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:
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?
JU: (laughs) I’m ready. I think.
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.
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.
BN: Who would win in a fight: Darth Vader or ten Aliens?
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.
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 Amazon.com.