Joseph Michael Linsner
By Spiros Evangelos Armenis
Edited By Dimitris Sakaridis
First Published in Comicdom #3, Vol.3, Apr 04
PART ONE: BEGINNINGS AND INFLUENCES
SPIROS EVANGELOS ARMENIS: My first question is "why
Comics?". I mean, you could be an illustrator or a Fantasy
Artist, like Luis Royo, Julie Bell or Boris Vallejo. Why did
you choose comics to express your artistic needs?
SEA: How did it all start? Did you use to make funny drawings as a kid, or draw epic battles during class? Did you have any formal Art School training?
JML: Self trained as an artist, but I have always been the kid with the pencil in his hand. My brothers were good at sports, I was good at art. And i always wanted to work in comics, so i am a very lucky guy to have gotten to where I am at.
SEA: What was your first job in comics?
JML: I did a cover for a comic book called "Continuum". It was their first issue.
SEA: Did it pay well?
JML: I think i got paid $250, which was more than I was bringing home a week from my day job, so I was very happy with that.
SEA: Talking about beginnings... tell me a bit about the beginning of CFD publications. Whose idea was it?
JML: In 1987 I found out how cheap it was to print up a black and white comic. Lots of people were doing it, and I decided to get together with a few friends and give it a shot. A big influence was Pacific Comics, one of the first independent comic publishers from the early 80's. I loved their books, and had always wanted to get into independent publishing ever since I was 12. So, in 1989, the first issue of my very own self-published comic book came out, CRY FOR DAWN.
SEA: Was it about that time that you met "The Dark One"?
JML: I met "The Dark One" at a convention in the early 90's. He really is a fantastically talented guy, and I wish he would produce more work. And I would even like to work with him on some collaborations.
SEA: What are some of your artistic influences from comics and other media? Which people have had a real impact on your work?
JML: I am influenced by everything I see. I got a big kick out of the Lord of The Rings flicks. Looking forward to the Hellboy flick. Just finished re-reading a bunch of Charles Bukowski (love that guy!).
SEA: Let's talk about Dawn... Is she based on a real person (visually, I mean), or is she just some inner fantasy?
JML: Dawn is a mixture of everything I love about women. Certain
classic movie stars have been strong influences, like Ann Margrett,
Marilyn Monroe, Kim Novak, Veronica Lake, Sophia Loren, Grace Kelly,
but the biggest influences have been the women around me.
SEA: Why do you believe that Dawn has stayed popular for so long. Is it just a "super sexy bad girl" thing or do you believe that it's the storyline that makes the book so popular. In short, are your fans "story guys" or "art guys"?
JML: I think most folks buy Dawn for the art. There is a small devoted bunch who REALLY get the stories, but I think most 'buyers' of Dawn are not 'readers' of Dawn.
SEA: Does the Dawn Saga have a definite ending? Did you have a complete story in mind from the beginning?
JML: No ending in sight yet. With every drawing I do of Dawn, I am still learning new things about her. Which I think is great, because I want to be interested in what i am working on. I want to be kept curious. Drawing a character like Batman or Wonder Woman all of the time would drive me crazy, because the chances of discovery are pretty slim. Dawn is still full of untapped potential, and i love her for that.
SEA: Your stories seem a bit Biblical in a sense, but...not quite. So what's the story behind Dawn, the character? Is she based on some particular biblical character or other religious entity?
JML: Well, I am very into world mythology, and the bible is simply christian mythology. As someone said, "one man's religion is another man's mythology." I don't draw strictly from any one ancient source. Different concepts from different religions catch my interest, and I collage together the things that I find interesting. For example, "Cernunnos" is classic Celtic, and "Ahura Mazda" is Zoroastrian. "Lucifer" is actually based on a Angra Mainyu (Ahura Mazda's evil counterpart) but I find the christian name Lucifer to be more interesting. Dawn is actually not based on any one goddess, although the celtic triple-goddess is a strong influence.
SEA: Have you ever had any problems with the church in the past? The religious right maybe?
JML: Just the occasional nut coming up to me at a convention telling me that I was going to hell. But that hasn't happened to me in years.
SEA: Who is Darian Ashoka?
JML: Darrian is Dawn's observer. I wanted to keep Dawn mysterious, and Darrian allows me, the writer, to interact with Dawn form a human's point of view. Telling things from Dawn's point of view would bring her down to our level, and take away much of her power. Maybe someday I'll do that, but right now I am still on the outside trying to discover what is inside.
SEA: Dawn Look-a-like contest: What's it for?
JML: It's for fun! This year will be contest #7, and every
year the girls who enter get better and better. It is a big
cheap thrill seeing 40 girls walk across a stage and bring
your character to life.
