AUTUMN OF INDIE: Interview with ‘Nestor’ Artist Anthony O’Niell

Today’s interview is with Anthony O’Neill. O’Neill is a very talented up and coming artist from Ireland who is working on the critically acclaimed title Nestor.

Hi Anthony your work on Nestor looks fantastic. Can you tell us more about the book?

Hi Luke thank you very much for having me, I’m extremely honored to be here, “NESTOR” is the new four star (as rated by SFX comic-heroes magazine) two part comic book written by Abandoned-comics; Mike Lynch and Martin Greene. The story is set in the fair city of Dublin and revolves around the main character “Nestor”, who does his best to blend in with normal every day society. Nestor watches old movies, works in a grocery store and enjoys hanging out with his friend in his local bar. Then one night this all changes when the woman he loves is murdered in their home by a gang of Villainous Thugs. Nestor seeks revenge and is forced to unleash a monster that he thought he had sealed away centuries ago, revealing himself as a vampire. The first issue was illustrated masterfully by the great Paul MC Callan and the second part was done by myself.

I especially like the way you have used subtle reds to blend with the black and white. How do you plan out a page?

Its interesting you should ask that, in the beginning Martin Mike and myself sat down and spoke about what way we were going to tackle the story, it was my first time ever being involved in the comic book publishing world, and i was a little shy at first to add my two cents (now the lads can’t shut me up) Martin and Mike both noticed this and took me under their wings, straight away they got me involved in the collaborative aspects of the piece and made me feel so welcome.

After I became more comfortable I slowly but surely came out of my shell, and one of the first things I suggested was that; if we were doing a “vampire” comic book that we “have” to allow for the stark vivid reds of the blood to shine through against a contrasted gray scale palette, I felt that this would give us a distinct style that would hit the reader like a brick when they opened it up. Mike and Martin were graciously behind this concept one hundred percent from the very beginning and gave me all the freedom I needed to bring it to light, but in the end due to budgeting we had to settle on the interior of the book being only gray scale, this meant that i had to now go back and edit the entire piece so that the “stark reds” were now also gray but just contrasted enough so that the reader could easily see the difference between that of the character and backdrop grays as well as the grays of the newly colored blood.

In the end I spent so much time editing, that the total gray scale look actually came out looking even better than the original concept. I’ve always felt that this was a perfect example of how as an artist you can plan down to the finest detail, but you will always meet a speed bump along the way and its really learning to deal with those speed bumps rather than panicking that is more important in the long run.

What first inspired you to draw comics?

I have been drawing for as long as I can remember, my mother used to say I was born with a pencil in my hand, but unfortunately I was never really trained. When I was a kid I grew up loving Saturday morning cartoons, Spider-man, Hulk, The X-Men, Marvel was my haven, and I spent years copying those characters straight from my television, don’t get me wrong I loved Bruce Timm’s Batman and things like He-man and the Masters of the Universe as well as Thundercats, Skeleton warriors and Brave star the list goes on and on, but it wasn’t until my uncle Paul came to me at the age of about 7 or 8 and explained to me about how these Marvel characters that I adored so much from their respective TV shows, were actually recreations of something even bigger, that my sense’s truly flared.

My uncle gave me a book, it was a Marvel annual with tons of the original number 1’s in it. Since that day, thanks to “Stan The Man”, “Jack Kirby” “Joe Smon” and of course my uncle Paul (to whom I owe so much) I feel as though I haven’t been able to close my eyes, I wanted everything, every single book I could find, and I wanted to draw it all.

Which creators do you aspire to be like?

I hate to say influence because the word “influence” gives the impression that I’m trying to imitate the masters that I love so much (and I could never do that) for me the most important thing visually has always been to achieve comprehension while still creating a unique visual style that is dynamic and instantly recognisable, but in saying that there is a lot to said about learning from the greats. For lack of a better word, my “influences” change all the time, but one name that stays constant with me is “Bryan Hitch”. The man is unparalleled. I could sit here for days and tell you all my reasons why (don’t worry I wont) instead I’ll leave you with a short list of who I’m loving right now:

  • Bryan Hitch
  • Lee Bermejo
  • Adi Granov
  • Simon Bianchi
  • Steve McNiven

What type of storytelling do you like?

This is an excellent question, right now in comics, movies and all kinds of visual media there is a strange trend happening story wise, a lot of people seem to want “realistic” style storytelling. I think we can all say that this fad is almost completely credible to Christopher Nolan, I can totally understand this way of thinking and the appeal of realism, it works so well with movies primarily, but I have to say when it comes to comic books I think its really a horse of a different color.

