Q&A With Dan Christensen creator of Paranormal

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Saturday, May 01, 2021


(Header image: pencil artwork for the cover of Paranormal: Death Strikes at Midnight)


20 Questions with Dan Christensen

Creator of Paranormal, Coming Soon!


Many thanks to Austin English of Domino Books for generously granting permission to use his Q&A format from the now defunct, but still excellent 20 Questions with Caroonists blog.


Dan's graphic novel Paranormal will be on Kickstarter soon... In the meantime, enjoy this interview and keep an eye on your mailbox for more Paranormal updates in the coming weeks! Be sure to follow @dcartoons0213 on instagram to see more of his masterful blend of American and European style cartooning!


1. Can you describe your drawing routine–how often you draw, how many hours per day—how you break up the day with drawing?

I draw every day, but the daily breakdown of hours spent doing so varies depending on if I’m actively working on a project or just drawing for fun. I feel like I’m the most creative in the morning or late at night, so those are the times I draw the most, and when I’m working on a book, I can go for hours without stopping.

2. How much revision/editing do you do in your work?

I’m constantly revising and editing my work. The final, inked page never, ever looks exactly like the thumbnail sketches or penciled version, as I’m always looking for ways to improve the drawing and make it look more dynamic.

3. Talk about your process—do you write a script or make up the drawing as you go?

Strangely enough, no two projects are the same. My very first published work, Red Hands, was “written” as a stream-of-conscious storyboard—I had a vague idea for the story, and started drawing preliminary page sketches one evening… and just kept going until nearly 3 AM, until I was too tired to continue. Then I woke up at 7 the next morning and finished it. On other books, like Riposte and Paranormal, I wrote a complete synopsis, then did page-by-page breakdowns, filling in dialogue as I went, then went back and rearranged the order of certain scenes to improve the flow of the story.  I wish I could make up the drawings and story as I go, like I did on The Delivery, the Paranormal-related daily comic strip I drew for Inktober in 2019, but that doesn’t happen very often. Which is a shame, because it was so much fun. Not knowing what’s going to happen next, and finding out at the same time the reader does, is an exhilarating experience.

4. Do you compose the page as a whole or do you focus more on individual panel composition?

I always compose the page as a whole, keeping in mind the way the art and panels are arranged so as to make the storytelling as clear as possible. Thinking out the overall composition of the page before I put pencil to paper really helps, I think.

5. What tools do you use (please list all)?

I draw with Faber-Castell 9000 pencils and a Rotring Rapid Pro 2mm mechanical pencil, both using 2B lead. Whenever I hand-letter my pages, I use my 15 year-old Ames Lettering Guide, and ink my letters with Staedtler refillable technical pens (0.5 and 0.7mm points), although I’ve been itching to try Uni Pin Fineliners for that, since my technical pens are starting to show their age and I’m too nostalgic to replace them. I ink my panel borders with a Staedtler 1.0mm technical pen, and I use an A4-sized portable lightbox to transfer my rough pencils to the finished page, using blue Prismacolor Col-erase pencils (since the blue lines vanish when I scan and clean the pages with Photoshop). And last but definitely not least (since this is the part I love most about making comics), I ink my penciled art with a no.1 Winsor & Newton Series 7 sable brush and Pébéo ink.

6. What kind(s) of paper do you use?

I’ve tried several different papers over the years, from Strathmore Bristol to Montval watercolor paper, but for the past few years I’ve been using 250g Canson Illustration paper, and have been really happy with it so far.

7. Do you read a lot of comics? Are you someone who reads comics and then gets excited to make more comics—or is your passion for making comics not linked to any particular love for other comics?

To be honest, I don’t read as many comics as I used to, and have become increasingly picky about the ones I do read. Sometimes I’ll buy certain comics to support artist friends or comic book companies whose work I admire, but I haven’t faithfully followed titles from the Big Two in years. As strange as it may sound, reading comics doesn’t inspire or excite me to make more comics, but reading interviews of creators I admire, or even listening to podcasts like Sidebar Nation (now Sidebar Forever https://www.sidebarforever.com/), where creators talk about their art, process, and influences, are great sources of motivation for me. I’d say my passion for comics stems from the love of creating stories, not from other comics—although reading them as a kid is what inspired me to draw, and later, to start down the road to becoming a comic book artist.

8. Do you make comics for a living? If not, how do you support yourself, and how does this relate to your comics making process?

Nope. I’ve been making comics for over twenty years, but have always had a side job to help make ends meet. I’ve been a stay-at-home dad, worked at bookstores, in a tea shop, taught comic book and university English classes, and am a French to English translator, all in addition to my comic book work. Having other jobs has taught me how to organize my time; or rather, how to make time for comics and fit them into my daily schedule. It’s challenging, and while I would, of course, love to have comics be my one and only job, I’ve learned how to juggle professions. It’s been working out pretty well so far.

9. Do other art forms often seem more attractive to you?

No, I honestly can’t think of a single art form that appeals to me more than comic books do.

