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Neil Vokes Takes 5!
Interview by James W. Powell
Posted September 15, 2005

If you don't know who Neil Vokes is, then shame on you. He's been telling comic book stories for 21 years, and in the last year alone he's been putting out some stellar, highly touted artwork such as the panels found in the graphic novels The Wicked West and The Black Forest 1 & 2 (the latter of which ships on September 21). And if that's not enough endorsement, keep in mind that Eric Powell personally requested a story from Vokes for The Goon #14, also out later this month.

Because Vokes is a comics professional who has been around awhile (not to mention the fact he's an artist who produces some kick-ass art), I thought he'd be the perfect creator to participate in the newly designed Take 5...

[Click thumbnail images for full-size images with information.]

Take 5!

Each month, Take 5! poses the same five questions to a different comic book creator to get a unique, inside view at their profession.

There are plenty of careers out there that would allow you to let loose your creative energy. What is it about comics that drew you into the field?


The Black Forest 2 coverMy basic answer to that kind of question is usually "I can't DO anything else!" Which isn't that far from the truth, but also leads us to the more serious answer — I've always been drawn to visual storytelling in all its forms, but the two that really took hold of my imagination as a kid were films and comic books. I am a huge film fan (more so than a comic book fan, actually) and I love the characters, the structure, the way the directors and editors pace them — that rhythm, if you will, appeals to something deep inside me. Comics have a similar rhythm to them, though they have no sound or movement to aid their telling; the reader's imagination needs to fill in the "blanks." The job of giving them exactly what they need to do that — no more or less than they need — is primarily the artist's. I feel I have a natural talent, a gift, for doing that.


One reason I'm not now involved in filmmaking (well, that may change in the future if luck is on my side) is that I had no idea how to get into films back then. The other would be that drawing is what I do naturally — it's like breathing — so comic storytelling was the obvious way to go.


What is your proudest, comic-related moment?

Ilsa sketchHonestly, with all of the great moments that have happened to me in the last 21 years of my career (and I've been very lucky in that respect) I think the proudest one was seeing the very first comic I did officially as a pro on the stands, that mystic place of my youth which held the many exciting tales I read, the place that put that first idea into my head that maybe someday I would be drawing comics, too.


What one piece of advice would you give a young student who wants to make comic books for a living?

The Wicked WestLove what you do! There is too little passion in our world for the things we do. Put something of that passion you have into the work — it shows when you don't — I could point to many examples. If your only thought is "the paycheck" you're in the wrong biz, pal. Why get into a job like this if you don't get a high from drawing pictures? Remember, it's not a Rock Star's life: fans clamoring for you day and night, barrels of cash, wine, women, and song (okay, sometimes there's wine and song).


Let me add that if you're going to pursue an occupation that requires you to sometimes sit for 24 hours at a time, staring at a blank piece of paper, wondering what the Hell to draw, you had better love what you do.


What's the most surprising or difficult part of the comic creating business (i.e. finances, marketing, working with editors, etc.)?

The Goon #14The most surprising part of doing this was when I realized that I got to travel! Who knew that being a comic book artist would mean I'd get to see parts of the U.S. of A. that I never thought I'd get to see? An amazing benefit of this job is the chance to travel and meet new people.


The most difficult part is the Business of Comics. When you have to stop doing the work for purely creative reasons and start worrying about it like it's a job. I've been lucky in this respect because I have a very smart lady who watches out for me — my wife, Siri — if not for her and some good friends who I've been partners with on several projects, I'd be out on the streets selling my pencils and brushes for food.


You find an alien artifact that grants you the one time opportunity to travel into the past and redraw one of the books you've worked on. Which book do you modify and why?

Virtually every frickin' one I've done! That sounds ridiculous, I know, but there hasn't been a book I've drawn in 21 years that I haven't wanted to redraw either some or all of at some point. But because of deadlines we can't do that and it's probably a good thing. We artists are probably the worst judges of our own talents.


I don't know how many times I've felt like the work was utter crap and yet had a wonderfully positive reaction from fans. So deciding which book I'd modify would be difficult, to say the least.





For more information on Vokes and his art, check out the That's All Vokes group on Yahoo! or head over to the Livingston, Tinnell & Vokes Productions site to learn more about the creative team's upcoming books.

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