let it be said that we’re stuck on one continent.
Oh, no… you see, we have Slushers placed
strategically all over the globe. Jonas Vesterlund is
one such Slusher. Thanks to our man in Sweden, we can
bring you the following interview with Travis Charest.
Charest is a professional artist who has worked on the
notable WildStorm favorite WildCATS (for many
years) and WildC.A.T.s vs. X-Men. Now Travis is
living in France and has, among other things, done an
exhibition with Bryan Hitch and Gary Frank at a Paris
Charest’s newest projects involve keywords: Metabaron,
Humanoids, Dreamwalkers. Read on to find
out what we mean.
[Note: This interview was originally published in
Which interest came first to you, the interest
in comic books or an interest in drawing? Do you
remember the first comic book you read?
According to my mom, I was drawing things like
lions and dogs when I was a kid, but I was by no means
a child prodigy. I don't think I showed any more
ability than anyone else until junior high school when
I began playing Dungeons & Dragons and
started drawing my character sheets. At almost the
same time I saw two things that left a strong
impression on me.
First I found several issues of Heavy Metal
in my uncle Paul's attic, a little mature for me at
the time ( I think I must have been 12 or 13 at the
time) and if I can recall the issues included Moebius,
Corben, and this one story about this blue-skinned
knight that blew my mind, or opened it if you prefer.
Also, I got my hands on two battered copies of Conan
the Barbarian, with art by John Buscema, I can
still remember this giant white troll or something
grabbing Conan's leg as he was climbing a rope and
seeing the words "Stygian dogs!" for the
first time. It wasn't the first comic I ever read but
it was the first one that flicked that little switch
inside my head and got me excited about art for the
When did you decide to make a career in the comic
field? How did you go by getting into the comic scene?
What did your family and friends think about that
I was working in the warehouse of Bartle &
Gibson Co. Plumbing and Heating and my co-worker
(aptly named Art) showed me some comics he had
purchased on his lunch break, among them were a few
issues of Uncanny X-men, by Claremont and Lee,
while Art was talking about Skinny Puppy and Severed
Head I was lost. I was looking at a revelation, comic
art had never seemed so perfect to me, the women were
beautiful, and the men heroic, at that moment I don't
know if I was thinking about a career in comics but I
do know that I wanted to do what I was looking at,
draw beautiful things.
I would get up in the morning, go to work, come
home and draw, and THAT WAS ALL I WOULD DO, my
girlfriend broke up with me and I think I gained 10
pounds but 2 weeks after I sent packages to Marvel and
DC I received a phone call from Tom DeFalco ( who was
very nice but didn't offer me any work at the time)
and from Neal Pozner ( who was also very nice, and did
offer me work) and that was that, my life changed
forever. Actually it didn't change that much because
my beginning page rate of 80.00/pg meant
I wasn't able to quit my warehouse job for almost a
My friends and family were excited for me as well
as confused, I still don't know if my grandma really
knows what I do. My sister, Brenda, who is a very
talented painter, is my biggest fan, but still wants
What do people say when you tell them what you do
for a living? If you were not working with comics what
do you think you would do for a living?
Most people are interested when I tell them I'm an
artist, but their eyes sort of glaze over when I
mention that I'm a "comic book" artist. I
don't have the slightest idea what I would do, and if
there comes a time when I can't do this anymore, I'll
probably have to go back to the warehouse ( if I can
still lift that cast iron pipe that is).
The first time I encountered your work you were
during your stint on "Wild C.a.t.s".
What I found interesting was how your art many times
had the feel of French/Belgian Graphic Novels, not
that I can point towards something specific but
sometimes it was the page layout, other times the line
work and sometimes just a panel. Before you started
working for Humanoids did you have an interest in
European Graphic Novels? If so how did this interest
come about and are there any specific titles or
creators you have been inspired by?
As I mentioned before I had seen some European
artists' work, but my contact with these books was
sporadic and I didn't really have a chance to enjoy
the work properly until I had been working for a few
years and was more immersed in the world of art and
I've been an admirer of Moebius for years, and
Gimenez has also had a considerable impact on my work,
much like that day in the warehouse when I was struck
by the beauty of Lee's work, I was also affected by
the poetry and delicateness of Moebius' linework. And
although my work is very different from his I often
read and re-read my Mignola books because the work is
so powerful and in its way, incredibly realistic.
Alan Moore has written most of the stuff you have
done with the Wild C.a.t.s. How was it working
with such a famous writer? I bet there are artists who
would give there right had to get that opportunity.
