Justice from Bart Sears !
I recently had the pleasure to talk to Bart Sears. Not only is he a remarkably talented artist he is also a very nice man. After he sent me his photo I suggested he was a handsome, artistic, devil indeed ! He in return said he was a “scary, old, freaky artistic devil maybe.” And I have Facebook messages to prove it. His wonderful, helpful and creative partner Michelle helped enormously whilst Bart was at his drawing board and busy with life. I thoroughly enjoyed our discussion about his colourful career
Paul: Most artists and writers have a story to tell about how they first discovered comics. When and where did you first discover comics?
Bart: I've always read comics. My brother is four years older than me, and I never remember a time I didn't read/have comics around. My parents said I started reading at three, and I don't remember ever not being able to read. I want to know the actual comic that I read that I remember looking at and deciding that I wanted to be a comic book artist? I was like... 10, I think...
Paul: Was there a comic that inspired you to start your craft? Or a comic artist that particularly inspired you at a young age?
Bart: Batman "Moon of the Wolf" by Neal Adams, 1974. I saw that and decided then and there I wanted to draw comic books?
Paul: How old were you when you felt like a professional artist? Was there a Eureka moment when it felt like "yup" I'll be doing this forever?
Bart: I was inspired by many artists after Neal. John Buscema, John Romita, Ross Andru, Jack Kirby. Probably a few others over time. Let’s see... I guess as a 17-year-old I knew I could draw comics - not then, but I knew I had it in me. I went to the Kubert School for a year (I burned out and dropped out in my second year) But I knew then it could be a job I could do it for certain. Proved it a year later.
Paul: What was your very first published work sir? How did that feel for you? ...and when was that?
Bart: My first Professional Published work was a Sectaurs Mini-comic that came in with the toy, Skulk and Trancula! That was for Marvel.
Paul: You are loved and remembered by many fans for your part of a classic era of Justice league comics. Can you share any memories of that time in your career?
Bart: You know how Keith came up with JL stories?
Paul: Please continue.
Bart: He had a little bowl, or gallon jar or something, and every dumb idea he had, a quick scribble sentence, he threw in the bowl. When time came to write a JL story (not just JLE, but any JL story) he'd reach into the bowl and grab one slip of paper. If it said, " a goldfish eats the world “that was the story he wrote.
Paul: Oddly enough I believe Agatha Christie had a similar system
Bart: I'm sure many writers have. Especially prolific writers.
Paul: As a penciller who was your favourite Justice League inker you worked with?
Bart: That's a tough one. Pablo did great work, but Randy really grew into the job and became quite brilliant over my pencils.
Paul: Can you provide surnames for fans that are not familiar with the details please?
Bart: Pablo Marcos - really great guy and classic inker, and Randy Elliott, long-time friend and talented inker. Both excellent artists in their own rights.
Paul: In your opinion what was the best Justice League cover you did?
Bart: Martian Manhunter with all the little Starro's.
Paul: That Justice League run is still much loved. Do fans still ask about it during conventions?
Bart: All the time.
Paul: It must be nice to be appreciated for such a classic comic run?
Bart: It is VERY nice.
Paul: How has your approach to artwork changed with technology and also have your reading habits altered because of technology?
Bart: My approach to comics hasn't changed in regard to doing the work. Working digitally is just about using a different tool. There are advantages and disadvantages to both. I often work in a mix of real-world and digital, depending on the job. As far as delivering comics digitally, that can change how you produce them. Having done a few projects that were produced for the digital medium/ motion comics in particular, it creates a different workflow, having to produce art on multiple layers, etc. It's interesting, but is all still narrative art, and panel-to-panel storytelling.
Paul: Bart, on a personal level, when you read comics do you enjoy them digitally or in paper in your hand?
Bart: I'm definitely old school. Paper in hand. But I also prefer newsprint and flat colour.
Paul: Flat colour? Can you say what that means?
Bart: Sure. When I say flat colour, I mean no rendering, no digital painting, simpler colour work, like in the mid-late 80's. I like to see the black linework.
Paul: So given your thoughts on technology in art, what is the comic work you are proudest of?
Bart: It's a good question. And a tough one...
Paul: Justice League or Turok? That is what many fans might ask.
Bart: I don't think I can pick one that I'm most proud of to be honest. Both Dark Knight series I did are pretty solid. Justice League Europe was a blast, and they were really good comics, but I was so new and just learning how to draw a comic for most of that run. I've a soft spot for Blade. And XO. Really liked the Path. Sabretooth was a really fun comic and a solid story. Any of my own stuff is right up there. Most proud of... hard to say.
Paul: Can you pick a cover you are especially proud of?
Bart: Your killin' me...
Paul: It is not intentional, lol
Bart: Just messing around... all cool.
Paul: Have you ever ventured into writing?
Bart: As in writing for another artist?
