Celebrate Local Comic Shop Day this Saturday with a local comic book artist, John Golden.
Golden is the line artist on the recently released “Over the Garden Wall: Circus Friends,” a graphic novel that’s a spinoff of the Cartoon Network series special of the same name.
In addition to this work, Golden also creates his own comic series, Bonemen, that he releases online and takes to conventions.
On Saturday, Golden will be signing copies of “Over the Garden Wall: Circus Friends” and doing sketch cards, as well as offering original sketches.
We caught up with Golden last week.
Tell me about your involvement with Over the Garden Wall.
Over the Garden Wall was a Halloween special that Cartoon Network ran in 2015, and it wound up being really popular. It’s a great show; I always recommend it to people who don’t know what the book is. The show is limited to a miniseries as far as the original material goes, but since there was a really big fan base that typically watches it yearly, Boom, the publisher that works with a lot of Cartoon Network’s IPs as far as adapting them to comics, actually produces a pretty large amount of Over the Garden Wall comics in addition to the one I did.
There’s still an ongoing comic series that comes out as individual issues as opposed to a graphic novel, like mine, and a number of different artist and writers work on the product as a comic, which is pretty cool.
What’s that process like?
The formal term for what I did is the line artist, which includes doing pencils and inks. Basically, I draw from a script from the writer, and once I’m done with that, it’s handed off to a colorist who colors it and then, in turn, hands it off to a letterer who put sin speech bubbles.
How much creative control do you personally have over this project?
As the artist, you have a pretty good amount of creative control because you effectively adapt to what looks like a movie script, but instead of reading it, it’s like, Page One, Panel One, and instructions like what’s happening and what the dialogue is. It’s your job as the artist to create the setting and characters and decide how they’re going to act out the scenes you’re supposed to create.
What other work do you do besides this project?
Other than Over the Garden Wall, which is my first comic published on a wide scale, I have my own comic, Bonemen, which I write and draw. I publish that online as a web comic in addition to printed versions I sell at conventions. I do my own thing on the side. Boom has contacted me a little here and there about doing other types of work, but typically what I like to do is draw. I like to create stories, so sometimes I like to write and draw, but Jonathan Case is a super talented writer, so working from his script just sort of sped up the process. Writing and drawing is a lot different than writing or drawing. What I typically do when I write and draw something is I’ll think about it while I’m drawing it. It happens almost simultaneously, as opposed to creating a script for the entire comic and then drawing the entire comic based off the strip.
Tell me more about Bonemen.
I started it when I was in college. Basically, it’s a high-fantasy satire, so it’s like a satire of Conan the Barbarian and Prince Valiant and all those old-school-style fantasy comics. The idea is the main characters are the skeletons that usually just show up and get kicked apart without a second thought. It’s humorous, but not a direct parody of the genre—it plays itself straight. The humor is mostly situational, not jokey, but presents itself as this high-fantasy sword and sorcery story. All the tropes are still there, but they’re just sort of inverted. You’re on the side of these dopey, sympathetic skeleton guys who are just trying to get their own thing done and not get kicked apart.
Now that Over the Garden Wall is out, what are you working on?
I’ve gone back and started working on Bonemen. It’s a slower process than I imagined, because it’s a pretty big disparity between Over the Garden Wall and Bonemen. I had to relearn how to draw the way I was before. Another thing about the difference there was the scheduling, because when I was working with an editor, I had super tight deadlines and I was still working a full-time job to make ends meet. I was spending six to eight hours on a page and trying to get one done every single day by working before and after my job, as opposed to spending three days to a week per page on Bonemen because I’d post it on a weekly basis or just whenever I felt like it because I had no deadlines.
[For Over the Garden Wall] I had to learn how to stop doing things in a tedious, ornate way and learn how to do them quickly and efficiently. But when I got back to working on Bone Men, I was like, “Oh, I think I actually don’t remember how to do things this detailed anymore,” so it took me a few months to get back on my feet on that front.
What process do you prefer?
I like the process of taking my time and really figuring out how to draw stuff, which was originally the purpose of Bonemen. When I started it, I had no intention of finishing it; it was just padding for a portfolio. But people liked the story that I’d make up on the spot when they asked me what it was about. They liked the way it looked, so I sort of started leaning into it. But I do like working on something where I can take my time and learn as I go. When I was working on Over the Garden Wall, I did learn a few things, but it was more of an exercise in seeing how fast I could go with all the things I learned how to do previously.
That sounds kind of like finals week in school.
It’s like finals week, but like six months straight of finals week. It was difficult to do. It feels like a job, but it’s still fun to do regardless.