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Artist of Cages
Published by: Insomnia Publications

Interviewed by: Richard Vasseur - (Posted: 5/23/2009)

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Melanie Cook

Richard: How did you get the job as artist on "Cages"?

Melanie: Well, to make a long story short, Xander Bennett (the writer) approached me back in film school to illustrate a 10 page comic book proposal with him. At the time I was bumbling my way along the school's curriculum cranking out storyboards with my limited drawing skills, and decided it would probably be a nice hiatus. The proposal turned out to be Cages, it was picked up by the nice folks at Insomnia and the hiatus, I'm pleased to say, has yet to end!

Richard: How do you draw the vault?

Melanie: The Vault was probably one of my more favourite locations to depict in Cages. Due to the nature of its being, it was constantly changing shape and form, which excitingly gave me quite a broad spectrum of environments and elements to play with. And as much as I'd like to go into it, I might have to leave my response at that so as not to spoiler anyone. If I haven't said too much already...

Richard: What appearance do you give to Gabby's angelic being?

Melanie: With the angelic being, Xander was looking for something that was largely ephemeral but that still maintained some sense of human form. To achieve this effect I refrained from using pencilled or inked outlines and instead chose to work with colour and shading to depict the angel's presence. I used the 'halos' to further blur the outline of the being and add to the sense that it was a kind of a shifting body of light.

Richard: Who are Gabby, Mike and Raph and what characteristics do you give them when you draw them?

Melanie: Gabby, Mike and Raph are three children bordering on adolescence who have spent their whole existence within the confines of a cage as a kind of scientific experiment. We wanted them to appear young to reflect the innocence generated by their situation, but old enough to be able to aptly handle the tasks Xander was going to throw at them. Xander had a pretty good idea in mind as to how he saw them, and I really just followed his guidance. The most important part being that they were brothers and sister and as such should appear so.

Richard: What type of monsters do you get to draw here?

Melanie: Ooh, all sorts of goodies! From maniacal robots and 'angelic' beings to genetically engineered monsters. I believe there's even a mad scientist thrown in there somewhere. Yep. There's no end to the array of menacing monsters that seem to be germinating in Xander's brain.

Richard: Would you like to do more work at Insomnia?

Melanie: Yes indeed. And I am! I've actually just finished up as colourist on another Insomnia title called Cancertown which comes out in May. It's a delightfully disturbing story written by the amazing Cy Dethan about a cancer patient and his wanderings into a monstrous and horrific alternate version of London. The art on this gem was done by Stephen Downey and it was lettered by the lovely Nic Wilkinson. In addition to this I'm about to commence work as colourist on another Insomnia title called Joe: Average Joe, written by Thomas Romeo and with art by Kelvin Chan. Kelvin has a lovely, unique style and the narrative so far is highly addictive so it's bound to be good times ahead!

Richard: What was your first published comic?

Melanie: Cages was my first published comic. It was also the first comic I had ever actually worked on. The experience itself served as an introduction for me into the wonderful world of comics and while I spent my days drawing and colouring, my evenings were given over to reading the likes of Garth Ennis, Grant Morrison and Alan Moore for the first time. It was basically Comics 101 for me.

Richard: What does a colourist do?

Melanie: At it's most simplest, the colourist receives black and white pages from the artist and adds colour to them, working with hue, saturation and tone to best reflect the drama and mood of the narrative. The tools and the method are dependent upon the colourist, but I believe that in this day and age Photoshop seems to be the weapon of choice in most arsenals.

Richard: What steps do you take to colour a page?

Melanie: Usually I will evaluate the script and work with whatever directions I've received from the writer and artist to determine the overall palette of the project and the variations within. Once the tone of an individual page is settled upon, I'll go in and add flats to the line art (separate the art into flat blocks of colour) before working in highlights, shading and texture (if needed). And then, assuming it looks marginally better than what my four year old cousin did at school that day, I pass it on down the line to the letterer.

Richard: What hobbies do you have?

Melanie: Hmmm, where do I start? I suppose I should probably throw drawing and colouring in there somewhere... and reading comics. Johnny Walker and coke? Can that be a hobby? No? Well I also love traveling, have recently discovered matte painting and have found a number of high-quality programs on TV which I watch religiously (Battlestar, Mad Men, Dexter and Arrested Development just to name a few). If that hasn't secured my geek-status, I should probably add that I'm highly addicted to Rock Band and would be happy to challenge anyone to a Rock Band duel any day. Honest. Just give me a date and time and I'll be there, plastic Gibson and broken kick-pedal in tow.

Richard: What future projects do you have?

Melanie: Well as mentioned previously I've just signed on as colourist for Insomnia's Joe: Average Joe TPB, and I'm also on board to colour Cancertown Vol. 2: Blasphemous Tumour starting 2010. I believe I have some film work coming up August this year which I'm looking forward to, and should I find time outside of all of this, I'm hoping to get some of my own webcomics up and going this year (fingers crossed!).

Richard: How can someone contact you?

Melanie: Probably via email which is . No hate mail please.

Richard: Any last words of wisdom?

Melanie: We are all individuals.

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