11 Questions with Jun Bob Kim

Welcome back to another 11 Questions interview and this time I was able to get some time with Jun Bob Kim who I know from The Comic Forums and the great Commission work he is doing.

Jun is also currently working on Cipher (formerly Ursula Wilde) with Steve Bryant which should be out in the near future and also Jun has given me some pages from the Free Comic Book Day Book to show you at the end of the interview.

You can find his latest commissions here and his Posters and Colour Pinups can be found here.

My Grendel Commission by Jun


  • 1. What initiated your interest in comics?

Comics have always been a part of my life. Spending your childhood in South Korea makes it nearly impossible for a person to grow up not reading comics. With virtually no cartoons on TV and the networks broadcasting only 4 hours a day, the only interlude to outside activities were reading. So given the choice between reading books without pictures or phone book anthologies loaded with illustrated stories of all genre, I took the “high road” of man-hwa (Korean for comics). 🙂 My interest in American comics did not flourish until my teenage years. When I was eleven, due to some unfortunate circumstances, my family was displaced to a small Pacific island. A tiny tropical island, it was a melting pot of its own in terms of cultures. I was exposed to American cartoons on TV such as He-Man and Thundercats but no means of getting comics. In fact, it never even occurred to me that there was an American counterpart of man-hwa. All that changed one fateful day at the local grocery store when I came across a beaten-up copy of Uncanny X-Men 271 on the stand. It was different than anything I’d ever known; even the art seemed more “mature” than what I was used to. To top it off, when I found out the artist behind that exquisite art was a Korean American (Jim Lee), it somehow gave me hope that someday I could be a comic book artist.

  • 2. Was it always your dream to work in comics or did you somehow ‘fall into it’?

My family confirms that if I wasn’t reading comics, I was drawing. While I drew constantly, the concept of fine art never appealed to me. I was mesmerized with the magic of illustrated storytelling and knew that I always wanted to be a comic book illustrator. The concept of a “career in comics” was foreign to me until after high school. My parents, wishing well, had always discouraged me from trying to make a living with anything related to art. So once that little spark of hope was lit by Jim Lee, I had to overcome many odds to continue my dream. I started to put samples together and even found a source material on how to submit those samples. It seemed, however, I was always a day late and a dollar short. Just before I was to mail in my samples in 1991, Marvel changed their submission policy. With no conventions within reach (I was on a 12×5.6 mile island!) and information being scarce during pre-internet days, I had no idea how to even approach DC. Ten years later, the closest I came to breaking in was being the final 3 artist being reviewed for Marvel’s Epic project, Phantom Jack.

So eighteen years later, with college behind me, family in tow, and a career in marketing on hand, I’m just inching towards being published in comics. All that to say, “falling into it” would not be my story, but something I definitely would have welcomed. 🙂

cgs_civilwar_poster by you.

  • 3. Who do you look up to as influences?

I’ve already mentioned Jim Lee as the one my first inspiration to American comics. Needless to say, I started off mimicking his style in the beginning. Once I got over the initial stage of being completely smitten by Jim Lee’s art, I started to broaden my horizon somewhat. In my developmental stages, I remember studying Dale Keown’s work on Hulk. Then came the whole crock pot of influences: I started absorbing different elements from every comic greats from the past and the present. I spent hours pouring over the work of the legends from the past because there’s always something I can learn from their work. I consider today’s artists as my “inspirations” rather than “influences”. Travis Charest has been an inspiration since his WildCATS reboot days when he started experimenting with grayscale washes. Bryan Hitch’s work on Ultimates inspired me to start drawing comics again after a ten-year hiatus. Masterful work of Ivan Reis, Olivier Coipel, Steve McNiven, Ethan Van Sciver, John Cassaday, JG Jones, and countless others inspire me to try something a little different. Alex Maleev, John Pau Leon, Tommy Lee Edwards, Mark Lark and others that draw in styles which I can’t even mimic still inspire me to learn something from their art.

  • 4. What has been your biggest achievement you have had so far in the comic industry?

