Love comics? Want to create comics? Freelance comic artists by trade, and serious visual story tellers at heart, Richard Bonk and Gerry Kissell have worked on some top properties for the top publishers, and been doing it for a while. They want to make themselves available to help any aspiring artists and creators who want to do what they do. So, they say, Ask Me Anything.

Gerry Kissell
Dec 31, 2017

Richard and Gerry have about 40 years of professional experience as artists between them.  Richard Bonk has worked on Superman, Supergirl, Action Comics , and Teen Titans for DC,  Ascension, Witchblade, and Darkness for Top Cow/Image, and was cover artist for Zenescope.  Gerry Kissell has worked as lead artist as well as colorist on titles like Army of TwoThe A-Team, Iron Sky, Back to the Future, and was creator and cover/interior artist for the best selling graphic novel Code Word: Geronimo, for IDW Publishing.  Gerry was cover and interior artist on Xbox's Alan Wake graphic novel  as well as cover and interior artist on the Liberator comic for Bluwater Comics, starring Lou Ferrigno. Since 2012 Gerry has drawn, as well as written several graphic novels including a new one with Richard Bonk as lead artist, called Transmission.

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Do you remember the specific moment when you realized that you wanted to create comics?

Dec 30, 4:19AM EST0

I have always been an artist, as far back as I can remember. But, when I was 8, in the fall of 1972, I started drawing comic art, mostly for my amusement and my pop's. One day, I had drawn an entire page...a very X rated Teen Titan page. What can I say, I was very interested in girls at a young age.  The sex scene was between Robin and Wondergirl. Realizing my dad would not be amused by it, I hid it. I had a very nosey dad, and he found the page and when I got home from school, he confronted me with it. Amazingly, he was very forgiving, saying, "I should beat your ass for this. But, it's so well drawn, I just can't. I will however, deswtroy it."  And he did. His choice to compliment me instead of punish me, inspired me to want to do more...of course slightly less naughty comic pages. 

Last edited @ Dec 30, 6:10AM EST.
Dec 30, 6:09AM EST0

It was likely the first time I cracked open my older brother's "Savage Sword of Conan".  Swords, boobs and monsters!  I was hooked.

Dec 31, 10:53AM EST0

What does your creative process look like?

Dec 29, 8:22PM EST0

Honestly, to others, it probably looks like chaos. But there is method to my madness. I sketch layout for a page. If I need to design characters, Ido this next, after the layouts. I then go in and tighten pages or make changes if I feel the layout needed tweeking. I then ink and color. Bam! Done.If I am writing, too, many times I sketch ideas out before writing. I am a visual story teller, and this really comes into play when it comes to action and combat scenes.

Dec 29, 8:33PM EST0

Well, if I'm drawing a story, I'll read through it first and start visualizing it.  Then, I'll do thumbnails for the first 5-10 pages.  Then, I'll start drawing it, usually sketching in the panels and jump right to ink, if I'm doing both penciling/inking.  I'll gather references as I go.

Dec 31, 10:58AM EST0

Whic do you like drawing more - comics or graphic novels?

Dec 29, 3:38PM EST0

Well, one is just a bigger version of the other...it's all story-telling.  I prefer a standard comic length, simply for the sense of completion and break.

Dec 29, 6:38PM EST0

Graphic novels, as they have more relaxed deadlines than the tight constraints of comics.

Last edited @ Dec 29, 8:50PM EST.
Dec 29, 7:49PM EST0

What is it like, working for famous brands?

Dec 29, 2:40PM EST0

When I got to work on "Superman" it was sort of surreal...I consider it the first apex of my comic carreer.  There's a real sense of accomplishment in working on famous titles that I read as a younger person. 

Dec 29, 6:45PM EST0

It feels absolutely fantastic...at first, but then, it feels like yesterday's news. It reminds me of the story of the conquering Roman general, with a slave constantly whispering in his ear, "Victory is always fleeting."Or as Ms Jackson said it, "What have you done for me lately?" lol

Dec 29, 7:52PM EST0

What parts of drawing a comic or a graphic novel do you find most exciting?

Dec 29, 2:14PM EST0

I personally love the inking stage.  That's when the art starts taking on real character.  I'm impatient when it come to penciling...lately I've been going almost straight to inks!

Dec 29, 6:48PM EST0

Finishing the last page. It's like nothing else. You have such a great sense of accomplishment.

Dec 29, 7:53PM EST0

What tools are you using to draw?

Dec 29, 1:20PM EST0

For comics I use mechanical pencils, Copic multiliners and Pentel brush pens...oh yeah, always,a bit of jelly roll white pen and prowhite...

Dec 29, 6:50PM EST0

I draw on a tablet now, and really since 2010. Before that, mechanical pencil, on bristol paper or cold pressed illustration board...I cut my own pages.

Dec 29, 7:55PM EST0

What did you study and was it related to art?

