Ben Bates is a freelance artists who’s current projects are Archie Comics’ Sonic the Hedgehog, an upcoming story for Darkhorse Presents issue no. 35, and fantastic future projects with the estimable David Hahn. He interned at Periscope Studios and is now a member of the studio.
I'm lucky enough so far to get to pencil Archie's Sonic the Hedgehog regularly.
I'm also having a lot of fun doing colors for an upcoming Image comic titled 'Power Chords'. It's written by comedian John Roy and illustrated by fellow Periscope Studio mate David Hahn. It's really cool to get to color all of David's super clean art and I think that's pretty cool to see a dfferent side of John Roy's creative talent. When I first heard about Power Chords I just guessed it'd be a comedy if its written by a comedian but he's crafting a cool action/adventure story.
DD: What is your artistic Process?
I'm still figuring it all out. Even a year ago no matter what type of art I was going to create it was an approach of making it up as I go.
In regards to Sonic, knowing that the inks and letters will be on the same sheet as my pencils I'll draw my rough pencils on 8.5x11 piece of paper. I like to do all my exploratory drawing smaller and on something where it doesn't matter how rough it gets.
I'll then scan and blow the size up to 11x17, print that out and lightboard the final pencils on to the official Archie Paper.
It's really more work than I think is necessary and I dislike the lightboarding stage as it just eats up time. It'd be great if I could just draw right from the start on the Archie paper. I need to refine my process or find a brand new one.
For anything else besides Sonic, its a lot smoother as I'll draw the 8.5x11 roughs, scan and increase size, then print roughs in blue and pencil immediately on top of them.
DD: When are story illustrator, how involved are you in the guiding the story?
Well, my first part of the answer so far in my career is I'm not very involved. The script comes my way and I just follow whats set down and wherever we go is up to the writer.
But I think another part of the answer is that I as the artist play a huge part in guiding the story because I'm the one who will primarily build the path through each story as the reader works their way through all these panels page after page. Making sure each moment is clear and the best moment to keep the story going.
DD: What Comic/ Trade would you recommend?
Ah boy, I don't think my recommendations will capture too much attention. Easy things would be titles like 'Death Note' or 'Akira ' both of which I enjoy immensely.
But I'd say things like BOOM! studios 'Rescue Rangers' and 'Darkwing Duck' titles are fantastic and tremendously exciting. These are exactly the sort of thing I want to be reading and its unbelievable that they currently exist AND are actually really good! These are the type of comics I could only dream about reading and maybe even someday working on, but here there are, now! And I'm totally content to enjoy just as a reader! Actually thats not true, I need to draw at least one Darkwing Duck story.
DD: What Comic/ Trade would you recommend to someone new to comics?
I'd go for 'Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind' by Hayao Miyazaki. Its easily one of my favorite things of all time and I believe his work can be enjoyed universally.
DD: What skill would you like to learn?
Art wise- I want to be a beast at digital inking and digital painting.
Life skill- I'd like to be a genuinely good cook. Its something I could utilize every single day.
DD: What's the most important thing you've learned?
That nothing really matters.
DD: Do you have a collection? If so, what is one of the items you're most proud of?
I'm interested in acquiring only what specifically interests me. Taking a glance at my shelf I have very few comics and manga, and my videogames tend to be rather focused on certain titles and companies. I love getting art books of my favorite game companies and manga artists.
I do like to collect Pokemon and in each generation I strive to catch them all.
Items I have a lot of value for are the few japanese Mega Man and Disgaea art books I have. But its not enough, I still need more!
DD: What is your favorite genre of Comics?
I don't have a favorite genre. I will lean towards certain genres more than others sure, like action or horror, but I like pursuing all possibilities that seem interesting. I don't want to close myself off to a super cool story.
Do you have an Ipad? If so what do use it for the most.
