Cornelia Tzana ’17/Emertainment Monthly Comic Books Executive Editor
Magical fairies, deadly pirates and warrior swordfish are just a few of the creatures that were born in Jeremy Bastian’s mind and now inhabit the pages of Cursed Pirate Girl. Drawing inspiration from artists like Mike Mignola and Albrecht Durer, Bastian brings to life a wondrous world of adventure and mystery with his distinct drawing style.
Jeremy Bastian sat down with Emertainment Monthly to talk about his art and the current and future adventures of Cursed Pirate Girl.
Emertainment Monthly: How did you get started with comics and illustration?
Jeremy Bastian: I knew I wanted to be in comics ever since I little, 7 or 8 years old. I just really enjoyed them, they were a great escape. Always been interested in art too. It was the only thing I could ever do well, so I figured this is a great way to make a career, to draw for a living. My dad was a janitor at GM so he basically taught me that if you can find a job, a career doing what you love to do then that’s the best thing ever.
EM: What are your first memories of drawing?
JB: This is a slightly odd one. I remember going grocery shopping with my mom and I’d be sitting in the basket area and I’d be drawing with a pen. And I remember her taking the pen away from me and saying “no, you can’t do that.” So I thought it was forbidden to draw and I would hide in corners at home, like behind the coffee table. I’d be drawing with a pen and when my mom would come I’d hide it because I thought “oh no she doesn’t want me to do that!” And it wasn’t that she didn’t want me to do it she just didn’t want me to draw in the cart because I wouldn’t be able to draw that good. That was probably one of my earliest memories.
EM: You have a very unique, detailed art style. Which artists inspired you to go down that path and how did you develop your style?
JB: I was first trying to develop my style by aping different comic book artists. Mike Mignola is my favorite comic book artists of all time. His work is just such a sublime poetry. It seems very simplistic but it’s so concrete and all the information is there, it’s just shrouded in all these shadows, just peeking out at you. So aping him was very difficult and I don’t think anybody can really do it any justice. But after that I really became obsessed a lot of the old world illustrators. I started getting into Dover Publications, the reprints of all kinds of books of illustrations. And I really fell down that rabbit hole of the cross hatching and that sort of ancient world of illustration that you don’t get to see nowadays. I always tell people that right now my two biggest influences are Gustave Dore and Albrecht Durer. And it’s their engraved works that I’m fascinated with. Their lines and those black and white images hold so much magic for me and it just seems like such a faraway sort of land of illustration. Nowadays everything is so colorful and so polished and shiny and rendered, and I think it takes away a little bit from those old, arcane images.
EM: How did the design for the Cursed Pirate Girl herself come along?
JB: One of the first images I did of the pirate woman was more in the style of a tattoo. I was trying that style for a while. She had a patch on her eye with the X on it and I just really liked that look. I had come to San Diego with a friend of mine, David Petersen who does Mouseguard. I had just gotten my butt kicked pretty severely in a portfolio review so I was standing in line for hall H cause I needed a break. I didn’t even know what was playing. I had just gotten in line and I started to think about story ideas. I liked that image of the pirate woman and I thought, what if I made her a child? And I made a sort of an Alice in Wonderland type of story, an epic, iconic, little person story.
Eventually I got to sit down in Hall H and I looked at the program and it said something about a “Grindhouse”. Turns out it was Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino talking about their new collaborative project, “Grindhouse”. There was one piece of advice at the end of this panel that I really took to heart and I really infused it in everything that I do with Cursed Pirate Girl. A guy asked Rodriguez “what would be your best advice on getting into the business?” And Robert went into this long sort of finagle speech about what to do. And then Quentin chimed in at the very end and said “Or just make something really f****** good!” That has been my mantra the whole time, so I try to throw everything I can into every page because this is my project and I want it to be something I never cut corners at, I never rushed in any way. I spend as much time on it as possible.
EM: What is the process of creating a page? I imagine it is all done by hand.
JB: I started off and I wrote the script completely. It took about 3 weeks. It was 24 feet of script. So I broke that down to what I thought would make a good book, and then I subdivided that into what I could fit into a page. From that I thumbnailed down the entire book and these were my first impressions of the action and the format of the panels. I try to make every page really decorative, almost like illuminated manuscripts in a way. So then I take the thumbnail, I blow it up to full size rough and then it’s just a matter of working and working and working on it. I print that out backwards, I take a piece of tracing paper and trace it, then I can take that tracing paper and put that onto my bristol board and transfer the line art. I do this because I work at actual size. All the artwork is exactly how big you see it. If I trace it and transfer it I have all the small details that I want. Then I refine it with more pencil and then the inking starts, that’s where a lot of the leg work comes in. And that becomes almost meditative after a while. I put my headphones on and I am good to go.
EM: You have some beautiful panels in this book that are very uniquely framed.
JB: One of the things I like about this character is her hair. I like to draw hair a lot and it works great for bordering other panels.
EM: Cursed Pirate Girl is one of those comics books that really work for all ages. It is just as magical for a child as it would be for an adult.
JB: I really wanted to create that kind of story. I call it my nautical fairy tale. I wanted to do something for kids but the language is a little bit more difficult, especially with the Swordfish Brothers. I tried to write it a little bit more in the Shakespearean style. I mean, it’s not Shakespeare, I’m not claiming to be Shakespeare, I just love that arcane sort of way of speaking. And so I wrote that because it was funny to me and because I pictured parents reading it to their kids and really getting into the characters. It’s a darker, creepier world but I know when I was a kid I liked creepy stuff. I think a lot of things today are so dumbed down and rounded and bright and colorful for kids. I think something that clashes with that is needed to form a well-rounded child. Again I draw and write it for me, I am an adult technically but it’s just a lot of fun.
EM: What is next for Pirate Girl?
JB: There is only two more chapters to go and there is so much neat stuff in [the next issue] I can’t wait to draw! I don’t have anything planned once [Cursed Pirate Girl] is done. I have other story arcs in mind that I would like to do but I don’t know if they’ll be in comic book form. The panel by panel translation of the story gets little tedious at times and I really want to do more splash pages and spot illustrations. So I’m thinking the next story arc could even be a storybook but for a slightly more mature audience. If not a storybook then maybe a gallery show.
EM: Any final remarks?
JB: I would like to say thank you to all my fans, because it is a very patient crowd that appreciates my book. I wouldn’t be able to do it if they weren’t so patient, if they were knocking down my door demanding the next one. I could have done it quicker but it wouldn’t be where it is. So I thank everybody who is willing to wait and I really appreciate that.
Cursed Pirate Girl is published by Archaia Entertainment. You can find Jeremy Bastian and his work at www.jeremybastian.blogspot.com and www.jeremybastian.bigcartel.com