Kickin' It with Jon Malin
Jon Malin is a comic book artist who has recently made his debut on a title called Nitrogen. It debuted this summer at the San Diego Comic Convention with plans to ship through Diamond later this year. Also working on the book with Jon is Rob Liefeld who plotted it and created the characters and for that matter the universe in which this takes place. Brandon Thomas of Marvel Adventures, Spider-Man Unlimited, and Youngblood Genesis fame is handling the script.
I interviewed Jon asking him about his childhood, inspiration and of course the Nitrogen comic.
First off let me say thank you for agreeing to answer my questions and congratulations on a very nice looking book.
Not a problem, Jason. Thanks for taking the time to interview nobodies like me.
Have you always been interested in comic books? Do you remember the first comic you bought and who your early favorites were growing up?
I was always into comic type characters but only due to cartoons like Spiderman and his Amazing Friends, or Adam West's Batman, Christopher Reeve's Superman, GI Joe, Transformers, GoBots, Blackstar, He-Man/She-Ra*Cough*, Mask, Bravestar, Spiral Zone, Visionaries, CAPTAIN POWER!!!!, Dungeons and Dragons, Kid Video, Centurians, COPS, Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors, and all the great cartoon shows of the 80's. I was a cartoon NUT, I even watched JEM, she was truly outrageous and don't think that when I saw it on Robot Chicken that I didn't die laughing. I Absolutely LOVE Robot Chicken thanks to all the 80's nods it gives.
Anyways, I was always a loser...I mean, day dreamer. I would often sit by myself on the school bus, stare out the windows and imagine where I would ride my Voltron Lion off into the woods of Michigan, how cool I would be when I build my speeder bike zipping past the bus, I would be a little sad when someone sat by me, because I knew they would interrupt my world of solitude at any moment. Anyways, My comic book love got it's start when my little brother asked me to draw him some Ninja Turtles, before this I had only ever really designed my costumes for when I would be a secret masked avenger or draw horses from when I was going to be the Lone Ranger. (Everyone in my family thought I'd grow to become a REAL horse painter but my goals were much more important than I could tell them, I didn't want to put them at risk!.) So I grabbed his coloring books and studied and drew him his stupid Turtles....those--those-- WONDERFUL TURTLES! I started drawing them at school and my class mates went nuts! I was ALMOST cool! So now I was drawing turtles for a few months and then one day I came home from school and my big brother, who was always in trouble had gone to a grocery store and stole a ton of comic books, they were all over the floor and I was stunned, not that my brother was working on a career in crime but that these things were MUCH better than Turtle coloring books! I never looked back, at 14 I knew what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. But I knew it would take some work to get there.
What are some of your favorite comics today?
Jeph Loeb and Mike Turner's run on Superman/ Batman was the last thing I liked. I was digging on the Millar/ Romita Wolverine as well.
You are clearly a multi talented guy. You pencil, ink, color and co-plot Nitrogen, was it a goal of yours to be able to assist in all aspects of production of a comic book?
I wouldn't say I've co-plotted Nitro Gen, I tossed a couple ideas at Rob but he's sailing the ship. But yes, I've always wanted to be apart of every part of the creative process. I love comic books and want to make the best ones, to do that I think it helps to not only have a slight idea of what writers, artists, inkers and colorists do but to understand it all in detail as best I can(Still working on the writing part). With that said, I hate the business end of comics, I was a production assistant at Image Comics for a couple of years and it sucked. I had to deal with 15-20 new books a month, almost all had 5 people a piece that wanted to be the chief and have me on their short list for problems and I was twisting and turning to stay on top of things and felt burnt out. Some creators can be VERY temperamental and I didn't get paid enough to put up with their shit.
Who stacks up there as some of your greatest artistic influences? Looking at your style you could call it a fusion of 90’s energy with a slick almost manga like finish.
