Comic Book Artist
Mike Pascale is a freelance storyboards artist, writer, comic book/strip creator, artist, graphic designer, and a Spectrum Fantastic Art Award winner. His creations include Bru-Hed (“America’s Favorite Blockhead”), Nasti: Monster Hunter, Game BUZZ!, and others. In addition to the weekly Game BUZZ! comic strip on Facebook and SmackJeeves.com, he also writes the Bru’s Reviews film reviews on WednesdaysHeroes.com.
Recently the Art Career Project got in touch with Mike to pick his rather unusual brain about art and the profession of comics illustration:
Mike, please describe your journey as a comic artist and your particular professional experience.
I began self-publishing when I was 12 years old. My Dad would photocopy my comics at his place of work and I’d sell them for a dime each to friends. This went on for a few years, during which I collaborated with friends and classmates and sold at conventions. Sadly, this did not get me any dates… After attending the Kubert School for a year after high school, I was run over by the Reality Bus and transferred to a “real” college to get my degree. I went into advertising so I could make enough dough to eat regularly and not live in my car.
After quitting the ad biz a couple times to attempt breaking into the comics biz, I decided to self-publish again while working my “real” job. I put out several issues and a couple of mini-series featuring my characters Bru-Hed and Nasti: Monster Hunter, just in time to watch the industry implode, along with my savings account. (I’d neglected to take business and accounting classes in art school.) Eventually, I became a full-time freelance storyteller (storyboards, art and writing) and now work in and out of comics as time, money and conscience allows.
Please be so kind as to detail the education and early pertinent experience you received to prepare you for your professional career. Recommended schools, workshops, valued mentors, etc., would be helpful to our readership.
The Kubert School (Dover, NJ) was the only such place in the U.S. at the time, but it was tops. Learning storytelling from Joe (Joe Kubert) himself was an invaluable dream come true. I still highly recommend the place. There are several schools around the country/world that offer comics and storytelling programs. Artist Steve Bissette runs the wonderful Center for Cartoon Studies in Vermont (a two-year course of study) and, again, there are several other colleges that also offer programs. I suggest you find classes taught by industry pros, not professional teachers.
I also found a couple artists (Jeff Albrecht and Gary Kwapisz) who lived not too far from me, called them, and they were nice enough to not hang up on me—as well as look over my work and give me pointers. I had great phone chats with the late, great Gene Colan about storytelling as well.
What are some of your favorite or, perhaps, most noteworthy projects? Why?
My first published short story (with illustrations) was in an anthology with Harlan Ellison, Neil Gaiman and Clifford Meth. Late last millennium, Cliff, the editor, called me when I was in San Diego for Comic-Con and said he needed a story and two drawings in a few days! Rather than have a coronary, I accepted and met the challenge. I loved doing comedic stuff like Bru-Hed. Seeing Jay Leno hold up a Bru t-shirt on The Tonight Show (‘This doesn’t look anything like me!’ he said) was a high point. Same when HBO expressed interest in a series (until the producer was fired). And I was thrilled to create the front and back cover art for Meth’s wonderful comic book Babylon recently. Having interaction with fans on my weekly Game BUZZ! webcomic is a lot of fun, especially when there’s a huge boost in views for a game.
Was there a period in which you labored as an intern or perhaps worked in areas outside of the field of art?
A stint in advertising really helped me because I learned how to do storyboards and to do them quickly. They’re basically like comics but without the polish or fan base. (At least they pay much better.) Also, being an art director and copywriter helped immensely with designing my own comics and advertising them. It’s odd to have your work seen by millions of people in Time magazine or on the Super Bowl but with no credit vs. your name prominently placed in a comic that’s read by a few thousand at best. You have to balance your checkbook with your ego, and both are fragile.
Please detail any tips or guidance you might have for the aspiring artist. What have you learned during your journey?
If you self-publish, decide immediately if it’s going to be a business (make money) or a hobby (spend money) and then treat it as such. Either is fine, but mistaking one for the other will cost you dearly. (I learned the hard way.) You must learn business basics or just do it for fun.
Your plans for the future?
More Game BUZZ! web strips, submitting it to Go Comics and other places, then collecting them into a book. Another story in next year’s Tales Of Sequential Mayhem #4, and hopefully a Bru-Hed anniversary Kickstarter project. I also just finished my first novel and will be looking for an agent. And if time permits, world domination.
Get more advice from Mike in our How to Become a Comic Book Designer piece.