THE ART OF CHRISTIAN WARD!


Eisner Award-winning artist Christian Ward (Batman: City of Madness, ODY-C, Ultimates 2) launched his brand new hardcover art book MANY WORLDS: The Art of Christian Ward today on Zoop!

The Beat caught up with Ward over an interview to discuss his journey as an artist, the creation of this new art book, and the journey that the art book has taken him!


DIEGO HIGUERA: Right off the bat, so that we can have it in your own words, please tell us a bit about your journey as an artist and how you got started in the industry!

CHRISTIAN WARD: Well, I’ve been doing this now for about 15 years. So I’ve been in the industry for a while. I mean, I’ve been a comic book fan since I was a little nipper, a little kid, and kind of wanted to be a comic book artist when I was a small boy. Real life and teachers and everyone else kind of pushed me away. I’m from a place in the UK called Wolverhampton, and so really, the idea of wanting to be a comic book artist when you come from a place like Wolverhampton is akin to saying, I’m going to be a Hollywood movie star or I’m going to be a rock star. It’s in the same boat. So it doesn’t feel very realistic; it doesn’t feel like it’s something that can be achievable.

I trained to be an illustrator, a children’s book illustrator, because in my mind, that was the closest thing to a real job that could be like being a comic book artist. Eventually, that kind of didn’t work out and I became a school teacher. All the while still buying comics, still reading comics. I was the head of the department and I taught art to 11 to 16-year-olds for about 10 years. But because I love comics, I used those as a way of teaching children the core mechanics of art. You know, you can teach proportion, you can teach composition, you can teach design using comics. So the kids think they’re drawing manga and superhero comics, but actually, you’re using it as a self-teaching mechanism to teach them the building blocks of art.

While I was doing that, I would do these worksheets that looked like comic pages just because they looked a bit more interesting. I remember one pupil who cheekily remarked, “If you’re so good at this, why don’t you do it?” It was a snotty-nosed, cheeky remark, but it lit a fire. At that point, I had been experimenting with Photoshop and a mix of traditional and digital artwork. We’re talking about 2002 at this point, so digital artwork was still quite in its infancy. It occurred to me that, even though I had worked as a professional illustrator alongside being a teacher, I wondered what would happen if I returned to my original love, comics.

I started posting comics on forums like Jinxworld. There, I made a friend named Scott Wagner, who did a successful independent comic called Tom Krobo. He invited me to do a five-page comic, and it just went from there. That was the first one that led to me doing a book called Olympus at Image, which was a four-issue comic, if I remember rightly. Then that led to me doing another book called Infinite Vacation. Infinite Vacation was the book that, in my mind, was my first book, even though it was my second. That was the one I really went for. From that, I started talking to Matt Fraction, and then I did Odyssey. That was the first book that I did full-time. I quit teaching at that point, and that was 12 years ago. I’ve been doing it full-time ever since.

HIGUERA:  What made you want to go ahead and make the art book now?

WARD: Well, yeah, I mean, it’s like I’m at, I think, if my math is right, this is 15 years since I started doing comics. So that feels like a nice, tidy number. For the last, what, eight years? Every few years, I’ve done a little art book, which I’ve got here. I’ve only done three. That’s the latest one. I did these little art books, and I released these purely at conventions. If there’s any leftover, I’ll put them on a webshop.

From a business point of view, they don’t make me a lot of money. But what I love about them is, it’s a real collection. They’re always a really nice collection of what I’ve been up to for the past year. I put my favorite covers in there, my favorite personal pieces, and it’s great when I have fans come to conventions. They can take this home, and they’ve got something really unique and individual that they can’t get anywhere else other than from me. They sell out very quickly, and I have people online asking me, “Where can I get volumes one through three?” And I have to say, “Really sorry, it’s sold out.”

Those two things kind of came into play. The 15 years felt like a number that could be marked. Also, having these three books that had sold out, I thought, “Well, I can put all those together, or at least art from all three together into one single volume, print it in a different format, make it hardcover, make it bigger, and just make it something really special.” And really, it was just timing with that in my mind that Jordan from Zoop came to see me last year at New York Comic Con, introduced himself, and sort of said, “Is there anything that you would like to do as a crowdfunder?”

I hadn’t considered it before, and it just seemed to be the perfect fit. So that’s why we went ahead and did it. I’ve put a selection of work together; it looks really cool. Obviously, I’m not sure when your podcast or interview is going to go out, but I think it’s going to be a really cool little campaign.

HIGUERA: Do you ever have a moment where you’re compiling all this artwork together and you’re just like, Oh, I forgot I did this?

WARD: Just to put it in context, like, I think last year, I did, over 100 covers, just covers on top of doing all the stuff. And I started to go back in, and I’ve been going back for the last 15 years. It’s stuff that I’ve found; I’ve got to have no recollection of it. And it’s great when you put all your artwork, and this is for any artists, in a volume like this, even though it’s their singular pieces. There is a narrative. There’s a story there and the story of your evolution of an artist, the story of your career. I think that’s great to see. And sometimes it’s nice to kind of have that kind of pat on the back that kind of soul food to kind of remind you why you’re doing it, and also how far you’ve come and what you’ve achieved.

HIGUERA: What are you excited for fans to see in this? More specifically, of course, they’re going to be happy to see the art and they’re going to worship you at this point, but what’s something that you personally are like, “Wow, I can’t wait for them to see this” or to experience this through your book?

WARD: I think what will be interesting is that this is an art book, and about 70% of it consists of personal pieces or unique creations. There’s going to be a lot of stuff in there that people haven’t seen before in real life, which will show a different side of me as an artist. Before I became a comic book artist, I used to hold exhibitions of big canvas paintings. None of those are in the book, but the spirit of creating art for art’s sake is something I’ve held on to.

