I’ve been a fan of Michael Montenat’s for some time now. His use of heavy blacks gives his art a weight I don’t see from most other illustrators in comics, and I’m surprised he hasn’t already been snatched up by Marvel or DC. But maybe it’s a good thing he hasn’t because it led to Glacier City, the newest comic from Panel Syndicate written by Jay Faerber. I had the opportunity to interview Montenat about the book, his background and influences, and his interactions with other publishers.
Can you say a little about your background? How you got interested in drawing comics, your influences, that kind of thing?
I’ve been into comics since I was a kid. As long as I can remember I was always into art as well but comics really kickstarted that to a new level. Drawing and sketching in school as opposed to paying attention was always an issue!
I went to college at MICA (Maryland Institute College of Art). There I got my BFA with a concentration in illustration. My last 2 years in school I became more interested in fine art, specifically abstract expressionism. So when I graduated I was kind of lost with what I wanted to do. I was showing and selling art in small galleries and coffee shops in Baltimore and online throughout my early 20’s. During that time comics had gone by the wayside.
When I came back to NJ I was still very much confused as to what to do with my art. Finally, I said to myself, screw it, I’m getting back to what got me into art in the first place, comics! From there it was just practicing and doing the comic con circuit for about 2 years until I met Bob Schreck who gave me my first gig at IDW! Thx Bob!
I have a lot of influences both inside and outside of the comics realm. Within comics, Bill Seinkiewicz, Jae Lee, Tim Bradstreet and Frank Miller are the big ones. Outside of the comics field Franz Kline and Mark Rothko are two of my favorites. Although many would not see those influences in my art, it is there at least in some small way.
How did you and Jay Faerber connect?
Jay simply contacted me about Glacier City saying that he thought my art would work well for the story. I liked the story and also felt my art would fit so I jumped on board.
Was there any kind of submission policy with Panel Syndicate?
Nope. Simply have a solid story all put together.
Why did you and Jay decide to create a “pilot” issue of Glacier City as opposed to launching it as an ongoing or limited series?
Well, mostly to see how it went before continuing. But also because it’s a project more of passion it might be a while before we get back to it. So we didn’t want people hanging on for issue 2 to be released within a certain amount of time.
How comfortable were you initially with the 4:3 page format?
Oh, it came pretty easily. There were really only a few instances that it was kind of awkward for me.
Did you approach layouts differently because of the different format?
No, not really.
It can be difficult to keep a location filled with snow visually interesting. How do you work with the setting to keep things engaging?
Most of it comes instinctively. You just know if it needs that extra something to keep it interesting. I also looked at a lot of Alaskan wilderness reference before starting the book as well as throughout the process.
How has the response been to Glacier City so far?
As far as I know, the people who have read the book really enjoyed it!
I’ve been a big fan of yours for a while, so I’m surprised I haven’t seen you on more “visible” series prior to this. Have you reached out to bigger publishers?
Ha! That’s the comics field man! It’s tough! I reach out to and am in touch with editors all across the board, from the big two all the way down to small indy publishers. It’s always the same story, your art is great but we’re not looking for anybody right now, stay in touch.
As a creator, do you have a preference between work-for-hire and making a creator-owned series? How do you weigh the freedom of doing your own thing versus the security of a guaranteed paycheck?
A solid paycheck is always nice! I can’t say any of the publishers I’ve worked with up to this point (IDW, Legendary, Jet City, Top Cow, etc.) have been too strict with me. So having the freedom to create hasn’t really been a problem for me so far. But since I love doing character illustrations, I really enjoy being able to create my (our) own. That’s definitely one of my favorite parts of doing creator-owned series. Plus being directly in touch with the writer as opposed to having an editor as the middleman is a huge benefit.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.