Jacen Burrows has spent the past 16 years working with writers like Warren Ellis, Garth Ennis, and Alan Moore - and he's done it without having ever worked for Marvel or DC.
And this week, Avatar Press is releasing Providence #11 - the penultimate issue of Burrows and Moore's long collaboration, which began with in 2010 with Neonomicon. The 12-issue maxi-series follows a writer named Robert Black as he explores the hidden truths behind the writings of H.P. Lovecraft. Moore is a well-known fan of Lovecraft, and Burrows shares that passion - and a continued desire to work with the autho as he counts down until his "retirement."
Newsarama spoke with Burrows about the closing chapters of Providence, his working relationship with Alan Moore, as well as his own ability to work outside the superhero mainstream.
Newsarama: Jacen, what's on your drawing board today? What are you working on, specifically?
Jacen Burrows: Right now, covers. I'm doing a few pieces that will run as the Act 2 and 3 covers. I'm still not entirely sure of all the ways Providence will be packaged but I know there will be the three-book set at least.
Nrama: As you mentioned, you’re currently drawing Alan Moore’s Providence - a continuation of sorts from Neonomicon. What's this long collaboration with Alan Moore been like?
Burrows: I feel a lot of pride in having gotten to be one of his artists. I'm in really good company there. There is a lot of self-imposed pressure to live up to the writing that comes with that, but ultimately, all you can do is try your best and hope that you at least tell the story in a compelling way. But it is also really exciting knowing that you are working on something that is going to be complex, thoughtful and that people are going to take seriously.
Nrama: Do you have those cliché lengthy Alan Moore scripts coming in, or is it something else?
Burrows: Absolutely. The early issues in particular were massive. At one point I stopped asking for physical copies because I felt guilty using that much paper. But that volume of information comes in handy when you are working with someone who has their fingerprint on every aspect of the way the story is experienced. From layouts, to background details, everything is factored in and planned in detail.
Nrama: A first collection of Providence hasn't come out yet, so for someone coming in fresh to this how would you describe the series?
Burrows: In 1919, a writer travels through the changing American landscape researching a secret occult network that has ties to the writings of H. P. Lovecraft, discovering the real origins of the most influential and enduring horror pantheon in our culture.
Nrama: Why did you sign up to do this series specifically? What drew you into it?
Burrows: Alan intended for this to continue the exploration of Lovecraft started in The Courtyard and continued in Neonomicon. I was always attached to the project, for consistency if nothing else. But there was never any doubt that I would want to work on it as a huge fan of Lovecraft, and I'd never turn down an opportunity to work with Alan again.
Nrama: I remember you telling me once that someone asked you why you didn't go work for the DC and Marvel, and you related to them that you wouldn't get the chances you have at Avatar - to work extensively with the likes of Warren Ellis, Garth Ennis, and now Alan Moore. Do you still feel that way?
Burrows: I certainly wouldn't have gotten to work on projects like these. And I feel like I would be a small fish in a much bigger pond, much less likely to get the big projects, or to work in genres like I've gotten to work on. There is a lot of competition out there and I've been very lucky to get some really cool books with the best writers out there.
Nrama: I've noticed little if any work for you outside of Avatar. Are you under an exclusive agreement with them, or is it just by choice?
Burrows: I've done some stuff on the side. A few pinups, some illustrations for posters, a little design work but mainly the reason I haven't done stuff for other publishers comes down to just always having work on my plate. They've kept me consistently busy since 2000 and there were always cool assignments waiting when the previous one ended. It is pretty rare and very fortunate in this business, especially in the indies.
Nrama: Seeing Providence on shelves, I enjoyed that you yourself are doing most of the variant covers for the book you're drawing - a rarity in comic books. Is that something you like as well, besides just the extra work?
Burrows: One nice thing about getting to do all of the variants is that I can use them as a chance to flesh out areas that we don't explore a whole lot inside the book. Like getting to show a setting from the series in clear detail, or show a character in their element in a way we don't get to see in the book. I try to keep them relevant to the series instead of just trying to make up something cool looking but Alan picked the subjects of each variant. There are definitely times I wish I didn't have to split my month between covers and interiors just so I could get the books out faster, though.
Nrama: Providence is two issues away from its finale. Have you already mapped out, or thought about, what you want to do next?
Burrows: No, this series has been the longest project I've worked on and it's been pretty exhausting. I'm planning on just taking it easy for a bit, doing some covers and commissions and I'm moving soon as well. So I want to get situated and get my new studio space set up. I'm not even sure what kind of project I'll feel like drawing at that point but I will be ready to hit the ground running!
Nrama: That being said, do you have any bucket list projects on your mind to do someday?
Burrows: At some point I want to play with genres I haven't gotten to do yet. Fantasy, sci-fi, space opera. I just want to challenge myself and see what I could bring to the table in genres you can get really creative with. There is nothing more exciting than trying to come up with something no one has ever seen before.