Kendal Calling: An Interview with Comics Artist, Illustrator and LICAF 2017 Guest Michael Cho

Michael Cho's art for the 2017 Lakes International Comic Art Festival
Michael Cho’s art for the 2017 Lakes International Comic Art Festival

I’m delighted to present our first “Kendal Calling” interview of 2017 in the run up to the Lakes International Comic Art Festival in October, highlighting the event’s many international and British guests. (Tickets are on sale now).

Michael Cho is a cartoonist and illustrator based in Toronto, Canada. Michael has painted covers for Penguin and Random House, drawn numerous editorial illustrations for clients like the New York Times Book Review, Entertainment Weekly and the New Yorker and has published an art book of his drawings, Back Alleys and Urban Landscapes with Drawn & Quarterly. He has also illustrated comics and covers for publishers such as Marvel and DC.

His first graphic novel, Shoplifter was published by Pantheon in 2014 and debuted on the New York Times Bestseller List.

He also provided artwork for this year’s massive Wondercon event in Anaheim.

Michael Cho
Michael Cho

What are you working on, comics-wise, right now, and when will it be published?

Michael Cho: Right now, I’m working on a variety of covers for DC comics and a couple of other publishers. I’m also working on a followup to my last graphic novel, Shoplifter, and a secret project that I can’t reveal any details about.

Which comic project you’ve worked on are you most proud of and where can people see it or buy it?

I enjoy projects where I have total freedom and control, so I would have to say my graphic novel, Shoplifter from Pantheon Books, and my art book Back Alleys and Urban Landscapes from Drawn and Quarterly are my favourites.

Shoplifter by Michael Cho
How do you plan your day as a creator? (Do you plan your day?)

Michael: Well, I have two kids now, so that means I absolutely have to plan my day. I used to be much looser with my schedule. When I was younger, I would say that I “ran on passion, not discipline” and would work as long as I wanted if I was inspired. With kids, of course, that all changes.

These days, I plan my schedule rigorously. I spend an hour or two on the weekend, tying up loose ends from the previous week (paperwork, emails, accounting) and then planning out my days for the next week. When I get into the studio at the start of the day, I write down a list of exactly what I want to accomplish and then spend the day checking the items off. I usually like to do 1 major creative task per day (a cover rough, a page of pencils etc) and a smattering of office tasks (emails, ordering art supplies, paperwork) for whatever time remains while in the studio.

Batman by Michael Cho

What’s the best thing about being a comics creator?

Michael: Every once in a while, I still look around my studio and realize that my day job is drawing pictures and coming up with stories. And the 12 year old in me still giggles in wonder at how I pulled it off.

And the worst?

Michael: When it’s 2.00am and I’ve drawn something for 12 hours and am about to finish and then I suddenly come up with a better idea at the last second.

What most distracts you from getting your work done?

Michael: Social media, of course.

Michael's favourite "Civil War II" cover. "As I wanted to go out with a bang and go all out on the boxing angle," he says.
Michael’s favourite “Civil War II” cover. “As I wanted to go out with a bang and go all out on the boxing angle,” he says.
Michael Cho’s variant cover for Marvel’s final issue of their Darth Vader comic series. He created two variants; the final art is now in the official Star Wars archive.

downtheDo you think it’s easier or harder for young comic creators to get published today?

Michael: There’s a lot of different ways to get your work seen now, whether it’s web-comics, tumblr, self-publishing, etc so I think it’s easier to get your work “published” and seen by people. And really, when you’re starting out, that’s what you’re after – to reach people with your vision.

Have you ever been to the Lake District before and if so what did you think of it?

Michael: No, I haven’t. But in the course of doing research for the poster for LICAF, I saw a lot of images of the Lakes District and I was floored. I kept calling my wife over and saying “Look at how beautiful this place looks! And we’re going there!”

Which one comic creator would you most like to meet, and why?

Michael: If it’s anyone, living or dead, I wish I could have met Will Eisner and Jack Kirby.

How do Festivals and other comics events help creators most, do you think?