Well, I’m a bit ashamed on this department. I don’t consider anything I’ve done in the comic industry significant enough to warrant an interview like this. The biggest achievement for me personally is the cover of the premier issue of Comics NOW! magazine and the five page Ursula Wilde story for Ape Entertainment’s Free Comic Book Day book. There are few others that I’m quite fond of. The comic series Holy Wars I created (totally unrelated to the religious jihad of today) and published in my college newspaper won 2 intercollegiate awards. One of the most meaningful thing I’ve done would be the collaboration work I was able to do with DC-exclusive Mike Norton and indie sensation Steve Bryant for the CGS SuperShow ’08 Poster. More than commemorating the event, the poster was a tribute to a comic store owner, Godfather of CGS (Comic Geek Speak) and a very special person in all aspect — Lem Fasnacht. Contributing anything to honor the life of someone who touched so many people’s lives was rewarding in ways a paycheck, fame or a successful career could not replace.

  • 5. You are working on Cipher with Steve Bryant, What it is like doing the art for another artist?

I appreciate you bringing this issue up because it gives me a chance to speak of Steve Bryant’s upstanding character. Anytime a person has to draw something that another artist has created, the potential for conflict exist. Initially, I approached the project gingerly as not to step on any toes. However, shortly into the project, I discovered that my concerns were unwarranted. In fact, Steve Bryant and Molly McBride (co-writer) invited me to become a full collaborator on the project. Steve granted me such incredible latitude and deep level of collaboration that I immediately felt a sense of ownership with the characters and the property. He described the scenes with total clarity; but I’m sure I missed the mark on nailing some scenes. Instead of scrutinizing such oversight, he always gave me room to breathe my own creative air. He and Molly even allowed me to add 2 whole pages to the first issue of three-part story arc, The Sorcerer Pope. I’m sure I do things differently than he would in many cases; however, he has not once demanded any changes from me. Even if the artist were not a gracious a person as Steve, an artist writing a script does have its advantages — e.g., an artist understands artists’ pain. Thankfully, an artist will not write a panel featuring 300 people all with different expressions on their faces, etc. I’m grateful that I’m getting my publishing feet wet with Steve Bryant there to guide me.

  • 6. When you are working on projects, in your experience, do you prefer working with a straight writer or a writer artist?

In my personal experience, I’ve had several failed attempts at trying to get projects going with 2 different straight writer while finding success with a writer artist, such as Steve Bryant. I just want to warn anyone reading this to not form any generalizations from my experiences, considering my limited experience as a comics creator. When I reflect on those failed attempts, I experienced some frustrations in working with straight writers who had difficulties seeing the scenes clearly in their minds or communicating to me what they envisioned. In some instances, I had to draw same scenes over many times, the writer liking it at first and then changing his mind months later. There were other challenges in collaboration. Often, the writer realized what he did not want after I’d drawn what he thought he wanted. There were instances in which I pitched an idea with sketches, his rejecting the idea, no communications for months, and then suggesting my idea back to me as if it were his own. Those projects not seeing success, however, are not entirely on the writers’ shoulders. I attribute it much to my immaturity as an artist, being unsure of my own draftsmanship and storytelling capabilities and not knowing how to say no.

I should add that Molly McBride, being a straight writer, has been a pleasure to work with and a great collaborator to have. As mentioned earlier, nothing but love for Steve!

  • 7. Do you have any ideas that you want to develop into a comic book?

I have several ideas that I’d love to develop into a comic book. There are two personal projects that I’m dreaming of being able to work on someday, details which I probably should not go into. One dabbles in sci-fi genre of galactic scale and the other an allegory of Asians in Hollywood. For the longest time, there has been a burning desire to see, converted into comics, two novels by Frank Peretti — This Present Darkness and Piercing the Darkness. Each novel weaves the tale of spiritual battle in which angels and demons engage in warfare and the mankind playing a crucial role in the struggle. I heard that they were optioned for movies for a while now, but think comics would do it perfect justice. Of course, I would love to be the one to illustrate it. 🙂

  • 8. What has the reaction to your art been?

