Not Quite 20 Questions With…Mike Lapinski

I discovered Mike Lapinski’s work in a couple art threads on the Bendis Board two years back when I first began to look for artists for issue one of The Gathering. Mike was actually assigned to illustrate a story that two of my kids had written so it was an unusual experience for sure. Right from the beginning,  Mike offered storytelling advice and made very useful suggestions that the boys took to heart in this, their first comic writing experience. The result was one of the more well received stories from that issue.

Mike and his Feeding Ground partner Swifty Lang returned to The Gathering in Volume 4 and just nailed the Horror theme again with this short story. I’m very pleased that Mike will be returning to The Gathering next year illustrating John Jackson Miller’s story in Volume 8.

I had the good fortune to meet Mike at MoCCA the following year when we were ‘table buddies’. Mike is as genuine a guy as you could hope to meet in this business. Honest, humble and giving. His acclaimed mini series Feeding Ground from Archaia was already starting to cause some buzz but Mike spent as much time directing people to our table as promoting his own work.  He gives of his time and when he commits to something the result is pretty astounding. I got to see him again this past October at NYC C and he’s still that super nice, really talented guy who gvies so much of himself.

Mike recently took the time to do an interview with us. Enjoy it and check out his work when you have the chance. Mike’s a guy who deserves every bit of the success he receives.

Hey Mike, when did you first start reading comic books?

My first comic was GI JOE #2 in 1982, so, I was five or six at the time. I had seen a TV commercial for the Marvel Comics series that included animated versions of the characters escaping the comic and invading some kid’s bedroom. “Get me to a comic book store!” I said. Luckily there was one right around the corner from where I lived and I was able to go there on my own since I didn’t have to cross the street. Soon after, I discovered more lurid fare like AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #189 (Man-Wolf!) and UNCANNY X-MEN #162 (The Brood!). I carried those suckers with me everywhere and was hooked as a comic reader.

 

 

When did you first realize you wanted to create your own comics?

I was an artist for as long as I can remember but I must have started drawing comics as soon as I discovered them. I began to really work it as a craft in college when I co-founded The Cartoonists’ Association of Rutgers and had a weekly color strip (FISHBOY) in one of the campus papers.

Do you remember the first comic or character you created?

Yeah, it was a story about a whale attacking a submarine, drawn on construction paper. Beyond that, there was definitely a period of many ninjas and a furry purple guy called “Monster Surfer.”

What was the first professional comic gig you got and how did you get it?

Although it wasn’t something I was hired to do, I would consider the short “Frozen Dark” to be my first “professional” comic gig. It was my first collaboration with Swifty Lang and Chris Mangun as we were developing FEEDING GROUND. I used it as an opportunity to bring my skills up to speed and, at around 12 pages long, it was the longest comic work I had done up to that point. We contributed the story to the DON’T LOOK! horror anthology, a strong and eclectic mix of shorts, many by other animation industry artists moonlighting as comic artists.

For more about “Frozen Dark”:  http://mlapinski.blogspot.com/search/label/Frozen%20Dark

What’s the worst job you’ve ever had?

I want to say it was the job photostatting images for my local paper. It involved an ancient and chemically carcinogenic beast of a machine but was actually kind of fun. So instead, I’ll say it was working local men’s clothing retail just because even thinking of the (lack of) style of that stock makes my skin crawl. Also, never cool to work on a creative job where the office culture dictates that the stress level should be equal to that of an emergency room.

You took an assignment to do a story for the very first issue of The Gathering when absolutely no one knew what was going to become of it. What appealed to you about doing a small press project like this?

I discovered the Bendis Board as a way to keep my sanity talking with like-minded people online while working alone in my home studio on FEEDING GROUND. I’m a participator by nature and when the opportunity came to turn a lot of talk into action I wanted to be a part of it. So many smart and talented people on the site and so much more is gained by getting out and doing it. It was a great chance to learn more along with other novice creators.

 

 

 

You received great critical acclaim for your Feeding Ground mini with Swifty Lang and Chris Mangun through Archaia. How did that project come about?

In a lot of ways, FEEDING GROUND is the story of making the best of our bad economy. Swift and Chris met at Swifty’s coffee shop in Brooklyn where Chris was a regular customer and they had already been developing the core of Swifty’s idea. I learned about it when the parent company of the animation studio I was working for decided to vacate the entire skyscraper we worked in and closed the decade-old studio. It’s my recollection that I suggested we turn their idea into a comic book and I was able to use my newly-found free time to create the art for the pitch book. We’ve gotten a great response to the pitch itself as a pitching tool and we’ve actually made it available as a PDF on our Facebook page along with an account of the pitching process at NYCC 2009.

 

 

Link to PDF:  http://www.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.blacklightcomics.com%2FFeedingGround_PITCH.pdf&h=pAQEdyMD4AQG6AlmXK8AY71IPPhbhNd82a5xIvjSq0lsOUg

You came back to The Gathering in issue four and have another short in issue eight with John Jackson Miller. While we’re thrilled to have more of you in the book what is it about The Gathering that makes a busy creator like yourself want to take the time to do more stories?

Comic art is definitely a time-consuming discipline that I find demands my full attention. But, doing a short comic is an excellent opportunity to play with different styles, tools, and storytelling techniques. Plus, THE GATHERING keeps growing and I love being able to continue collaborating with Swifty or a writer like John Jackson Miller as time allows.

 

 

What’s a typical work day like for you?

