This isn't Jon's first book, obviously. (I say obviously, because he is being trusted with Blizzard's baby, so it's safe to bet he's got the chops for it.) My favorite of his previous books includes Midnight #13 through #15, and a short stint on the City of Heroes comic book. (Hey, the CoH story might have been a little weak, but I loved the art.)
We were fortunate that Jon was willing to do an interview with your intrepid reporter at WoW Insider. Check out what he had to say behind the cut.
1. Do you play World of Warcraft? What do you play?
Absolutely. I've played Blizzard's games since Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness. Heck, my last name even means "Blizzard" (true fact -- Google it!). But seriously, when I met Chris Metzen at the San Diego Comic-Con last year, it was one of those handshakes like, "Hey, nice to meet you, you shaped my childhood," so I'm a huge fan. I play Horde only, as I have no time for Alliance SWINE. My main is a level-70 tauren druid.
2. What kind of play do you prefer? PvP, PvE... How do you tend to prefer to spend your time in the World of Warcraft?
Well, I wanted to roll a PvP realm, but there's nothing like trying to grab a screenshot or reference shot and having a rogue gank you just as you get the camera "just right." So we (some of the Wildstorm/DC guys) rolled on a PvE realm and we still had a blast, just not as much massacre. I like to level alts. I have a severe case of World of Warcraft ADD, so I just roll alts and rock whenever I get the time. I also like doing battlegrounds on my main. I don't have the time to raid, but eventually that would be fun. World of Warcraft is just so vast; it's a big task to see everything in the game, though I suspect at some point I will. I did roll on a PvP realm recently with some real-life buddies. I have a level-53 hunter, just gotta get to 55 for Wrath of the Lich King lol.
3. How did you come across the World of Warcraft assignment?
Well, I was submitting work to publishers trying to "break in" to comics. I handed my portfolio to Hank Kanalz at the New York Comic Con last year and he liked what he saw. He sent me an email about a "new licensed property" and asked if I'd like a shot at it. Once he told me it was Warcraft...with Walt "I-MELTED-FACES-ON-THOR" Simonson...I literally fell over. I was working at a copy center at the time, so I was amped to get out of there and into this amazing project. Once we got going full swing, it was (and still is) like a dream come true.
4. What did you use as references for the armor and gear? How close or faithful to those references were you? I imagine it'd be somewhat limiting artistically to simply draw what's already in the game.
Well, anything out of the ordinary is referenced by the Blizzard team. They do a great job of answering questions and hooking me up with any reference I can't get in the game.
It's only limiting if the reference doesn't inspire me! I love the look they've captured with the game. Samwise, Glenn Rane, Justin Thavirat, Peter Lee, and all the rest of those artistic geniuses all deserve a big ol' bag of kudos for keeping the game aesthetically interesting as well as consistent. I love the look of the world and its inhabitants, so looking to the game for reference is exciting and rewarding. I try to pull off things like big warped perspective shots and action sequences whenever possible. There are things we can do in comics that games and movies can't, so I try to capitalize on those moments.
5. What guides did Blizzard provide you, in terms of vision and bible for your work?
Well, the guys in their licensing department are great. I had a surprise "care package" one day when the projects started full of books, art books, game cards, art cards, shirts, hats, games, action figures, a calendar, all kinds of stuff. Phat lewt FTW! Big shout out to those guys for making the "perks" just as fun as the project.
6. How was the approval process for the finished art?
Approval, to be honest, was tough at first. Aside from just general corrections/changes that normally take place, my style is drastically different from Ludo Lullabi's (the previous story arc's artist), so that was a small hurdle. Otherwise, Blizzard is Blizzard. As fans, we know how meticulously detailed Blizzard is in their efforts to release only the best products. This is across the board. They really care about delivering the most recognizable, epic content, in both the game and the real world. They're the best at what they do, so I do as I'm told. =)
7. Do you see yourself doing other Blizzard (non-comic) artwork in the future?
I have three professional passions: comics, games, and movies -- not in any order. To work on a Blizzard game would be nirvana for me creatively. Whether it be World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lost Vikings or Chuck Norris' Delta Force: Online, I think I could bring a lot to the table! That's an interesting question....
8. How did your past work influence your WoW art? (They certainly don't look much alike, but there is a certain Midnighter-ish appeal to Varian....)
Well, this is going to sound cliché, but I hate my work. I try not to look at my own work too much. Past work is past work. I strive to move forward. It's like leveling. If you're at level 68 and you think, "Man, I should play the way I did when I was level 11," you'll get nowhere.
9. Was this different from your work on City of Heroes?
Night and day. The City of Heroes comic was a fill-in gig. I knew it was being canceled. My editor over at Top Cow was totally cool, but I knew that was a short-term thing. I didn't get to know any of the NCsoft guys or anything, so it wasn't really a comparable experience. The Wildstorm/DC and Blizzard people have really taken care of me and made me feel like I belong on the book. To a new artist like me, that's more than you can wish for.
10. We can guess you got a sneak peak at the alpha and definitely can't discuss that. However, would attentive readers pick up hints of the alpha in the comic book?
From what I understand, there are plenty of goodies to come that will involve content from Wrath of the Lich King. All I know is that I can't wait for the expansion to beat me up and throw me away bloodied, just like everyone else.