Note: this is a re-posting of an interview I had published nearly five years ago on a different website (that web archive is no longer available, making this re-post necessary for posterity, if nothing else). The following Q&A session was drafted October 17, 2012.
Patrick “Patch” Zircher [pronounced: zer-ker] is the artist and co-writer of Valiant’s all-new SHADOWMAN series, launching November 7, 2012 from the resurging publisher. Co-written with Justin Jordan (THE STRANGE TALENT OF LUTHER STRODE), the new Shadowman series is about New Orleans’ worst nightmare coming true. As these dark forces begin to claim the Big Easy as their own, Jack Boniface must embrace the dark legacy he was born to uphold as Shadowman. He will become the only thing that stands between his city and the legions of unspeakable monstrosities. Zircher, Jordan and Shadowman are poised to not only occupy the darkest corners of the revised Valiant Universe, but perhaps shine some light and hope there as well.
Zircher, In Passing
Earlier this year I met Patch Zircher somewhat in-passing at my local comic shop. I didn’t know who he was at the time until an old former colleague at the store informed me. He was there mainly to purchase comics for his preteen daughter (trade paperbacks of Marvel’s Runaways, I recall), but was also there searching through the back issue bins for some oldies-but-goodies. He, the store staff and I geeked out in a brief conversation about when exactly the transition from the Silver Age to the Bronze Age of comics supposedly occurred. As we departed the store I was left with the impression that Zircher’s a humble, laidback and rather approachable fellow (the kind I suspect would talk with you forever should you meet him in Artists Alley at a comic con someday), and was jazzed that this awesome artist is a fellow citizen living locally in a suburb neighboring mine. A few Twitter conversations eventually led to the following interview you are about to read.
Hey Kids, Meet Patrick Zircher!
BRANDON RUCKER: Are you a native of our ‘great state’ of Indiana? If so, where did you grow up?
PATRICK ZIRCHER: I grew up in Ohio and Arizona, but moved to Indiana when my kids were born. I actually missed fall and winter.
RUCKER: How did you get your start as an illustrator of comics? How were you finally discovered?
ZIRCHER: That’s hard to answer because there were a lot of stops and starts. Right out of high school I was published in paper-and-pencil role-playing games, then inked, wrote, and drew comics for smaller comic companies like Eclipse, Blackthorne, and Caliber. Art became a full-time job when I started drawing Green Hornet for Now Comics. Back then, I sent art samples (photocopies) in the mail. I would draw on the envelope to get the submissions editor’s to notice. A few years later I was hired by DC at the San Diego Comic Con and a short time after that by Marvel for New Warriors. This is all in the ‘long ago and far away.’
RUCKER: I’ve seen your early pages for this new series, and Patrick, I have to say that I’m blown away. Admittedly I’m a latecomer to your work having discovered it at Marvel the last couple of years. You’ve recently alluded that your work from 5-6 years ago is not worthy of your name. In what ways do you feel you’ve improved? Do you feel like you turned a certain corner when you went digital?
ZIRCHER: I was joking a little, but I do try to improve each year. I’ve never been satisfied with having a ‘set way’ of drawing. As far as improvements, I think my storytelling and panel compositions are stronger, as well as anatomy and gesture, spotting blacks and contrast. Ha, everything I guess. To be honest, improvement came when I began inking my own work. It isn’t that other inkers aren’t talented, but inking is, to some extent, redrawing for me – a second chance to improve on the pencils and layout.
RUCKER: Since I’m a follower of your Twitter feed, I’ve come to realize that you are a kindred spirit when it comes to music. What positive affects does music have on your artwork?
ZIRCHER: I’m a music geek, as a listener – I can’t play at all – and tailor what I listen to with what I’m drawing. Drawing involves long hours at the board so I’ve been putting together a ‘mix tape’ with hundreds of songs that keep me in the zone when working on Shadowman. It’s how I justify my passion for “Daemon Lover” by Shocking Blue.
RUCKER: Do you have any favorite artists among your peers?
ZIRCHER: Many. But listing them only makes me regret the ones I left out. I will say the overly-flashy art, the absurdly detailed art, the no-attention span- jumbo-figures-on-every-page kind of guys usually leave me cold. I’ll take a great storyteller who can frame and compose panels, pages, and sequences over the loud guy every time.
RUCKER: You recently said on Twitter: “Never say never, but that’s my last Marvel piece [AVX Consequences #1] for a very, very, very long time.” I assume that this, well, one: refers to your exclusive contract with Valiant, and two: you’re as happy as a fat kid in a candy store at Valiant.
