Ron Chan has been busy. From coloring the acclaimed miniseries Underground, to fill in pages on a few X-Men books, Chan has been building a rep as a reliable, unique artist. But the Portland native is about to take things to the next level, as he’s providing a cover to Dark Horse’s The Guild: Tink one shot, as well as art for nine stories in Morgan Spurlock’s new graphic novel, Supersized.
We tracked down Chan to talk about these gigs, whether drawing Supersized grossed him out, and just how difficult it is to work with a harsh taskmaster like Felicia Day...and also scored you an exclusive first look at his work in Supersized!
Geek: Let’s talk about The Guild, first. You’ve done a double page spread of characters before, but I believe this is your first official cover?
Ron Chan: Yes, this is my first cover for Dark Horse and The Guild. I was super excited when I was asked to do it.
Geek: How hard was it work off of a real person? Or does it help that you’re doing the avatar version of a real person?
RC: It doesn't make it too much more difficult since, by nature, I don't draw in a photo-realistic style, so there isn't as much pressure to nail likeness. I think in comics it's more important to get across the attitude and general feel for a character than it is to get hung up on exact likenesses.
Geek: Tell us about the cover process – how did you approach it? And did you get a lot of angry, very specific notes from notorious detail-hound Felicia Day? I know she doesn’t even remotely have this rep, but go with me here.
RC: You won't get any trash talk from me, haha. Felicia was very easy to work with. The editors and I received only very minimal notes from her on the cover.
Geek: Okay, okay. But were you a fan of the series before Dark Horse started giving you Guild gigs? Or are you not much of a gamer?
RC: Oh yeah, I'm definitely a long time fan of the series. I've been a gamer all my life, so the humor of The Guild is right up my alley.
Geek: Moving over to Supersized… How’d you get hooked up with this project?
RC: I got an email from Dark Horse editor Dave Land asking if I'd be interested in drawing some fast food horror stories. It sounded like some good whimsical fun, so I said, "Let's go for it", and was even more excited about it when I found out the project was written by my fellow Periscope Studio member, Jeremy Barlow.
Geek: You’re drawing nine stories in the book… How does that work? What can you tell us about the stories you’re working on?
RC: The book is a collection of many shorts inspired by true fast food stories, and they run the gamut on what you might expect when you combine horror with the world of fast food. Food fights, foreign lifeforms, bodily fluids, rancid meat, decapitation, projectile vomit, science experiments, and death. You name it; it's in there.
Geek: Did you try to alter your style for each story? Or was it consistent throughout?
RC: I mostly stuck to a consistent style, maybe going slightly grittier for one story.
Geek: Probably for the one about grits, right? No? Okay, how into fast food are you? And did doing this book totally turn you off of it, or make you hungry for more?
RC: I only eat fast food about five times a year, so these stories don't worry me much. Also, I'm pretty hard to gross out.
Geek: Did you do any research for the book? Like, literally find out how the sausage is made?
RC: I poked around the Internet a bit for relevant visual information for the stories I was drawing, but I didn't go so far as to read about production methods.
Geek: Morgan Spurlock’s new documentary is all about product placement… Do you think we’ll see a graphic novel based on that? And if so, what would it be sponsored by?
RC: I'm not sure if that has as much comics potential, but you never know! When I think of product placement these days, I think of cell phones. Certainly, the sponsor would be cell phone related.
Geek: Briefly, you did colors for Underground with Jeff Parker and Steve Lieber. What was it like working with them on the project, particularly when they told you, “You’ll be basically coloring a lot of dark caves.”
RC: The project was a lot of fun. I don't typically color other people's work, but the chance to work on Underground was Jeff and Steve was too good of a chance to pass up. I was really excited about the contrast in coloring methods we used for the daylight scenes and the cave scenes. It allowed me to use vibrant colors for the outside world, and play with really dramatic lighting when it came to do the cave scenes.
Geek: For those who don’t know, the book was posted on notorious bulletin board 4chan by scanners, which actually led to a huge increase in sales for the book. What are you doing with all of your sweet, sweet 4chan money?
RC: We had a pizza party at Periscope Studio. Seriously. The money that came in from Underground orders that resulted from the 4chan incident went back to the studio, funding new equipment and little perks like a pizza lunch for all. I think there is a lot to be learned from what happened - most important of which is that if you are as nice of a guy as Steve Lieber, the world will pay you back.
Geek: You're part of an art collective that posts new drawings on a theme each week... Talk about that a little bit, if you can.
RC: I honestly don't recall how it all got started, but at some point it was brought up that we at Periscope should join many other artists online and have our own weekly sketch topic within the studio. Not before long, people were shouting out topic ideas across the room and over email, resulting in a whole whiteboard full of them.
Geek: And finally: what’s in the Portland water supply that breeds so many comic book artists and writers? Is it radioactive?
RC: It has less to do with breeding than it does with attracting. I'm a Portland native, but most of the comics creators I know here are transplants from elsewhere. I'm not sure how it all started, but once the Portland comics ball got rolling, it started collecting bodies fast. Portland has a wonderful creative community, reasonable cost of living, and a very welcoming size (big city conveniences; small town feel.)
Supersized: Strange Tales From A Fast Food Culture TPB and The Guild: Tink both will hit stands in March from Dark Horse!