Written by Neil Greenaway
At Denver Comic Con 2016 I had the chance to sit down and talk with J. James McFarland of Friendly Belligerent about his take on publishing indie comics. This interview originally ran on Bleeding Cool on 6/21/2016, and you can read their version of it here.
I first ran into J. James McFarland at Dink! (Denver Comic & Art Expo) in March 2016. I enjoyed his art style and picked up a few of his comics and ‘zines. When I heard that he would have some new books available for Denver Comic Con, I jumped at the chance to sit and talk with him about some of his recent projects.
Neil Greenaway: I am here today at Denver Comic Con 2016 talking with J James McFarland of many things, but first off about Cryptids and Cogs. Could you give me your synopsis of the series?
J James McFarland: So, the group known as Red Team Go is making a series called Cryptids and Cogs. It is about finding and selecting our own unique cryptid from any sort of mythology or understanding of the world, and mixing it in with essentially a steampunk country of our own creation. So that it’s united thematically but leaves a lot of room for individual artist interpretation and concepts. It’s a very loose conceptual idea.
NG: I know that you have a story in the first issue. Can you tell us a little about that story?
J James: Absolutely. The eventual title of my story became Seymour Sexton Saxon; he’s hunting an Ogopogo, which is from the Pacific Northwest Native American mythology. The story of the Ogopogo was one I was told as a child so I was drawn to it by familiarity. I was careful in my story to try and balance reverence of Native American mythology of the Ogopogo as an overview and re-telling with a whimsical hunter who is sort of, I don’t know how to say it, maybe a bad influence. He’s absurdist in the same manner as Gaston in Beauty and the Beast. A little arrogant, a little reckless. I really like the old chap.
NG: Your story is actually available as its own separate comic. Did you do anything to change it or alter it at all for the new issue?
J James: Yes, they are both separate and modified versions of the same story. You will find the same story in each one, but on a small scale some of the art has been altered. On a larger scale, my story was originally envisioned to be black and white and it is very delicately water brush painted. So my version is a black and white that retains the original gradients. The larger compendium produces a version of it in a monochromatic style which looks a little like retouching old photographs. In that way I could retain the gradient value and tones, but also have it printed in color and I think the effect is pretty striking.
NG: Moving forward with the series, do you have any ideas for stories in future issues?
J James: I have more adventures of Seymour Sexton Saxon planned. I am very fond of him and I have outlined the future of where I would go with him. As far as Red Team Go’s plans extend they already have the next several issues planned out and each one is a different creature and a different set of creators.
NG: Are there any other books with Red Team Go that you are currently working on?
J James: I pre-dated the creation of the group as a local publishing group by a few years, back when it was still a social club. So the first book that I in was the first major adventure, Dinopocalypse. Since then I’ve been doing largely my own work. But I’m sure in the future there will be more collaboration.
NG: Fair Enough. On your own then, what books have you been working on?
J James: I have an ongoing web comic that I just debuted at Denver Comic Con in print form called Mustang Tuesday Weekly and it is an autobiographical look at relationships and car mechanics. It’s been a great joy to make and I’m going to continue to do it in nine week stints as the future goes on. My primary project and longest form project is called Maize. It’s about 4 unique individuals who meet at a speakeasy in prohibition era New York to go on an adventure to South America in search of fame, adventure and immortality. It’s so much fun; it’s so weird and bizarre. It being so rooted in a period piece aesthetic is just a joy to work on and I can’t wait to get the second issue printed and work on the third. There will be four issues. It’s pretty striking.
NG: Do you have a timeline for those issues or is it just as you can get them done?
J James: The second issue is finished and just awaiting post production. The third and fourth are written, some of its lettered. So they’re all sort of in production at the same time.
NG: Ok. And just for my own curiosity I see several copies of this Yellow Scene laying around. Why is that?
J James: I just got featured on the cover of a local magazine from Boulder, Colorado - where I live. It’s a fantastic art scene up there, just absolutely gorgeous and connected with nature. It’s a city which loves it’s hiking and biking and trail sight-seeing. I have created an image that is enormous. It’s a movie poster size and it’s all about the great outdoors, so I was featured on the cover of Yellow Scene and inside as well.
NG: All right. The last time we had spoken we had talked a little bit about your ‘zine Politik. Can you tell us a little more about that?
J James: Politik was the first project I ever worked on as a series, and that was my entry into the convention scene. I started back in Portland, Oregon and started out in sort of the underground ‘zine scene that they had there. The ‘zines in Portland range from health food to well-being to politics; it’s really anything that people are interested in. And it’s very heavy on the aesthetics. It’s very craftsman like. It’s a very DIY community, just a joy to be a part of. I started writing about politics in a ‘zine titled Politik. I built 5 in pretty short succession and that lead to making comic work and going to larger conventions.
NG: Are there any other books in the pipeline that you are going to be working on?
J James: Right now I am putting together a compendium of my comic Aric thee Redd. These are 24 hour comics, which is sort of a niche audience, but they have been a joy to write. I will be making Aric thee Redd into full sized comics and so I’m going to also do a collection of the 24 hour comics and have it as a single volume for people to buy because he’s very popular.
NG: Could you tell us a little about the Aura Gaia book that you’ve got?
J James: I love Aura Gaia. She’s a newer character that I’m developing pretty heavily as a story and will definitely be coming down the pipeline in the future. Her images have featured prominently and her Facebook is almost more popular than I am. Last fall I was invited to be a part of a contest called the Cos-Art Contest for the group known as Aurora Rise, which is partnered with the Rocky Mountain Con. A little background on Aurora Rise, it is a charity fundraising event annually (and all year long on a smaller scale) to raise funds for the families of the victims of the Aurora theatre shooting (2012), and so a majority of the local Colorado artists participate in creating imagery to put into auctions and to sell at Aurora Rise booths to raise money for that purpose. The contest was to have a variety of local artists and known cosplayers partner up together to create a character, and have a public contest at the end to determine a winner. So I was paired with a local cosplayer named Krista Kirkpatrick. She was a pleasure to work with; we had a very long time to plan. I created imagery and concepts of a character named Aura Gaia, and then she implemented a costume based on it. It was an enormous amount of fun and I would like to do something like that again, but that will be a character that I will revisit as I am quite taken with the world I created for her and the imagery around her.
NG: If people wanted to see more of you, if people wanted to find you online, where would they go?
J James: The best place right now is www.jjamesdesignandillustration.com and also on Facebook. I have a number of different sites which will be going up to showcase some of the comic work and those will be updated in the future.