Cranky And Proud!
♦ The unashamedly cranky Josh Taylor‘s Black Powder I Red Earth Volume 8 was released in February and is the final installment in this graphic novel series set in the oil realpolitik of the Middle East. Tripwire asked our USA correspondent Jared Davis to talk to his long term friend and co-creator of the series …
I was first introduced to Josh Taylor’s illustrations when the two of us became acquainted at Pratt Institute in the late 90’s, and I have been an avid fan and adamant supporter of his work ever since. Not only can one describe his work as quirky, unique, and technically masterful, but I have always been impressed by the way he is able to maintain such a recognizable style despite the breadth and diversity of his work. Hot off the heels of the Black Powder / Red Earth Volume 8 release in early February, I sat down with my friend at his Brooklyn home to ask him about his artistic practice, the BPRE franchise, his experiences at Comic Con, and his thoughts on the future of the medium.
When did you start on the project?
I started working on character deigns for BPRE when it was just a video game set on Mars way back in 2006. That project never really came to fruition, but in 2011 the property had evolved and changed so much through Jon Chang’s experience with all sorts of military garbage that he decided he wanted to do a book. Soooooo….we did some books. And then some more books.
Now that the final volume has been released (and debuted at No. 1 in Amazon’s list of ‘Hot New Releases in Mystery Graphic Novels), are you disappointed that the series has concluded, or are you looking forward to moving on to new projects?
It’s certainly a relief to finish a 5 year project. 5 years is a long time to work on anything.
What is the future of the BPRE franchise? I’ve noted that there has been some chatter of new merchandise that hasn’t yet been released, and can we hold out any hope of seeing more volumes d
own the road?
The team is working on a video game and a board game. Chang is also currently writing a 12-book series set in Yemen that takes place after the events of the first two series.
Tell us about your experience at Comic Con this year. What was it like to work one of the booths on the main floor, and did you enjoy the event more as a participating artist or as a fan?
I’m not a huge fan of crowds, and for good reason. I picked up a hardcore case of the nerd flu and was sick in bed for two weeks. Otherwise, we did pretty well for a small independent.
Tools of the trade: Taking a quick glance over at your pens, brushes etc…what tools have you mainly been using over the last few years? Any favorite brands of ink and/or paper?
Pen and ink is my first choice, but it has been almost strictly Photoshop as of late.
Are there any illustrators that you return to for inspiration? In your opinion, who are the true masters of ink?
With the increasing onslaught of comics titles hitting the big screen in recent years, on the whole, how do you view the future of the comics industry? Is there a bright future ahead for independently produced/published books like BPRE, or is it simply too difficult for artists and writers to earn a living on these types of smaller projects?
I don’t know how anyone earns a living doing comics except to get their properties made into movies or TV shows or whatever. Hopefully we can do that with BPRE, and I can buy a house on a mountain somewhere where I don’t have to talk to anyone ever again. GET OFF MY LAWN!
If you had the chance to work for any of the major comics studios, which would it be, and why? Are there any specific titles you would kill to work on?
Whoever paid me more. I’d love to do ‘Howard the Duck.’
For those unfamiliar with ‘Black Powder I Red Earth,’ could you give us a brief summary of the franchise’s history, and tell us a bit about how you became the illustrator for the series?
Sure, or I could just quote the website…
SERIES 1 – VOLUMES 1-4
The nation of Iraq, mired in horrific civil war, splinters into three nations: Kurdistan, New Baghdad and Basran. Within 6 months Iranian religious, government and military proxies dominate Basran, host to over 60% of the former nation’s oil reserves.
Backed by Saudi petrodollars, the GCC(Gulf Cooperation Council) Protectorate contracts Cold Harbor, a private military corporation, to wage a war of ruthless intrigue and clandestine violence in the post-Iraq state using American special operations contractors.
SERIES 2 – VOLUMES 5-8
Picking up 6 months after the events in Black Powder \\ Red Earth Series 1, Cold Harbor Special Operations Contractors run a kill-capture program targeting jihadists from the Islamic State and paramilitary officers from the Syrian Republican Guard inside the new Kurdish nation-state.
With clients ranging from competing factions within the Kurdish government to Saudi Intelligence and the US Department of Defense, each operation serves multiple masters with their own mission statement and agenda to be carried out.