Jeremy Bastian’s incredibly detailed pen-and-ink work for his book Cursed Pirate Girl has earned him a cult following over the past few years, garnering raves from the likes of Mike Mignola, My Chemical Romance/The Umbrella Academy’s Gerard Way, and The Venture Brothers’ Jackson Publick.
Now new readers can see what all the hype was about with the new trade paperback collection of Cursed Pirate Girl, which comes out in which was printed through donations in a Kickstarter campaign that raised an unprecedented $36,000.Bastian, who appears at the NC ComicCon this weekend, talked about what it took to get the book together, the upcoming audio production of Cursed Pirate Girl starring Mirrormask’s Stephanie Leonidas, and what major DC character he’d love to do a story about in the future.
Newsarama: Jeremy, the fans really came through for putting this collection together! That’s got to be very exciting for you.
Jeremy Bastian: Yeah, I’m extremely excited and extremely grateful to all my fans and all the professionals out there who have taken an interest in this book and enjoyed it. So, thanks!
Nrama: Tell us about the Kickstarter campaign.
Bastian: I was unaware of Kickstarter before. My publisher, Thomas Negovan, said, “Hey, there’s this website that helps give companies a boost to start different projects, and I think I can get Cursed Pirate Girl on it, and it would help promote the book.
The people at Kickstarter were really interested in it. We did an interview with one of their reporters, and we put a low goal of $2,500, which we met in two days. The amount of people who donated to this was really incredible – something like 14 times we were asking for, which ensures the book will get published, and that we’ll get to do all of Volume Two. So I’m just looking forward to being able to get the book to people.
Nrama: You had some interesting requirements for what you wanted to do with the trade – printed on recycled materials, and printed in the US. I’m curious about what went into the production design.
Bastian: I’m just putting my nose to the grindstone and trying to get the book out there – I leave a lot of that production stuff to Tom and Olympian Publishing. And they’re doing a great job – everything is green-friendly printing on recycled materials, and the covers are hand-stamped with our logo and price tag. I believe the trades will be hand-stamped as well.
Nrama: And there’ll be some new material in this…?
Bastian: I did a four-page epilogue, and that’s it for right now. And there’ll be some pin-ups and things, but you’ll have to wait until the whole book to come out before the back-up pages in the individual issues to be collected – I don’t want to collect only part of those.
Nrama: And of course there’s the audio production. What can you tell us about that?
Bastian: Well, the audio play is an idea Tom came up with. We’re trying to arrange something for libraries and bookstores where kids can come and buy trades at the event location, and we can play the cast recording of the first volume.
There’ll be an orchestral score to accompany it, and we got some amazing actors to act it out. Grant Morrison and Dave McKean are doing the Swordfish Brothers, and it’s a little intimidating having an amazing writer like Grant Morrison read my pathetic scrawls.
Nrama: And Stephanie Leonidas from Mirrormask is reading the part of Cursed Pirate Girl…
Bastian: Yeah, Mirrormask is something I think is really, really cool, and she was just awesome in this part. I still haven’t met her in person, and I hope to in the near future.
Nrama: How’d it feel to have so many international people come out to interpret your story?
Bastian: It’s really cool – it’s almost as cool as if a movie had come out. The sheer number of people who are excited about this, and who have lent it their names to give it some credit…especially given that it’s from a small publisher and is a relatively new book…I can’t believe it.
Nrama: And you’d said that you’re focusing 100 percent on Vol.2, the next three issues that will resolve the story?
Bastian: Yeah. I mean, I have a few small things that keep pulling me back in, but I have the script for all three issues written. I have not yet been able to sit down and go, “This is the beginning of the end!” It will happen, eventually. (laughs)
Nrama: You joked to me at Heroes Con that you were trying to be the slowest artist in comics…
Bastian: Well, I’m not trying, but it looks like it might be that way. It’s not a title I want to hold, but it might be one that’s awarded to me. I’m trying to be faster. But my publisher has called me “The Rain Man of Comics,” and I’m pretty proud of that. I might get T-shirts made up, if that’s not copyright infringement.
Nrama: Well, I didn’t mean that as something detrimental – you can see the sheer amount of detail that goes into every page. And these are drawn at the actual size they’re printed at…?
Bastian: Oh yeah. Everything I do, I draw at actual size. I’ve been trying different things for a long time, trying to find my comics niche. I was working for charcoal pencil for a while, and tried reducing those, and microns for a while, and reducing those.
