When Joe Querio got the gig drawing the story that starts in this month's B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth #122, it was like a dream come true.
Not only was he challenged to draw a story that's being marketed by Dark Horse as "the perfect jumping-on point for new readers" — making him particularly attentive to his storytelling and pacing, which he enjoys doing — but the two-issue tale is set in Japan… with kaijus, and Querio is a huge monster fan.
The artist, who made his debut at Dark Horse on The Witcher, is working with writers Jon Arcudi and Mike Mignola, with colorist Dave Stewart. And as he designed the monsters for the two-issue B.P.R.D. story that started in the most recent issue, the young artist got to work with some of the creators he's been admiring for years.
As Dark Horse shared some of Querio's designs for the monsters appearing in B.P.R.D. #122 and #123, Newsarama talked to the artist to find out more about his style, his designs, and why he thinks this story is the ideal starting point for new readers.
Newsarama: Joe, you got to design a lot of monsters for this issue.
Joseph Querio: That's my passion. That's what I like to draw.
Nrama: So B.P.R.D. really plays to your strengths, and this story in particular, with the kaiju angle.
Querio: Yeah, when they told me the concept for this two-issue story, I was so happy. I grew up on old Godzilla movies and stuff like that, and I loved it then and I still love it now.
Nrama: Let's talk about your artwork on BPRD. Who would you say are your biggest artistic influences?
Querio: Mike Mignola is a huge one. Guy Davis. Dermot Power, a concept artist that worked on, I think, the second Star Wars movie and he worked on some of the Harry Potter movies. Frank Frazetta. Those are the big ones. James Harron now, since he started working on B.P.R.D.
Nrama: It's interesting that the B.P.R.D. art seems to all fit together, even though it utilizes artists with different styles. Do you tweak your art at all to fit into this book, or does it just come through because of the characters and concepts?
Querio: I don't know if I tweak it, but I'm so inspired by it. The B.P.R.D. stories I first got introduced to was during the Guy Davis era. So maybe I just absorbed enough of it in there, into my own style, that I can kind of do it like those guys. With Guy Davis in particular, I was just so impressed with the way he told stories. Even though his inks could be really loose and fluid, I was never confused about what was going on. I love being able to be totally absorbed.
The same thing with Mignola too. He was completely immersive. Other comics have frustrated me at times, because even though the art looked good, the storytelling wasn't there. And that's what I try to make a conscious effort to do, and to get better at storytelling — to hopefully have a fluid style. I think James Harren's just like those Guy Davis issues. You just flip through them and you're so enthralled.
I just hope I'm getting closer to that fluid storytelling, that pacing… and the panel layouts and all that kind of stuff. Trying to get that so I'm to the point where, hopefully, I'm drawing it well, but I'm telling the story fluidly too.
Nrama: That's especially important in this issue, because Dark Horse is marketing it as a "perfect jumping-on point" for people. Were you aware that they were taking that approach this month?
Querio: I didn't know about that at first. I noticed it in an ad first, and I was thinning, "Oh no, I better not screw this up."
Nrama: Knowing how these two issues end, do you think this is a good introductory story for people who don't normally read B.P.R.D.?
Querio: I think so, because the story is really its own thing. It doesn't delve into the past too much, but it's still the same world. You get to know Enos and Johann a little bit, but then you have two new characters. So you don't have to have any backstory on those characters. So it's a great introduction point.
So I think, yeah, it's a great jumping-on point.
Nrama: We're going to be sharing some of your sketches for the monsters you designed. Can we talk about what you created for the story? Let's start with the one labeled as "Quilly."
Querio: Yeah, I designed that with Mike Mignola. I designed the head shape, and then the bottom part of the body was originally a walking stick kind of thing. So Mike said he's take a crack at it, and he ended up designing the whole bottom half of it. And when I saw it, I thought it was so perfect that I was just excited to draw it.
A lot of the monsters went through a real evolution. Like in the sketches, you see that the monster from the last page went through a lot of different steps. It's interesting the evolution that he went through — there's this big, reptilian, kind of rocky looking monster, with rhinos on his nose. But we ended up taking off the rhino horns, because they didn't fit into the script. And then it went through some other phases. And the last page, you see the one that ended up being the final product. He took a huge transition to get from where he started to where he ended up.
Nrama: So you went back and forth on the designs quite a bit for these B.P.R.D. issues?
Querio: Yeah, and that part was awesome, being able to work with these guys that I've looked up to for so long. I'd send them the sketch, and they'd work with me to make the design work for the story. I had a ton of fun doing it.
It was so nice to have the input — they'd come back and give me some feedback, and I loved that. I like designing things, and it didn't bruise my ego one bit to have someone give that kind of feedback. I love that. I think, with the back and forth, they ended up being better than the original sketches I did. So I was thrilled.
Nrama: There's also a sketch for the "Fin-Bat."
Querio: Yeah, I was thinking Japanese fighting fish, and I got on this fin craze. And the Fin-Bats ended up being what I designed. We didn't change them at all. They were described as being like those hammerhead creatures that Guy Davis first designed a couple years ago, but they wanted a Japanese version of it. And it was supposed to be thinner and a little bit smaller. So I just took that idea and added the fins.
Nrama: I especially loved the one labeled as the Challenger creature. What inspired the way it looks?
Querio: Yeah, I think it was called the Challenger Monster, because it referred to the Challengers of the Unknown comic. They're these space guys who go through the portal and get mashed together.
That was a lot of fun to design. And again, you see how the design evolved. It started more like a four-legged thing, with a mouth down the middle. That was the original one. But then I was told to think of it like, if a dark god came and just took a bunch of people and smashed them together and they were just a mass of bone and flesh with their space helmets still sticking out.
And then eventually, I gave it more limbs and kind of spread the heads out. I love the way it turned out.
Nrama: I assume this was a fun process for you.
Querio: Oh, man, I couldn't even describe how much fun I had. It was like a dream come true.