Comic book Biography: JEAN-CLAUDE SAINT AUBIN
Jean-Claude St. Aubin is a born and raised Canadian like myself, who still lives and works in this country. He started as a comic book fan who, in the late 1970’s, contacted Richard Comely at Canada’s Comely Comix with a great interest in working as an artist on Canada’s premiere superhero!
Richard Comely indeed hired him, and, along with fellow Canadian comic book artist George Freeman, the rest was history, commencing (for Jean-Claude St. Aubin and George Freeman) in a very successful and much-heralded and watched series of exciting adventures set in Canada’s future, and culminating in the present day!
The first series of Captain Canuck lasted fifteen issues and an annual called Captain Canuck Special #1, although # 15 was published several years after the first series ended!
Jean-Claude St. Aubin has been a comic book artist pretty well consistently for almost three decades, a much-in-demand comic book artist in Canada as well as in the United States for a plethora of publishers, including quite a few credits at DC Comics, including Batman and Green Lantern!
I’ve been actually seeking contact with Jean-Claude St. Aubin for a couple of years. I must have asked hundreds of people if they had contact info for this comics artist of whom I’ve been a fan of since the 1970’s and without success. Until recently, when suddenly — I finally hit the jackpot!
First Comics News: Jean-Claude St.Aubin, I understand that you actually go by the name Claude, and not by your legal name of Jean-Claude.I’d like to start by asking you, where and when were you born, was about where did you go to school, and where did you grow up?
Jean-Claude St.Aubin: To start, I was born in 1951, in Matheson, Ontario. When I was 8 years old, my family moved to a small town in Quebec. Then, ago about eleven years old, we moved again, this time to Montreal.Most of my teenage years and young adulthood were lived in Montreal, where I went to middle, then high school, and after that, to college.
1st: Did you read and/-or collect comic books as a child, and if so, which ones? Which were your favourite titles and characters?
Jean-Claude: I did not collect comic books, but I read a whole bunch of them. American comic books and French comic books also.I liked them both. A lot of DC, Marvel/Atlas, Dell, Gold Key, Harvey, etc… Same with the European ones, albums, hard covers with approximately 62 pages, and magazines, like Tintin, Piff, Spirou, etc…
As for my favorite characters; Tintin, The Challengers of the Unknown, Batman, Fantastic Four… I really don’t remember them all, but I can tell you that I spent many hours reading comics and I had never enough of it!
1st: How old were you when you started to draw, and what were the influences that inspired you to start to draw?
Jean-Claude: I think I was about 6 or 7 years old. I saw my brothers and sisters fighting over a section of the newspaper. Curious about the commotion over what I thought was nothing, I picked up the discarded comics section and I remember being mesmerized by what I saw! There was, in front of my eyes, in beautiful colour and black and white, daily page comic strips! It was love at first sight. Little did I know that a few years later, when I was around 10 years old, I would befriend an avid comic book reader, and from that moment on, I was hooked on this wonderful media and the incredible world of comic books!
Jean-Claude: I remember my grandfather encouraging me to draw the animals we had on the farm. But what inspired me to draw was what I saw and read in the comics section of the newspapers. Tarzan, Superman, Lone Ranger, Brick Bradford, Terry and the pirates, Dick Tracy, etc … I tried to copy them. I remember how hard it was to try to draw like them, and how disappointed I was with the results! Disappointed I might have been, but far from discouraged. I kept at it until it started to look like something, definitely not like the artists I was trying to emulate, but more like myself.
1st: Were you somewhat or mostly self-taught?
Jean-Claude: A bit of both. Most of my young life, I drew from looking at different artists and styles I liked, and I went from there. When I went to college to become a graphic designer, at that time there were no courses specifically in illustration only. I learned some techniques and how to draw from life subjects.
1st: What, if any, professional art training did you have, when did you go to school for professional art training, and what can you tell me about that?
Jean-Claude: I really didn’t go for any art training classes or schools as such. If there was any, I wasn’t aware of them. I learned from observing and trying to understand how one should approach a blank page and to go from there. The word “layout”, for instance, I learned that from reading comics. I had no idea what it meant and what it was. Later on when I learned it, the pieces of the puzzle started to fall in the right place. But, if I had that opportunity to learn from an art school that taught what I wanted to learn, even trained in the right direction, the art of story telling, it would have been a lot easier sooner, and I probably would have gained more confidence in myself and in my abilities… Some people are natural; I sure wasn’t one of those. I just like drawing and telling stories!
1st: Were you active in fanzine work, and if so, in what publications?
Jean-Claude: Unfortunately, no. I read them. I had no idea at the time how anyone could be involved. That was pretty naive on my part. I had great respect for anybody who was participating in those fanzines. There weren’t much of those around, in Montreal.
Basically, besides the American comics, all of the rest were French “bande dessinees” type magazines. There were many of them and I learned a lot from them. They were very different -art wise- than the American ones, and the story-telling was also very different. I loved them both! However, I leaned then, more towards American comic books, because of the action scenes and the larger-than-life heroes.
1st: Do you make a living solely through your art, or do you work a day job as well, when things are slow? And, if the latter, what type of work is that?
Jean-Claude: Yes, I’m full-time freelancing in comics. There was, however, only one time, a few years ago, that I had to have a day job for nine months when things got really, really slow, and there were no projects coming my way. That’s not talking about, either, when in the early 1980’s, at the time that Captain Canuck went out of business, for the second time, I had two young children and a lovely wife, still lovely but my children are not so young anymore, to provide for. I went back for a few years into the advertising field. I didn’t like it as much, but there was nothing else at that time. Until 1992, when I went back full-time to drawing comic books.