ZIRCHER: I love working at Valiant. I was unhappy at Marvel. It happens. As far as exclusives, as I said, I love working at Valiant, but I just don’t sign exclusives anymore. I’m working exclusively for Valiant because I want to – not out of a contractual obligation.
RUCKER: There’s a huge boom in creator-owned comics these days, perhaps the most ever in the history of the medium. Do you have any interest in possibly doing something creator-owned in the future?
ZIRCHER: Yes, but co-writing and illustrating Shadowman is a full plate. And the plate’s full of good food. There are so many projects at Valiant I’d be happy to be a part of that making a creator-owned book isn’t a priority right now.
RUCKER: What was it about the Shadowman character that attracted you? Were you a fan of the 1990s version as well?
ZIRCHER: I was a fan. Like a lot of fans though, sometimes you’re as much in love with a character’s potential as you are their actuality.
RUCKER: With all due respect to all the previous creators who worked on the character, what is it about this new iteration of Shadowman that you think makes it just as good as, if not better than the original?
ZIRCHER: Well, first, I admire the talents of the book’s previous creators. Bob Hall wrote and drew quite a few issues and you can see he put a tremendous amount of energy into the work. Comics have evolved a different style of storytelling since then and the work Justin Jordan, myself, and colorist Brian Reber are doing on the book reflects that.
RUCKER: The return of Valiant Comics is obviously great for fans of the characters and the industry overall. What was the main aspect about the all-new Valiant that attracted you to the point where you decided to stop working for Marvel?
ZIRCHER: I’m very attracted to working at a company that’s really in touch with its talent. Everyone at Valiant is excited and enthusiastic and I wanted to work with people who felt that way.
RUCKER: The Valiant re-launch has been executed very methodically and with great care and precision. Given your relationship with Warren Simons, were you (and writer Justin Jordan) hand-picked for the Shadowman series, or did you two have to pitch against other creators in consideration/contention?
ZIRCHER: I was under contract with Marvel at the time Valiant was putting together its initial titles so we didn’t get together until later. Fortunately several of my favorite Valiant characters were in the early (re-) developmental stage. Warren and I wanted to work together on something with equal enthusiasm so we discussed a variety of characters. Comics is a business, but I think it’s a key element, an often neglected one, to match talent with titles and characters they want to work on. As far as Justin, he’s a writer both Warren and I really wanted. We had read Luther Strode and both saw a personality in Justin’s work that would enliven Shadowman. When Warren told me Justin had pitched for Shadowman, I couldn’t believe the serendipity of it.
RUCKER: Did you, along with Justin, have a lot of freedom to revamp and re-design the character and his world according to your shared vision?
ZIRCHER: I think so. It’s a team effort that includes editorial. Valiant is building a cohesive universe and an editorial perspective is part of that. Personally, it’s thrilling to be in the early stages of comics universe-building. Co-writing is a fascinating process because, in many ways, a third writer is born, with a style that is different from the individuals and yet, not.
RUCKER: Have you had to do any specific research for this new series, perhaps research on New Orleans, or jazz culture or what have you?
ZIRCHER: A lot of comic creators research and I’ve been doing that for years. With New Orleans, so many clichés are used in comics based in the Big Easy that we’re purposely taking it easy on the New Orleans-specific references. They’ll come, you just won’t have Mardi Gras, the French Quarter, jazz, the bayou, voodoo queens, and above-ground vaults all thrown at you in the first issue.
RUCKER: In your own words, how would you pitch the new Shadowman series to prospective new readers – the on-the-fence fan or the naysayer?
ZIRCHER: Shadowman is about a guy named Jack who is bonded to a supernatural spirit. After that, everything in his life changes. I’m having a crazy, good time making the book and that DOES show in the pages. If you’re on the fence after seeing the previews there probably isn’t a whole lot I can say. Justin’s dialogue could charm a cat out of a tree. Brian’s colors are gorgeous. If you want a very good comic, you’ll find it here.
RUCKER: For those unfamiliar with your work, what of your previous work would you recommend people check out prior to Shadowman’s release –something you’re proudest of?
ZIRCHER: Captain America Vol. 3 [trade paperback of Ed Brubaker’s recent run], or Batman: The Man Who Laughs with Brubaker. Terror Inc. with David Lapham; Mystery Men with David Liss; Hulk of Arabia with Jeff Parker. Or pick up Thor: Ages of Thunder with Matt Fraction. Warren [Simons] gave a copy of the Thor book to Valiant’s publisher, but his son took it so he had to get another one. That’s as strong a recommendation as I can think of.
UPDATE: Currently Patrick Zircher’s work can be found on the DC Rebirth Action Comics series from DC Comics where you can find him having a ball drawing Superman and Lex Luthor-Superman, plus a dastardly host of supporting characters and villains.
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