Monday, September 24, 2012

A Little Conversation with...Gene Ha

My first encounter with Gene Ha's work was in the mid-90's with The Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix mini-series. I was easily pulled into the story and enjoyed his interpretation of the future world of Mother Askani and the people within it. People talk about having a signature style, but looking at Mr. Ha's work for the first time and any of his work after that is the definition of the phrase. Like the best creators, his work is instantly recognizable as his and a joy to look at. He's also a nice guy.
That's the impression that I get, because I approached him about doing an interview and, within a day, he answered back in the affirmative and was just as quick answering back when I emailed my questions to him. That and the fact that Mr. Ha is local hero, (He was born in Chicago and raised in South Bend) makes me even more proud to feature him here.
Besides, The Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix, he's also done, Batman: Fortunate Son, Top 10 and Top 10:The 49'ers, Global Frequency and Green Lantern.
His more current work? Well, I think, Mr. Ha can answer that much more elequently than I could...

FOC: Your work has been influenced by John Byrne, Bill Sienkiewicz, Walt Simonson, Alan Moore, Frank Miller and, most famously, Matt Wagner. Are there any other artists in other mediums or filmmakers that influence you as well?

GH: Well, sure! I'm more influenced by TV than film currently. I love the style and storytelling of shows like The Wire, Mad Men, Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones.
Now that I'm older I'm taking new lessons from old masters like Alex Toth and Jack Kirby. I especially respect Kirby as a moral example, not just an artistic one. I follow the work of many artists of my generation: Adam Hughes, Frank Cho, Cliff Chiang and Darwyn Cooke. A lot of young creators are keeping me on my toes. For pure Moebius-like creativity, Brandon Graham always makes me think. Believe it or not, I follow the blog of a comics grad student to see what I should be learning next: That girl scares me!

FOC: Were your parents resistant to your aspirations to become an illustrator?

GH: My mom just wanted me to be happy and to avoid the obvious future killing decisions: addiction and unprotected sex and early marriage. My dad hated the idea of me becoming an artist. He still paid my way through art school, which I've never understood but always been grateful for.

FOC: You mentioned in your FAQ on that your parents were hoping you and your brothers would get prestigious degrees and find prestigious jobs. You've won the Russ Manning award and 4 Eisner awards. Were your parents proud of your achievements?

GH: Again, my mom is just happy that I'm happy. My dad wished I made more money, and in a way that would top his Korean friends' kids. The awards mean nothing to either of them.

FOC: Every artist worth their salt have created their own characters. Have any of yours made their way into your published work?

GH: Let me distinguish between “creator owned” and corporate owned characters I've created. Gerard Jones and I own Oktane, but there's not much market for another vaguely superheroic character, and I don't have a burning urge to tell more tales with him. I've created various characters for DC and Marvel, such as the whole cast of Top 10, with my colleagues Alan Moore and Zander Cannon. But we don't own them.

FOC: Will we be seeing a creator owned book from you in the future?

GH: Hopefully, but I don't want to publicly announce anything until it's ready for the Previews catalog.

FOC: What is your most current project in the marketplace?

GH: Shade #12 with writer James Robinson and colorist Art Lyon. Before that, Action Comics #9 with Grant Morrison. I've been on a DC exclusive contract for over a year now.

FOC: Are there any artists or writers you would love to work with?

GH: Mostly, the writers I'm working with. I've reached a nice point in my career where most of the writers I want to work with also like my work. Right now, I'm working with Bill Willingham on Fables #122 and #123. I've been a fan of his work since I was a teen.

FOC: What would be your dream project?

GH: If we're making this a clear fantasy project, I'd like to write my own book. The fantasy part is that I quickly become as good of a writer as Bill Willingham. The problem with matching skills with a great writer is that they always work to become better. Even if I matched his current skill, in one year he'll be even better than that. As it is, I'd be lucky to get as good as he was 15 years ago.

FOC: Any opinions about the current state of the comic book industry?

GH: Best o' times, worst o' times! DC and Marvel are under tighter control by their corporate owners, but they're prize properties full of future movie and game licenses. So they won't get liquidated, but there's less freedom.
For creator owned work, it's certainly the best of times. Kickstarter and cheap desktop design tools have changed the whole game.

FOC: What's on your iPod/Mp3 player?

GH: Isn't asking a comic book artist for music recommendations like asking a chef for fashion tips? I claim no expertise, but here we go.
I've been listening to a lot of Metric, the New Pornographers and Rilo Kiley. There's a lot of other stuff on my phone, but I haven't listened to much else.

Thank you again, Gene Ha for your time. For everything Gene Ha, check out his website,, follow him on Twitter and like him on Facebook.