Lately, I’ve returned to a full-time position designing backgrounds for an animation studio while I still take on some freelance on the nights and weekends. But, the time spent working on FEEDING GROUND was completely immersive. I would wake up early to work before we walked the dog, then all day after breakfast, and again at night after dinner. Repeat. Those delirious wee hours of the late night and early morn were spent on zombie work like scanning or prepping for the next day. It did get to the point where I was able to layout, pencil, ink, color, and do the cover for an issue in 2 months. When I wasn’t working on the book, I was thinking about it. Great that I had the opportunity but not the way I would have chosen to spend my first year of marriage as well.

 

How important is social media for you as a creator in both trying to get work and then promoting that work?

I soon discovered that the promotion of our work was a second job unto itself and the book was the catalyst that caused me to join Facebook. While I’m sure that everyone in my social network is tired of hearing about it and that I’ve exhausted that venue, there were some fortunate FEEDING GROUND encounters because of it. One in particular, a former co-worker, Nathalia Murray, commented on a photo of my cat that I had posted. Reconnecting with her on Facebook led to her directly becoming involved with the book as our Spanish language translator. As of now, I’m only posing any FEEDING GROUND news on Facebook through our fan page ( https://www.facebook.com/pages/FEEDING-GROUND/125335384218453?sk=wall ). We’ve included a lot of material there, especially the Pitch Book, reviews, Con photos, and the trailer. I also have an art blog where I share process ( http://mlapinski.blogspot.com/ ) and recently joined Twitter (@m_lapinski). More than anything, Twitter has been incredible to be directly piped into the conversation of the comics industry. It’s a relatively small bunch of people with a lot to share, both advice and socializing, and it has resulted both in job offers and also a general better sense of how the industry ticks.

 

 

You go to a lot of Comic Cons. How important do you think maintaining a presence at cons is to the overall success of a creator’s career?

I’ve been told that hand-selling books and meeting/ making fans is invaluable for building success but more than that, I love to talk with strangers. Honestly, Cons are an incredible pass to put your own work out there and make connections with other talented and passionate folks as a result. From my first Con in 2009, there was immediately a sense of a give and take between fans and creators and I felt I had stepped into a community. Bonus points for being able to reside at the well-appointed Archaia booth (it looks like a bookstore in the middle of a carnival) and getting to meet up with the Archaia family.

 

 

What’s your most memorable convention experience?

It has to be the moment when I realized that I was pitching FEEDING GROUND to Archaia and they were interested in signing on the spot. I was actually in a daze, taking a break from pitching by browsing at their booth. I started chatting with someone I thought was working the register and turned out to be Editor-in-Chief Stephen Christy. He passed our pitch directly onto founder Mark Smylie and before I knew it I was face-to-face with new owner PJ Bickett who said two things: 1) If both of them say we should publish this, then I want to publish this and 2) What if we print the floppies bi-lingual in English and Spanish? That sort of forward thinking impressed me immediately and has defined the company ever since. Also nice, this year at NYCC, someone brought issues 2-6 of FEEDING GROUND for us to sign after we turned him onto Issue 1 at NYCC the previous year. Was a great bookend to our experience and I’ll always remember it.

What do you think the most important thing a new creator should do to become successful at their craft?

This advice sounds so tired, but, I would say the most important thing is to do it. When you say “creator,” I’m thinking of a comic writer, artist, or cartoonist and for all, storytelling is king. While it’s good to always practice your craft in sketchbooks and journals, nothing educates you more than working on something that is a complete story. Start with a strip or one-pager and work your way to longer stories. If you’re paying attention, there should be hundred of questions that arise in your decision-making process. That said, simplicity is king. Work to make your storytelling as clear as possible before moving onto breaking form of throwing out the rules. I had the fortune of taking a class with Klaus Janson and my favorite moment was when I realized he was codifying and sharing rules to storytelling that I had already begun to learn myself by doing it on the page.

Do you have time to read a lot of comics now? What are some of your favorites?

LOVE & ROCKETS, POPEYE, and BATMAN: YEAR ONE loom large in terms my top comics and Spider-Man (including Ultimate) has always been my guy. More recently, Chris Blain’s GUS & HIS GANG (published in America by :01) and Joe Kelly and Ken Niimura’s I KILL GIANTS are some essential comics that reveal the best of the medium. We’re also in a golden period for monthly books with a lot of cool offerings from DC’s new 52 (Lemire and Foreman’s ANIMAL MAN is a visceral thrill) and cartoonists’ cartoonists like Paolo Rivera and Marcos Martin on DAREDEVIL are leading a trend moving superhero comics away from the cinematic and to a visual language that is stylish, clever, and unique to comics. I still try to get to the store every week although space constraints will soon cut me back to reading trades.

 

 

What would your dream project be?

I currently have a few pitches in the works but there’s an overambitious, multi-generational, epic cooking in the back of my head where I’d employ a different comic form (classic newspaper strips, 60s comix, Manga) for each time period. In terms of other company’s creations, I think that Swifty and I have a killer take on DR.STRANGE as a macabre medical drama.

Tell us the funniest joke you know?

Here’s the only joke I’ve ever created:

Q: What’s a pirate’s favorite letter?

A: (said in a pirate voice) W

 

2 Responses to Not Quite 20 Questions With…Mike Lapinski

  1. Michael Lapinski November 8, 2011 at 2:21 pm #

    Thanks kindly for the opportunity and the write-up, Drew! Always glad to be working with you guys. Continued success!

  2. Arion November 8, 2011 at 6:09 pm #

    I’ve always said your work is great . I’m looking forward to your pages in issue 8.

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