Bart: Oh yeah. Love writing. Co-wrote a Blade series back in the day. My Ominous stuff. Co-writing Maiden with my wife, Michelle... oh. Other artists, that's happened a couple of times. The Blade series I wrote, issues 5 and 6 were pencilled by Andy Smith. I wrote two Giantkiller stories that were wonderfully pencilled by Meghan Hetrick and Rick Leonardi.
Paul: I am also a fan of your art because of Captain America and the Falcon mini-series you did for Marvel. I'm guessing that it might feel more significant currently given the Disney+ tv series now.
Bart: Yep, Was just a 4-issue story.
Paul: It was pretty cool though.
Bart: Definitely. Was a blast getting to do Cap and Falcon... always loved those heroes. Wanda was in it too.
Paul: Can you discuss your latest endeavour more .... your book that involves a lot of headless heads. I've seen the cover. Heads Will Roll!
Bart: It actually has 3 covers...
Bart: It's 144 pages, filled with headshots of heroes and villains, from comics and all media.
Paul: Deaths Head UK comic character please
Bart: I think I did him...
Paul: The Wizards articles were incredible.
Bart: Do you know I rewrote, updated and added new and reprinted them in Drawing Powerful Heroes vol 1 and 2?
Paul: Yes, and I want a copy
Bart: Wish I had some!
Paul: How did they start?
Bart: A friend of mine, Mark Mcnabb, was running the Kubert School graphic studio, and Gareb Shamus (owner of Wizard Mag) contacted him in the early days of Wizard, and hooked me up with Gareb, and I started doing covers, and did some little wizard character stuff for them. I was teaching at the Kubert School at the time, and Gareb asked me if I'd want to do a drawing column for the magazine. The rest, as they say, is history.
Paul: There must be a story behind Turok surely?
Bart: Uhm... IDK. Not too much of one, really. Valiant wooed me from DC. I agreed to do too much, XO and Turok - I really wanted to do both, and convinced myself somehow I could.
Paul: As a great artist you have worked with some great writers. Can you describe your best collaborative experience?
Bart: I was taught old school. Writer writes a script, or plot (didn't matter whether or not it was panel by panel or only a few paragraphs) and once it was in my hands, it was my job to tell that story with images in pencil. Then when I was done, those pencils became the inkers to finish. So that was the extent of collaboration. I've really clicked with some writers, Keith Giffen, Ron Marz to name-drop two, and they are probably the two I more closely collaborated with, back and forth about story, sequences and maybe even panels, but that was limited as well. Probably worked more with Ron on figuring out cool stuff to draw that he'd incorporate in his story... like he'd say something like, rather draw an army of tanks or a horde of demons, and he'd run from there (or whatever). I don't know if there is a 'best' for any of these questions you've asked. Every experience has good and bad, and each some stuff that is spectacular - I mean we are so lucky just to be working in comics
Paul: Do you enjoy conventions and signing. Obviously COVID must have limited those opportunities in recent years, but do you have any fun stories to tell? Or any HUGE celebrity experiences?
Bart: I guess the best answer is yes and no. Conventions are usually quite fun, getting to meet and talk with people who have enjoyed your work and chat about comic art and discuss creating narrative art with artists and fans can be a real blast. Meeting up with old friends you might not have seen in a dozen or more years is a nice benefit of going to a lot of shows. Also gives you the chance to meet people you admire, or maybe have worked with in the past (or the future) that you would have never had the chance to, without a convention. COVID did end conventions for quite a while, and it’s still a concern of mine. I’m vaccinated and bolstered as much as I can be, but I have had COVID and it wasn’t fun. That said, we have to do our best to work thru it, stay safe and do our best to keep others safe.I forget how many stories I have. I was chatting at a show recently and it seemed like every question or comment stirred up about half dozen story memories in my head. I’m actually surprised I remembered so many, but my memory isn’t the best. I don’t really have any celeb experiences. I will say I’ve met some really nice, friendly people at these shows.
Paul: The Justice League Europe issue one cover is iconic, and the original must be worth a fortune. Those group shots images for number one issues by yourself, and Kevin Maguire are often copied, so is "imitation the best form of flattery?"
Bart: That cover is a classic, absolutely no idea what that original would sell for these days. Loved that group shot layout Maguire started. I’ve used it myself on a bunch of covers for different comics. Brilliant layout. Imitation certainly is flattering. The best form? Idk…
Paul: Do you have a favourite Justice league character?
Bart: Captain Atom. Then maybe Metamorpho.
Paul: What does the future hold for Bart Sears?
Bart: Time will tell. Michelle created and we co-write MAIDEN that I draw for Heavy Metal Magazine, we have several other projects in various stages of development and I’m working on a massive project for FENOM Comics and have a few other irons in the fire. I plan to build BartSearsArt.com with videos and online lessons, a store for original art/books and supplies… and hope to add private group lessons to some show appearances.Paul: Bart, Thank you for your time and answers. It has been an absolute pleasure chatting with you. Please thank Michelle for all of her help.