After years of trying to break into the comic book business, artist Ben Roman’s big break came not by networking at a convention or through endless submissions, but by meeting the right person at Kinko’s. Now Roman’s work can be seen in Tokyopop’s I Luv Halloween, written by comics veteran Keith Giffen, and in The Cryptics, written by Steve Niles.
And this week you can see him in San Diego. I spoke with him to find out how he got started in the business, what he has planned for this week and why he had decided to give away some of his original artwork from I Luv Halloween.
JK: Give us a little background on your career — how you got started in comics, what you’ve done in the past and what you’ve been working on recently.
Ben Roman: I moved to L.A and started working at a Kinko’s in Hollywood. I met someone who worked at Tokyopop and gave him some rejected proposals. I didn’t think much of it since Tokyopop publishes Manga, I never read a Manga or knew who Tokyopop was besides seeing the big bags at San Diego every year. Anyhow, a couple months passed and I get a call from Mark Paniccia, before moving on to Marvel. He dug the art and called me into a meeting. He hooked me up with Keith Giffen, and the ball was off and rolling. I tried getting into comics for many years with no luck, but all I had to do was move to L.A. and get a job at Kinko’s.
I spent the last 3-4 years working on three volumes of I Luv Halloween for Tokyopop. I co-created the Cryptics with Steve Niles, which we are gearing up to do another one-shot for in December. I also did a number of shorts for BOOM! Studios and Ape Entertainment. Besides comic work, I’ve been working as a concept artist for Gentle Giant Studios in their 2-D dept for the last five months.
JK: What does Gentle Giant do?
BR: Gentle Giant Studios makes statues, busts, scanning, etc … the list goes on. They’re a staple at San Diego every year.
JK: What are your plans for San Diego — where will you be and what will you be doing?
BR: I’ll be doing a signing and panel back to back on Friday at 11 a.m. over at TokyoPop’s booth. The rest of the weekend I’ll be roaming and catching up with friends.
JK: What do you hope to get out of your time at SDCC?
BR: Meet fans of the ILH series…and pick up a ton of art books. I missed a ton of cool stuff last year.
JK: Anything in particular you’ll be hunting down?
BR: I love collecting art books and sketch books from fellow artists. You know, stuff you can only get at conventions.
JK: You’re giving away, rather than selling, a lot of artwork from I Luv Halloween. What made you decide to do that?
BR: I thought it would be fun to give away a part of the book to people who enjoy the series. There’s been plenty of times I wanted to buy a page of art from my favorite artists, but I couldn’t afford it. It’s a great way to finish off the series.
We are also giving away 500 Finch masks at the con thanks to Sac-con.
JK: D2C Games recetly announced that they’re turning The Cryptics into “a new form of digital video comics for the mass market,” which they will debut in San Diego. Can you tell us anything else about them?
BR: D2C has been great. I saw the demo of the digital format a couple months back and I think it kicks arse. Steve and I shot bonus video, talking about the characters and the process creating the series, which will appear on the digital comic. It will be interesting to see what people think of it.
JK: Do you have any advice for aspiring creators on how to approach editors at the con?
BR: Ha! That’s a tough one. I’ve had bad experiences with editors at cons. I say just go up to the booth and introduce yourself. Don’t circle the editor like a shark; I’m sure he or she can sense you coming. Doesn’t help that you carry a giant black portfolio.