The hope and idea of the Issues with Perspective feature is to provide a more in depth look at the creators who makes comics and their process/influences/environment behind the making of the issues/series. I am terrible at naming things (take the podcast Pages and Panels, holy shit I hate that name) but the thought is that you will get a better perspective of the issue/series by learning more about the process and the actual creator who made it (Issues with Perspective, get it? Nah). I hope with this feature readers will get a further look into the books they love and the amazing people who make them.
For the next installment of Issues with Perspective I was really excited to be able to talk to the creator Artyom Trakhanov about his series Turncoat from Boom Studios with creators Alex Paknadel , Jason Wordie, and Colin Bell. With a mix of sci-fi, detective work, subjugation and individuals dealing with their past, Turncoat recently completed its 4 issue run. When I read the first issue of the Image series Undertow with writer Steve Orlando, Artyom's art stole the show for me. As an artist, Artyom occupies his own unique space in his artistic style and composition. Having the ability to be instantly recognizable is an important trait as an artist and I feel Artyom's work already has the ability to standout right away to readers.
I would like to give a huge thanks for Artyom taking the time to talk about Turncoat. Below, Artyom talks about Turncoat, the importance of working as a creative team, drawing places you have never been and overcoming your challenges as an artist. Be sure to check out all four issues of Turncoat available in stores and online digitally now.
Artyom Trakhanov and Turncoat
Who is Turncoat? (Creative Team)
Hey there, Kyle! Turncoat is Alex Paknadel on scripts, yours truly Artyom Trakhanov on inked drawings, Jason Wordie on colors and Colin Bell on lettering.
What is Turncoat?
Oh man. It’s a sci-fi comic with lots of things going on in it. It’s better to just read the official synopsis, I think, but I could tell you that it is a very scary, dramatic and uncomfortably tense story about colonialism, mass-consuming Stockholm syndrome and parenthood. It’s also about Earth trying to get back to “normal” after three hundred years of being enslaved by an alien race.
Why should readers get Turncoat?
Aw dang! I think the books is really good, that’s why! But I’m obviously biased. Yet I am 100% sure that some of the things we did in the book are pretty unique, and every each one of us members of Team Turncoat did our best to create a story which will be interesting to as many people as possible… So I’ll be glad to know that there’s more people learning about our book and giving it a chance.
When/Where/How can readers get Turncoat ?
As for the places to get it… This interview was stuck in the limbo for quite some time (sooorry!), so all four issues are definitely out, that’s for sure! I myself live in Russia, so I have no idea how widely Turncoat is available in physical form in western comic shops. But you could always just hit Comixology and get it there in bits and bytes.
What was a normal workday/drawing session like for you when working on the comic?
My usual routine is getting up early in the morning to kiss goodbye my wife Katia who’s leaving to her proper job, and then trying not to fall back asleep and get to business instead. Nothing too thrilling or too original, I’m afraid. Just sitting behind my table, watching youtube or dumb horror movies with one eye and peeking on my inking process with another why my hands do all the work on autopilot. Sometime around lunchtime I try to go out to drive around on my little scooter or just make my fitness tracker happy. I also try to not stay awake all night and to sleep for more than five hours, but it usually ends with disappointment.
What is your work space like while working on the project?
I got a laptop with additional monitor and my good ol’ Wacom on the left side and a ton of good comics I need to read but will never do on my right side. When Katia’s at home, we’re sitting back to back, since our IKEA tables stand next to each other. I know that my work station is pretty small compared to what I see on my overseas colleagues’ photos, but at least I finally got myself a proper easel somewhere in the beginning of my work on Turncoat. When I was doing Undertow, my table was a goddamn disgrace.
What are the tools/applications/research you used most in the creation of Turncoat?
Drawing-wise, my set of tools is a big fat mess of all kinds of brushes, pens and weird little cloth pieces I dunk in ink to stamp some textures on my pages. Basically, I just use everything I feel like using and frantically buy all kinds of devices capable of leaving black marks on white paper.
Research-wise, I did a shit ton of New York googling. One time I even had a dream about jogging in Central Park, something similar to that scene from The Devil’s Advocate. It’s really weird to live in Saint-Petersburg, Russia and try to draw something about a country you’ve only seen in movies. New York in our book is covered with terrible fungal life forms and shaded with rotting carcasses of alien buildings, but it’s still an existing city, and I’d really love to know how it felt for our readers from US.
