Comic Cons stole my life!
Chris Campana is a talented, committed, welcoming artist. ComiConverse’s Linda Marie sits down with him and discusses how he found comics, what lead him to be a comic book artist, and why cons are so important to him.
The top reasons I attend comic conventions, is to see innovative artwork and to meet the incredible creators behind it. I admire those willing to take risks and reach beyond the ordinary to follow their dreams. Chris Campana’s work exemplifies a balance between pop culture interpretation and his drive to bring his imagination to life.
Meeting Chris Campana
I was introduced to Mr. Campana last year while attending Baltimore Comic Con (BCC). Since I am fairly new to the comic book industry, it was enlightening to learn more about the hard work and dedication that goes into bringing our favorite characters to life. I was never exposed to comic books as a child and am thrilled to learn from someone with such vast knowledge. It is because of the skilled authors and illustrators of these books that we, as fans, find ourselves transported into new worlds. We imagine ourselves in a universe without boundaries.
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Chris Campana was the first indie artist I interviewed upon beginning my journalistic career. His views on artwork, artists, comic cons, and life were different from those to which I had previously encountered. It was refreshing to hear such honesty from someone who has worked the con scene successfully for many years.
No Place Like Home
Chris’s fan interaction was something that stood out when I saw him at BCC. People were not just admirers of his artwork, they were part of his extended family. He greeted everyone warmly and with a big smile. Whether picking up a commission or just wanting to check out his work, all were made to feel welcome in his world. Chris expressed to me that often times people are intimidated to approach an artist. He wants fans to know “You are never bothering me.” He is happy to chat about artwork, fandoms, life, or whatever is on an inquiring fan’s mind.
I also noted that Chris has a more modest set-up when compared to some of the massive displays I observed. It is his humble attitude and openness that draws fans in. Chris is proof that if you have talent and an ability to connect, you don’t need to be flashy.
Chris Campana’s Dream: First World Fantastic
While Chris will gladly sketch any pop culture character you desire (I have a Daredevil myself), his true passion lies in his fantasy comic First World. Words alone cannot express the imagery and storytelling skill behind this book and I’m thankful he handed me a copy to take home.
I’m a fan of epic mythical tales depicting the battle of good and evil that lies within us. Life is about choices and their repercussions; throw in swords and sorcery and I am all in. A great description of First World was given by insidecomicbooks.com, “My first impressions of First World were flashbacks to animated series like Pirates of Dark Water, Lord of the Rings and Star Wars.” Definitely pay a visit to the First World website to learn more about this amazing tale and its prequel Kantara.
The Man Behind The Mystical
Over the next few months I followed Chris’s work and met some of his dedicated supporters. Consequently, I developed a better grasp of his unique style. I wanted to find out more about what drives his passion and share it with comics fans. I reached out to Mr. Campana in an effort to get to know more about the guy behind the talent.
Catching Up With Chris Campana — An Interview
Linda: What and/or who inspires you, artistically speaking?
Chris: I am inspired by so many creators, its hard to give just one. I can say that [Frank] Frazetta was the artist I remember really taking notice of. I can’t even explain how much his work and work ethic has inspired me. Now, working in comics for all these years, I am heavily influenced by the great storytellers. Currently, [Stuart] Immonen, [Greg] Capullo, [Jerome] Opeña are my top 3. John Romita Jr. was also a major influence, along with Alfredo Alcala.
Linda: What aspect of being an artist do you find most challenging?
Chris: This could be a very long answer, full of questioning ability, constant self-doubt and whatever else an artist goes through on a daily basis…but I’ll just say I love being an artist and I won’t acknowledge any of those things!
Linda: If you were not an artist, what career path might you have followed?
Chris: I don’t know…I’ve always been an artist, even before I was paid to do it. I love talking with fans and fellow art fans..so maybe I would teach.
Linda: What piece of advice can you offer aspiring artists to have a successful career?
Chris: Do the work! There is no quick way to become a working artist. Respect the craft and those who paved the way. Do your homework, learn the rules and also, equally important, create the art YOU would love to see.
(Something Chris said to me during our time at Baltimore Comic Con really stuck with me… “If ya love it, you gotta do it!” May we all do what we love.)
Chris’s Comic Con Connection
Linda: Did you attend cons as a kid? If so, what most appealed to you?