This is a really tough question for me. The response I’ve encounter so far have been mostly favorable. I’m insanely grateful that so many people have paid good money to get commissions from me. Reality is that I don’t have a mainstream book published yet and thus have not received the mainstream criticism of the masses. My concern is that I have not been truly “tested by fire” by the harsher critics that vote with their dollars. I’m sure there are people out there having struggling to keep their latest meal down when they see my work. For now, I have not been confronted by them. Reactions from most of the editors and industry pros have been favorable also. I actually think this is a question I should as you instead. Be sure to tell me, whether good or bad, what you might hear along the way.

  • 9. You have been doing a lot of commissions over the years. What is your favourite and most memorable?

Don’t you know that this is like asking a parent which one of the children is his favorite? I’m actually surprised how my Wolverine commissions seem to have turned out well. Wolverine, as part of X-Men, was my first intro to the American comics after all… If I had to pick one, the newest Superman vs. Captain Marvel would have to be my all-time favorite. Not only is this a concept that really appeals to me but the actual process of drawing were executed flawlessly. Almost everything art technique I wanted to experiment with actually worked out without a hitch.

The most memorable one, however, was the collaboration (with Mike Norton, Green Arrow & Black Canary, Trinity and Steve Bryant, Athena Voltaire) poster we drew for CGS SuperShow ’08. Although my interaction with Lem was brief, he left a deep impression on me during CGS 300 in ’07. When I heard of his passing before I could return to continue our conversation in ’08, I joined many others in mourning the loss. When the framed, original art of the poster was presented to Lem’s family at the SuperShow, not a dry eye was in the house from the moving, kind reaction of the family.

  • 10. What genre that you haven’t worked on before would you like to try your hands at?

Sci-fi. Intergalactic adventures with galaxies to explore. Different races, unique cultures, fresh architectures, unexplored technologies, even new laws of physics… limitless imaginations, endless possibilities! I have a concept that I’d begun mapping out a while ago, but it is way too much in infancy to discuss. Even though I’d only dabbled in horror comics (with projects that were never-published), I never really saw myself fit for horror comics. I’m not a big fan of the horror genre in any media (I know, I know… I didn’t forget on whose website this interview will be featured). However, I’ve had numerous horror writers tell me that they think my style would be a good fit for horror. I’m still scratching my head on that one.

  • 11. Who would be the one person you would want to work with if you had the chance and why?

Assuming you meant a writer, I would choose Geoff Johns at this time. I had never been a Green Lantern fan until I came across Green Lantern: Rebirth. Follow that with up Sinestro Corps War and the Blackest Night, I’d never been so engrossed in one particular property. This is a surprise, considering by default I follow the artist rather than the property or the writer.

If I was to name artists to collaborate with, there are too many to mention. One dream I do have is to see my pencils inked (corrected in another words) by Kevin Nowlan in true Nowlan-style. Just so I could say, “See how he fixed this face, altered that pose and added that shadow? Why did I think of that?!?”

fallenheroes_clr_preview.jpg

I’d like to thank Jun for his time to do this interview with me and as a bonus he has given me a heap of his art from across the years.

Click on each of the images to see a larger image.

Three pages (never seen before) from issue one of the upcoming Cipher story arc, the Sorcerer Pope.

5 Page Ursula Wilde FCBD Story

One of my first submission attempts to Marvel, featuring Wolverine & Hulk. 1990.

Another submission attempt featuring Punisher. 1991. Too many errors to point out… and editor would have had a field day with them. I don’t know where all the violence came from, but I was one disturbed young man. It would have had to be MAX LINE for sure, right?

Okay, one of my first pieces ever of drawing an American comic book character. You should notice that this was a blatant aping of Jim Lee’s Wolverine.

Some unfinished pieces of submissions to Valiant Comics. Valiant pretty much closed doors before I had a chance to finish the pieces.

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