On this edition of Between The Panels I get the pleasure of interviewing another one of my favourite creators, Tyler Crook. He is the 2012 Russ Manning Promising Newcomer Award winner, from this years Eisner’s at the San Diego Comic Con, he is part of one of the best teams in comics–with Mike Mignola, John Arcudi and Dave Stewart on B.P.R.D for Dark Horse–and, believe it or not, this is only the third title he’s worked on. The first being PETROGRAD, for Oni Press, B.P.R.D and a few issues of the Sixth Gun, from writer Cullen Bunn who is also over at Oni Press. His name is Tyler and my name is Tyler so I tried to make it less confusing for everybody, especially me…
Welcome, Tyler! Thanks for doing this interview for ReadComicBooks.net! Also, I think I’m going to refer to you as Mr. Crook from now on, otherwise it’ll feel like I’m interviewing a much, much more talented me and nobody wants that.
Mr. Crook: It’s so funny, growing up I only ever knew two other guys named Tyler. Now the place is lousy with ‘em; if you Google “Tyler Crook” there are a lot of weirdos with my same name.
So, Mr. Crook, let’s start simple: What attracted you to the world of comics?
Mr. Crook: I’ve always loved comics. I’ve been attracted to them ever since I first saw them. When I was just barely old enough to read my mom would buy me all those Harvey Comics, Richie Rich, Hot Stuff, Casper the Friendly Ghost. I wasn’t allowed to read super hero comics because they were too violent. Eventually I got older, [and] started reading super heroes. In high school I got into books like Mage: the Hero Discovered and Love and Rockets and those awesome Moebius books that Epic put out.
I’ve been serious about art my whole life too. In the third grade we had an art class taught by a dude who was getting his masters in fine art or something. He was a P.E. teacher but he would teach art once a week in our class. He sort of introduced me to the idea that you could be an artist as a job. So I guess that it was inevitable that I’d draw comics.
When did you decide that you wanted to pursue being a professional comic book artist?
Mr. Crook: Right out of high school I started working as an artist doing kids T-shirts and then graphic design. Eventually I ended up doing 3D modeling for video games. Making games was great but I was mostly making sports games which can get pretty repetitive after doing it for as long as I did. While I was making games I would occasionally get motivated to pursue comics but I’d inevitably get distracted or lose steam or chicken out. Mostly chicken out.
In 2007 or 2008 I found myself between video game contracts and I just decided that I needed to make a change. Games had sort of lost its magic and I didn’t feel like I was being challenged artistically. So I started working on a portfolio. I busted my butt for about 6 weeks and came up with about 12 pages of sequential art. I threw in a few illustration things I’d done and hopped on a plane to Portland. I showed my stuff to a few different publishers and the guys at Oni were interested in talking about doing stuff right away.
I guess I was just at a point in my life when I finally felt confident enough to go for it. And I was finally mature enough and focused enough to be able to pull it off.
Your first, professional release was PETROGRAD with Philip Gelatt, from Oni Press. What was it like seeing your work sitting on the shelf of your local comic shop?
Mr. Crook: It felt rad! I worked really hard on that book for two and a half years. I was working a full time job most of the time so every night and every weekend was dedicated to Petrograd. When it finally came out it was a huge relief. It’s hard to explain how it’s simultaneously exhilarating and exhausting when a book is finally done. On the one hand, your stoked to see all your hard work come to fruition but, on the other hand, you are a little burned out and also anxious to get working on all the projects that have been on hold while you worked on the book. But mostly it’s rad!
Were there any particular artists that have, or continue to, influence your work?
Mr. Crook: There are tons of them. Way too many to name them all but here is a bunch of names anyway: Nestor Redondo and John Byrne were both huge for me, Mignola of course has [been] big for me, Mat Wagner, Moebius, [and] Walt Simonson. But the really big breakthroughs for me came when I discovered Milton Caniff and when I finally learned to appreciate Jack Kirby.
Let’s talk about the master, Mike Mignola. How did you meet him?
Mr. Crook: I met him at the Long Beach Comic-con. I was most of the way done with Petrograd and had a bunch of pages with me. The show was kind of dead so I figured I’d ask Mike if he’d look at my portfolio. He sort of took a deep breath and started flipping pages. Right away he seemed to like what he saw. I thought maybe I’d get a few tips or critiques. I never imagined it would actually lead to me drawing BPRD.
What was he like to meet in person, for the first time, and have him not only look at, but enjoy your portfolio?
Mr. Crook: It was crazy! I really admire Mike and his work and when he said that he liked my pages I felt validated. Like I said, I was almost done with Petrograd and I had really enjoyed the experience of making a comic book. I was starting to worry a little bit about what I was going to do next and if I would even be able to get more jobs as easily as I’d gotten the Petrograd gig. So getting praise from Mignola really made me think I was on the right track. It made me feel validated.