JML: Much of it depends upon whatever will work best for the concept. On covers I have a pretty standard 'high gloss' technique, but for stories I like to mix it up. That is the biggest thing I miss about doing short stories for CRY FOR DAWN. Every issue I could do something totally different, and every issue was an adventure. One of these days I want to get back to that.
SEA: Do you feel that there may be some people who think of you as a typecast artist. Do you believe that some people might say "Linsner? Oh, he's the guy that's drawing the hot babes."
JML: Oh yeah, that happens. For example, I would love to someday
do a Batman comic, and whenever I tell people that, they assume
that I want to draw Batman with Catwoman. I could care less about
fucking Catwoman! I wanna draw Batman beating the hell out of
SEA: Something that strikes me as a bit odd: On one hand, its pretty obvious you're an artist who loves the medium and cares a great deal about your readers, and on the other you're so into the whole "Variant Covers and Limited Editions" thing. Some people might interpret this as "cheating". I mean, after all, you really only get to read the book once. What's the need for all the variant covers? (I'm not necessarily stating my opinion here, I'm just playing devil's advocate).
JML: I do the limited editions with variant covers because they
give me the chance to try out new things on covers. My schedule
is very packed these days, and sadly, if a painting doesn't somehow
tie into what I am publishing, I rarely get a chance to make the
time for it. The variants allow me a chance to get more artwork
out of my system and out there into the world. I honestly try to
make every limited edition a nice little package. I want to give
the fans a good return for their money. Ultimately, if anyone is
not interested, they don't have to buy them. It's not like there
are secret story elements
SEA: When you're doing covers for other publishers, do you make the choices yourself? I mean, can you just go to Top Cow and say "I want to do a Witchblade cover"?
JML: I wish! No, whenever I do a cover, it is because I am asked. Although with the CONAN covers I am doing right now for Dark Horse, I did approach them, and was lucky enough to score the job -- which I am loving.
SEA: In an interview you gave to Diamond's Previews, you said that since you are the sole copyright owner of Dawn, there will never be any original works for sale, unless it's work you did for other companies' characters. Some original (Dawn) works of yours have appeared for sale from time to time, though. How did that happen?
JML: I have always sold smaller pieces. The key covers and interior pages I want to hold onto because I might need them for future printings. Plus it is tough to part with some of my favorites.
SEA: What's your relationship with other artists or writers in the comics business? Do you have any real friends or enemies?
JML: Plenty of friends, not too many enemies ( I hope). It's odd -- I have made twice as many friends in the business after I split away from Sirius Entertainment. They have a dark cloud over them or something.
SEA: What are some of your favorite contemporary artists in comics?
JML: Far too many people to mention. I really dig Adam Hughes, Bruce Timm, Glen Fabry, Moebius, Enki Bilal, Guy Davis, P. Craig Russell, Richard Corben, the guy who does 100 Bullets, etc.
SEA: In your opinion what are the good and what are the bad things about comics at the moment and how do you see the future of comics? Both industry-wise and art-wise.
JML: The big split between collecting comics and reading comics seems to be in the near future. The act of collecting comics has reached it's apex with the sealed CGC books -- they are no longer readable after they are graded. I think that is fine for old, very rare books, but it should have nothing to do with anything published in the last 5 to 10 years. The public is getting more into the buying of trade paperbacks, which I think is great. Trades are for reading, and they have no collectability to them. If you want to get into the Sandman or Spiderman, you can walk into a bookstore, and pick up the latest printing. Looking at the whole industry, I do find it odd that the overall level of work being done right now is probably the best the industry has ever seen, and yet the market is still so tiny compared to what it once was.
SEA: There is a rumor making the rounds, that a counterfeit (around 100 copies of it) of Cry For Dawn#1 exists? Is that true?
JML: It is true. Cry For Dawn is up there among the elite of the comics industry. Only a few other books have been counterfeited. To my knowledge they are ZAP #1, and Cerebus #1.
SEA: Are there any characters from other publishers you'd like to work on? We've seen Killraven from Marvel, for example. Any other dream projects of yours?
JML: Aside from Batman (whom I mentioned before), I've always thought Mister X had the greatest untapped potential. His core set-up is so awesome, and no one has ever opened it up right. It will probably never happen, but I would love to someday take a crack at him.
SEA: Give us some info about your future projects. Anything you can discuss? Even a slight hint would be enough.
JML: After Dawn I want to finally dive into DARK IVORY, (my sexy vampire, man). That will be a 3 issue series, and I want to get on that this year, right after I finish DAWN: Three Tiers.
SEA: Have you ever been to Greece?
JML: Never been to Greece but I'd love to someday. I've tried some Greek food, though. I really love Gyros -- at least the American version.
SEA: We'd love to see you around here someday. We'll even buy you lunch. Thanks for your time, Joe.
JML: Thank you.
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