Alan Moore is truly one of the most genuine people
I have ever worked with, although I've never met him
face to face, the few times we have spoken, he was
kind, very funny, and completely open to any ideas I
had about the book. I wish I had been able to be the
only artist who was working on Wildcats at the time,
because that would have been a collection I could
truly be proud of, but I do consider myself fortunate
to have worked with him at such an early time in my
You did a one-shot called X-Men/Wild C.a.t.s:
The Golden Age that was just ink and gray scales.
It sure looked great, how did you come up with that?
The Wildcats/X-men experiment! I had just started
working on this book, and was truly excited by the
story, it had Wolverine (I had never worked on the
x-men in any fashion before and this was a big deal
for me), WWII, which meant tanks, soldiers, and the
ultimate bad guys, Nazis. I was determined to do
something different from my previous work, I wanted it
to look realistic, and moody at the same time.
The first few pages were all done in a heavily rendered
fashion, all the shadows were parallel lines and it
was taking forever. Finally, I think it was page 4 or
5, I was drawing this picture of Zealot climbing some
stone steps and I knew this was going to be a real
pain in the ass to render, I didn't want to use
zipatone, because I don't like the way it prints, but
I needed to have some subtle grays so I just took some
of my rapiograph ink and watered it down to several
different shades and tried the stuff on some scratch
Miracle of miracles, it worked and in one night my
work completely changed, no longer was I fenced in by
the linework, the texture of things like skin and
fabric became much easier to reproduce and the work
went much faster.
Just one of those happy accidents that seem to
happen sometimes in this profession.
When it was made official that you would no longer
be the regular artist on "Wildcats" I
heard many rumors on your new projects. None of them
seemed to have been close to the truth and the Humanoids
deal was a real surprise. How did this project come
I was at the San Diego comic convention, sitting in
artist's alley, selling artwork and trying to speak
coherently to people and this nice women introduced
herself to me and gave me a Humanoids business
card. I knew I was on thin ice with Wildcats and DC
for that matter, so I seriously began considering
making a change.
On our first meeting I received a version of the
"Dreamshifters" script, and when I
understood the conditions of the deal, namely the
ability to fully paint the work myself, and the longer
deadlines (not to mention the author I was working
with) I pretty much decided what I was going to do. So
on Feb. 29 I left Wildstorm after 6 truly wonderful
and sometimes frustrating years and took on the
daunting task of following in the footsteps of two of
my artistic idols, Moebius, and Juan Gimenez.
Graphic Novel you are currently working on is called
"The Dreamshifters" and stars The
Metabaron. Since both Juan Gimenez and Moebius have
drawn this character you sure have some pretty big
shoes to fill. Are you nervous? Any thoughts on this?
I can, without a doubt, say I have never been more
nervous about a project than I am now. I have never
painted a complete graphic novel before, and I've
never been involved with a character with so much
history, to be honest sometimes I wonder if I know
what I'm doing. I think this book will do one of two
things, be a huge success and be the best thing I've
ever done, or I'll never finish it and slowly fade
away into oblivion, but thankfully I've got Philippe,
my editor, and although I haven't driven him into a
berserker rage yet I think I can see the motivational
dark side behind that smooth veneer.
What can you tell us about "The
can I say? Well, the book deals with the Metabaron
character, who first appeared in the Incal years ago.
Without giving too much away I think I can say that
the basic story involves a mythical race of beings
known as Dreamshifters and that a dark force has
opened a sort of portal and entered the Metabaron's
world, the story has elements of pure science fiction,
horror, a heroic battle for freedom, and a murder
mystery of sorts.
I'm sure my description does absolutely no justice
to the actual story but I have no idea how much I'm
allowed to divulge. What I can say is that the book is
slated to be 52 pages, fully painted, and hopefully
completed and available by fall of 2001.
Working on with American Superhero comics and
switching to French Science Fiction seems like quite a
big change. I am quite curious what are the
differences and what are the similarities.
I guess the biggest difference for me is a
different approach to things like violence and
sexuality. Previously, any violence I depicted was
slightly subdued by things like humour or simply by
not showing it entirely, and sex, actual sex, not just
sexy girls in tight clothing, was never even touched
Now I'm not saying that I want to have 52 pages of
exploding heads and rivers of blood, but if you're
going to actually kill someone than don't hide it or
make jokes to lessen the impact, a lot of the history
of the Metabarons deals with survival, and a strict
code of honour, and these things are brutal, and I
think it would be dishonest to censor these aspects of
The sex aspect just seems like a no-brainer, I'm
not going to be doing anything pornographic, but
people are sexual beings, I don't think I've ever been
known as a cheesecake artist so I will deal with those
parts of the story with respect and with a realistic
approach. (no shower scenes or outrageous cup sizes
for example) If there are any similarities I would say
that it would be that by and large, no matter which
side of the Atlantic they're from, all creative people
want is to do the best job they can, and to try to
reach people in some way.
