Last month, PopCultHQ was on hand at Wizard World Reno for their comic convention. I had the opportunity to meet the team at Action Lab Entertainment, an indy publisher with which we have partnered. It was then I got the privilege in meeting Brian Hess, an illustrator currently involved in a new comic series of planetary proportions entitled “Awake,” along with writer Susan Beneville.
Brian was gracious enough to give me a copy of issue one and two of his series. I brought them home to read and publish a review of each, but I got more than I expected. The sci-fi/fantasy story is enthralling and unique, while the artwork blew me away. Brian’s detail and style leave your eyes stuck on each panel instead of hurrying to the next one to continue reading. His characters are visual eye candy and his use of colors and shading are, quite frankly, perfect. Hess and Beneville have a winning combination where each person’s talent accentuates and compliments the other.
Brian and Susan have been traveling the convention circuit promoting their exciting series. From San Diego Comic Con to Wizard World events (Chicago, Reno, etc.), they have been featured on panels and conducting live interviews, some of which you can view directly from Brian’s website.
It was also recently announced by Diamond Comic Distributors that Awake #0 from Action Lab Entertainment will be featured as one of the silver sponsors for Free Comic Book Day (May 7, 2016).
After reviewing the first two issues, I reached out to the Awake artist to feature him as our artist spotlight. Brian happily accepted the offer and agreed to the following interview. Here is your chance to hear from this incredibly talented and gifted artist, learn a little of his background, future projects in the works, and view some of the work he has done.
PopCultHQ: What was the pivotal, defining moment in your life that made you decide to make being an artist a career?
Brian Hess: Since I can remember, I have always been drawing. I used to create characters as a kid and put them into little comics. Throughout school I took as many art classes as I could. I worked as hard as I could copying everything that I could find.
PopCultHQ: The characters you draw are so visually appealing. Sharply detailed yet with a softness that really draws the reader’s eyes to your creations. Who was your inspiration early on? Which artists do you currently admire?
Brian Hess: I am heavily influenced by Disney Animation. I was born in 1982 and grew up in the 2D animation revival of the late 80’s and early 90’s. Comics were also a HUGE influence on my work; anything from Archie to the X-Men. Jim Lee, Steve Purcell and Bill Watterson. Currently I am really into the continued work of Doug Tenapel and Jeff Smith with books like RASL and Ratfist.
PopCultHQ: How did you connect up with Action Lab Entertainment?
Brian Hess: We met Dave Dwonch, who is the Creative Director over at Action Lab at APE (Alternative Press Expo) in San Francisco in 2014. Our first meeting went well and the rest is history.
PopCultHQ: How is it working with Susan Beneville on the Awake series?
Brian Hess: Susan and I have a great working relationship, having worked together on a few projects before we even thought about doing Awake together. I threw together a 7-page visual story pitch and she turned it into something so amazing and beyond what I could even think of. I cannot wait to work on more Awake and future projects with her.
PopCultHQ: I know you have done some cover work with CK Comics, and I’m looking forward to your Zombie Tramp #18 variant coming out soon. Besides your involvement with Awake, are you currently working on any other projects?
Brian Hess: Susan and I have a project called Sanya in the very early stages of production, and we hope to get it into high gear mid-2016. There is also one other project called Sync that is also in very early development. Sanya will roll out first and we’ll see where that goes.
PopCultHQ: Are you solely committed to comic publishers at this time, or are there other lines of work you do? (i.e. video games, commission work, etc.)
Brian Hess: My plate is pretty full trying to keep up with the Awake schedule right now. We are going to wrap up the second trade for Awake and take a break to focus on other projects. Between my full time job, Awake and trying to have time to breathe in-between, I rarely do commissions outside of conventions. I love doing commissions but, having such a hectic schedule, I am forcing myself to not take any more outside of shows so I won’t keep people waiting.
PopCultHQ: What can you tell us about the two new series coming in 2016, Sync and Sanya?
Brian Hess: Can’t say too much about them but, Sanya is going to take place in an tree elf fantasy world, where our main character “Sanya,” is dealing with some pretty incredible situations with her best friend Hammon. Sync is about twin brothers who are thrown into a chaotic situation and are forced to use some pretty cool tech to help them get out of trouble and help their family and friends rise up to that challenge.
PopCultHQ: Have any inside scoop on projects or plans coming up in 2016?
Brian Hess: Between Awake, Sanya and Sync, I think that’s enough lol. I’ll keep you guys updated when we have more to share.
Check out Brian’s website to see various work he has done, projects he has lined up, as well as his current con schedule for 2016. Your next opportunity to meet this brilliant artist, and perhaps get a sketch commission done, is at Wizard World Portland on February 19-21, 2016. Awake can be found at your local comic shop or on Comixology. You can also visit Brian’s Deviant Art page Hesstoons.