LeSean Thomas: All This and CannonBusters Too
Catching Up With LeSean Thomas
Back in 2003, it was announced that LeSean Thomas was going to take over the art duties on Neil Googe's Bazooka Jules. Right after that, he took some time off to work on and had a brief stint on the TMNT Animated comic book series published by Dreamwave, and then it was back to Bazooka Jules.Things didn't really get off the ground, though. It was around that time that he shifted his creative energy on his creator-owned Cannon Busters and the property found a home at Com.X, then Devil's Due. Of course, in between all that, there's Street Fighter, Arkanium and some other stuff here and there. Even though he’s only appeared on the comics scene around the early 2000s, LeSean Thomas has been making a name for himself in the animation industry where he worked on such animation projects and TV series as The Boondocks, Kim Possible and Ben 10: Alien Force.
With the release of his second art book (or “sketch bible”) entitled Midnight Marauder: The Art of LeSean Thomas Vol. 2, Newsarama.com sat down with him to discuss about his love of and passion for both the comics and animation worlds that he’s had the privilege of being a part of. Newsarama: LeSean, The last time we chatted, we talked about your first art book, Nervous Breakdowns: The Art of LeSean Thomas Vol. 1, which was released in 2006. Now, you've got a new one entitled Midnight Marauder: The Art of LeSean Thomas Vol. 2 out in stores. What do you aim to achieve with these "sketch bibles", as you call them? Do they serve as resumes of sorts or are they more like tutorial lessons that you're offering to art aficionados out there who pick up your sketch books? LT: Well, the purpose of these books is to make money. [laughs] It's also important for me to stay prolific and visible. Since a lot of the projects I'm currently working on I cannot show, it helps to publish art books to not only keep people interested in my works but also introduce my stuff to new viewers. They do serve as resume/portfolio works as well. The last couple of gigs I've gotten in the industry have been based on word of mouth due to the purchasing of my books. The biggest responses I get from these books are from the animation students in schools across the globe. It's pretty inspiring. NRAMA: What sort of goodies have you included in the latest volume? LT: Firstly, it’s a hardcover. Second, unlike my first sketch bible, Nervous Breakdowns: The Art of LeSean Thomas Vol. 1, this volume features all full-color works covering material from various projects I've contributed to over the last year and a half. I also have commentary on every page about the works. I've also got a couple tutorials this time around for the followers of my works and the students who are curious about my process. It's also got an ISBN number so it's easier to track through bookstores this time around. It's an overall better quality product. NRAMA: You've been keeping yourself busy working as a storyboard artist on Cartoon Network's Ben 10: Alien Force. And this was after serving as co-director and supervising character designer on The Boondocks TV series, right? LT: Correct. But I've also been deeply involved in several other projects that I can't reveal at the moment. NRAMA: Fair enough. What is it about animation works that excites you? Other than help paying the bills and mortgages, of course… LT: Well, I just love the moving pictures medium as a viable storytelling tool. It is something that can communicate a message while capturing the imaginations of a huge group of people in one sitting. I like that kind of power in storytelling. I also love the studio environment. Creatively, being surrounded by immensely talented draftsman and artists of trades I'm not as strong in is very humbling and keeps me on my toes. It's just dope. NRAMA: All said, comics is still very much in your blood, no? LT: Comics are at the core of my being. [laughs] NRAMA: What is it about comics that make you keeping coming back to the medium? LT: I'll always love comics. It's the one, true form of a proof of concept that you can use as a vehicle to cross-pollinate into other media and still retain some control. I'll always draw comics. It’s what I'm doing most when I am not in animation production, contrary to some beliefs. [laughs] That being said, my personal project takes a lot of my time. NRAMA: In your opinion, how are comics and animation related? LT: You almost always have to do some form of drawing. You can do it all alone or by committee. You need a good story. NRAMA: Would you give up one for the other? Do you see yourself working back and forth in both fields in the foreseeable future? LT: No. I wouldn't give up one for the other. They are both great storytelling medium. I'm all about exploiting whatever said medium to tell my kind of stories. The benefit is that I can do both. Many cannot. And don't care to. And that's cool too. In answer to your question regarding working back and forth in comics and animation? Definitely. I'm doing it now. I've got some exciting comic-related work you'll be hearing about end of this year or early next year. NRAMA: Well, as it is, I understand that you’ve got some updates on your creator-owned Cannon Busters for our readers? LT: Well, yeah, I'm currently working on Cannon Busters, my first graphic novel I started work on a few years ago. It's been delayed as I’m taking my time and putting my all into it. It's coming along, almost done and I'm really excited about how it's turning out. It's a steam punk take on The Wizard of Oz. The spine of the story is about a lost android trying to find her way back home who is then joined by three sketchy individuals who also want to get where she's going but for their own selfish reasons. CB is just an excuse for me to do the type of outrageous animation-inspired action and designs I've always wanted to see in American comics. It just seems there's nobody out there willing to contribute to what Joe Madureira started years ago for dynamic and edgy action fantasy. I'm such a fan of that genre. I'm up for the challenge. I was really pushing hard for a 4th quarter completion in 2008 but with such demanding obligations in animation for me right now, it’s really slowed things a bit. I'm paying for everything on my own to have the most control over it. But rest assured, I've been dropping teasers on my blog and other online sources and it’s gonna be lots of fun. Definitely unlike anything I've seen before in the States. If you're a fan of fantasy and action genres, then this will be up your alley. Definitely something unique. NRAMA: You can be rest assured that I'll be in touch again to chat about Cannon Busters next time. Wrapping things up, can you tease about some of the animation projects that you’re working on? LT: Yes. I can't get too into it but there are two high-profile animated feature-length projects I'm currently swamped with as lead character designer/storyboard artist. I can guarantee you that fans of these characters are going to be blown away when they’re announced next year. Can't wait till they let the cat out of the bag. NRAMA: Anything else that you'd like to add before we call it a day for now? LT: For those of you in the Los Angeles area, I have a book signing/art gallery show in support of my new book Midnight Marauder: The Art of LeSean Thomas Vol. 2 this Saturday, September 20th from 5pm-10pm. Here's the information: www.33third.com/33third_Los_Angeles/?p=118 Location: Mid City Arts Gallery, 5113 West Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90019 For more information, call: 33third los angeles – 310.694.3460 Midnight Marauder: The Art of LeSean Thomas Vol. 2 is now available in book stores or purchase online at www.animebooks.com/midnight.html For more on LeSean Thomas, check out his official website at www.leseanthomas.com