Steve Skroce, the artist behind Image Comics’ hit series We Stand On Guard with Brian K. Vaughan, has a new project coming out, Maestros. Instead of just providing beautiful artwork, Skroce is pulling double duty and also writing.
Steve was kind enough to chat with us about Maestros, but we also discussed why he became a comic book artist and the advice he has for those who might want to pursue being a comic book writer or artist!
BIC: When did you start drawing and why?
Steve: I’m not exactly sure why. I think drawing was an escape, a way to express myself and stay connected to the comic book, movie and TV fantasy worlds I was obsessed with when I wasn’t reading or watching them.
BIC: Were you a natural at it?
Steve: I don’t think so. Initially I think it soothed and entertained me and over time I slowly acquired some skills. There’s always more to learn and I’ll never master or even be good at all of it but the process is still very gratifying.
BIC: What are your preferred tools? Digital screens or paper notebooks?
Steve: I draw my comic pages digitally these days but everything still starts on a blank page in a sketch book.
BIC: As you developed your artistic skill, did you look up to any artists or seek guidance?
Steve: There are people you admire along the way, maybe your work evolves away from their stylistic influence but i think everything you’re a fan of influences your tastes and choices. Sometimes it’s not difficult to recognize influences and that’s okay as long as you bring some of yourself to the table.
BIC: What was your motivation in entering the comic book industry?
Steve: I loved comics and there wasn’t anything else I saw myself doing.
BIC: How has the industry changed over the years?
Steve: The creator owned side of things is producing some really cool, innovative books and sales are always up and down it seems. Marvel and DC still do great stuff but I don’t think people recognize how difficult it is to keep those books fresh, they don’t have a third act by design, it’s kind of an endless middle, I understand the need for reboots.
BIC: How has social media helped or hindered those in the industry?
Steve: I couldn’t really say. I post stuff on Instagram and Facebook but it sometimes feels like extra work, but you need to do it I guess. The old fart in me wonders if the accessibility to people’s art the internet provides has diminished the role of the comics artist. Back in the old days if I wanted a Jim Lee fix I’d have to go to my long box pull out some comics and carefully remove them from their mylar sleeves, now you can look at curated artwork on a bunch of apps. I haven’t opened a long box in ages.
BIC: I want to ask you about your current project, Maestros. Can you tell us a bit about it?
Steve: The Maestro is the Monarch of Magic. A wizard king who rules over a myriad of magical worlds across this reality. He has over two hundred wives and twice as many children. My story begins with the Maestro and his entire royal family’s murder by an ancient enemy.
Now, the throne passes to the Maestro’s banished son and only living heir, William Little of Earth. With his father’s enemies everywhere can this Orlando, Florida born twenty something survive his new magical Kingdom?
BIC: It has a very heavy fantasy/sci fi theme within it. Are there any authors within those genres who might have played a role in inspiring you?
Steve: I love both those genres but Maestros is straight up fantasy with a bit of a cosmic vibe. Out side of the usual suspects like, Rowling, Gaiman and Tolkien I was inspired by Jack Vance and pretty much every fantasy movie of the 80’s.
BIC: Can you elaborate a bit about Maestros, what can fans of your past work expect from this comic?
Steve: It’s an action adventure tale with a bit of an irreverent tone. It has gore, some dirty jokes, romance and hopefully a fresh take on some classic fantasy tropes.
It asks the question ‘Can a nice guy stay nice if you give him ultimate power?’
BIC: Your story has a very interesting creation myth attached to it, one that places magic front and center. When coming up with the story, was this on your mind in the beginning or did it come later?
Steve: Some contemporary fantasy stories take place in wizarding schools but I always felt what a wizard does after the training was unclear, do they teach, go into finance? That evolved into the question what would the king of wizards do with his time. Magic solves all the scarcity resource problems that cause many conflicts, so I looked to the petty vindictiveness of the gods of mythology. My Maestros create and destroy worlds for their own amusement and the regard of other wizards, reality is a reality TV show for them.
I reveal that the Maestro’s created the Earth because they wanted to make a world where it’s denizens can’t wield magic, instead we’ve developed technological ingenuity and created a great vacation spot for the Maestro’s family that’s completely unique compared to the more traditional sword&horse&dark lord worlds that make up most of the Infinite Realms.
BIC: In writing Maestros, did the story development require you to edit your ideas often, or did it just flow out?
Steve: It’s a long process of writing down what comes to you and continually revising it over and over until it’s something I like.
BIC: As a writer, what has helped you the most in creating new ideas?
Steve: You’ve gotta read and you’ve gotta write and try and have a diverse media diet.
BIC: Do you have any advice for those who might want to develop their writing and/or their artistic skill?
Steve: Put in the hours and try and pay attention and remember you’ll never know everything and the learning never ends. The advice that always stuck with me came from a Neil Gaiman interview,”the thing that you have that’s different than anyone else is yourself.” I always think of that if the confidence tank is feeling empty.
Steve Skroce’s Maestros comes out next month from Image Comics. You can pick up your copy on October 18th, 2017.