Dave Crosland, aka King Gum, is a talented and prolific artist that I first discovered in the pages of the Scarface comic. The story drew me to the book, as I am a huge Tony Montana fan, but I was really taken by its artwork. It’s hard to describe Crosland’s style, as it’s not traditional by any meaning of the word. I liken him to Ralph Steadman, but with a bit of that Frank Miller Batman vibe.
Taking after Miller, Crosland is releasing his own project, Ego Rehab, that he both wrote and did the art for. He has been in the game for a while and has done a lot of different projects from indie comics to Disney and video game work. He took time out of his busy schedule to sit down with The Beat and give us the scoop on his new comic book, his career and the other projects he has been working on.
Seth Ferranti: What’s your new book about?
Dave Crosland: The new book is called Ego Rehab. Basically, it’s an autobiographical story about me being rescued from a chronic lack of inspiration by my adventurous Inner Child. I’m self-publishing it this fall. Pre-orders start up in August and the book will be released in September.
Ferranti: Where did you come up with the idea and how long have you been working on it?
Crosland: Ego Rehab came out of a period of me being fed up with myself. I’d been procrastinating on starting a handful of independent projects, so one afternoon I forced myself to sit down with a cup of coffee, a stack of paper, and a pencil. The only rule was: I couldn’t get up again until I’d written a 24 page comic. After about two hours, I had completely sketched out the pages and written the dialogue for the book.
All in all, it took about a year and a half to finish Ego Rehab. When the project began, I was working full-time as a character designer for Titmouse, Inc., so I’d make time to pencil pages on my free time. Once the day-job wrapped up and I went on hiatus, I was able to devote more time to Ego, albeit in short bursts between freelance jobs. Finally, this spring, I knuckled down and made completing the book a priority.
Ferranti: Are you doing both the art and writing on it?
Crosland: Yep. I wrote and illustrated this one all by my lonesome. I actually wrote it in this old visual method [ed. note: colloquially known as the Marvel Method], where you draw out rough thumbnails for each page. Then you just drop in the dialogue. One of the benefits of writing for myself is not always needing to spend a lot of time working up a “proper” script.
Ferranti: How did you get the nickname King Gum?
Crosland: Honestly, that’s a tale best told by the friends who gave me the moniker. To me, King Gum feels more like an alter ego than a nickname, especially since I started making comics about him like “In The Clutches of The Derby Queen” in my 2014 release, Doombox Volume 2. King Gum is this timeless, ultimate badass version of myself. He’s the impossible me whom I’m constantly trying to grow into. That’s something I plan on exploring in future comic stories.
Ferranti: What is up with the 9th Grade Ninja project?
Crosland: Randy Cunningham: 9th Grade Ninja is a cartoon airing on Disney XD. It’s about a high school freshman named Randy who discovers that he’s been chosen as his school’s heroic protector, known as The Ninja. Randy isn’t supposed to tell anyone about his secret identity, so of course he immediately tells his best friend, Howard. Hijinx ensue. There’s a billionaire tycoon bad guy, a mad scientist, an evil sorcerer, and a buttload of maniacal monsters & ruthless robots. I got hired on the show (by Titmouse, Inc.) halfway through season 1, and worked all the way through season 2. It took some getting used to going from freelancing for over a decade to working in-house at a studio. However, overall, it was an incredible experience. Titmouse took a risk on me that other studios wouldn’t. When they hired me, I barely had any digital art experience, but thanks to my time on Randy Cunningham, I learned how to be a character designer. I saw firsthand all the nuts & bolts that go into creating an animated series. I got to work with a badass team of designers. Finally, I proved to myself that I could do a lot of art & design tasks I never imagined I was capable of.
Ferranti: What was working on the Scarface book like?
Crosland: Scarface: Scarred For Life was a blast! My professional comics career started with Puffed, a book written by John Layman (Chew). That was a fantastic experience, so when IDW Publishing approached me about Scarface, I insisted that they bring on Layman as the writer. There was a bake-off between John and another writer; John’s concept won and the rest is history. Layman and I had a pretty fluid collaboration. That man knows how to write to an artist’s strengths.
Our colorist on the book, Len O’Grady, is a human dynamo! He rocked some of the wildest Miami DayGlo colors and textures. Len’s work really elevated the book to another level. Our editor, Chris Ryall, oversaw the whole production and shepherded us to the finish line. Again, I learned a ton, from storytelling and setting up shots to grappling with the demands of comic book deadlines. Every major project I’m on is like an extension of school for me. Each comic series and animation job has been an education. It’s like being paid to attend graduate school.
Ferranti: You also did some work on the Kick Ass video game. How did that come about?
Crosland: My work on Kick-Ass: The Game was pure kismet. It was 2010 and I was getting back on my feet in Oakland after leaving San Francisco in the midst of the last financial crisis. Somehow, my work got noticed by the now-defunct game developer, Frozen Codebase. They were in a pinch and needed cut scene art done in a style mimicking John Romita Jr.’s (the artist on the Kick-Ass comics). I created some sample turns of Kick-Ass, Hit-Girl and Red Mist, and those won me the job. It was kind of a stress whirlwind.
However, I was able to bring on my friend Jose Garibaldi (Nickelodeon’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Teen Heaven) as a colorist and he knocked it out of the park. I’ve never actually seen or played the video game, but I’m proud of the work Jose and I created for it, especially on such a tight budget and fast turnaround.
Ferranti: How would you describe your art style and the secret behind your success in the business?
Crosland: Up to now, I’ve leaned on emotion and a sort of rawness in my artwork, but I’d like to focus that beam and put some real purpose behind it. Of course, once I’m satisfied in that regard, I’ll find a new gap where I need to step up my game. Ultimately, my style is an ongoing process of forced evolution. At least, that’s what I’m trying to make of it.
As for my success in the business, I’m not sure. On a purely technical level, I think the fact that I don’t have the most traditional, conventional style has worked against me. I regularly encounter editors & art directors who can’t pinpoint my style or aren’t certain it will appeal to a broader audience. Still, I’ve been lucky to work for amazing publishers, animation studios, musicians, and private collectors. I’ve traveled all across the United States and other countries on the back of my artwork. I’m very grateful for the career I’ve had so far, but success is something I’m constantly building upon. Sometimes it’s difficult to focus on today’s success because I’m already looking ahead to tomorrow’s challenge.
Ferranti: You have avoided the Marvel/DC route most artists take. Any reasons why?
Crosland: I wouldn’t say I’ve avoided Marvel and DC Comics. I just haven’t had the fortune of working with those publishers yet. When my comics career began in 2002-03, my sights were set on publishers like Image Comics, IDW Publishing, Oni Press, etc. Then, I went through several periods where comics were on the back burner while I focused on painting for gallery shows, freelance illustration, and character design for cartoons. At this point though, I’d love to rock a book for Marvel and/or DC. Both publishers have such a vast catalog of worlds and characters. It’s like a giant sandbox for creators. Of course I’d like to jump in there and play around.
Check out more on Dave Crosland and preorder his Ego Rehab book at www.davecrosland.com
Seth Ferranti writes for VICE, The Fix, Don Diva and other media outlets. He runs www.gorillaconvict.com, www.thegr1nd.com and has 8 true crime books out, one of which, The Supreme Team, is now being adapted into a graphic novel with Stache Publishing.