You about hit it on the head for what I try to accomplish. I love the 90's artwork, one day I hope I can help people to remember it as a time of influential work and not as a decade of shame as history is trying to write it in my perception. I am influenced by Todd McFarlane, Rob Liefeld, Jim Lee, Travis Charest, Miller, Eisner and many others and I always try to get in my Shirow and Otomo. Manga is nothing new to comics and I think it sucks that everyone hires "Manga" guys for the wrong reasons, they think if they hire someone that draws really cartoony faces that they'll have a hit. They can't put two and two together IMHO. Shirow and Otomo's brilliance is in their ability to suck you into their work. McFarlane got this more than anyone else I think.
How did you land your job at Arcade?
I met Rob briefly through his Assistant, Shane Peters. I then showed Rob my work at WWLA 2004 and he had me do a pin-up. It went into Young Blood Imperial #1 and he said we'd work together. Soon as I was free from Image he picked me up.
Rob Liefeld has said elsewhere that Nitrogen is kind of like the Authority, but with teenagers. Was this the idea you guys had going in or did it evolve into that as you started working on the book?
I think Rob had a clear vision for Anarchist Youths from the start. As I drew it I thought we would give them more noble aspirations for a Better world, but as I got to the end I realized these guys weren't going to be anarchist boy scouts.
Could you give us a run down of the Nitrogen characters as well as a brief synopsis on their personality and powers?
To learn about the characters personalities and powers you should check out the book, way to much for me to try and explain, but here's the short answers
Superion - The guy in the crazy mask with the cool shades- moody- flight, super strength, heat vision
Gauntlet - The gloved powerhouse wearing the blue robes-likes weapon morphing robot chicks- Power Gloves
Game - chick with Mohawk, she's a little bit of a tease. But she's very effective as a fighter, she'll kill you if you piss her off, don't doubt that.-ummmm, tease- Power gloves
Spice2 - weapon morph cyber chick, you want her watching your back more than Rambo, Commando or RoboCop all rolled into one.
I think it’s safe to say you guys have some really pumped up character designs going for you on Nitrogen. What was your mindset in creating these characters? As well as giving slightly updated looks to old favorites such as Superion, Lady Supreme and Coral?
I was lucky to be given free rein in the designs. I wanted them to have the Liefeld look but I wanted to mix in other elements. I wanted people to see things in the work that they feel like they have seen before but haven't. If the reader feels familiarity with things on even a subconscious level I felt it might help convince them to check it out.
As for the specific figures you mention.....
Superion- I saw this import called Cashern, http://www.slocartoon.net/slike/novice/Cashern_movie.jpg
The hero had this really cool mask, like Shredder but without the top helmet. I was like hey, that's really cool and no one in the American market has anything like it. So I knew I would try it out for one of the Nitro's. This is what I mean by familiarity, but as you can see we have 2 different designs between Cashern and Superion but the Spirit of the mask is there. I then gave him a spiked gauntlet because I'm a Spawn fan from way back.
Lady Supreme- Pretty simple, I gave her a swimsuit and leggings to sex her up!
Coral- I wanted her to scream Shirow, I also wanted something kind of "Fishy" so I gave her these vent patterns or "Gills" on her armor.
How was it working with Rob Liefeld?
I know everyone waits for me to say that it's been a nightmare but it hasn't. Rob has been very cool to me. Working for him is fulfilling one of my childhood dreams. I remind myself of that every now and then when I drive home from his place because now I see him as a friend and not this big untouchable figure as I did as a child. It's great how humanizing your idols from spending time with them affects your perception of them and then one day you just think "how did I get here?".
Are you guys planning ahead for more Nitrogen one-shots in the future? Or are you going to see how it does this summer first?
Rob says he wants to start book 2 of Nitro gen right after Chicago. The book did well at San Diego, so that's the plan.
Thanks for answering my questions. Good luck with the book during the summer convention season.
Not a problem, Jason. And thank you!
Jon Malin has his own thread on the Rob Liefeld Forum @ HeroRealm
Pictures taken from Newsarama as well as Jon's thread at Hero Realm