What is the situation that gets the most productivity out of you?
I could say “deadline”, but it’s a romanticized freelancer lie.
There is that point sometime after beginning of working on something new…Getting started is always hard for me, and I could procrastinate for days and days. But then something clicks, and I’m on it! It always feels terrific.
And then there is that other point close to the end of the book when you’re feeling that you’re on the mountain peak, and the whole work is almost done in all its glory (and with all its mistakes, which I’m starting to see in a month after finally finishing it). It’s scary and unnerving, but great.
What media were you engaged with during the creation of Turncoat (music/movies/books/games) that helped the creation process or that you just happened to be into at that time?
I was mostly re-watching a lot Cronenberg movies. And also High Rise, man! That Ben Wheatley knows how to make a movie, and I’ve spent almost the entire time we worked on Turncoat anticipating it. I’d like to brag with lots of books I was reading during that time, but nope – my main culture activities are something I can do while also drawing. So – movies for 80% of my input.
For readers who enjoy Turncoat what else would you suggest to them that they might enjoy that has a similar tone/style/message of your work?
Let me think… NAUSICAA OF THE WALLEY OF THE WIND! That’s just my universal recommendation. Track down this manga because it’s the best manga in the world. Also it’s a decent pedestal for my monitor.
You have a very distinct and unique style that when I see your work I know right away it's you. What was the key to the way you developed your style? What do you think help mold your art into what we see today?
Stealing a lot from other artists I adore, alive and dead, I guess! I am shameless about seeing how someone does something incredibly interesting and immediately trying to do it myself. Usually in the process of trying I’m putting the specific detail or method of drawing I noticed through my own poor interpretation, so you can’t even accuse me in any actual scandalous stealing, hah. I’m also trying to apply some kind of global approach to every new book I do (or at least every issue, because I’m a very scatterbrained person) – like “do it with a lot of Mignola” or “put a bit of Toppi in it”, but by the end it goes through so many transformations that most of the comparisons I get to my art genuinely surprise me.
I imagine like most my first real exposure to your work was your amazing art on Undertow. What do you think has been the biggest change since your work then to what readers are now seeing on Turncoat?
I stopped coloring my own stuff, that’s for sure! I hate most of the colors I did in Undertow, and I am very happy to pass the coloring part of the job to someone as awesome as Jason Wordie. Working together with another person to give a comic its final looks is thrilling, surprising and surpassing any of my own expectations.
Also, thanks to Undertow, I finally have some fans here in Russia! Not sure about US, though.
Your work is always very detailed. I think back to the suits and ships in Undertow and the characters, creatures and city we see in Turncoat. How much reference and research goes into your creation and world development when taking on a project like Turncoat?
When it comes to character designs, I got used to do most of the work almost “on the go”. Usually I’ll give a go to a couple of sketches, and then the rest will be cemented on the pages. And anyway most of the detailed feel from my pages comes from the rendering, I think, because I’m really obsessed with textures (and you could see it in Turncoat). I had fur, rocks and corals in Undertow, and now I have moist fungus and gargantuan dead constructions in Turncoat. Some people say that I’m overdoing it with hatching and stuff like that, but I just can’t stop!
BTW – the main ship from Undertow you mentioned was actually crudely modeled in 3D by yours truly! And it helped a lot because I’m terrible with vehicles (and basically anything geometrical).
Was there anything that you found particularly challenging or blocks you hit in the creation process? On the same note what was the most enjoyable part of your creation experience?
Well, I just mentioned my problems with geometry – and now imagine my terror of drawing New York with all those freaking skyscrapers! The way I cheated this fear was quite elegant, though – this is why we have so much shit on almost every building in our pretty little comic. And as I also mentioned before, I do love drawing shit!
Best thing you could say about those involved with Turncoat?
I can’t stop gushing over Jason’s colors, who brought so much neon and colorful moss into our book. And my man Alex is definitely the author who needs to put out more new books. I had just a huge blast working with our team on every level – our editors Jasmine Amiri and Eric Harburn, the proest of pros Colin Bell… it was good, really good.
Why do you love Turncoat?
Because we built it, damn it! (And here’s a Metal Gear reference for you all!) From the shit-covered Washington Square Arch to very little grub you put in your head instead of your phone. It was ours!
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