Comic Pro Spotlight: Ken Meyer, Jr.
by Bill Nichols
What was your first work in comics? What do you remember about that first assignment?
Ken: Well, the first real work I remember is the Eclipse series, Clint, Hamster Triumphant, which was part of the wacky Adolescent Radioactive Black Belt Hamsters super epic line of mammoth and financially lucrative comics. Ok, maybe not that last part. I remember many things about that time. It was a huge undertaking for me, being my first real series (a mini-series, that is), for a well-known company, and done during a full-time job. The full-time job was a military contracting company, where I did art for various training materials, and it was the beginning of the contract, so a lot of art had to be made. So, during the day I was drawing jets and helicopters and such, and at night, well...I was drawing something that vaguely resembled anthropomorphic Hamsters! I also remember getting a few angry messages from then editor, Cat Yronwode about missing some deadlines. She even wrote some notes in the margins of the comic itself...some of which stayed there through the printing process. It was a lot of fun, though. The writer, Don Chin, gave me free reign to add whatever I felt like, which included characters based on David Letterman, Paul Schaeffer and Jay Leno, among others. I also did the second cover as an homage to the great illustrator, Bob Peak, and his well-known poster for the film, Apocalypse Now. The first issue was a parody cover of Miller's Dark Knight, which I thank him for not suing us over.
How long ago was that, if you don't mind saying?
Ken: I believe this would have been around 1991.
At a guess, how much work have you produced over the years in comics, in terms of pages or book?
Ken: Well, comparatively speaking, probably not much. However, between series like Caliber's Kilroy is Here, various stories for Negative Burn, stories for Marvel's Midnight Sons Unlimited and Open Space, covers for a wide variety of books, and the odd fill-in here and there, I would say something like 500 or so.
What are you best known for?
Ken: You got me. Am I known? I guess I would say, in comics, probably the Hamster stuff.
What are some of your best moments in comics?
Ken: My best moments as far as quality go, are things like Gustav PI for NBM, and the first Kilroy story that appeared in Negative Burn. Though I love doing the black and white line work stuff like Kilroy..., the best work is probably the painted stuff like Gustav PI, or maybe the story I had in the huge Tori Amos comic, Comic Book Tattoo. I have a soft spot for my autobiographical series, Project High, that appeared in Negative Burn. The most fun projects were the Hamster stuff, and most of the Caliber work.
Your worst, something you have regrets about?
Ken: Well, I have had several projects that either fell apart (like Aquarius, which was written by a young Mike Carey, and for which I got about 48 pages done, of which only about 17 were published), or never happened (Don McGregor wanted me to do a new Sabre series, but I just didn't think I was good enough, or ready - the last thing I wanted to do was soil that cool series). In general, I tried many times to break into places like Vertigo, but it just never happened. I have pretty much given up on making any big headway into comics. I do the odd story or cover here and there nowadays.
What are best examples of your work that sum of your work or your "style"?
Ken: Of my black and white style, I think any issue of Kilroy. My painted style is probably best represented in the Gustav graphic novel. However, the newly repackaged (with new covers, interior coloring and lots more) Atmospherics has a lot of variety of work in the package as a whole, including the 1000 new drawings/paintings I did for a special edition.
What have been some of your best collaborations, and that can mean best work produced or other creators with whom you've worked?
Ken: Again, I have to cite the Hamster mini-series. As I said, Don Chin gave me a lot of latitude with the jokes, script, art, etc. However, I have been lucky enough to not only work with Warren Ellis on Atmospherics, but also do short stories by Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, and others.
Why do you think you aren't working in comics? Or working as much as you once did?
Ken: I realized after working for awhile in comics early on that I was just not suited for the superhero action I was so enamored with as a young reader. As I started reading more independent stuff, as well as the Vertigo series, I realized that is what I wanted to do as far as content and style. I sort of got that working in the various Caliber series, covers, and short stories. I think also my realistic style (which in my case, involves a lot of work with models and reference material) limits me somewhat in the content I could do, and the time I could devote to it (or the time it would actually take me to finish work, even though I am relatively fast). I wish I could say I was in Alex Ross's league in being able to do that sort of realistic super hero work, but I am just not that good.
What do you think of comics today?
Ken: It's hard for me to answer that question, actually, About 10 years ago, I had to stop buying comics regularly, because I just couldn't afford it anymore. Family responsibilities just precluded all that discretionary spending. I still got the odd collection here and there, stuff like Bendis' Powers and things like that. And there are certain artists/writers I will follow, like Sienkiewicz, McKean, Rude, the Hernandez brothers, etc. I just don't think I am qualified to give an opinion on the comics output as a whole.
Is there a project, character or title you would want to re-visit to continue or re-boot?
Ken: I like mood. I like dramatic lighting. I like realism. That doesn't apply to too many well known characters. I would love to be involved in the new Creepy/Eerie series, but it hasn't happened yet. Anyone out there want to help make it happen, I would certainly be grateful!
How are you keeping your hand in? The occasional project? Commissions? Convention appearances?
Ken: Well, usually, it's just the odd cover or short story. For example, a few months ago, I did a short story for Joe Pruett, because he was trying to relaunch Negative Burn. But, that did not happen, so it's sitting around. I can't afford to go to many conventions, and there are none really close to Savannah. We will be moving back to California after next school year, so I will be closer and can hopefully go to more. I am going to a Wizard World con in New Orleans in January, though, so hopefully people can keep that in mind. I do commissions constantly, but they tend to be more related to the vampire themed role playing game work I have done, or altering Magic the Gathering cards. The most recent comic project is the aforementioned retooling of Atmospherics, by Avatar. For this, I colored the previously black and white interiors (painting in color traditionally over traditionally painted black and white art), did 2 new covers and also did 1000 drawings (actually 350 of them are paintings) to be inserted into a special 1000 copies. It was a huge undertaking, but well worth it. Well...I guess I will see if it was worth it, as it doesn't come out until January.
Do you have new projects you'd like to pursue?
Ken: Well, anything like the previously mentioned Creepy relaunch. I love humor as well, so something goofy and funny would be great.
Ken: I have a portfolio at www.kenmeyerjr.com/port as well as the main site at www.kenmeyerjr.com (but that has soooo many images, it will take you days to look at it all). I also put all of the 1000 drawings/paintings up on my site. You would have to go to www.kenmeyerjr.com/atmos1.0001.jpg , then substitute any number from 0002 to 0500. The second group is at www.kenmeyerjr.com/atmos2.0501.jpeg, and numbers all the way up to 1002. I am also on DeviantArt (http://kenmeyerjr.deviantart.com/), RedBubble (http://www.redbubble.com/people/kenmeyerjr), Fine Art America (http://fineartamerica.com/profiles/ken-meyer-jr.html?tab=artwork), and I write a monthly column called Ink Stains at http://comicattack.net/ that focuses on the comic fanzines of the 60s-80s. And I am at a lot of other places I have forgotten by now, my memory is so bad.
And my webcomic with Robin Ator: Arteest http://arteestcomics.com
blog comments powered by Disqus