Dec 29, 1:00PM EST0
  • I've done alot of things in my life but art was always a big part.  I studied graphic design in college.
Dec 29, 7:09PM EST0

I started out with art, but the head of the university's art department told me, there was very little they could teach me that I didn't already know. So, I focused on film, writing, and history.

Dec 29, 7:57PM EST0

Which work of yours are you most proud of?

Dec 29, 11:58AM EST0

I did a good body of work for "The Kingstone Bible", a complete 3 volume sequential adaption published and translated in many countries.  I'd say I'm most proud of the work I did featured in these books.

Dec 29, 7:16PM EST0

The cover work I have done for Warrior Publishing Group. I have done the cover art for more Military Writers Award winning books than anyone else. 

BTW, I paint as well as do comic book art. I also play piano and sculpt. If it's creative, I do it.

The single most proudest moment in my career was painting the cover for the new edition of the New York Times #1 Best Seller The 13th Valley. Amazon/Kindle liked the art so much, they paid me a second time, for the rights to use my art for the Kindle edition. You can view it HERE.

Dec 29, 8:04PM EST0

What was the first thing you ever drew?

Dec 29, 11:40AM EST0

A whale...maybe a dinosaur, but definitely one or the other!

Dec 29, 7:29PM EST0

I have been drawing since I was very little. My mother used to joke i was born with a pencil in my hand. she kept a lot of my art. The first drawing on record was of the Frankenstein monster, from profile.  I was 4.

Dec 29, 8:06PM EST0

What advice would you give to young artist?

Dec 29, 11:05AM EST0

I would say to just keep drawing to try to get better.  It is NOT going to come easy, even if you're really good.  Make connections!

Dec 29, 7:18PM EST0

Always draw. Keep your skills up. never give up, if you love what you do. Learn to be more than an artist if you want to be successful. You have to sell yourself, so you must be a salesman. You have to collect payments, so you have to be a bill collector. A lot of hats to wear. 

Dec 29, 8:08PM EST0

How would you describe your drawing style?

Dec 29, 8:46AM EST0

I would say that my work is very stylized...almost cartoony.

Dec 29, 7:19PM EST0

I'm realistic. I never learned to draw the way Graham and Ric draws. I wish I had. I am an illustrator. That said, I can draw pretty much any style required. But I prefer being realistic.

Dec 29, 8:09PM EST0

Which artist has influenced you the most?

Dec 29, 8:28AM EST0

John Buscema!

Dec 29, 7:19PM EST0

It is a tie between Al Williamson and Drew Struzan.

Dec 29, 7:47PM EST0

What tips would you give to freelancers on finding jobs?

Dec 29, 5:21AM EST0

It can be hard. There are a lot of pay sites that offer help in freelance. I found them useless. The fact is, do not expect potential clients to see what you do as having value. Clients looking for artists tend to be bargain basement shoppers.Personally, I have done all my job finding by networking. Though, in the past, I found some work through sites designed for freelancers, though those sites have become obsolete, specifically conceptart.org, which at one time I'd say I got as much as 70% of my work through. But, then they went through some changes and thier site didn't function for a long time, causing their relaunch to be tepid at best. The job offerings there are now nowhere near as good as previous. There's also deviantart.com that I have not gotten one single gig through. Ever.So, talk to people, local and elsewhere. Push yourself onto others. I am very aggressive when I talk to people about doing art. You have to wear a lot of hats sometimes, to get work. I find I wear four hats; marketing hat, selling hat, doing art at, and colletions hat.  You HAVE to become a good salesman, because you are selling yourself. When I got the Iron Sky movie gig, it's funny, screenwriter Mikko Rhatitui who wrote Alan Wake for Xbox and the Iron Sky comic scripts, said, "Gerry just sort of inserted himself into the project, and told us what we needed. He was right."I still struggle, as an artist. Even many of us who are successful, struggle, because what we do, will never be treated financially the way we deserve. Being an artist will always be about struggle. So, always network. Eventually you will make a connection, always stay on top of your craft and network. It's a lot like tending a garden. You cannot lie back and just expect shit to grow on their own, you HAVE to tend to your crops constantly.

Dec 29, 6:44PM EST0

Learn how to use social media, network at conventions, submit specific work to targeted potential employers/editors...and draw!

Dec 29, 7:26PM EST0

How long does it take to create a comic or a graphic novel?

Dec 28, 11:16PM EST0

I worked on several graphic novels. Two of them in particular took me 18 months each. That's because I did pretty much everything, from the art to thecoloring. I also did the lettering and even rewriting some of the script, too. I prefer graphic novels to comics, because the dealines are a bit more relaxed. If you are on a comic, you are part of a team and have usually 30 days to finish one comic. A page can take between 8 and 12 hours to draw...though I have gotten a few done in 3...when it becomes necessary to cut corners due to time constraints.Basically, you are looking at 8-12 hours per page, which often includes editorial changes, so 12 hours per page is pretty common for me.So, my soon to be published 118 pg graphic novel Vindicated Inc, I wrote it, drew it, and lettered it. Tom Waltz at IDW edited it. I have well over a thousand hours in that book, and it's taken me years to finish it.

