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You've Got To Chill: An Interview with Leroy Brown of Ice Cubes

Leroy Brown is the creator of Ice Cubes about a motley crew of characters living within the Artic Circle in Alaska.  I had not been previously familiar with Brown's work, but he submitted a design for the February cover art to ComixTALK that I liked and wound up using.  It's got a similar set up to Tyler Martin's Wally & Osborne, but beyond updating more regularly the last year (hey now! rim crash... I"ll be here all week folks!), it's just a different animal entirely. The comic is very new (unfortunately the website doesn't currently have a very navigation-friendly set-up but you can get through the archives by clicking on the "strips" category) so it's easy to check out the archives to date.

Read on for my interview with Brown about his comic Ice Cubes.

Can you tell us a little about yourself? What's a typical day for you like recently?

These days there is a lot going on as I try to achieve as many things as possible during my waking hours.  Actually come to think of it I also work when I am asleep since I can say that some of my ideas have come to me in my dreams.  I always keep a piece of paper next to the bed to write down ideas that come during the night.

I do have a day job and a family so my time is very precious.  Drawing the comic is a joy although usually the time spent comes out of my sleep time.

 

Where are you located these days?

I live in New Jersey with my family.  We live in the garden part of the Garden State.

 

Do you have another job besides working on comics?

Yes, several actually.  I run my own video production company.  I am an award winning video editor and I train editors as well. 

 

Give me the 30 second "convention pitch" for your comic.

'ICECUBES' is a newspaper style comic strip. 'ICECUBES' is an ongoing story about life inside Alaska's arctic circle for a motley crew including Nooky the Eskimo, Freeze the penguin, Peckinpaw the polar bear and EggMan the walrus. It's quirky, clever, even vulnerable. It's also magnificently drawn. The characters are unwittingly engaged in cultural commentary from their arctic perch atop the world. Their icy environs only serve to heighten their warmth and humor of the more intelligent variety.  A comic for those who have read a book or two.

 

Do you have a favorite strip or storyline from the comic?

Every strip is a distilled product of many different ideas.  I feel successful when the strip is simple and to the point and the drawings are good.

 

Do you have any long term goals or ambition for the future of the comic?

Yes! I intend to do this for as long as I can hold a pencil.  It's something I've wanted to do since I was 10, so it's a real joy for me.  I still get a thrill everytime I draw a comic, I just wish I could focus on it full time. So the trick is finding ways to earn a living doing it.  My ambitions are to get enough readership so that I can get more ad revenue and also print books.  I will release all the archives of the strip on the Amazon Kindle which will be downloadable for very cheap.  I also do illustrations and cards, posters, etc...

 

When you create a comic, how do you appproach it? Do you start with the words and then think about the scene that should go with it or do you start with more of purely visual approach or none of the above?

I find myself constantly thinking about it in the back of my head.  I have this ongoing internal dialog so I tend to get my ideas from that.  Sometimes I get ideas from a book I read, other times from a personal situation.  At times I get an idea directly from a drawing too.  Charles Schulz said that he would sit there and draw his characters in funny poses and that would give him ideas, I do that too.

 

What tools do you use to make comics?  Can you give us a brief walkthrough of your process?

Oh boy, I am definitely VERY old school.  I only use the computer to scan and resize the comic.  I draw on Bainbridge illustration board which is very stiff, unlike Bristol.  I don't like the idea of folding my comic.  I lay out the panels with a blue pencil and then start blocking out the scenes with a hard 2H pencil.  I usually practice the drawings on a sketch pad before committing to the illustration board, because I absolutely hate erasing.  Erasing can introduce the deadly smudge and that just takes too long to fix.  When the scenes are blocked out I draw blue grid lines for the speech.  I have this great tool which is a Tacro Parallel Glider that helps draw parallel grid lines. I then letter the speech and draw the balloons in blue pencil, so that I won't have to erase all that fiddly text.  I then go in with a fat 2 or 3B lead pencil to do the final outlines.  When that is done I ERASE!  Yes, I erase the fat lines with a kneaded eraser to lift off the greasyness.  This leaves me with faint drawings that are perfectly laid out so I can start inking.  Inking is done entirely with metal pen nibs.  I am very specific about the ones I use and it took me a while to find them. They are Brause & Co. nibs from Germany.  I start with the lettering, which I do by hand with a special nib and then move on to the drawings.  I then make any corrections with titanium white acrylic paint and finally I draw the panel outlines with a special ink line drawing tool I got from my Grandfather who was an engineer.  Everything is draw by hand with real ink- no felt tip pens here.

 

Did you read comics as a kid?  Which ones?  What are your influences from comics today?

Of course!  I read Superman and Spiderman, my favorite was Aquaman.  I also read Richie Rich and Casper and watched tons of cartoons.  I loved the Rat Fink drawings by Big Daddy Roth.  I also lived in Europe for several years so I got to read Tintin, Asterix and Spirou extensively.  I actually had an ongoing correspondence with the artist who drew Spirou and he taught me how to ink. When I was in my 20s in art school I read a lot of the underground stuff like Raw magazine in NYC.  I tried to get published there but Art Spielgelman turned me down. Although I never really understood Peanuts as a kid, I fully appreciate it now. 

 

Other non-comic influences on your art and/or writing?

Books, books, books...  I love history, philosophy, biographies, classic literature...

 

What is it about comics that leads you to pour your creative impulses into that form as opposed to writing or some other art form?

I also play music.  Music is more of a public art form and is more of a body art, whereas I can really focus on what's in my head with comics.  So I guess I'm kind of an intellectual type geek.  I wish I could write a book, but to me that is just terrifying.

 

Any other creative endeavors you're working on?

Like I said I play music which you can check out at myspace.com/jazzyburns.  I do want to launch several other webcomics but the thing holding me back is a lack of web design expertise.  My programming skills are nil and I am actively looking for a designer/ programmer to collaborate with to get my sites looking a little more professional.  Know anybody?