We are excited to bring you a series of Creator Spotlight articles that focus on our new title that details how heroes and legends forever made a difference, the spin-off series, Battlecats: Tales of Valderia. Today, Chris Fernandez was joined by the first issue’s artist, Rob Stotz, to discuss a little about how he got involved with Mad Cave and what went into the process of drawing Battlecasts: Tales of Valderia #1.
Chris Fernandez: Hey, Rob, glad to have you on our Creator Spotlight. To start things off, Where did you grow up?
Rob: I grew up in the northwest suburbs of Chicago.
CF: What made you become an artist?
Rob: I read a lot of fiction books growing up, then in 8th grade a great friend of mine, who lived out of state (Scott Kellogg), sent me a couple of comic books for my birthday. I started drawing comics then and I was hooked. I went to community college and art school but never graduated, I just kept trying to be a student of great drawing.
CF: What are some of your major influences (they don’t have to be from comics)?
Rob: Comic artists would be Travis Charest, Olivier Coipel, Jim Lee, Marc Silvestri, Bernie Wrightson, Joe Mad, Dan Mora, Sean Murphy, Mike Mignola and Joe Quesada. Illustrators would be Syd Mead, Ralph McQuarrie, Eric Canette, Alex Ross, Drew Struzan, Hans Bacher.
CF: How did you come to be involved with this project?
Rob: Long or Short Story. How about the middle:)
Bear with me for a bit here, I really like this story. I will be 50 years old this year and in the early fall of 2017 I hosted a BBQ get together with 2 other friends of mine (Adam Thas-Artist and Mike Pomaro-Filmaker) and their families. Later in the evening I asked them to come up to my studio because I had a proposition for them. I pitched the idea of shooting a documentary about the 3 of us pursuing the dreams of our youth. While we are all providing for our families with traditional jobs I wanted one more shot at doing comics as did Adam and I thought Mike would like to produce and film it. We would film behind the scenes and document our work and preparation toward the 2018 San Diego Comic-con. There we would show our work and see if we could get some comic work (Adam and I both teach art so we could do an issue over the summer) based on this new portfolio we did during filming. We would film the results on camera at the Con. We shot some scenes in studio and various meetings/discussions at restaurants and had some cameras in our home studios to record our progress. After the holidays and the calendar turned to 2018 we decided to do a filming dry run and storyboard out the shots we wanted to shoot in San Diego by going to our local C2E2 Comic-con in Chicago in early March. I got my portfolio together with a bunch of older work mixed with some of my newer work. I did some research online and targeted 4-5 companies to show my work to. I was 1 of 5 who got to meet with Marvel and they wanted me to finish the new pages (a 10 page creator owned project) which they really liked. I showed my book to Valiant and they had positive things to say. I showed my work to 2 other small press guys who thought it was great but had nothing for me:( I had stopped by the Mad Cave booth 3 times throughout the day and had kept missing Mark (the guy to talk to). I chatted with some artists in artist alley and it was getting late so I made my way through the convention center toward the exit. I decided I would work my way past the Mad Cave booth one last time since it was on the way out. I didn’t see anyone new at the booth and was about to leave when I decided to ask if they knew when Mark would be back. They promptly pointed to Mark chatting in the isle with someone and said he is right there. I patiently waited and showed him my book when he was done chatting. He seemed to like it and I quoted him a high page rate as a freelancer. I followed up via email a couple weeks later and he was always so kind to reply and said they just couldn’t swing it.
We worked it out though and here we go.
CF: Tell us a little bit about how you approached the designs for this particular cast of characters?
Rob: My creator owned pages have animal/humans so I had already been dabbling with those in design. I really try to fuse those 2 together so they feel like half feline and half human. I had low expectations for them in providing reference but was blown away with the comprehensive bible they had put together for their world and characters. I used their bible and character designs as a jumping off point but wanted to allow a bit of room for the styles that I like to implement. I would send Mark sketches of characters and even redraws of some of their environments to see how I thought about design and environment (I love drawing landscapes).
CF: What was your favorite part of the creative process, and why?
Rob: Collaborating with Mark and feeling part of something, hands down. Mark treated me like a peer and one worthy of contributing ideas as well as drawings. My enjoyment on this project speaks more to his kindness and the comradeship I felt while I explored his script and characters then the joy of creating the visuals. I thrive on the challenge of taking written word and making it exist in visual form. I love stories and visual storytelling and I believe all the work is done in the storyboarding and rough sketches. I really struggle with rendering because I tend to love the life and movement in my roughs. My technical inking style really stiffens things up for me (I need to find a way for these elements to work together). If I could go back and be anything, would have been a cinematographer:)
CF: What was your least favorite part of the creative process, and why?
Rob: The desire to keep correcting my work. I still change things as I work and I have a hard time letting my work be just OK rather then trying to take it a step further:) I am always looking to improve the art and I wish I had more time to rework page after page.
CF: What was your favorite page or panel to draw in this issue?
Rob: Pages 5-6 Hands Down. They were written as 2 separate pages but I wanted to do a big panoramic with panels along the bottom.
CF: Who is your favorite character from Battlecats, and why?
Rob: Sai:) However, my favorite to draw was The Skeleton Lord!!
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