Dec 29, 6:58PM EST0

With the books Im doing lately, I try to do at least one penciled/inked page per day...plus ink out the panels for the next day's page.  Maybe one easy panel too.  So, a 22 page comic plus a cover per month.

Dec 29, 7:34PM EST0

How did you get yourself to where you are now?

Dec 28, 8:37PM EST0

Well, I am relentlessly stubborn and pushy. You have to be a salesman, and become very adept at selling yourself and your skills. It's a constant struggle and you can never take a break. But, I love it.Networking and turning to friends for help, when you can. 

Last edited @ Dec 29, 7:48PM EST.
Dec 29, 6:59PM EST0

A little faith, a LOT of persistence and work...networking!  It's good to make friends in the biz.

Dec 29, 7:38PM EST0

How do you find your clients?

Dec 28, 8:06PM EST0

Seriously, network, network, network. Talk to other artists, there may be gigs they can't do, due to their schedule. Talk to current clients, they may also know someone. Offer discounts on work if they can get you a new client. I have done everything I could to cultivate a network. Richard Bonk knows me really well, and how I do things. I always think outside the box. There is nothing conventional about how I do things. For a while there were sites that were better than they relaized, like conceptart.org. But, most have become obsolete now. It's all about networking, talking to people, pushing what yo0u do, being relentless, and stubborn and tenacious. I insert myself into potential job situations. It's been my experience to not bnother with an agent. No one can tend to your garden better than you. Don't give up on first the "no." Always cvome back, and ask again. I have gotten many jobs where most would have said, "Nothing here."  But there was sonmething there, just not immidiately. Also, go back to clients. They ofte may need more work. Once again, it's all about planting those seeds and tending to your garden. I hope thast made sense.

Dec 29, 7:07PM EST0

Social media, submissions and professional connections.  Previous credits help, too...experience!

Dec 30, 6:15PM EST0

What are the most challenging parts when it comes to drawing?

Dec 28, 7:32PM EST0

Each artist has their "thing" or "things" they have trouble with or hate doing. For Rich's and my friend Graham Nolan of Batman fame, it was drawing the Predator and drawing Huey helicopters. I drew a 114 page historical graphic novel about the build up to teh war between France and England at the battle of hastings. Of the 114 pages, there were 88 pages of horses; some just standing around and sme in battle. I had never drawn horses in a comic before. In fact, I hadn't drawn any since I was a kid, copying Frazetta art. Apparently I am adept at it, but if I never draw another horse, it'll be too soon. Horses have only two expressions: calm, and losing their fucking minds terrified. Ugh!Another challenging part for me, si I dont like standard ways of drawing a panel, form a side view. I think like a cinematographer, and contemplate all the differing camera angles. That can be very daunting work. 

Dec 29, 7:13PM EST0

I'd have to say hands...they can be challenging.  Ok, feet too...lol

Dec 30, 6:13PM EST0

What made you decide that you wanted to create your own comics as a career?

Dec 28, 5:29PM EST0

I went to become a filmmaker. Won a few awards for my short films. I hated working with some of the jerks in the field. An unreliable lot. I loved drawing and was predesigned to be an artist; both my parents were artists. So, I knew with comics, I could draw a movie as a comic or graphic novel and never deal with some of the exhausting people I had to work with in film. Did I mention I am an introvert? That really played into it, too. LOL

Last edited @ Dec 29, 7:17PM EST.
Dec 29, 7:15PM EST0

Currently, I am "work for hire"...I draw other people's properties.  But, I do have a few characters that I'd like to someday create projects for.

Dec 30, 6:10PM EST0

Which of your comics did you have the most fun drawing?

Dec 28, 3:57PM EST0

The most fun I had wasn't drawing, but coloring. I ebnjoyed colroing on Back to the Future, The A-Team, and Army of Two.  It's very relaxing work.As far as drawing goes, I really enjoyed drawing Iron Sky for IDW. 

Dec 29, 7:19PM EST0

Hmmm...I just finished a book for "American Mythology" called "Volcanosaurus".  That was a blast to illustrate!

Dec 30, 6:08PM EST0

Where would you like to be in your career five years from now?

Dec 28, 3:53PM EST0

As a comedian, my answer is, "Not dead."But, as an artist and comic creator,  I see myself slowly stepping back from drawing so much, and focusing more on my writing, as I am a very good writer, gotten some seriously good reviews on my writing, but, I'm even better at story development. I wrote Rich's and my comic TRANSMISSION, where I was writer and he was artist. I him and I doing that more and more down the road.

Last edited @ Dec 29, 7:25PM EST.
Dec 29, 7:23PM EST0

Still employed!  Lol...

Dec 30, 6:06PM EST0
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