I’ve done two shows where I created pieces just to do art, not for commercial purposes or to make money, but purely for the sake of creating art. Pieces from both of those shows are going to be in the book. These are there purely because they represent the visuals and themes I’m interested in. All that stuff ties back into the comics. People will see surprising new work, and they’ll also see the roots of ideas that later appeared in my comics. This art book is a chance for people to see my purest work, a real look at Christian Ward, undiluted.

HIGUERA: So huge Alan Wake fans will recognize that Sam Lake wrote your art books introduction, How did the collaboration come about? Especially considering we’re just coming out of the release of Alan Wake 2. It’s phenomenal, and I’m sure your fans would love to know what happened!

WARD: Oh, thank you. Wow, who doesn’t love Sam? He’s one of the loveliest men. And actually, he’s doing the foreword for the art book. So if you’re a big Sam Lake fan, that’s really, really cool.

Basically, Sam and I have become friends over the years because we’re mutual fans of each other’s work. I’m a fan of what he does with games like Alan Wake and Control. I can’t remember if I followed him first or if he followed me—he follows a lot of comic book artists, so it’s not unusual. We just hit it off. We realized we had a very similar sensibility in what we look for in stories. We both like cosmic themes and the clash of the very old and very contemporary.

We’ve gotten on well, and we just chat as friends. I would send him PDFs of my Batman books before they came out, and he was very complimentary about them. Earlier this year, he reached out and asked if I would be interested in working together on an Alan Wake DLC. It was the easiest “yes” I’ve ever given.

It was hard work—lots of weekends and late nights—but it was fantastic to work in a completely different field with Sam. I had to think about storytelling in a new way, working from scripts that looked like film scripts. I also worked with a really cool director named Nancy, who directed my sequence. We had to figure out how to transition from a scene to the comic book scene and how that would appear on screen.

One thing I really love about comics, and even more so in the writing than the art, is the problem-solving aspect of storytelling. Doing that in a different field was really exciting. That’s phenomenal.

HIGUERA: Since we’ve talked about your work on various notable titles like Batman: City of Madness, Aquaman: Andromeda, and now Alan Wake, I want to ask, how do these projects go on to influence your work?

WARD: I don’t think the projects themselves necessarily influence me as an artist. It’s more about me influencing the work with my personal style and vision. Does that make sense? It’s about flipping it—what do I bring to Aquaman? What do I bring to Alan Wake? What do I bring to Batman? It’s about wanting to flex my muscles as an artist and storyteller and thinking about how my approach fits into these worlds.

As for what I take from these projects, it’s always enjoyment and a sense of accomplishment. For example, Batman: City of Madness was a huge personal project for me. I’ve always wanted to write and draw Batman since I was 12 or 13 years old. Achieving that dream brings a huge amount of pride and gratitude.

Regarding influence, I don’t think these projects necessarily change my style or work. People often ask who influences me, but I don’t feel directly influenced by any one person. Of course, everything I absorb goes into the melting pot and comes out in my work—there are subconscious influences. Watching a film might inspire a certain frame, shot, or color, but my goal is to create work that feels uniquely mine. I’m not trying to emulate others; I’m trying to get to the root of what Christian Ward’s art is, what it looks like, what it feels like, and how it naturally grows.

So, I look for projects that allow me to grow my work rather than looking for projects that will influence my work.

HIGUERA: For some of the reward tiers on your project, you offer fans a chance to get signatures, remarques, commissions, and even original art. Most of the time, I’ve seen projects that just offer the book and a signature, but you went above and beyond. What made you decide to include these extra, more personal offers?

WARD: It goes back to conventions. When I attend conventions, there are artists who rely heavily on them for income, making substantial earnings from sponsorships and sales. That’s a significant part of their career economy. Personally, conventions haven’t been a major source of income for me because I don’t enjoy sitting at a table and drawing for hours. While I do decently, it’s not comparable financially to working from home. So, then you ask, why do I do conventions if it’s not primarily for money? For me, it’s about mental health, getting out of the house, and meeting peers and collaborators I usually interact with online or rarely in person. It’s also about visiting new places, but most importantly, it’s about meeting fans.

When I meet fans at conventions, my primary goal is to make each interaction meaningful. Some fans just want a signature and move on, which is perfectly fine. But for those who want to chat and engage, I want to give them an experience they’ll remember. I don’t always know how highly they regard me—maybe I’m their favorite creator ever. Each person who comes to see me deserves a memorable encounter that shows my gratitude for their support because without them, I wouldn’t have a career.

Similarly, the art books serve a similar purpose. They’re not about making a lot of money, considering the high production costs. Instead, they offer fans something unique and treasurable that they can’t find elsewhere. That’s why this Zoop campaign is aligned with that philosophy. While I would have loved to offer more original art and commissions, time constraints limited what I could provide. Nonetheless, there are options like 20 remarques in two varieties and prints, along with some really old original sketches that I’ve dug out, some dating back 20 years.

I’ve kept my favorite pieces because I want to have items that I can pass on to my daughters, things that might hold meaning for them. But ultimately, it’s about what I can give to the fans, what they would appreciate.

The best part of crowdfunding is that I’m not just putting a book on a shelf and hoping it sells. The book will only come to life if people want it. Isn’t that a beautiful thing? Its existence depends entirely on people’s desire for it. So I wanted to ensure that the items I felt fans would value most would be available to them.

HIGUERA: What message would you like to give your to your friends and supporters reading this?

WARD: Just thank you, thank you for all the support over the years and just you know, I will keep doing good work if you keep supporting me. That’s the beautiful relationship of prominent artists.


Don’t miss out on Ward’s campaign now live on Zoop!


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