Guns, Gals, & Astral Travel  

Find out in our interview with Image Comics' John "Roc" Upchurch
by Blake Northcott

Comic book fans, at heart, are treasure hunters. It’s virtually impossible to purchase and read every single book that comes out each month; with time and money being a factor, fans are forced to pick and choose their titles. Once in a while, I’ll grab something off the shelf based solely on the cover or an interesting premise, and sometimes – maybe once a year – I’ll find a gem. It’s exhilarating. Like Lara Croft crawling through a torch-lit cave (at least that’s how I see myself because I’m a huge dork) I’ll discover a real, honest-to-goodness treasure, hiding out in plain sight.

In 2012, John Upchurch was that find.

Not only is he one of the most uniquely-talented artists working today, he has a style that’s more than just beautiful – it’s refreshing. At just thirty years old he continues to evolve as an artist with every new project, a fact that’s evident when browsing his portfolio.

There is a LOT of talent outside of “the big two” in the comic book world (Marvel & DC), waiting to be discovered by a wider audience. But in the next year, if I had a to put money on a single person who might break out as the next Fiona Staples or Andrea Sorrentino, John Upchurch would be my bet.

I had a chance to chat with “Roc” about a number of topics, and find out what’s coming up for him in 2013:

VESCELL #5 Cover - by John ‘Roc’ Upchurch

VESCELL #5 Cover – by John ‘Roc’ Upchurch

Blake Northcott: Hey there! Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me today.

John ‘Roc’ Upchurch: Hey, Blake! Of course, thank you for having me.

BN: So most people know you for illustrating Image Comic’s Vescell which is written by Enrique Carrion. What originally drew you to the project, and how did it all come about?

JU: Well, Enrique and I worked together on a project before. So when he approached me with the Vescell idea I was already interested because I knew how creative he was as a writer. I knew it would be a fun project to work on. Also the mixing of genres in Vescell really piqued my interests.

BN: Very nice. So Vescell debuted back in 2011, and there has been a lot of discussion among fans about its future – if it will be a limited series, if it will continue on – what is happening in 2013 with the title?

JU: Vescell will be wrapped up in one more double-sized issue, and then it’s done. And we’re packing a lot in this last issue, which is saying a lot for Vescell. But we really needed to go out with a bang.

BN: I can’t wait! When can fans expect to see that issue hitting the shelves?

JU: The date’s not exact yet but I’d say around mid-to-late April.

BN: Please let us know as soon as the date is set! So I have to ask about your style. It’s so unique – especially the way you draw women. You have a way of giving the female figure a voluptuous but realistic look, and you draw different kinds of bodies — which is different from the typical ‘hourglass’ figure you see in most mainstream comics.

Is this just part of your style, or is it something you consciously make a choice to do? And have women commented on this, because I think it’s fantastic.

JU: (laughs) Women actually comment on it all the time. I’ve had women thank me for drawing a body type outside of the Barbie shape. But it’s definitely a conscious decision. I never really liked that cookie cutter, comic book, Coke bottle shape. It just never appealed to me.

I always preferred the way women were portrayed in renaissance art. And later artists like Frank Frazetta. There’s a weight and meatiness to it that is really attractive and much more feminine to me than the anorexic chicks with huge balloons.

BN: I agree! That is funny that you bring up Frank Frazetta because the last time I was looking through your portfolio his name sprung to mind. So what’s ahead for you in 2013? Can you spill any juicy details besides the final double-sized Vescell?

JU: I have a couple of things in the works. The project in the forefront right now is something I’m developing with Kurtis Wiebe. It’s basically Sex & the City meets Lord of the Rings. That’s really all I can say for now but you’ll hear more about it soon.

And I have my first art book coming out in about a month called Trial and Error. It’s just a collection of old and new unseen art.

BN: Sex & the City meets Lord of the Rings? I’m already sold! I can’t wait to see the art book as well. It sounds like you have some great projects on the way. Any Con appearances you want to mention?

JU: Only show I know for sure right now is C2E2 next month. I’ll be in artists’ alley. I was supposed to be at SDCC again this year but had to cancel. I’ll be at a couple more just not sure which yet.

BN: That’s great — well please come back soon and give me an update so we can catch up with you. Are you ready for the lightning round?

by John ‘Roc’ Upchurch

by John ‘Roc’ Upchurch

JU: (laughs) I’m ready. I think.

Lightning Round!

BN: Alright…don’t worry — I know it’s your first time so I’ll be gentle. What was the best movie of 2012?

JU: Hmmm…(long pause)

BN: Sorry, the answer I was looking for is The Avengers. What movie are you most looking forward to in 2013?

JU: (laughs) I was trying to think of something less obvious, but yeah. The Avengers was the most fun I’ve had at the movies in a long time. Those movies are what I’ve wanted since I was a kid reading Thor and X-Men comics.

I’m really looking forward to Snyder’s Man of Steel. I think he’s a visual genius and can’t wait to see what he does with Clark.

BN: I am looking forward to Man of Steel too!
Watchmen: a great graphic novel, or the greatest graphic novel?

JU: Honestly? I’ve never read it. I actually have it and have for years, and somehow just never got around to reading it.

BN: (stunned silence)

JU: I just crushed so many people.

BN: Wow. Please tell me you’ve at least seen the movie?

JU: I have, which is partly why I didn’t read it. When the movie was coming out I wanted to read it, but didn’t. And then after, I was Iike; “Well do I really need to read it now?”

BN: What comics are you currently reading, and is there one in particular you’d recommend that people might not be familiar with?

JU: Right now I’m trying to play catch-up. Since I started making books I’ve got a lot less time to read them. But I’ve been reading J.H. Williams’ Batwoman, Brian Wood’s Conan and Fraction’s Hawkeye.

I wish I was reading a lot more just don’t have the time. Now I’m just buying my kids’ comics.

Meanwhile, enjoy this exclusive teaser of his upcoming book Rat Queens

Meanwhile, enjoy this teaser of his upcoming book Rat Queens

BN: I hear you — so many comics, so little time!

If you could have any superpower what would it be?

JU: Healing factor.

BN: Oh, good choice! What is the first rule of Fight Club?

JU: Don’t talk about Fight Club?

BN: What flavor should more things come in?

JU: Bacon. Or cheesesteak.

BN: Correct — I would have also accepted Dr. Pepper flavor.

JU: (laughs)

BN: Who would win in a fight: Darth Vader or ten Aliens?

by John ‘Roc’ Upchurch

by John ‘Roc’ Upchurch

JU: Like Alien aliens? Or the green midgets from Toy Story?

BN: (laughs a lot) The Alien Aliens…

JU: Vader either way.

BN: I think Vader could just stomp the little toys.

Alright, one final question: If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

JU: I’m proud of you.

BN: I’m sure He is…not about missing out on reading Watchmen, but probably all the other stuff you did.

JU: (laughs) I’m sure i lost some points for Watchmen.

BN: Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me! Let’s talk again soon, okay?

JU: Of course. It was my pleasure.

You can catch up with Roc at his official portfolio on Deviant Art, and don’t forget to follow him on Twitter!

Robots? Comics? Punk babes? this heaven?

Robots? Comics? Punk babes? …is this heaven?

Blake Northcott is an author, Twitter-er, and occasional Slayer of Vampires (only the ones that sparkle).You can follow her on Twitter, or pick up her best-selling Sci-Fi/Superhero books Vs. Reality and Relapse over at

Drink and Draw--the original social club

Drink and Draw–the original social club

Blake previously asked Are Comic Book Artists the New Rock Stars? and answered her own question in She Makes Geek Chic.

More from Blake Northcott

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