10. What artwork (or artists) do you feel kinship with?

Matt Wagner has had a greater impact on my work than any artist, living or dead. I discovered his Grendel at a time when I had just about given up on reading comics, and he single-handedly rekindled my interest in an art form that had begun to lose its appeal for me. Paul Grist, Jaime Hernandez, Seth, Darywn Cooke, Javier Pulido, Chris Samnee, and Marcos Martin have also been a constant source of inspiration to me, as have European artists Daniel Torres, Christian Cailleaux, and Roger Ibanez. A journalist here in France once described my work as “Europeanized Comics”, and I think that’s a pretty accurate description of my artistic style and influences. 

11. Is a community of artists important or not important to you?

Yes, very much so. Making comics tends to be a very solitary profession, and can quickly become a lonely one, so meeting and talking to other comic book writers and artists is a great way of giving and receiving support and/or feedback, as well as improving one’s work while staying connected to the rest of the world. Over the years, I’ve met so many talented artists on Instagram and Facebook whom I consider friends, even though we’ve never met. Sometimes [the] internet can be cool. 

12. Is there a particular line quality you like—thick/thin/clean/etc.?

What appeals to me the most is the European clear line style, made popular by artists such as Hergé, Yves Chaland, and André Juillard. The cleaner and easier to read, the better. I much prefer flowing, smooth brushwork to cross-hatching and “busy”, over-rendered artwork. 

13. What is more important to you—style or idea?

That’s a tricky one. Developing a unique, individual style is very important, but to me, conveying an idea clearly is even more so. Having the coolest style in the world doesn’t mean much if readers can’t understand what the artist is trying to say.

14. Is drawing a pleasure to you or a pain?

It’s never a pain, but it’s constantly challenging. I’m one of those cartoonists who rarely, if ever, gets the drawing right on the first try, and I have to draw the same scene or figure several times before it looks “good” to me. So I guess I’d call drawing a “challenging pleasure”.

15. When you meet someone new, do you talk about being an artist right away? Do you identify yourself as an artist or something else?

Another tricky question. I’ve never considered myself an Artist with a capital A, and actually find that kind of pretentious, so I never introduce myself as one when I meet new people. In the course of the conversation, though, I do talk about my love of comics and my job as a cartoonist. I would definitely say that creating comics is what defines me; it’s not only what I do, but it’s also a big part of what makes me who I am. When I worked at a tea shop a couple of years ago, acquaintances and friends would occasionally stop by. Some seemed surprised, even alarmed, to see me behind the front counter or waiting tables. I can’t count the number of times I’d hear stuff like, “you are still drawing comics, right?” or “you’ve given up comics? No way!” Their remarks would remind me that even though I had a day job, I was still a cartoonist.

16. Do you feel at all connected to older comic artists like Steve Ditko or Jack Kirby—or does this seem like a foreign world to you?

I wouldn’t say connected, really, but even though I don’t see their influence directly in my own work, I do have a great deal of fond respect and admiration for them. Kirby, Ditko, Alex Toth, Bruno Premiani, Ross Andru, John Romita Sr., John Buscema… all of them made me love comics, and opened doors to worlds I’d never have discovered otherwise.

17. Do you ever feel the impulse to not draw comics?

Not very often, no. I occasionally feel discouraged or disheartened, like when a publisher turns down a project, or when drawing a certain page or scene proves difficult or complicated, but thankfully, the impulse to not draw comics is something I’ve rarely had to deal with.

18. Do you draw from life?

Yes, absolutely. I’ll often draw myself in the mirror, use photo reference, or ask family and/or friends to pose for me as needed. A long time ago, someone told me it’s better to draw from life, instead of swiping or copying art techniques from other cartoonists, and I’ve tried to follow that advice ever since.

19. Do you pencil out comics and then ink? Or do you sometimes not pencil?

For me, drawing comics directly in ink, without penciling them first, would be like trying to dance on a tightrope. I always pencil my pages first, panel by panel, on sheets of typing paper or in my sketchbook, and when everything is finally how I want it to look, then I’ll lightbox the pencils onto the final page and ink them from there. I have the greatest respect for artists who are confident and talented enough to ink their pages directly. They’re a lot more courageous than I am.

20. What does your drawing space look like?

I work both at home and at a studio I share with other artists, writers, and photographers, but the setup is basically the same. At home it’s just a small, basic trestle desk, but at the studio I still use the professional drawing table my parents bought for me for my birthday when I started taking this drawing comic book stuff seriously. As a result, I get a lot more work done at the studio.



21. Talk about your new collection, Paranormal: Death Strikes at Midnight

Paranormal is a noir crime story about a super-powered, or paranormal, criminal known as the Ogre. He has just been released from prison and is determined to make a fresh start, hoping to reunite with his wife and turn his back on his shady past. Unfortunately for the Ogre, things don’t quite work out the way he had planned: not only has his wife left him, but one of his former accomplices, a paranormal criminal called Rat Face, has just murdered several police officers and stolen a drug shipment from L.A.’s deadliest crime lord. 

The police can’t stop Rat Face alone, and the local superheroes refuse to help, ever since the police murdered one of them, so Detective Griffin, the very same cop who arrested Ogre, finds him and forces him to hunt Rat Face down. 

Paranormal: Death Strikes at Midnight was first published in three 48-page volumes here in France, and I’m thrilled to announce that Black Eye Books is offering the definitive, remastered edition, in the format I had originally intended the story to be read in: a one-shot, 150-page trade paperback.