After discussing the Wayward finale with Jim Zub last week I was thrilled to also get to speak with artist Steve Cummings about the series. His penciled-only line art stands out from anything else on the shelves, creating an otherworldliness perfectly suiting the mysterious world of Wayward where new secrets are discovered with every issue. Beyond that, Japan feels fully realized thanks to Cumming’s intimate knowledge of the location, making the setting feel like a major element of the series instead of just window dressing. I spoke to Steve about those subjects, how his life has (or hasn’t) changed with a successful Image series, and his upcoming stint on Champions. Keep reading to find the answers to those questions and more
I usually find comics that go from pencils to colors to look unfinished, but I don’t get that feeling at all with Wayward. Is there anything you do differently to make that work so well?
Thank you for noticing. I don’t have a secret penciling method other than to try and aim for the feel of inked line weight when I draw. To get that effect I use no only .5 lead mechanical pencils but also .2, .3, and .4 as well as B lead for getting thicker lines the quickest.
You live in Japan so I imagine it was easy enough to find reference for scenes set there, but you’re a long way from Ireland! How did you prepare to draw that setting in Wayward?
You are right about that! For Japan, I was able to just head outside and find a suitable location to take pictures at. I was aiming to include a lot of Showa period buildings and streets and it helps there is still a lot of that local to me but for Ireland, I was out of luck. Fortunately, we were working with a writer from Ireland for our backmatter named Ann O’Regan for the sections dealing with Ireland and she was very helpful in getting me reference photos for locations and explaining details about Irish yokai.
How familiar were you with Japanese mythology prior to drawing Wayward?
I am familiar with the local mythology but we were dealing with folklore. A lot of that has been envisioned by Japanese creators over the decades, most notably Mizuki Shigeru, so they feel almost like they have had the Disney treatment here. For that reason, it is honestly hard not to be familiar with at least some of them but with the more popular creatures. We did end up using a lot of the less well-known ones and that made it an interesting learning experience.
Did your personal interpretation of the myths inform how you drew the supernatural aspects of the story?
We gave all the creatures we used our own twist (no matter how strong that was). The goal was to make them our own and I think we achieved that goal completely!
Is it a fine line balancing the manga elements in Wayward with the use of a more Western drawing style?
You know, that didn’t even cross my mind while working on this. I just drew the book as I wanted to in the most comfortable art style and I am really happy with the results.
The group of characters looks genuinely older at the end of the series than they did at the beginning. Was that a conscious effort on your part?
Yes! I did aim to make them feel more world-weary and battle-damaged. They had been through a lot and some of them had considerable physical changes (Shirai) occur in the course of the story.
What have you learned as an artist over the course of illustrating 30 issues of Wayward?
The thing I learned that was probably the most important was to turn off the computer while drawing because it is a giant distraction. Beyond that, it was to force me to get outside and exercise in order to help feel good. Sitting this much isn’t good for the body. Art-wise I became more comfortable with different sizes of mechanical pencil and learned to use them for certain specific parts of the art and that helped me speed up. Being a slow artist by nature that was a big help in getting all those dense pages done.
How has your experience been so far on Champions?
It has been great! Because Jim is involved it feels like a continuation of the Wayward experience I had over these last 4 years. And honestly, it was since the very next day after drawing the last page of Wayward I was working on Champions! In both cases, the writing style was the same so it made the transition smooth and comfortable.
Has your life changed with a successful, steady career drawing comics?
It hasn’t really. I still wake up and start drawing and finish in the evening which is the same thing I have been doing since the early 2000’s. But a taste of doing creator-owned in a big way makes me excited to jump back in and do another series!
Matt Chats is an interview series featuring discussions with a creator or player in comics, diving deep into industry, process, and creative topics. Find its author, Matt O’Keefe, on Twitter and Tumblr. Email him with questions, comments, complaints, or whatever else is on your mind at email@example.com.