Michael: I love attending Festivals. There’s a great opportunity to meet and connect with fans, but they also give creators a chance to see new and exciting work that they hadn’t encountered before. The best festivals leave me energized and excited about the possibilities of the medium.

What one piece of advice do you offer people looking to work in the comics industry?

Michael: Unlike most industries, there’s no real secret to making comics, or special tools you need. You can make great comics using just a ball point pen and some paper. And the best way to become good at making comics is to just make comics. A friend of mine used to say that all you need to become a comic artist is to draw 100 pages of comics. The learning is in the doing.

What’s your favourite comic right now and where can people get it?

Michael: Hmmm…tricky. I have a few favourites. Squirrel Girl by Ryan North and Erica Henderson is my favourite mainstream monthly comic book, and it’s published by Marvel. I also enjoy DC Comics’ Cave Carson, and Last Man from First Second.

Michael, thank you very much for your time and the very best of luck in all your endeavours.

MICHAEL CHO ONLINE

Web: www.michaelcho.com
Twitter: @Michael_Cho
Instagram: @michael_cho_art

Michael Cho is part of a huge line up of both British and globe-spanning international comics talent is being lined up for this year’s Lakes International Comic Art Festival, taking place 13th – 15th October 2017 and tickets are on sale now.

International guests include Sergio Aragones, Jason Latour, Aimée de Jongh, Bruce Mutard, Ryan North, Ivan Petrus, Stan Sakai, Rick Stromoski, Mariko Tamaki, Jillian Tamaki and Chip Zdarsky.

From the UK and Ireland the line-up offers creators such as Comics Laureate and Walking Dead artist Charlie Adlard, Hannah Berry, Gareth Brookes, Jonathan Edwards and FeltMistress (aka Louise Evans), the Etherington Brothers, Duncan Fegredo, Brendan McCarthy, Peter Milligan, Sean Phillips, Tony Husband, team Metaphrog, Bryan Talbot, Mary M. Talbot, Emma Vieceli and Christian Ward.

The Festival will also have a special delegation of creative talent from Finland, in partnership with the Finnish Institute, along with many Moomin-themed celebrations. The line-up we can reveal so far includes Johanna Rojola, the equivalent of our Comics Laureate in Finland – and one of Finland’s leading comic artists; and comics art rock star, Petteri Tikkanen.

The Comics Clock Tower will also be packed with comic creators from across the UK and beyond, who will be announced in May.

The Festival is the only one of its kind in the UK, taking place in one of the UK’s most beautiful areas – the English Lake District in the North West of the country, in the market town of Kendal. Modelled on European-style festivals, such as Angoulême in France, it takes over the whole town for a weekend of comic art. Its aim is to celebrate the whole spectrum of comic art, inspiring existing comic art fans and creators and, it hopes, generating new audiences and creators too. It invests in creators through a commissioning programme and has an emphasis on developing international collaborations.

Buy your tickets for the fifth Lakes International Comic Art Festival here

Web Links

• For all events information visit the Lakes International Comic Art Festival web site: www.comicartfestival.com | Find the Lakes International Comic Art Festival on Facebook | Follow the Festival on Twitter @comicartfest

John Freeman

The founder of downthetubes, John describes himself as is a "freelance comics operative", currently working as a freelance editor for TITAN COMICS, as Creative Consultant on the new DAN DARE audio adventures for B7 Media, and on promotional work for the LAKES INTERNATIONAL COMIC ART FESTIVAL and LANCASTER COMICS DAY. John has worked in British comics publishing for over 30 years, starting out at Marvel UK, where he edited a number of the Genesis 1992 books with Paul Neary. His numerous credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine at Marvel and Star Trek Magazine and Babylon 5 Magazine at Titan Magazines, where he was Managing Editor. He also edited STRIP Magazine and worked as an editor on several audio comics for ROK Comics, including TEAM M.O.B.I.L.E. and THE BEATLES STORY. Most recently he is writing CRUCIBLE as a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz, published on Tapastic; and DEATH DUTY and SKOW DOGS with Dave Hailwood for the digital comic 100% Biodegradable.

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