Tito W. James: How did Cemetery Beach develop?
Jason Howard: Well, Warren [Ellis] and I were already working on Trees. Sometimes things pop up where you have ideas for other stories. Trees is a slow burn character drama, which I really like. But from an art place, I like to draw action. So, after a couple volumes of Trees I was feeling the itch to do something a little more fast-paced. And as Warren and I were talking, we had an idea and that became Cemetery Beach. It was a seven-issue mini-series that just wrapped up earlier this month.
It is full of action, very different in tone story-wise than Trees. It still has the trademark “Ellis” humor, character, and heart. I tried to do the action justice. It’s a ton of fun and I hope people like it.
TWJ: I’m a big fan of action comics. Fight scenes are very difficult to do in a static medium. What techniques to you use to make sure the action feels evocative on the page?
JH: A lot of it for me is making sure it’s clear. If characters are jumping off of a building, I try to set that up ahead of time. So, you anticipate it, see where they’re going, or see where they came from. Even though it’s a 2D medium, you can use the tricks of panel-to-panel storytelling to make it clear; they were up high and now they’re down low.
A lot of it is leaning into those classic comic book dynamic poses when they’re jumping in the air. It’s about balancing clarity and dynamism. If you make it too clear, it can be boring. You try to find that moment of dynamic action supported by clear paneling.
TWJ: I suppose if it’s too dynamic you could lose the thread of what’s happening.
JH: Then again, this is comics. So, can you ever be too dynamic?
TWJ: Do you have any advice to aspiring creators?
JH: Obviously, practice. But getting feedback on your art is really important. And getting feedback from people who have something to offer. My friends who were not comic book artists thought I was amazing because I was better than most kids in my class. But that didn’t really mean anything. Like, your Mom always thinks you’re great.
Coming to comic conventions, finding a way online to get feedback– I always find it easier in person. Sometimes online it can be difficult to communicate without people getting offended. Usually in person that can be done a lot easier.
I went to a lot of comic book shows with my portfolio. I would show artists and really anyone who would look at it. You might not connect with one person but if you show twenty people over a weekend and from ten of them you hear the same thing that’s a pretty big clue that it’s something to work on.
I’d like to thank Jason Howard for taking the time to do this interview. You can pick up Cemetery Beach at your local comic shop.