Firstly the most important thing to me is “charater” you gotta create characters that catch you (obviously) but I think Marvel really set the mould when they made there most important aspect the way in which their characters are relate-able to their readers, I want my story’s to be epic, grand, large scale, and over the top but always keeping in mind that it must relate to the character, as far as genera goes that’s just the icing on the cake.

So as far as realism goes I feel that in comic books if we as readers and creators become too hocked on this fad that it could hinder the creativity and the overall possibility of maximum enjoyment, let me summarise by asking you a question; while watching Christopher Nolan’s TDKR how many of you wanted to see something a little more reminiscent of the classic comic book bat cave rather than a computer on top of a large steel box? and while watching the Avengers how many of you looked up at that huge flying giant worm/snake/Leviathan and said oh my god that’s so amazing?

Now in the movies Christopher Nolan’s Batman works flawlessly but my worry is how comic books are now imitating the popular aspects of movies which doesn’t work out so well in the book, we all know the comparisons just look at “The New 52”, so in answer to your question the type of storytelling I like is one that does not censor or hinder itself by focusing on reality but tries to break through that barrier, making it more intense, more fantastic but does it all with relate-able characters and a feeling of believability rather than realism. The great Edgar Allan Poe once said: “Were I called on to define, very briefly, the term Art, I should call it ‘the reproduction of what the Senses perceive in Nature through the veil of the soul.’ The mere imitation, however accurate, of what is in Nature, entitles no man to the sacred name of ‘Artist.” wise words.

How did you get involved in Nestor?

As I’ve mentioned before; “Nestor” was my first real published piece, but I had been drawing my whole life. I was doing a course, and whenever I wasn’t working on my course stuff (and even sometimes while I was) I would be sketching either in a sketch book or on a page or board, a member of the class luckily noticed this, and told me that they had two friends who were putting together a comic book but needed an artist to come on board for illustration if I was interested. So after a bit of a push from my faithful girlfriend to go for it, I jumped at the chance of this was once in a lifetime dream come true, I met with Mike and Martin and they were completely awesome, our mind sets were perfectly contrasted and yet so much alike, we instantly hit it off, and after they seen allot of my stuff we dived straight in.

How does the creative process work?

Martin Greene was the spearhead of the story, he concepted the plot and the characters, then Mike Lynch ad’s his amazing writing and dialog skills to Martin’s intense concept, after that the lads gave me a copy of the entire script including part one and two, Mike and Martin asked me to draw the initial character and creature designs and then simultaneously Paul McCallan and my self both worked on each of our respective parts of the story illustrations

What is next for you?

Right now I am working on two separate pieces, one is the second part of a story that was again done by the amazing Abandoned brothers Mike Lynch and Martin Greene called “Salvage” which is going to be absolutely insane, I can’t tell you guys anymore about it other than it is going to be amazingly diverse and grippingly appealing to anyone who grew up loving Ridley Scott. Second is something that I cooked up myself and Mike Lynch was fantastic enough to back me up on it with an excellent script, its mainly a promotional type piece but its also still sequential, I have high hopes for this but because of its small size and the unique nature of this story I have to play it pretty close to the chest so unfortunately again I can’t say too much other than keep your ear to the ground and your eyes fixed on abandoned-comics website

To any aspiring creator out there, what would you say is the best piece of advice?

This is always a hard thing to find isn’t it? Usefully practical advice that doesn’t end up sounding like a self help mental motto, my advice for any of you budding talented artists out there would be know every aspect of your art, don’t just focus on form, perspective or foreshortening all of those things are give ins, and we already know to put the required time and effort into those areas.

I think there is a lot to said for the attention that is also required from things like printing, page size translations, color formats such as cmyk and rgb, promotional ideas all these things are aspects that we as artists must know about in order to keep up with this growing industry and let me tell you the talent out there just keeps getting better and better and as much as people may tell you otherwise; this IS a competitive art, so always focus on the emotional sweep and tone of your story, keep in mind the message you are trying to convey and while there is so much I could say about technique and drawing skill, please for your own good take some time to study the mechanics of production, because in the long run you’ll save yourself so much time and effort.

Where you would like to be in 10 years time?

I’ve never really been one to try look too far ahead, I try to focus on the here and now and at the moment I am having one hell of a time with Abandoned-comics, I would like to remain with this immensely fantastic team and do my part to help the world see how amazing they are for as long as they will have me, at the same time ever since I was a child I have wanted to work in the mainstream and obviously I would love this to be my nine to five so that every ounce of my time can be spent doing it, so Where do I see myself in 10 years time? Who knows but where would I like to be in 10 years time? Doing exactly what I’m doing now.

You can check out Nestor on their website, and follow Anthony on his blog or  Twitter. Make sure to vote for Nestor and Anthony in the Irish Comic Awards!

Reporter: Luke Halsall

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