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Creator Spotlight: Shane-Michael Vidaurri

Check out this in-depth interview with the creator of our latest original graphic novel, Iron: Or, the War After, Shane-Michael Vidaurri.

Where did you get the idea to write this book?

Shane-Michael Vidaurri: I’m not exactly sure. I started drawing Korbin Pavel and James Hardin as early as 2009. They just kept popping up in my sketchbook and I knew that eventually I’d have to use them to tell a story.

Iron delves into the subjects of political revolution and government crackdowns. Was there a particular moment in history you were trying to comment on? Or did you want to make it more general, in terms of your story?

SMV: There wasn’t any particular moment in history I was commenting on, but I did take a lot away from actual conflicts. I read a lot about the IRA and the Irish War of Independence and that influenced how the Resistance in Iron operated. I don’t want to give too much of the story away but I did do a lot of research, even though very little of it was used directly in the story as historic parallels.

You chose watercolors for your art in Iron. Why did you choose this medium, and what were some of the challenges/advantages in using watercolors?

SMV: I like the nature of watercolors. I also appreciate that they are relatively quick compared to other opaque mediums. I don’t really want to sit around waiting for paint to dry, and I can’t afford to spend a million years building up layers. I want to paint but I also want to make comic books, and that means working relatively quickly.

The art is quite fascinating, and your use of the blue and grey palette convey a dark and cold world. Where did you art style come from, and who are your favorite artists?

SMV: There are a number of direct art references in Iron. The work of Andrew Wyeth is quoted a number of times, also the work of Winslow Homer. Wyeth’s approach to atmosphere was a huge influence. Homer’s use of watercolor washes was also very informative. In terms of sequential work I’d say the work of Mike Mignola and Mark Chiarello had a big impact on me. Mignola is another person who can really employ mood to enhance the story, and Chiarello is a phenomenal painter.

Most comics have lots of dialogue in important scenes, where as Iron has characters speaking as little as possible during critical scenes. Was this a conscious decision?

SMV: Very much. I think that one beautiful thing about comics is that there is very little direct access into a characters mind. In a novel there is a narrator who typically understands or explains a character, even in the case of an unreliable narrator we still catch a glimpse, which can be just as telling. But in a comic book, if we strip away the narration bubbles, we only have is the characters, their actions, and what we think they mean. You can use this as a tool to manipulate your readers into thinking certain things, making certain assumptions. I think this can be even more useful in developing a character than abundant narration. Of course this is just a personal choice for the storytelling in Iron.

What inspired you to use anthropomorphic characters in Iron, and what was your reasoning for using certain animals for certain characters?

SMV: I think that when you use anthropomorphic characters you benefit from the assumptions people will make about them — tigers will be ferocious, crows will be clever. You can subvert these assumptions or you can play on them, it depends on what kind of story you want to tell. Again, I don’t want to give too much away, but I was very conscious of the animals I chose for each character, and there was a definite reason.

The winter landscape in Iron is so vast and bleak, it becomes its own character. What were your references in creating the setting for the book?

SMV: I painted more than half of Iron during the winter, so that definitely helped.  I wanted Iron to be very moody, and I thought the snow and bare trees would enhance this atmosphere.

Do you have any other projects coming up that we should look out for?

SMV: I’m currently working on a new graphic novel project, but it’s not far enough along to say much about. I am also developing a webcomic that follows the events of Iron, particularly James and Patricia. It will be on my website and blog:

Iron: Or, the War After goes on sale in comic book shops Dec. 19 and rolls out wherever books are sold Dec. 22 – Jan. 1. To find out where Archaia books are sold, click here.