Since breaking into comics in 2000, superstar writer Robert Kirkman has struck up long-term collaborations – and friendships – with several artists on his titles. Guys like Cory Walker, Charlie Adlard and Cliff Rathburn are part of an unofficial team with Kirkman – and the most recent inductee into the gang is artist Jason Howard. Howard and Kirkman created the Image series Astounding Wolf-Man; a series that comes to an end with next week’s 25th issue. But as Howard tells Newsarama, there’s something new brewing between the two.
For those that don’t recall Jason Howard’s name in comics before bursting on the scene with Astounding Wolf-Man in 2007, you’re not the only one. Although Howard had done some minor work for small publshers in the 90s, he really didn’t jump into the career of comics until meeting Robert on the convention circuit and meshing over some pin-ups for Invincible. Once Astounding Wolf-Man was up and running in 2008, Howard left his day job in Michigan to join the comics workforce full-time. Earlier this year he joined forces with Invincible artist Ryan Ottley on the hilarious one-shot Sea Bear & Grizzly Shark, and for the past three issues of Astounding Wolf-Man he’s been drawing and writing a backup feature telling the origin of a hero introduced in the book called Code Blue.With the final installment of Astounding Wolf-Man just days away and Newsarama in the midst of “Kirkmanarama Week”, we talked with Howard about his work, his collaboration, and his partnership with Chick-Fil-A.
Newsarama: Let’s start with an easy one – what are you working on today?
Jason Howard: Today I have been working on designing characters for the next project that Robert and I are going to be doing. I finished up the final Astounding Wolf-Man pages last week, so I have been doing a bunch of design stuff since then and I should be starting to draw pages soon. Unfortunately the project is all top secret for now. But I am sure there will be an announcement before too long.
Nrama: And we’ll be first on the line to talk to you and Robert about that. How would you describe your working relationship with Robert, Jason?
Howard: Good. He writes stuff and I draw it. We have a pretty good rapport, so if I ever have questions or anything I just ask. I'll sometimes give him suggestion of things that I want to draw and he will sometimes work those into the script. [laughs]
Nrama: I interviewed Robert earlier and asked about the participation with the artists on his books, and how Charlie Adlard likes to be surprised by the scripts while Ryan Ottley is anxious to know what’s coming up. How would you describe your approach to scripts?
Howard: I prefer to know what is coming up. That doesn't always happen, but when it does it is helpful; particularly if there are new characters or other things that I need to design. I don't necessarily have all my good ideas on the same day so having advance notice gives me time to think about different options and work out design stuff before I actually have to draw the page. However usually we just discuss big picture story things so there are always surprising things in the scripts even if it is just how a certain story point is executed.
Nrama: While preparing for this interview, I dug up an interesting new comic you’re doing called Deci-Bell. Before I spoil it, can you tell us about it?Howard: Deci-bell is sure to be a great new hero for the next generation ... the next generation of cows anyway. It is a comic I drew for Chick-Fil-A about the adventures of a super powered cow and her battle against an evil beef empire. It was written by Brian Smith and was pretty fun to do. It’s geared for a younger audience so don't expect any Astounding Wolf-Man-level eviscerations, but it does have hamburger robots.
Nrama: Hamburger robots – the bane of a chicken-only joint. How’d you get involved with Chick-Fil-A?
Howard: I was contacted by the agency that was putting the books together for Chick-Fil-A they asked if I'd be interested in drawing an issue. I asked if there were free chicken sandwiches in it for me. They said "of course" and here we are. There are actually 5 issues in the series, each one featuring a different cow hero and each one with a different creative team, so go collect them all.
Nrama: And how can I – erhm, our readers – get a hold of this book?Howard: Go to your local Chick-Fil-A. I think they are a part of the kids’ meals. Or build a time machine and go back to San Diego Comic-Con, where people in cow costumes were giving them away out on the streets.
Nrama: Until your fast-food-comics career goes full-time, what else are you working on?
Howard: I am working full steam on the secret Kirkman project. Aside from that I am doing a little writing for a couple personal projects that may someday see daylight. Also Ryan Ottley and I are kicking around ideas for a possible Sea Bear & Grizzly Shark follow up. To stay up date on all this stuff, keep tabs on my blog at www.JasonHowardArt.com or Twitter where I am @theJasonHoward.