After that initial meeting, were you pursued by Mike and the B.P.R.D team right away to fill the spot of series artist, after Guy Davis decided to move on?
Mr. Crook: I wouldn’t say I was pursued. It took about 6 months for it all to play out. At first I was just sending occasional emails to Mike telling him what I was up to and just trying to politely remind him that I existed. After about 3 or 4 months of that it looked like maybe I’d get to do a miniseries or a one-shot or something. I was getting pretty excited. But then one day they called me up and said they would like me to be the regular artist on BPRD and they wanted me to start in a few weeks.
Do you think having already drawn Rasputin, in PETROGRAD, you had a bit of an edge on anybody else who might have been considered?
Mr. Crook: I don’t know. Maybe. I don’t think they considered too many people so it’s hard to say.
Was it nerve racking to hand in your first few pages to Mike and Scott [Allie, Dark Horse Editor]?
Mr. Crook: Not as nerve racking as it should have been. I think I was overly confident going into my first few issues. I find I put a lot more thought and work into my pages today than I did back then. For better or worse, I also put a lot more worry into my pages.
I must admit that I’ve really enjoyed the seamless transition between BPRD by Guy Davis and BPRD done by you, was there ever any pressure to go out of your comfort zone and maybe try and mimic his style to make that transition better?
Mr. Crook: There has never been any pressure to mimic Guy Davis. They have never asked me to do anything but be myself. But I find that I leave my comfort zone all the time on this series. Every issue I’m trying to pull off stuff that I’ve never tried to pull off before.
Was there a lot of left over ideas from Guy Davis still on the table when you joined the team or were you basically given the reigns and asked to go?
Mr. Crook: Yeah. He designed a few monsters for Russia and he and Mike had worked together to design Johann’s new suit and stuff. So I was working off of those designs. But there was a lot of other stuff that they asked me to design and stuff that was designed by other artists that were working on other series.
What’s it like working with Mignola and John Arcudi and having your name next to theirs on these BPRD books?
Mr. Crook: Mike and John are both great. I don’t talk to Mike that often but occasionally we’ve gotten together and gone over designs and stuff. I work more directly with John. This whole team is great at being supportive while pushing each other to do better. And seeing my name on those books is crazy. It really feels surreal.
We just had an interview with Dave Stewart (Click Here), can you describe the feeling of working with somebody that’s just so good at what he does and having him color your art?
Mr. Crook: Working with Dave is intimidating. I’ve only met him once, when I first started on the series and he’s a super nice guy. But he’s so good! It scared the crap out of me. Seriously. They need to rename the Eisner award for coloring to be the Dave Stewart award.
I would be fully behind that renaming choice! Was there ever a moment, in working with Mignola, Arcudi, Stewart, Allie and all the other great contributors to the BPRD series, where you just had to take a step back and breath knowing that you’re part of one of the best teams in, my opinion, all of comics?
Mr. Crook: Every freaking day. If you told me two years ago that I’d be the regular artist on BPRD I would not have believed you. I feel like I skipped a bunch of steps, I didn’t have to “pay my dues” so to speak. Instead, I just got to go straight to the big leagues; which is awesome! I can’t complain about my good luck. But it does leave me with the feeling that I still need to earn this job. Which is good, I think.
Do you ever get any time to sit down and read something outside of the Hellboy universe? If so, what’s your favorite right now?
Mr. Crook: I just finished reading the new Wet Moon. That is an AMAZING series. If you haven’t read it, it’s hard to explain what it’s about or what it’s like because it’s not like anything else. It feels very real to me; even the weird, fetishy parts feel like they are rooted in the real world. Ross Campbell‘s art is great, his character designs are fantastic. It’s a great book and everyone should read it.
Issue 100 of BPRD is coming, and coming fast, anything special that you can accidently let slip about this monumental, landmark issue?
Mr. Crook: This series is going to end really big. REALLY BIG. But that’s about all I can say.
Tease! The future of the BPRD is safe in your hands, Mr. Crook. Thanks for doing this interview and hope to have you back some time. I really appreciate your time and it’s been an honor!
Mr. Crook: Thanks! It’s been my pleasure.
By the way, Mr. Crook is going to be at New York Comic-Con in Artist Alley, table J7 and he’s going to be signing at Bergen Street Comics in Brooklyn on the 10th @ 6:00pm… more.
And, hey, while you’re at it, follow me on Twitter @rcbTYLER and leave your comments below! Don’t forget, there is another special edition of Between The Panels coming this Monday! Stay tuned to @ReadComicBooks for more!