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Writer and Artist of The Cloud-Leapers of Blue Pine Mountain

by Allen Klingelhoets - (Posted: 10/14/2007)

Jonathon Dalton

Allen: Tell us something personal about yourself.

Jonathon: Iím Canadian, and when Iím not drawing comics Iím a substitute teacher in elementary schools in a small town near Vancouver. I have also lived in three other countries: the U.S., Taiwan, and Britain.

Allen: What was the first comic book you ever read?

Jonathon: The years I spent reading Garfield books are probably best left unexplored so Iím going to answer Sleepwalker #1. It was a short-lived Marvel comic about an alien law enforcement officer who lived in an ordinary guyís head and fought crime when he was asleep.

Allen: How did you get involved in the comic book industry?

Jonathon: Almost as soon as I started reading comic books I decided that making them was what I wanted to do for a living. The trouble was, I was determined to draw my own strange stories in my own style rather than learn the style preferred by the Big Two. Periodic rejection letters over the years failed to convince me to change my ways.

When web comics started to multiply on the internet I threw myself wholeheartedly into that world. I built myself a website and posted all my comics on it. Then I discovered the Indy scene and started printing my own mini-comics and selling them at conventions.

I had a few comics printed by Indy anthologies but there was a six year gap between my last submission to a professional comicís publisher and drawing my submission for Fablewood. No one was more surprised than me when I actually got in.

Allen: What is your web comic?

Jonathon: I have several, but the two main ones are A Mad Tea-Party and Lords of Death and Life.

Allen: How was your success with web comics and mini-comics? A Mad Tea-Party and Lords of Death and Life must have helped get you new job offers.

Jonathon: I donít know if I would still be making comics at all without the internet. My web comics have never been the kind to attract as many hits as Penny Arcade or Mega Tokyo, but I have a comfortable number of regular readers and the feedback I get from them has been invaluable. Not only as a means of improving my skills, but also as a form of motivation to keep me drawing every day. The same is true of mini-comics. There is no substitute for meeting a reader face to face and hearing what they have to say about my work in person.

The internet and the Indy scene have also provided endless opportunities for networking with my fellow comickers. I wouldnít even have known about Fablewood if Elanor Cooper, the writer for A Vicious Circle (another Fablewood story) hadnít messaged me and told me I ought to submit a story. And pushed me to get the story done in time.

Allen: Brief us about your upcoming comic book story called The Cloud-Leapers of Blue Pine Mountain. Who are some of the characters and motivations?

Jonathon: The main character is a young woman named Tukil from a tribe of people living high in the mountains of a mythical kingdom. The cloud-leapers, the tribeís magicians, are gone and the remaining people are having a hard time getting by without their magic. When tribeís people start disappearing in the mountains Tukil takes it upon herself to find out whatís going on and to do something about it.

The culture of the tribeís people is heavily based on Chinese legends about magical islands in the Eastern Sea and dark-skinned ascetics with magical powers. I also took inspiration from the real-life cultures of the Ainu and Taiwanese Aborigines.

Allen: I think it is very interesting to base the story on Chinese legends. How did you become interested in this idea?

Jonathon: Iíve been fascinated by Chinese culture even since before living in Taiwan from 1999 to 2001. You might call it a recurring theme in my work. A lot of what I know about these particular legends comes from the classical Chinese novel Journey to the West. Itís a very long book and I havenít finished reading it yet, but Iím working on it.

Allen: When can we find Fablewood on the stands? I see your story is going to be published in issue # 1.

Jonathon: William Ward, the editor, tells me it will be in the November issue of Previews and out on the stands by January. I canít wait to see it. So far Iíve only seen sample pages from the other stories.

Allen: Are you both writer and artist for The Cloud-Leapers of Blue Pine Mountain?

Jonathon: Yes. I work that way with most of my comics. When I get frustrated over having to draw a particularly difficult scene thatís called for by the script, I have no one to blame but myself.

Allen: What audience are you hoping to reach with your Fablewood story?

