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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Occasional Interviews: Zuda Artist Steve Ellis On "High Moon"

Steve Ellis describes himself as "born with a silver pencil in his mouth," having been drawing and telling comic book stories for most of his 36 years. Steve has co-created projects for DC and Marvel including Jezebelle and Crimson Dynamo, as well as the original comic series Tranquility and The Silencers.

With his co-creation of the webcomic High Moon, he is now part of the first wave of Zuda contestants.

OS: How did you get involved with High Moon?

SE: The writer met with me at the NYCComicCon in February and he gave me the initial pitch for the series. I thought it was great, so I agreed to take a stab at it.

OS: High Moon is described as a "werewolf western." Did the idea of working on a cross-genre book such as this appeal to you?

SE: I love Werewolves, I used to work for Whitewolf's Werewolf game and it was one of my favorite projects to work on. So getting to add my own version is great. Plus, in some weird way, the Western feel meshes really well with the flavor of werewolves, there's something haunting and lonely about werewolves, and westerns have that same feeling of being out in the middle of nowhere with eyes on your back...

OS: What were your artistic inspirations for this project?

SE: I submerged myself in my buddy Chuck's extensive western collection. I really wanted that gritty spaghetti western feel, so the films I went for were High Plains Drifter, The Good the Bad and The Ugly, El Topo and Django...they really inspired the look and feel.

Initially, we really don't get to see the wolves much, but I like to think that as we see more of them people will realize my spin is a bit different than the usual. I like them being a bit more sinewy and feral rather than monstrous.


I was initially inspired by the work I did on Whitewolf's old stuff, but I thinned out the feel thinking about how a wolf doesn't have the kind of bulked out musculature one of those other werewolves have. I wanted that lanky, hunched, head low, staring kinds of feel.

I wanted the strip to feel old, weathered, and beaten up...gritty.

OS: How does it feel being one of the first contestants of DC's Zuda project?

SE: It's exciting, everyone is supportive and there's a nice buzz around the project that hopefully will turn into votes. It's really nice to be at the ground floor of something new.

OS: Why do you think people should vote for High Moon out of all the other Zuda webcomics?

SE: Well, I haven't had a chance to read the others, and I've only glanced at some of the artists work, but I think ours has a very different sensibility than what I've seen. It's much more gritty and textural both in the art and the writing. Ours is a bit of a mystery, rather than a big fight, and involves a pretty complex story.

OS: Speaking of Zuda, what do you think of the whole so-called "webcomics" revolution?

SE: I guess the whole challenge of web comics right now is finding one that I like to read on a regular basis. It reminds me of the Black-and-White comics small publishing revolution of the late eighties...there was a lot of choice, but for quality you really only ended up with one or two out of hundreds of books, since the web is free to post on for the most part, anyone and anything gets a webcomic.


In some ways, that's wonderful that all those people get to express their ideas and art, in other ways, it makes it harder to find the one good one...the needle in the haystack. The traditional publishing model of editorial houses vetting work and choosing which got published, while sometimes corrupted, really acts as a quality filter - hopefully keeping the garbage out.

I guess, I like the Zuda model because rather than just every project being put up on the web, the projects to be voted on have been vetted by a panel for viability and quality.

OS: What comic books or webcomics out now to you currently enjoy?

SE: I'm a stick in the mud, I love 100 Bullets, Hellboy, The Walking Dead, I really like anything that's a bit edgy and turns traditional stories on their heads. I have to say I miss the old feeling of the Marvel and DC's when they didn't have as much at stake and were willing to try really outrageous stories.

Now, you get the feeling that so much is on the line with some books, they have to play it safe and keep the story tame or at least within a close margin of what's been done before, what's familiar...I think it's an unwillingness to lose any more readers.

OS: What's next for Steve Ellis?

SE: Wow, I think I'm moving back to NYC finally after three years of exile, and hopefully I'll be continuing to draw High Moon. I might throw together a reprint edition of an old book I love from my past, and I might just have another Silencers story in me if the publishing model is right...But I'd really like to finish High Moon - I can't wait to draw the big Werewolf fights! Grrrr!

Heh, heh, heh...
OS: Thanks, Steve! You can read HIGH MOON at Zuda.com (http://www.zuda.com) and follow the production of the series here ( http://high-moon.blogspot.com/).