Chris: Nope. Cons weren’t what they are now. I did go to my local corner deli and pick up any comic I could! The first comic I bought with my own money was Moon Knight #1 with cover art by Bill Sienkewicz…he’s a master
Linda: Favorite cons and why?
Chris: Any con that puts the fans and the creators first. I haven’t been doing this as long as others, but I think it’s important for promoters and fans to respect the foundation of this industry: the writers and artists.
Linda: Do you have recommendations that could help make conventions more friendly to the artists and their fans?
Chris: Don’t hide the artists/writers in the corner. We aren’t furniture. I know actors and cosplay are the ticket sellers and that’s just a fact we currently must accept. I would just like fans and promoters to be aware that there would be no one to dress as and no one to act as, if it wasn’t for creators.
Pursuing The Passion
Linda: What gave you the motivation to pursue Kantara and First World?
Chris: In 1999, I published a book titled Jaiden [also the name of his son]. It was my first creator-owned title and it was terrible! However, I did learn a lot. In 2009, life had finally allowed me to get back to where I always should have been. I started working for an animation studio and then in 2012, I co-created Kantara with my childhood friend Mike Radosti.
We had designs on really changing the landscape of fantasy/sword and sorcery comics. We had great — in our minds — ideas on what to do to make it different than the usual “chosen one” theme, that every fantasy book follows. Kantara ran for 4 issues and due to creative differences, we disbanded. I took those characters and some new ideas about creation and our reason for being, and rolled them into First World. I truly believe First World is a story everyone should read… I just have to figure out the best way to tell it.
Linda: Do you have a favorite character? Why?
Chris: I know we can’t love all our kids equally — there’s always a favorite… I mean I know my mom and dad loved me most — but, I love all my characters. Arana is special to me…like the daughter I never got to spend enough time with. Dutar is a father who left too early. They’re all my heart and mind can create. I can say my favorite to write are Minak [shape shifter] and Garrun [a warrior]. Their dynamic is fun to play with.
Linda: What makes First World Trade Paperback Volume 2-Artist Edition so special to you?
Chris: This story has meaning. This whole book is about following your path, even if you can’t fully see it. Trust it, trust yourself, even when everything around you is falling apart…you can do this. Throw in a huge amount of magic, dragons, demons and battle axes and you have First World…oh and aliens.
Linda: Do you know what the future holds for First World? Anything you can share?
Chris: The future is full of possibilities. I’ll tell this story as long as there is at least one person out there who wants to hear it. This is what I do, I’m a visual storyteller…an artist who works in comics. I do hope to get it into animation and action figures…so we will see if I can make that happen.
Linda: Any new cool projects lined up?
Chris: I just wrapped up my part in the new Tellos book! This, for me, was a dream gig, I fell in love with Tellos in the 90s and drawing characters from that great mythos, was a true honor. [From mikewieringotellos.com: “The Mike Wieringo Tellos Tribute is a 500 page, original graphic novel presented in two over-size, hardcover volumes. It features the artwork of over 200 of the comics industry’s most popular and talented artists and is dedicated to the memory of late artist, Mike Wieringo, with all proceeds from this project being donated to the ASPCA in Mike’s name.”]
As this article was approaching completion, Chris shared more great news: He will soon be taking part in a weekly podcast with Ming Chen and Mike Zapcic from AMC’s hit TV series Comic Book Men. Tune in for what is sure to be pure geek entertainment! Follow Chris Campana on Twitter: @Chriscampana1 and Instagram: campanaart for the latest details on this and all his projects.
A big thank you to Chris for allowing us a peek into his creative realm. Even better, check out his convention schedule* to catch him in person. I appreciate his patience as I put this article together; hopefully the wait was worthwhile. I wish Chris much success in all his future endeavors and look forward to seeing him at upcoming cons. Original artwork that speaks to your heart and supports creativity that brightens the world is money well spent.
*February: RI 25th & 26th – Terror Con March: NJ 18th – Zappcon April: PA 1st & 2nd – Central PA Con, PA 7th thru 9th – Greater Philadelphia Comic Con May: FL 25th thru 28th – Mega Con Orlando August: MA 11th thru 13th – Boston Comic Con, Canada 31st thru 3rd – Fan Expo Toronto September: MD 22nd thru 24th Baltimore Comic Con, FL 29th thru 1st – Mega Con Tampa Bay
Linda Marie is a contributor to ComiConverse. Follow her on twitter: @LindaMW87