I finally decided to just draw at the size it would be printed at, because it would save time, and I could figure out how much space I had for word balloons, and I would know what the image would look like.
So I do it all at actual size. I thumbnail out the script, then I do a rough, and then I do each panel, making sure it corresponds to what I and hopefully the audience would like. Then I lightbox it, and I ink it all with a brush. The inking and shading is all pretty much free hand.
Nrama: How long does it take you to do an issue of Cursed Pirate Girl?
Bastian: The last issue took about a year to complete, but that wasn’t working on just the comic – there were a couple of portfolios I had to complete, a little projects here and there – a map-poster, that sort of things. But it was about a year.
Nrama: Have you found that side projects like the Mouse Guard story have gotten you more attention?
Bastian: Yeah, a lot of devoted Mouse Guard fans who saw my stuff in Legends of the guards have come up to me and said, “Hey, this looks good!”
And I appreciate those who check it out even though it’s very different from that book – there’s no color, for example, and when I was a kid I would flip through comics and just not buy them if there was no color. (laughs) My tastes have broadened as I’ve gotten older.
Nrama: And the Little Nemo commission you did for a fan has gotten blogged around the Internet quite a bit. A lot of people have commented on how well you captured Winsor McCay’s original style. What can you tell us about that piece?
Bastian: Well, I’m a huge Winsor McCay fan. I have several of the oversized collections, and I think it’s just amazing. He actually went to school at what is now Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti, which is where I grew up. I went to the art college on campus, and heard he went there, and wouldn’t even attend classes –he’d head down to Detroit to do sketches.
I have a very high respect for his books – I don’t think there’s too many other books like that. So I wanted to keep the spirit of that while adding my own craziness, so you get the floral thing with all the jewels and bracelets and rings and things in there.
Nrama: And the guy who commissioned it said it took you two full weeks of 10-hour days to do that…?
Bastian: Well, when I totaled up my work record, that’s what it about came to, yeah. I laid it out, lightboxed it, and then slowly began working down from the top left corner to the bottom right. I sort of catalogued how much I would do per day by making a picture with my phone – “Yeah, today was more productive than yesterday…”
It is the largest piece I have done to date in that brush-and-ink style, and I am actually working on something now that will top that. (laughs) I’m really looking forward to getting that out.
Nrama: What can you tell us about this super-big piece?
Bastain: Well, once the Kickstarter thing picked up, Tom posted a bit saying, “Yay, we reached our goal! But we have a secret goal, which is 500 backers!” At that point, I didn’t think we’d reach that, but we surpassed it. Tom had promised a special print to anybody and everybody who’d kicked in for this.
So I’m doing a Cursed Pirate Girl print for this, and I’m really looking forward to getting those out to people. The Little Nemo piece I have turned into a print, which I’m selling at cons. They’re stained with tea, like all my other prints, and they’ll sell for $25. The other one probably won’t be done until January, but people can maybe look forward to seeing that next year on the convention circuit.
Nrama: Do you see yourself working in any other media, such as illustrated children’s books or animation?
Bastian: There has been some talk of the next Cursed Pirate Girl story arc being in more of a storybook type format, where there would be more single-page splash pages or double-page spreads to go along with a prose story. And I really like that approach, I just don’t know if I can kick the habit of doing a full-comic format. But we’ll see.
As for other ideas, I don’t know if I’d have the time to do a full storybook, just because of how long it takes me to do what I do now. I’ve got a lot of personal stories I want to get out there.
Nrama: Would you ever want to do anything from Marvel or DC?
Bastian: I haven’t been approached, but I would love to do a Swamp Thing story, because he is one of my all-time favorites. I remember reading the Alan Moore “Sophisticated Suspense” back in the day, with John Totleben drawing all this twisted stuff – underwater vampires, Swamp Thing turning himself into a mountain, you know.
It’s a very organic book, which is probably why it’s still one of my favorites. Anything that’s not mechanical I love to draw. I’d love to do a Swamp Thing story, but who knows?
Nrama: What do you most enjoy about working in the medium of comics?
Bastian: Well, I wanted to work in comics since I was three feet fall, basically. I had a cousin who was doing his own self-published comic, and I thought he was the coolest guy ever. He got me into drawing comics and reading comics, into stuff like New Mutants and The Uncanny X-Men.
I’ve been lucky to have a couple of very understanding parents who have been supportive of me being in comics. I just love it.
Cursed Pirate Girl pillages ye olde comic shop Dec.15. The Diamond order code is NOV100989.