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Artist of Stagger Lee

by Richard Vasseur - (Posted: 7/19/2007)

Shepherd Hendrix

Richard: How did you get onboard "Stagger Lee"?

Shepherd: I'd first heard about STAGGER LEE at a party Derek was giving at his home. He told me what he'd been up to and showed me a draft of his script. For a long time I'd been curious about who Stagger Lee was and agreed to read it. For years, Derek and I had wanted to get some sort of mutual project off the ground and after having read it, I decided STAGGER LEE would be it.

Richard: What did you find most challenging about drawing this comic?

Shepherd: Firstly, I've never tackled a 200+ page book before. Originally, STAGGER LEE was going to be self-published by Derek. During the early stages of the book I had a day job... so I would work on Stagger when I could, which meant that the book was not coming along very fast. Once Image Comics agreed to publish the book, art production had to meet a deadline. By then I was working freelance again from home so I drew like hell every day. All in all, it took about three years for me to finish the book. And I finished it on a collapsed lung (though the book was not responsible for that).

Artistically, STAGGER LEE is a departure for me; normally, I enjoy drawing sci-fi/action stories. I wasn't really sure how I would do spending so long on a nineteenth-century period story but it flowed along like any other story.

Richard: Do you prefer inking or penciling?

Shepherd: I like both. Penciling is the desirable way to start one's art; inking is an excellent way to finish it.

Richard: What was it like working on "Swamp Thing"?

Shepherd: SWAMP THING was a taste of the big time but it was a little bitter in a couple of respects. Just prior to that project, artist Tom Yeates and I were working together on a TARZAN project that was going quite slowly due to some difficulties with the publisher. Time is money and we weren't making much with all the waiting around we were doing.

For those who don't know, Tom Yeates used to draw SWAMP THING years ago, so it was an easy arrangement for him to approach DC Comics to get us a two-issue SWAMP THING fill-in story to for us to work on and make some money in the meantime. Since I was assisting him on TARZAN, it was agreed that I would draw finished SWAMP THING pages based on Tom's rough layouts. I was happy to have the experience so I jumped right in.

Unfortunately, due to circumstances long forgotten, the book was already behind schedule before we'd agreed to do it. We had to jump in and swim. Also unfortunately, it was assumed (by everyone except myself) that, since I'd been working as Tom's assistant, I must therefore draw like him. Tom and I do have similarities in inking style, but there are wide differences in the way we draw many things. Quickly, I got ten pages into the first issue before sending in copies for review-- whereupon I was told I had to change everything to resemble Tom's style.

That was uncomfortable for me-- almost like trying to draw with my left hand when I'd been a rightie all my life. I was never happy with the way the art turned out. And then the story (certainly not the art) goes on to be nominated for an Eisner award... go figure. As a result of all this, I did pick up a lot of storytelling traits from Tom.

Richard: Why did you decide to get into animation and gaming?

Shepherd: To make a long story short, I got burned out on comics and needed a change. Sadly, like many comic book artists I ended up leaving the comics industry in search of more lucrative or dependable work. This shouldn't have to be the case. Lately I've been getting back into comics because, creatively, it is my first love. As well as it pays, I'm not as keen on the corporate scene and like determining my own schedule. The one big difference between drawing comics then and now is having a computer. I still draw and ink by hand but a lot of other tedious production work and distribution is much easier to handle with a computer.

Richard: What got you interested in drawing and graphic storytelling?

Shepherd: I've been drawing since childhood. I was largely inspired by movies but one day I reasoned that drawing comics was a way to make my own "movies" for only the cost of pencils, paper, and ink. In high school I went through a short period of reading X-MEN during John Byrne's Dark Phoenix period but soon after discovered HEAVY METAL and therefore a whole new world of comic book art inspiration. Soon after, I started attending comic book conventions and meeting other artists and.... here I am!

Richard: What future projects do you have planned?

Shepherd: I have a pet-project called PROSPECT. I've been working on it for a very, very long time and am currently drawing it. I'll be shopping around for a publisher very soon. PROSPECT is essentially 1492 in space involving a disillusioned young woman who stumbles upon an previously unknown human colony in the unexplored depths of our galaxy. It's science fiction, fantasy, and new age rolled into one very long and involved story.

Richard: What advice do you have for new artists?

Shepherd: Off the top of my head:
1. Perfect your art. Draw lots and lots and get comfortable doing it. Take drawing classes if you must. As a professional, you will be expected to pencil or ink at least one page a day.
2. Learn to deal with challenges and be prepared to spend long hours at work. Comics are a labor of love so be prepared to give yourself fully over to it for long periods of time.
3. It is equally important to plan some getaway time for yourself to recharge your creative batteries. HAVE A LIFE!
4. Stick with the stories you love; don't drain your soul on things that don't invigorate you. Mood affects art-- at least it does for me!
5. Be sure to communicate with and learn from your peers. If you're working with an art team, get to know them and keep in touch.
6. Networking is the best way to get work in the industry. So go to those conventions and meet who you can and SHOW YOUR WORK.
7. And when you do get work, make sure you MEET YOUR DEADLINES! Editors will love you for that and will be more likely to call you again and again.

Richard: How can someone contact you?

Shepherd: I can be contacted through or at . I also have a personal website at www. or email me at .

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