Dave Cockrum was probably the first artist I was introduced to (as a fan), post-Byrne and pre-Paul Smith. And I was just…I loved Wolverine. I saw him on Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends…
Vito: That was my first exposure to him. And even though (chuckles) he was ridiculously Australian in that episode, I was just, “Oh my God! That dude is the coolest!” I remember…I might have been 10, maybe 11 years old, right before I moved to Pennsylvania. My dad had taken me to Albany (in upstate New York) to a…what was it? It was a…tulip festival, of all things…
Sean: A tulip festival?
Vito: In a park. And they had the Dutch princess of something or other. It was really weird. The thing is, they had vendors set up, throughout the park. They had beautiful displays of tulips. I could care less. They had these vendors set up at tables, all along the walkways. I saw the Frank Miller/Chris Claremont (Wolverine) limited series. It was the whole entire thing. Again, having not been to a comic store, I wasn’t exposed to that kind of stuff. It was the entire four-issue run and I remember I begged my father to buy it for me and he did. He was really cool about giving me comics, for some reason. And I loved it. The whole idea of samurais and superheroes and…you know, it’s weird. I’ve learned…I say, I’ve learned some Japanese, some Russian and some German, just from some Chris Claremont X-Men comics.
Sean: Oh, dude, don’t even joke. Comics have taught me so many things. I never knew what the word “carnage” meant until the character came out.
Vito: Oh yeah? (Laughs)
Sean: I said, “I don’t even understand what that means! OH! So he’s really bad then!” (Chuckles) When I was a kid, it’s funny ‘cause I never really developed a sweet tooth, like kids…my folks used to give me money every day so I could buy sweets at school and stuff, and I never really bought sweets at school. Then at the end of the week, I’d take all that money and buy comic books. But then I’d go to school and bug all my friends and eat all their lunch and sweets and stuff, so that way I was still fed, but I’d just use the money to buy comic books at the shops that we’d walk to.
Vito: When I was a kid, in elementary school, I was a big comic nerd. More so than most of the kids. I got pulled into the guidance counselor’s office and I thought I was in trouble. But he said, “No, we want to commend you because you’re getting the other kids to read.” And I said, “Oh, cool! I’ll take it!”
Vito: So, here’s my question to you…you’re drawing Spider-Man and Superman at 5 years old…
Sean: Just so you know, the Superman in the picture, he’s got the “S” the wrong way around, so I couldn’t spell properly, just yet.
Vito: (Laughs) You mean the one you drew?
Sean: I could draw the characters, I swear. I have a picture of it somewhere around here.
Vito: Did you notice comic artists at that time? When you started really buying your comics, did you start noticing comic artists?
Sean: Yeah…let’s put it this way. I didn’t notice different artists, per se, as much as styles. For example, I’d find random issues in the store of Batman and the Outsiders. And then I’d pick up an issue…
Vito: Was that (Jim) Aparo?
Sean: Yes, I’d pick it up and it’d be Aparo and I’d think, “Eh…why doesn’t it look as cool as this issue?” I didn’t realize at the time that there was two different artists. I thought there was something wrong, like someone went blind or something. I’d look for and pick up the issues that had Alan Davis art, ‘cause he’s always looked so clean and slick. Aparo’s anatomy…there’s nothing wrong with the way he draws, he’s a classic, it’s just his anatomy kind of bugged me at that age.
Vito: That was the way I felt about Cockrum, too, compared to Paul Smith or John Byrne.
Sean: Right, there’s nothing wrong with their art, it’s just there’s a certain aesthetic I’m looking at that doesn’t appeal to me. So, I’d pick up some issues of Batman and the Outsiders, and it’s consecutive issues with Aparo, and I just think, “I don’t like this issue even though it’s the same story, I’m probably not going to read it” and then I go look again, and think, “Oh wow! The art is great again!” but I wouldn’t pay attention as to why. It was later that I realized that it was two different guys drawing the book and thought, “Oh, that makes sense.” My favorites growing up, in the early years, were Byrne, Perez and Alan Davis. Those three…I loved everything they did.
Vito: When I was talking to people about you, at the New York Comic Con, I would keep saying that your art is basically the lovechild of Alan Davis and Jamie McKelvie.
Vito: Like, if anyone looks at Stray, and doesn’t see Alan Davis, I don’t know what they’re looking at.
Sean: (Laughs) That’s an awesome compliment. I could never be Alan Davis.