The prolific and in-demand artist Jock will launch his new creator-owned series on February 16 - Snow Angels with writer Jeff Lemire. Published as part Amazon's ComiXology Originals program, Snow Angels will be a ten-part series exclusive to that digital platform.
In advance of that debut, Jock gave Newsarama a virtual tour of his artist studio while we discussed his work on Snow Angels, and in general.
Jock's studio is an enclosed building located in his garden. It's not huge, but according to him, it's a place where he can comfortably spend an average 9-to-5 workday churning out work.
"I basically come in every single day," Jock tells Newsarama, "and I try to do as much as I possibly can. Sometimes, that's not so much, and other days, it's a lot. I tend to work best when I'm feeling it; when I'm into what I'm doing. Sometimes, I wish I had a button that I wish I could turn on and just be productive because with comics there's always another page, there's always a deadline, there's always so much ahead of you that it's all you can do to just keep going. So that's always my goal."
Part of the reason he agreed to do this interview as a tour was because he wanted to multitask drawing Snow Angels pages while talking to us. As we talk, a multitude of inked pages can be seen in his studio. These inks are emotional and dramatic, packing all the intensity into black and white stills. Apparently, those inks are so effective that Jock wanted to keep their power even as he chose a palette with which to color the book.
"I don't always color my own work," he begins, "For most of my comics, I've had brilliant collaborators and colorists over the years. I've colored just a few things myself, and Snow Angels seemed like a good opportunity to do that. I was very keen to make it feel cold [...] When you're reading it, I want you to have this visceral reaction to it. And I found that the more atmosphere that I could keep on to it the better it looked."
As the title might suggest, Snow Angels is a very cold comic; it's set on an arctic landscape of ice and snow dubbed 'The Trench.' In order to give the book its freezing atmosphere, Jock employs a method of adding iciness to a page, which he described to me like this:
"I layer white textures over black inks. I'm still drawing traditionally, so I have my art board pages on. Then I scan them in, and I start putting in scanned textures of paint and ink and things. The more I did that, it felt like because of the nature of the environment of the story it could support it. The more I did it, the better I got, so I leaned into it and tried to give it as much atmosphere as I could."
And that's exactly how he was able to make a comic as cold as the February 16 release date.
Flipping through the Snow Angels paged provided by ComiXology (and seeing what's on Jock's desk), the story of the 10-part series begins to come together. Snow Angels revolves around 12-year-old Milli, who lives with her father and little sister Mae-Mae in the arctic wasteland of the Trench. Milli's life is all about survival; from the elements, from the roaming beasts, from the fragility of their situation. But underneath the story of survival are several huge mysteries; where is The Trench really located? What happened to the civilization before Milli's? And what's the deal with the future tech that seems to be popping up everywhere?
Jock represents the mysterious nature of this story in a lot of ways, but especially in how he dresses its main characters.
"The world the characters live in is unique because their culture is fairly basic. They live in tents, they build bonfires, they hunt to eat," the artist explains. "But, there's little remnants of more advanced technology coming from all around. No one really knows where that comes from. So to design costumes, what we did was look at hides, the kind of stuff that you would naturally gather through hunting and living in that civilization."
As we continue to go through the inked pages of Millie, Mae-Mae, and their father, a different character catches my eye. It is the most terrifying image yet: a picture of the blood-soaked antagonist and monster of Snow Angels, the Snowman. At first, I'm reluctant to talk about the mysterious figure as I'm afraid it will reveal plot points, but Jock reassures me he'll keep the surprises unspoiled. "I'll dance around it," he says.
"When I designed [the Snowman], I was thinking of him as an 'other.' Not necessarily a guy in a suit, not necessarily an alien... just something. It suited the myths behind the Snowman; that he was a scary, demon-type character you would tell your kids about. ‘Don't do this or the Snowman will get you,' that kind of thing. I tried not to be restrictive when I was designing him, but at the same time, he does represent a totally other side of this civilization and the society that they don't necessarily know about."
Talk then turned to this first-time collaboration with Jeff Lemire, and we discover the two have known each other for almost a decade now.
"I've known Jeff for a long time," explains Jock, "and we've talked about this project as far back as 2013 or 2014. I met him in London in 2017 and I took him on an hour-long walk to some of the sights as we talked to the story. At that point, I remember we were both busy with other stuff, but he was in London so we met up so we could talk through Snow Angels. Then he went back to Canada and, five or six days later, he sent me the first four scripts. He said, ‘don't feel pressured to draw this, but I was inspired by what we talked about here's the first four issues.' That had never happened to me before."
Despite Lemire being, in Jock's words, "an amazing artist and writer in his own right," he seems to have left most of the visual side of creating Snow Angels to Jock. According to the artist, Lemire "left the visual side to me, beyond what you might read normally in a script, you know, suggestions of what things might look like."
"The scripts are fantastic," Jock continues, "There's a real urgency and they're enjoyable to read. Which is my favorite aspect of a writer."
It's not the last compliment Jock has for Lemire as our time begins to wrap up. The more he talks about the writer, the more I get the sense of a friendship that exists between them, one that's partially responsible for how much enthusiasm Jock puts into this story.
When I ask Jock why the two creators click, the artist laughs. "I just like him!"
"A good creative partnership, there's a friendship element there. You know, it's people that you get on with it, that you resonate with. Beyond his work and how much I love his work, I really like Jeff. I would always be open to the idea of working with him if I have the time."
"Don't tell him that."
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