Greg Wronchak has been drawing since childhood. He still has the New Teen Titans comic he drew with pencil crayons on looseleaf paper and stapled together. After spending several years at such tasks as design cleanup, layouts, animation corrections, prop design, and storyboards, Greg decided to focus on comics. He’s worked on a number of small press books and, these days, he’s bringing his own characters and concepts to fruition. Following a successful Kickstarter campaign for his upcoming comic, Jo Nemo, Greg took the time to sit down and talk with us about his work and the things he’s learned along the way.
IM: Let’s start by talking about your background. Tell us a bit about your experiences growing up.
GW: I grew up in Montreal, Canada, forty-something years ago. I was always studious, with my nose buried in some book; I’ve always had a vivid imagination, and would create complicated scenarios when playing. Growing up in the 70s and 80s was a pretty fun and exciting time.
IM: How did you get into art?
GW: For as long as I can remember, I’ve enjoyed doodling. Grade school teachers noticed that I had an affinity for art and encouraged my efforts. I always felt happy with pencil (or crayon) in hand, another outlet for my creative streak. After high school, I focused on other things; it was only later in life (in my 20s) that I recalled how much I enjoyed drawing, and took art classes to set myself on the path of a possible career in arts.
IM: What was your experience in traditional animation? What kinds of projects did you do, what was your involvement, and how much would you say it helped you to develop your craft?
GW: After a few years of illustration and design courses, I took an intensive, year-long, traditional animation program at VanArts in British Columbia. I realized that animation was a viable field to pursue if one wanted to make a living drawing, and that experience helped me put together a portfolio that eventually led to my being hired at a Montreal Studio called CineGroupe. I did design clean-up on a few shows (Bad Dog) and, after paying my dues on several productions (doing different, more challenging tasks such as layouts, animation corrections, and prop design), I ultimately pursued storyboards on Sagwa the Chinese Siamese Cat.
IM: What made you decide to go freelance?
GW: Doing storyboards opened my eyes to the world of freelance. Eventually, I made the leap away from the 9 to 5 life and sought work doing boards for studios in town. The pay was decent, but the work was sporadic, and the deadlines were extremely intense. Eventually, assignments dried up and I had to consider other options to pay the bills. To that end, I decided to focus on comics (my first love, ever since discovering the medium as a teen) and freelance art commissions.
IM: Could you describe some of your early experiences in the comics industry? What books did you work on?
GW: I haven’t had the good fortune to work for any major comic book publishers; I’ve been blessed to have done pencils and inks for a variety of small press books and publishers (Reverend Moore for Main Enterprises, Maggie Culpepper for New Pioneer Comics, and many others I can’t recall). I’ve always enjoyed small press; there’s a vitality and wild creativity that can be lacking from the Big Two publishers. At the same time, I’ve spent the last decade or so developing my own concepts, with the aim of having them self-published eventually.
IM: Any advice or life lessons you’re glad you got or wish you’d had that you’d like to pass on?
GW: My main advice is for folk to actively pursue what they enjoy doing; one can’t go wrong following one’s passion. I lost years after high school away from arts, because I didn’t think it could be a solid career. I wish I’d used that time to hone my skills and build confidence, so that I could’ve been an even better artist.
IM: You’ve run several Kickstarter campaigns for your own comics recently. What’s the experience been like?
GW: I enjoy Kickstarter, because it’s a nice way to expose potential readers to my concepts. Promoting a project is a lot of effort (pledges don’t really happen magically), but the feeling of success and being able to print copies of my labors of love is incredibly rewarding.
IM: For the unsuccessful campaigns, has there been anything that you’ve done differently the second time around?
GW: With unsuccessful campaigns, I’ve had to readjust the funds target and tweak my project videos and description. It’s essential to be clear and introduce the comic in a dynamic and interesting fashion in order to generate interest.
IM: Let’s talk a bit about those properties. What can you tell us about your hard-boiled detective, Slam McCracken?
GW: Slam McCracken started as a doodle, an egg in trench coat standing over a melted popsicle. I’ve always enjoyed Film Noir and the idea of a literal hard-boiled egg appealed to me immensely. I developed the character and his grimy city, and am in the process of crafting webcomic strips that I mean to eventually combine into a graphic novel.
IM: Could you share some of his adventures?
GW: Slam’s first adventure involves a client’s missing husband (she’s a toothbrush); the investigation leads to a dingy apartment, a corpse, and the police closing in, with Slam as their framed target! Ultimately, Slam clears his name and exposes the culprit behind the crime of passion. As you can see, pulpy goodness with a quirky edge!
IM: And Lil’ Ninja?
GW: Lil’ Ninja is based on the antics of my daughter as a toddler. The concept was easy to develop (a toddler secretly defends her crib from harm with the help of a talking plushie), and is incredible fun to plot and draw.
IM: You recently ran a successful Kickstarter to fund Jo Nemo. Could you give us the elevator pitch on that one?
GW: Jo Nemo is my oldest concept, begun during downtime at CineGroupe. He began as a sidekick, but I figured a fish wearing a super-suit (this was many years before Megamind) was a fun, original idea. Jo is basically my love letter to the comics I read as a kid: bombastic and fun, with an unabashedly square hero always saving the day from outlandish villains.
IM: Lil’ Ninja and Jo Nemo are marketed as ‘all-ages’ comics. What does that designation signify for you?
GW: For me, ‘all ages’ titles should appeal to any reader, regardless of whether they’re young or old. Publishers tend to produce goofy, simple material under this umbrella, which is unfortunate.
IM: What are the challenges in writing something that connects with such a broad audience?
GW: The trick with successful all-ages material is having subtle layers that more sophisticated readers can appreciate, while younger ones can focus on the colorful antics. It’s very challenging, since reader tastes can vary significantly.
IM: How are you currently marketing and promoting your work?
GW: My main promotional tools have been Facebook and Twitter; as a relative novice with Kickstarter, my goal is to discover better promotional tools to land many more eyes on my future projects.
IM: What’s on your horizon for 2016?
GW: 2016 should feature two new concepts to debut on Kickstarter. One has a Grandma drive her granddaughter through a post-apocalyptic neighborhood, kicking zombie behind (lol). The other has super-powered teens working at a fast food restaurant. Both need more promotional artwork before I can launch them.
IM: Finally, how can our readers keep up with you and your work?
GW: There are plenty of places to keep informed of what I’m up to:
On Facebook: www.facebook.com/Sore-Thumb-Press-239884329381931/
On Twitter: https://twitter.com/sorethumbpress
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