Thats a no go. So as of right now I can dream up the idea of having one, and the thing I would use it most for is probably reading. BUT! I look forward to the day when I'll be able to purchase digital art books in which pieces of art will have layers available. Allowing me to admire each stage of the illustrations creation!
DD: What is your favorite TV show/ movie?
My favorite live-action movie is probably Kubrick's 'The Shining'.
Some of my favorite animated movies-
101 Dalmations, Akira, Devilman OVA (I think of each part as a movie)
Some of my favorite shows-
Superman/Batman Animated series (TMS episodes), The Simpsons (only seasons 1-8), Fullmetal Alchemist, Darkwing Duck.
DD: How does the Portland comics culture shapes your work?
It has a huge impact as I was unaware of the Portland comic culture until coming into Periscope studio. Then suddenly I've got access to 23 comic professionals all with different approaches, ideas, and skill sets. Every day that I step into the studio I'm learning something new about the craft of making comics.
DD: What was your first comic convention?
The first comic convention I attended was in 2003 and I don't remember what it was called. What I do remember is that it was in Austin, TX. I wanted to be a professional artist and I knew my chances at becoming a manga artist were almost zero so I turned my sights on America. I discovered an important step towards becoming a professional is to get portfolio reviews at conventions. My problem was I lived in Wyoming and nothing would ever come close to that part of the country. I discovered the Austin convention and drove 900 miles. Upon my arrival I learned that there would be no portfolio reviews.
The next convention I attended was Stumptown in 2009 leading directly to this moment.
DD: What is your favorite part of comic conventions?
So far the opportunity to meet people whom I admire. I would have never dreamed that I could one day shake the hand of Doug TenNapel and get a sketch of Earthworm Jim from him. Earthworm Jim had a huge impact on me as a kid!
If you weren’t doing comics what would you do?
At this point its really hard to believe but I'd be a massage therapist. Which is almost what I was. There was a point in 2008 while I was waiting for the School year to start that I thought, "Well, while I'm waiting I might as well give this art thing one more chance." Then just as school was going to start, I had to make a second choice on which direction I would go and it was pretty heavy. In my heart I knew following art was what I was meant to do on the earth.
I don't know about a favorite restaurant yet. But I would certainly recommend a cart near 4th and Hall called 'Thai Pasta' which is the best thai food I've ever had.
Maybe the food carts are a good choice in general with a variety of choices. Apparently they are fairly unique to Portland and you've got all kinds of fantastic things to try out.
DD: How long have you lived in Portland, what made you choose Portland?
I've been here since 2008 and at that time I had absolutely no idea that the city was a big place for comic creators. I came because I knew some people here and there was a great school for massage therapy.
DD: What is your favorite part of Portland?
I don't have a favorite part but I do like specific locations. I like St. Cupcake, Uwajimaya, the Laurelhurst Theater, Staccato Gelato, Periscope Studio...
DD: Where in Portland/ Oregon would you most like to visit?
The place I would like to visit most I already get to see on a regular basis. I think Periscope Studio is the best place I've ever been.
Other than that, I'm not really sure. My sights are set on the horizon and its hard to see whats here, now. I dream of seeing Japan. I dream of shaking hands with Donald Duck. For these I must venture forth!
DD: Would you like to write/Illustrate for another media? or conversely, how would you feel about illustrating a character from a different media, for example, Dr. Who, James Bond? What would you explore?
Oh yes, I very much want to work in videogames. Crafting worlds and thinking about game design is thrilling. I'd love to learn everything I can about it.
As for other characters, I'd kill to work on Godzilla. But it has to be a good story, a really good story. I'm really excited about the new IDW Godzilla comic. I want it to be good, really good. I can't wait to find out if its or not!
I also want to work on Mega Man. That use to be a crazy fantasy but with Archie publishing a new Mega Man comic my crazy fantasy just might come true! So far I've done a cover for the series but thats not working on the thing. Its not helping to craft the experience the reader will live with. I need to do THAT!