10 Questions for Brent Schoonover

Minnesota-based artist and writer Brent Schoonover has drawn Dead@17: Rough Cut Volume 2 (Viper Comics), Horrorwood mini-series (Ape Entertainment), and Astronaut Dad Volume 1 (Silent Devil).

He’s currently drawing Astronaut Dad Volume 2 and writing and drawing for an upcoming issue of Bluewater Productions’ Vincent Price Presents. Check out more of his work at www.brentschoonover.com.

Question 1: When did you first decide that you wanted to create your own comics for a living?

I’ve wanted to do it since I was very young, but the main moment that sticks out for me was going to Wizard World Chicago after years of going to that show and realizing that I just wasn’t content with being a fan anymore. If I was going to come back it needed to be as a creator. Thankfully the next time I went I was at the Ape Entertainment booth with Horrorwood.

Question 2: Who has had the biggest influence on you outside the comics industry, and how did they affect your life?

My dad. He can draw and both of my parents have always been very encouraging of my career. I remember he used to draw stuff for me, and I have a few of his old drawings. I think one is from art class in high school.

Question 3: Who has had the biggest influence on your comics career, and how has that person changed your work?

Bruce Timm. Seeing the Batman cartoon when I was a kid shifted me in a simpler style that I still prefer today. He also did an interview when the show came out that mentioned finding out who influenced your influences, and studying them. I still think it’s the best advice you can give anyone for almost any career. After I read that I went and started looking at artists like Harvey Kurtzman, Dan Decarlo, and Jack Kirby, who I knew of but had just dismissed at an early age. After looking at what Bruce took from Kirby, it was like a light bulb went off. I just totally got him and have been in love with his work ever since.

Question 4: What do you do to recharge your creative batteries?

I go to the gym, or go walk the dogs. If it’s summer or autumn I usually play on some coed sports league with my wife and friends. I just try to get away from anything involved in the day-to-day creative process.

Question 5: Describe your typical work routine.

I’m an early bird, so I like to get up anywhere from 5:00 AM to 6:00 AM, go work out for a bit, come back and start my day. Usually the most productive time of the day is from when I first sit down, till the first phone call of the day. After that it’s a total wash. I will usually work till I go to sleep though. I try to bring the work out to the living room so I can spend time with my very understanding wife.

Question 6: What writing, drawing, or other tools do you use?

This one usually varies. For pencils I use either a 2H to just an H lead, I’ve moved away from mechanical pencils for the most part, but they still come in handy. I also use Col-Erase colored pencils to lay down my roughs. As for paper I like the Strathmore 400 3ply. When it comes to inking, I must admit I use brush pens. That’s the sound of inkers everywhere groaning. Occasionally I whip out the Windsor & Newton Series 7 brush, but for the most part it’s brush pens. I recently started using some that are made by a company called Kuretake that are good, but I’m always looking for new ones.

Question 7: What element of your work gives you the most personal satisfaction?

Penciling, I do enjoy that quite a bit. It’s hard for any other aspect of creating to equal that. I like commission work quite a bit. It’s always an honor when someone seeks you out for something like that. I’m still relatively young on the comic scene so it’s more of a motivational boost than anything.

Question 8: What has been the most rewarding project in your professional career – in or out of comics – and why?

I’m going to take the cheap way out and point out certain things out of the projects I have done that stick out for me. My first published work was in an anthology for Viper Comics. The work was horrible, but it was the first time I ever got to go to a comic shop and see my work on the stand, so it will always have that special place for me. I’m glad I got that feeling out of the way so I can now just focus on other things when I see me work in print — like production quality.

I created Horrorwood with my close friend Brandon Terrell, so that was just a thrill to make comics with my friend. It’ll be hard to top that experience. For better or worse, it also taught me how the business of comics works and has made me a better creator for it.

Astronaut Dad has been a book I’ve learned the most on as far as story telling goes. It’s a book I’d always want to make, but never would if it wasn’t for the writer, David Hopkins. Finally, I’m just doing a project for Bluewater Comics on their Vincent Price Presents comic. This one has just been great because they are letting me write and draw the book, which is a dream come true for me. It’s just a morality tale in the vein of Tales From The Crypt, which are some of my favorite comics ever. That has been a lot of fun, and I’d love to make more of those.

Question 9: We’ve all met very talented newcomers who are trying to get their first professional projects. What’s the best advice you’ve ever heard given to a promising new creator?

I can’t remember where it was, but Brian Michael Bendis was talking about when he was younger and trying to get into comics. Basically he said that you need to stop being a fan and be a creator. Not in terms of quit reading comics and not going to shows or the shop, but to invest your time and money in yourself. When all your friends go out drinking on Saturday night, stay home. Make comics. All that other stuff will still be there, but if you really want this all you need to do is stay home and work. Set goals. Not so much “I’m going to work on Spider-Man next year” goals, but “I’m going to be at a table at a convention next year with a book I created” kind of goals.

Be ready to learn from mistakes. You can read Watchmen twenty times in a row, and it won’t matter — you’re still going to screw up. The only way you’ll get better is by doing pages and learning from them.

Question 10: Time to get philosophical: What’s the most important “big idea” that you’ve learned in life – in or out of comics – and why is it important?

I’m not sure if it’s a big idea, but when I was a kid I basically traced this drawing of the Hulk by Dale Keown, and I thought I was really awesome. My older brother liked to draw but I think I was getting to the point that my superhero drawing skills were getting as good or better than his.

My dad had overheard me bragging, and he just put me in my place. “You know, the guy who drew it the first time is way better, and I bet he got paid to do it,” I remember him saying. So he basically sat me down and told me, “No matter what you do, there will always be someone who does it better than you. There is nothing wrong with taking pride in doing a good job, but just remember there is someone out there who can do it better, and your only shot is to just work harder.” It’s so true. I know so many people who I personally think can draw a 100 times better than I can, but for whatever reason their work ethic is just not there. So working harder than the next guy to me is the most important thing.

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