JONATHAN LUNA ANSWERS 15 QUESTIONS WITH JULINDA MORROW
Jonathan Luna, who has worked for many years in partnership with his brother Joshua, first came to prominence in the comic book industry when Image published the brothers’ mini-series Ultra. The success of Ultra led to their next series Girls, followed by the limited series The Sword. The two latter titles, also, were published by Image.
The Luna’s open line style, which allows for the colouring of each page to breathe and take on a life of its own, has brought Johnathan many fans.
Next in Jonathan’s creative evolution is Star Bright and the Looking Glass, a 72-page full- colour, hard cover picture book, featuring blocks of prose instead of word balloons. Star Bright also marks Jonathan’s first solo project, sans Joshua, for Image. Star Bright and the Looking Glass goes on sale in November.
A gallery of Jonathan’s eye-catching art follows this interview.
Julinda Morrow: What path led you to comics and sequential art?
Jonathan Luna: When I was six or seven, I started reading Mad and Cracked magazines. They were so funny, and the cartoons and caricatures were amazing. Then I got into The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and X-Men, the Inferno series. In the 90s, I became a big fan of Jim Lee, Rob Liefeld, Whilce Portacio, and Todd McFarlane, and I followed their work into Image. I fell out of comics for a while, but after college (SCAD) in the 2000s, I began to read more mature stuff like Preacher, Transmetropolitan, Alias, Powers, and Blade of the Immortal. I had been drawing the whole time, and, when I was twenty-five, Ultra – co-created with my brother Joshua – was picked up by Image.
JM: What schooling or training did you receive?
JL: I started out self-taught since I was around five, but I refined my skills at the Savannah College of Art and Design, getting a BFA in Sequential Art.
JM: Who, in your opinion, are the pioneers of sequential art?
JL: Anyone who has made sequential art.
JM: How do you define sequential art?
JL: Art in a sequence to convey a message.
JM: Do you find that sequential art provides you with near-limitless possibilities for storytelling or do you experience it as constraining? Please elaborate.
JL: I guess it depends on how you define sequential art. Technically, film and video could be [considered] sequential art. But as for just comics and graphic novels, it’s not near limitless. You don’t have movement and sound. Other than that, you can do so much with it, using a very low budget. It’s a great medium.
JM: What qualities or resources do you believe are most important for a sequential storyteller to have?
JL: It seems that most sequential artists tend to be solitary people. They’re able to sit and work for a very long time. They need to be versatile, detail-oriented, and a bit obsessive. There are many aspects involved in creating comics – people, environments, architecture, objects, fashion, and so on; a sequential artist needs to be fluent in all of them. And, of course, there is the understanding of what a good story is and how to communicate it with imagery and text.
JM: How do you approach your work process?
JL: With the writing, I liken it to molding with clay, working with large shapes, then smaller and smaller. I start with universal themes, then figure out the plot, then break the story down into parts – the content for each issue. The issues are scripted using a simple list of shots and dialogue. With the art, I do small layouts of the pages, but I don’t like to take too much time with planning. If I plan too much, I get bored with the page, so I attack it with pencils quickly, then inks. Then I scan the page, do some editing in Photoshop, and color. Lettering is done in Illustrator. This is how I did comics since 2004, but, if I get back into comics – I’m working on an illustrated book right now – I may experiment with skipping the penciling and inking stage, and doing the drawings digitally.
JM: How many hours a day do you work? Are you uniformly productive on any given day or more productive on some days than others?
JL: On Ultra, Girls, and The Sword I was working about 11 hours a day, just about every day. It was grueling, but making the deadlines was very important to me. When you solicit a book you want to fulfill your promise and deliver so the retailers and readers will trust you. It can be very tough, though. Art isn’t a science, and it doesn’t always fit into a schedule. And there are other necessary things in life that can slow you down. Like eating and sleeping. [Laughs]
JM: Was it a struggle, at the start of your career, to find work and make ends meet?
JL: It was a bit of a struggle at first. After college, I went to the big cons and showed my portfolio around. I was very close to getting work, but I decided to stop relying on other people’s properties, and create my own destiny. I was unemployed and almost broke when Joshua and I sent our submission to Image. We got lucky – Ultra was picked up, and it’s a rarity to have that done through a cold submission by mail. After that, it just took a lot of hard work to deliver the goods.
JM: What has been your most valuable professional experience?
JL: All of it. Really. I started out as just an artist and also learned how to be somewhat of a businessman, flying by the seat of my pants. And I’m still learning every day.
JM: What inspires or informs you creatively?
JL: Probably movies and short films. I actually watch them more than I read comics, but I still read those too. Also, I seek out photography, fine art, illustration, and music on a daily basis.
JM: What is your position on digital comics? Are they a good thing or a bad thing?
JL: I don’t disagree with the use of digital comics but I haven’t had much experience with them either. I still prefer paper books – the physical format is part of the experience for me. But I’m sure digital comics are going to be superior, if they’re not already. They don’t take up physical space, they’re readily available, you don’t have to drive anywhere to get them or have them shipped, the images are exactly what the creators intended, and you can read them in the dark. If the pixels-per-inch are high, where you can’t see pixels, then yeah, digital comics will be hard to beat, and I’ll probably be converting.
JM: If you were to make any changes to the industry or the market what changes would you make?
JL: More variety in the kinds of comics. It’s happening slowly, but it’s happening surely.
JM: If you could apprentice under any artist at any time in history and anywhere in the world who would it be?
JL: No one. I just want to be me.
JM: What, in the future, would you like to accomplish creatively?
JL: I want to create until I’m dead.