George, what is your artistic background?
Like most kids, I started drawing at an early age, but I just never stopped. I was the kid sitting at the professional drawing table in his room drawing 80s cartoon characters while the other kids were playing little league baseball. I was always filling up sketchbook after sketchbook, mostly with Ninja Turtle and Garfield drawings. My parents were always very encouraging to me, signing me up for extracurricular art classes and getting me that pro drawing table. I went to college for illustration at Paier College of Art in Connecticut and loved it. The teachers were like the grand masters to me — all gray-haired guys that smoked pipes on class breaks outside and dispensed amazing techniques and wisdom to us students while also allowing us to develop our own style.
What got you into comics and what are you working on at the moment?
As for comics, I got into them right around the time Jim Lee starting doing X-Men, so that was a nice introduction. I was mostly a Marvel and Image guy. What got me into them was solely the artwork. I’d get books simply because they had cool art. I really didn’t care about the stories at all, haha!
I’m always working on other projects — right now they aren’t specifically comics, but I’ve got some work to do for pulp author Barry Reese, who I’ve worked with for a few years now doing his covers and interior illustrations, as well as a bunch of other one-offs or projects that are too early to discuss. The up side is they’re all fun to work on!
How did you end up with writer Steve Hudkins and editor Steven Forbes? How was working with these other creators? Were there any challenges in this collaboration?
Steven Hudkins found me. I got a message from him through my website in July of 2014 and he asked me if I’d be interested in working on a short comic. I was busy at the time, working in-house at a video game studio, so I initially turned him down, but told him to send me the script anyway because I had artist friends who might be able to take the project. After I read his script, I got back to him and told him how much I liked it and wanted to be involved, but was still too busy to do it, so it went dormant for a few months. We got back in touch in late fall of that same year and figured out that yes, I’d be able to do it, but not until the spring of 2015. So it took almost a year to get going, but I’m so glad he held Swamp Magic for me because it was a pleasure to work on. Steven (Hudkins) came to me with a great script (kudos to Steven Forbes for that, too) and allowed me to have my input as well, which was great. It was an amazing collaborative experience, and we definitely want to work together again.
Anything in particular influenced your style of artwork for this story?
I work in a lot of different styles because I get bored doing the same thing all the time, but I always gravitate toward stylized characters like those in Swamp Magic. In addition, for this story, because of the pulp nature of it and the swamp setting, I really wanted it to be somewhat rough and textured, with a lot of dynamic brush strokes and sketchy lines, and lots of black shadows. Similarly, I wanted the color to be kind of murky and dirty, like it just came out of the swamp.
Have you ever been to a swamp and have any stories from it?
An actual swamp, no, but when we were kids, my family lived on a dead end street that backed up to woods, so my brothers and I would run around in there. There was a nice spot with this big tree that leaned at a 45 degree angle over a pond that we’d go to looking for deer or just exploring. Surprisingly, I don’t recall anybody ever falling off the tree into the pond, which would have made for a better story ending. Sorry! – What is your favorite Deep American South folklore, tale, story, myth, etc?
I love a lot of Robert E. Howard’s one-off short stories that take place in the south, like “Pigeons From Hell” and “Black Canaan.” I’ll also read or listen to anything that deals with spooky or weird cryptid stuff like skunk apes, swamp apes, mothman, etc. The tales are engaging and fun even if they’re just fiction.