INTERVIEW with comics creator – Matt Bellisle
I had the pleasure of meeting Matt Bellisle a few years ago and for some time he’s been sharing his cool ideas for a unique folded comic book called Tetherman, and it is coming out soon! Read an interview I did with him below and check out his Kickstarter fundraising campaign to support the book and purchase a copy here.
INTERVIEW with comics creator/illustrator/graphic designer – Matt Bellisle
Tetherman is a new comic book you are collaborating with Chris Garrity on, tell us what it is about?
MATT BELLISLE: The Tethermen is a book I’ve been cooking up for a few year’s now. It’s about a group of individuals who can travel within the dreamscape that we all sleep in… That shared dreamscape is an energy field we all share and reside in when we sleep. These people, the Tethers, can not only access their own dreams, but those of others and literally jump from one dream to another. Like anyone with power, some of these people become corrupted and start to use this for unsavory means. So when we join the story, there is about to be a war between these forces within the dreamscape.
The format for Tetherman is quite different, what led you to create a folded, poster sized comic book?
MB: The book is unique in that it isn’t presented in a standard paged book, but opens up into a giant poster. When you see the book on the shelf, it looks like a normal comic, but when you open it, it unfolds like a map, into a large-format poster. I’ve been doing self-published books for years and I’ve always played around with goofy formats, no two ever being the same. But since those were always just put together with laser prints, they were always small. So when it came time to do this project, I wanted to step out of that mold and do something just the opposite and do a large format comic.
That’s where I brought in my good friend and amazing artist, Chris Garrity. We both are big comic guys, so we came up with a way to each do our own series, but collaborate at the same time. What we are doing is each taking a different side of the poster/book. My side is the Tethermen, and his side has his own creation, the Neolithics. Our hope is that the book will be successful enough for us to put out at least three of these. While both stories are separate from one another, we are planting clues between the two stories that will eventually lead to them being part of one larger story that interwinds between the book.
You have a very detailed drawing style. What is your illustration process; photo reference, digital inking, drawing tablets?
MB: Both of our stories are a nice contrast to one another in tone and style. Chris’ style is much more traditional comic-styled with roots to Geof Darrow or Moebius, where mine is a much darker photo-referenced look and probably inspired by guys like Tony Harris or Tim Bradstreet, more than anyone else. I now do all of my art work right in Photoshop, where I’m essentially drawing right over the reference shots I take for the characters, which are typically friends and family I bribe into posing for shots for me.
As well as a talented comic book creator/illustrator were the Creative Director for Spark Advertising, President of AAF Fox River Ad Club, and recently struck out on your own forming the graphic design firm GravityDSN and freelance illustration work – what am I missing?
MB: I think both the book’s format and visual style is a product of my day job, being a Creative Director and Designer for a design firm. I had been working at advertising agencies as a Creative Director or Art Director for over 15 years and just recently decided to quit working for “the man” and start my own company. The new firm, Gravity DSN is a place where I’m still focused on designing and working with branding work, but can also add illustration and comics to the mix. So with that, I can now focus a bit more on the comic work and make that a part of the company’s workflow, as opposed to working on the comic after hours when the rest of the family was in bed.
What are some projects you have coming up?
MB: We are a bit behind schedule, but we have now released Tethermen to the world via Kickstarter.com. The link to our Kickstarter project is here. We continue to see great and not-so-great stuff get funded and supported through that site. It’s such a great opportunity to show a large amount of people your work and have then support you to make it happen. If all goes according to plan, we plan to “release” the book to the public at the 2014 C2E2 in Chicago. We also plan to self-distriubte the book through our own website and bypass the traditional distributors. It will be more work for us, but we feel the best part of the comic scene is the “community” and for us to talk to people in person or send them copies ourselves for review just seems more personal and connected to our peers.
Bluewater Productions has had the pleasure of using your illustrations on several covers and some internal art. What can you tell us about working with them?
MB: The last few years also saw me doing a number of freelance comic projects with Bluewater Productions out of Washington state. I started doing some work for them several years ago on some spec covers for a Battlestar Galactica pitch they were doing. That fell through, but the strength of those concepts lead to me working on the covers for Bluewater’s Warlock, The Misadventures of Adam West, Logan’s Run, Fame: David Beckham and Female Force: Stephanie Meyers books. I also did a few interior pages for them in the Vincent Price Presents and Stephanie Meyer deluxe edition. A lot of people complain about their payment structure, which is not built to favor the creators, but despite not really getting paid for that work, it was a good experience for me and I had a lot of work published that I wouldn’t have had if they hadn’t given me the chance.
What direction do you see comic books moving in?
MB: Where do I see comic’s going in the future? Hopefully it will always be in PRINT. For me, it’s all about the textile experience of holding a book in your hands and flipping the pages. As Paul Pope has said, comic’s are little “design containers” and I completely agree. They are a package, with creatively conceived visuals and words, all designed to provoke an emotion response from the reader. There’s an intrinsic quality to the texture of the paper, the smell of the inks, the size and shape of the book that are all taken into account when we experience a comic… I just don’t get any of that emotional connection to a story when I read it on my tablet or computer… I feel so disconnected to it…
I also think comics are going to continue to be a medium that grows, but in a more underground way. I think Marvel and DC have taken the superhero genre about as far as they can and readers are reacting to that by trying more and more independent comics that have nothing to do with capes or super powers. Those are the types of comics that I see taking the comic-scene forward. I think there will always be a market for the Superhero books, but I hope the indy scene can grow to new heights.
What are you reading?