Do you think a "dialog" between North
American comics and European would be good? In the
late 80's early 90's there were quite a big
"monologue" between the US and Japan. Many
Japanese influences in American comics... but no
American stuff in Japanese manga. I personally have
this theory on that Europe and the US should
creatively try to exchange ideas etc on comics and in
so, comics as a medium and art form would become much
stronger both creatively and commercially.
(We have seen how British writers have taken
American comics to new levels.) Do you have any
thoughts on this?
I think any kind of communication between the two
can only help both industries, French and U.S. The
American industry seems to be shrinking steadily and
no efforts to truly evolve are being made. Music has
changed with the times, as well as cinema, but comics
seem unable to shake the chains of the superhero.
I'm not saying that superheroes are bad, the Metabaron
has many of the characteristics of an American
superhero, he's invincible, a loner, but most comics
I’m aware of in France are not like the Metabaron.
American artists and writers are just as talented as
the Europeans, but I don't see as much variety
available to American readers.
Silly question here: Do you speak French? Are the
scripts written in English or translated?
Actually I spoke only French until about the age of
6, however, my father, who was Irish, disapproved of
us speaking French in the house and as a result,
although my accent is not too shabby, I have basically
lost the language. ( the scripts are translated into
English by the way).
You are a quite young artist but you have worked
with maybe two of the giants when it comes to comic
writers, Alan Moore and Alexandro Jodorovsky. Any
thoughts on that?
During the first discussion Jodorovsky and I had,
he was actually providing sound effects and physically
demonstrating the way a creature that appears in the
book would look as it attacked the young Metabaron.
Very rarely do you meet someone who has been doing
this as long as Jodo who still has that same level of
enthusiasum. I'm basically an unknown artist in Europe
and he treated me as an equal partner in this project,
he asked for my opinions and took my ideas seriously.
I consider it a huge compliment that both of these
gentlemen have decided to collaborate with me.
I read an old Swedish interview with Humanoids
creator Georges Bess (who used to live here in Sweden
by the way) and he talked about how Jodorovsky helps
people develop and made Jean Giraud become Moebius and
talked about his own development. Who are you going to
transform into? :-)
I'll let you know a couple of years from now.
Hopefully that person still has all his hair and has
learned a few things.
When one tells a story in the comic book media what
is the most important aspects?
That's a hard question for me to answer, as an
artist, I have a natural tendency to focus on the
visuals, but I think you need a solid story or the
pictures are only interesting, not entertaining. If I
had a gun to my head I would have to say words over
pictures, unless it's Struzan, than it could be a
laundry list for all I care.
You are quite famous for spending a lot of time
with a page. Do you think that the European Graphic
Novel format fits you better? How long does it take
for you to do a page?
Okay, I get asked this a lot and I'll answer it
this one last time, not because it makes me mad but
because it's as embarrassing as hell. Depending on the
piece of course, it can take me as long as three
weeks, and sometimes longer. Now that doesn't mean I'm
actually spending three weeks drawing, I often will
spend hours doing nothing but staring at a blank page,
I know a lot of artists do layouts and I should as
well, but I find if I put a really stirring piece of
music on I can see the page in my head quite clearly
but the translation to my damned fingers sometime
takes a little coaxing.
Also, in my own defense, I don't use photo
reference and the board size I work on is roughly 2
1/2 times larger than regular comic pages, so give a
guy a break, this painting stuff ain't easy! (by the
way, that is the last time I will answer that
What type of materials do you work with? Any
favorite type of pencils?
This seem to be a continually evolving thing, I'm
using much more acrylics now than before, and I've
almost stopped using the watercolour crayons that I
worked with for so long. I've tried my hand at the
airbrush and when I get the hang of it I'll use it
often. For pencils, I like a little of everything,
sometimes HB, 2H, or 4H and 2B, all depends. The
French sensibility has required a little adjustment to
the color scheme I'm used to, more earthy tones and
not too many bright colors.
What are your plans for the future? Any characters
you would like to take a shot at? It seems like quite
many of the French based creators work with all kinds
of stuff (film, computer games, books, poems etc) at
the same time as they do comics. Will you try and do
The Metabaron books will keep me pretty busy
for about the next 4 or 5 years, after that, I have a
few ideas, I don't imagine I'll ever try anything as
ambitious as film direction, and I can guarantee I'm
no poet, but I would like to write the next project I
work on, mainly to see if I can. However, if the
opportunity ever presents itself I would love to do a
250-page graphic novel depicting the first three Star
Wars films and all the little stories that
happened in-between the films. I should be about 125
years old when that hits store shelves.
One last question: You have been living in France
for a few months now, what do you miss of North
America the most?
I miss my bed, my DVD player, my car, and my