Jen Hickman is a graphic artist and graduate of Savannah College of Art and Design. Justin Jordan is a comic writer of immense talent. Put them together, and you get the comic SPREAD. The SPREAD devoured North America, and it looks as though it’s all down to a small child to save humanity.
Jen, you went to the Savannah College of Art and Design. Was it always your goal to work in comics?
Jen: I wouldn’t say that, exactly. I’d always been drawing, but I didn’t even realize you could work in the arts until I was about 23. I’d never met anyone who was a professional artist until I went to SCAD and it’s not really something a career advisor is ever going to mention, with good reason. It’s hard, and it’s unstable, but I absolutely love it. I love telling stories and I love drawing; comics is my favorite way of combining the two media and I’m extremely thrilled that I have had as many opportunities to work in comics as I have.
When you were growing up, what was your favorite comic?
Jen: Okay, so, I didn’t read comics as a kid. (My childhood was mainly Redwall, Narnia, Veggie Tales and Focus on The Family. You get the picture.) But I had this friend who collected Archie comics! I was always really excited to get to go over to her house and “hang out,” because it generally meant sitting there and devouring as many Archie digests as I could in an afternoon. So by virtue of not having any competitors, Archie was definitely my favorite comic as a child. And honestly, I think I got lucky. Archie stories were always neatly packaged examples of sit-com storytelling, with flawless on-model art.
How long does an average comic take you to draw?
Jen: I generally do about a page a day. Maybe two, if I’m really in the zone.
Outside of comics, what other genres do you draw in?
Jen: I have the ongoing pleasure of creating illustrations and art assets for a children’s educational program. Recently I got to make some custom Minecraft textures for it, and it was my first time trying pixel art. Turns out it’s a ton of fun! It’s a good mix of ‘extremely limited tools’ and ‘OCD precision and control.’ I’m trying to talk the Minecraft guy into letting me animate some of the assets to make them even cooler.
Justin, you have an impressive resume already, with a lot of work on both Image and DC comics. Where did you hone your craft before breaking into the world of comics?
Justin: Laboring in obscurity!
I actually did a bunch of small press stuff, short stories, mini comics and anthos, before I broke in with the first Luther Strode book, so I had a good ten years of writing a lot of pages that mostly gotten seen by no one to get reasonably good at what I do before I broke in. Which is helpful.
Tell us a little about the process of writing a comic book.
Justin: I’m a planner. I have outlines of the series as a whole, which need adjusted a lot, outlines of the arcs, and then outlines of the issue. So by the time actually get to writing the script, I’ve given the story a lot of thought and a lot of words already.
I try to, when I can, write the issues in any given arc back to back, so that I can write and rewrite the thing to be as cohesive as possible. This is easier to do, usually, on creator owned stuff than it is on work for hire stuff, as the demands are different.
What is your favorite thing about writing comics?
Justin: Creating new worlds, I think. There’s some addicting about making a new world with its own rules and then setting the wheels going. It’s addictive in the bad sense, because worldbuilding is much, much easier than writing stories, and it’s easy to fool yourself into favoring doing the easy thing.
What’s the worst thing about writing comics?
Justin: Man, I don’t know. It’s all pretty good. Some parts of it are difficult, but I don’t think it’s necessarily bad. It might be hedging on the actual question, but the worst parts of writing comics are the bits that aren’t writing: making sure deadlines are in check, trying to make sure your collaborators make some money, negotiating contracts, that stuff.
I’m lucky on Spread to have Sebastian Girner helping out as an editor, which reduces the suck level considerably for me.
Tell our readers a little about Spread and how it came to be. What can fans expect from SPREAD #12?
Jen: I think this is more a Justin question. Well, really, a Justin and Kyle question. Spread #12 is about Molly. So far we’ve seen that she is not doing well, mentally, but despite that she is a fierce survivor and she cares about Hope with unwavering strength. This issue is basically about her origins, and it’s not too pleasant. It’s a difficult story, and one that I think casts Molly’s role in the main storyline in a new light.
Justin: Spread’s original genesis was me thinking about the manga Lone Wolf and Cub and wondering about that dynamic in a world with zombies. But I didn’t want to do a zombie thing, so that languished until I was thinking about John Carpenter’s The Thing, which ultimately lead to the book you see.
So the main story is about a nameless bad ass called No, because that’s most of his dialogue, who finds a baby who can save the world from a monster that ate North America. More or less.
Spread, from the start, was designed to have interstitial issues between the arcs that would explore the world. This was part a creative choice and part a practical one – it’s difficult to do an ongoing book on a regular schedule, so the practical side of the interstitials was to give Kyle (Strahm, the main artist and my cocreator) time to not die.
But at the same time, Spread is a big world, with a good deal of history that’s worth exploring, and the inbetween issues let me do that. This issue, in particular is about Molly, who’s been in the book since issue two.
What I wanted to do here was see just what the Spread world would do to someone who was born before it, but mostly grew up in it. No and Jack were both adults when the Spread ate North America, so their experience is different.
What other kinds of nerdy things geek you out or get you excited?
Jen: Horror video games! I recently had the chance to play PT and it was a religious experience. So much fun. There’s something about the adrenaline rush of a jump-scare, and that nerve-wracking moment right before you round a blind corner, that is downright addictive. Until Dawn is another recent favorite. It pays homage to classic slasher films and I could probably babble for hours about how incredibly clever a couple of the game mechanics are. Oh, also, I suppose the new Star Wars movie was okay. (Just kidding! I loved it, it was so much fun!) I’m still in mourning for the Extended Universe (a universe without Mara Jade is not ideal imo), but I thought that the concepts they did decide to bring over were interesting choices. And I’m, of course, head over heels for our new heroes. They are just too cute for words.
Justin: I’m kind of a roving omninerd. I don’t get huge into any one thing, but I get really excited about a lot of things in succession. Lately, like half the world, it’s been the new Stars Wars movie. But I’ve also been on a bit of a fantasy kick, so I’m reading Brandon Sanderson, who is the nerd’s nerd as far as that goes.
SPREAD #12 Cover A by Kyle Strahm and Felipe Sobreiro (Diamond code: NOV150648) hits stores Wednesday, January 13th. SPREAD #12 Cover B by Camila Torrano (Diamond code: NOV150649) and SPREAD #12 Cover C by Michael Adams and Kyle Strahm (Diamond code: NOV150650) will also be available Wednesday, January 13th.