Jonathon: Cloud-Leapers are the kind of story I would love to read myself if I could find such a comic in print. I expect you would get similar responses from Fablewoodís other contributors. Pure fantasy of the swords and sorcery type has been almost entirely absent from North American comics so there is ample room for us to play in. Fablewood should appeal to fans of mainstream comics as well as to fantasy enthusiasts who wouldnít take a second look at a muscle and spandex book.

Allen: Will you have more Fablewood publications?

Jonathon: The list of stories for Fablewood #2 is already set and it should follow soon after the first book. Whether or not I will have any stories in future issues I donít know. Nothing has been decided yet for issue #3.

Allen: Have any of your previous stories been nominated for any awards?

Jonathon: Yes! Lords of Death and Life, my Mayan web comic, was nominated for a Web Cartoonistsí Choice Award (WCCA) earlier this year. It was up for best environment design- the backgrounds and landscapes, essentially. Itís only an internet award and I didnít win, but enough people voted for me to get the nomination in the first place. So Iím pretty pleased about it.

Allen: What conventions will you be attending or have attended?

Jonathon: I donít have anything booked yet for next year because so much depends on a fluctuating work schedule and how much travel I can afford. Iím still upset that I missed out on Stumptown in Portland this year. But I would like to go to APE in San Francisco, San Diego, Calgary, possibly Seattle and Toronto, and of course Iíll attend any events in Vancouver.

Allen: How can someone contact you?

Jonathon: My website has contact details of various sorts including email and phone.

Allen: What are your hobbies and recreational activities?

Jonathon: Recreation? What? I donít have time for that. Iím too busy drawing.

Allen: If you can have 6 dinner guests, 3 fictional and 3 real-life from any time period, who would those 6 people be and why?

Jonathon: Thatís a tough one. Iíll have to avoid picking anyone who would make a poor dinner guest so Rorschach is out. He would just stink up the place and steal all the sugar cubes. Iíll go with Nausicaa (from the Miyazaki comic) because sheís one of the most selfless and passionate comics characters Iíve ever seen, Nightcrawler because I canít think of another X-Man Iíd get along with better, and Yotsuba Koiwai (from the comic by Kiyohiko Azuma) purely for comedic value.

For real-life figures Iím going to have to choose people who can help me make my comics better. Homer, Katsushika Hokusai, and Ursula LeGuin. You could do worse than to have dinner with the father of Western literature, the ďOld Man Mad with Painting,Ē and (in my opinion) one of the best science fiction writers of all time.

Allen: What books do you enjoy?

Jonathon: Did I mention Ursula LeGuin? Her Hainish novels are by far my favorite series of books. Iíve also been known to rave about Isaac Asimov, Frank Herbert, and Lois McMaster Bujold.

Allen: What comic books do you read now?

Jonathon: To be honest I donít read a lot of floppies (as I call them) anymore. I like graphic novel sized books. And in that realm my tastes are pretty diverse. Some recent acquisitions of mine that I would highly recommend include Flight #4, Age of Bronze by Eric Shanower, The Ride Home by Joey Weiser, and I finally got my hands on the last book of Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. Good stuff.

Allen: What inspires you?

Jonathon: More than anything else real life inspires me. Even in supposedly escapist genres like fantasy or science fiction the best characters are those that seem like real people. This is why I will probably never quit my teaching job. Even one classroom of kids can keep me brimming with ideas for characters and stories years afterwards.

Allen: This ends the interview, any encouraging words of wisdom?

Jonathon: When I was in art school a professor told me that the only way I would ever get to make a living drawing comics was if someone else left the industry feet-first. In terms of the Big Two he was probably right. But right now the North American comics industry is the healthiest itís been in a long time. Especially outside the narrow field of superhero Dom. Comics are appearing on bookstore shelves and reappearing in supermarkets and thriving on the internet and showing up in school librariesÖ I would venture to say that as long as a person is willing to put in the effort to hone their skills and put in the hours to promote their work, this is the perfect time to get into making comics.

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