1st: Have you seen the subsequent, various mini-series that have been published, in recent years, about Captain Canuck, with a different character, not Tom Evans, under the mask? And, if so, do you have an opinion on those versions?
Jean-Claude: No, I haven’t kept in contact with what has been done with Captain Canuck. I’ve seen some new stuff done with that character through the years, but nothing original and exciting.
1st: It’s a real shame. The original series had so much promise. The original Tom Evans Captain Canuck, set in the future, had so much promise; more than a promise. It fulfilled itself, with each new issue. Richard Comely, for some unfathomable reason, turned his back on the concept and story and feel of the original Captain Canuck, of the unique cast of characters of the series, of everything that worked and was right with it, and no one seems to know why. But people keep on asking.
1st: Also, were the original, Tom Evans, versions of Captain Canuck to ever return to comics, would you have any interest in working on that series, sizedagain?
Jean-Claude: George Freeman was more the real creative force behind that character. As for myself, it really doesn’t matter. I thought it was a great idea at the time but now…. well I’m not so sure if the idea is still valid unless it is readdressed and brought up to date. Because of what George tried to do with this character and what Richard Comely eventually did, I don’t think I would be the right guy to attempt another Captain Canuck resurrection.
1st: During the Captain Canuck years, what was it like working with Richard Comely and George Freeman?
Jean-Claude: Well…. that’s a long story. I can tell you one thing, I learned a great deal with George, in the art direction and how to tell a story on a page. Working with George had been a unique experience. He’s a walking encyclopedia, an accomplished and polished artist from the very beginning; a “true” natural. He’s a very intelligent individual; a master craftsman. He became the real force behind the character of Captain Canuck! Yes, I enjoyed working with him a lot. As for Richard Comely, he was more involved in the business aspect while I was working with him. He was also an artist, a good letterer, creative, and a writer. A very nice person. You see, I was more into the production of things and learning not only how to draw comic books at that time, but learning English, too, which is my second language, after French. So, I spent more time with George than Richard. I’ve kept in touch with both of them as much as it is possible.
1st: For those reading this interview who are perhaps not-in-the-know, after three issues of the original Canadian series of Captain Canuck, Comely Comix, with an ‘x’, named after Captain Canuck artist Richard Comely, the company which published the initial mid-1970’s Captain Canuck series, then went out of business.
Later, issue # 4, already drawn a few years earlier, was published eventually as a Treasury Edition-sized limited distribution issue by Doug Sulipa, of Doug Sulipa’s Comics World, out of Manitoba, Canada.
Eventually, however, around 1979, CRK Productions, owned by Ken Ryan, started publishing the series anew, reprinting # 4 from that black and white treasury-edition sized issue, now nosizeand in full colour, and from there, many more issues came out, including an annual which was called Captain Canuck Special # 1, a one-shot. Along with Richard Comely returning for a time, George Freeman and you were onboard as artists of this spectacular relaunch of the series, taking up where the # 1 to # 3 Comely Comix series had left off. In fact, # 4 completed the storyline that # 3 had started, entitled “Behind the Mask“, where we the readers finally learned the true identity of Captain Canuck, a Canadian native Indian named Tom Evans.
Claude, I’m wondering what kind of a man was Ken Ryan? What can you tell me about him?
Jean-Claude: Ken was always pleasant and always professional. One thing that I remember, he was very patient and he gave us a lot of latitude in the office. He was very wise and understanding. I tell you, I didn’t know it then but I was very blessed working for and with someone like him. It was a real pleasure to be around him.
1st: What were your impressions of him?
Jean-Claude: Of someone, if given more time plus opportunity, would have establishedCKR Productions properly, and he and CKR Productions would probably still be in business today. I will always remember him as a gentle person but firm.
1st: I recall that CKR was a combination of the names (Richard) Comely and Ken Ryan. Also, did Richard Comely originally approach Ken Ryan with the idea to continue the 1970’s (by then late 1979 or early 1980’s) Captain Canuck series from # 4 on up, or was it Ken Ryan who approached him?
Jean-Claude: Probably Richard through somebody else, met Ken. George Freeman would be a more reliable person to ask that question.
1st: I will very likely get around to chatting with George Freeman for an interview sooner or later. He’s definitely on my list! I was hoping you could tell me a little more about Ken Ryan at CKR Productions, his background? Was he a comics fan, or just the publisher?
Jean-Claude: I don’t think he was a comic book fan. He realized very quickly that George was the better artist of the studio. He relied on George for the art direction and editorial slant of the book. I think his background was business. Again, if you get in touch with George, he will probably be able to answer that better than anyone.
1st: Do you know where Ken Ryan is now?
Jean-Claude: He lived in Calgary, Alberta while he was managing CKR. Then, I think he moved to British Columbia not too long after Captain Canuck ceased production. I haven’t heard from him since the demise of the company.
1st: I’d also very much like to know if the rights to the original version of Captain Canuck, Tom Evans, is owned by Ken Ryan of the late CKR Productions, which previously published the first series of Captain Canuck from # 4 on up and not Richard Comely? I’m thinking that, if this is true, perhaps this might explain whyRichard Comely seems to have no interest in doing any more comics with the original, Tom Evans, version of Captain Canuck.
Is it possible that the reason is simply, that he does not have the rights to that version? Any thoughts on this, or am I dead wrong?
Jean-Claude: No, I think you have a good point there. I asked Richard how he could still use the Captain Canuck character after he sold it. Believe me, I’m still confused with the copyright thing with this, what I think is the rights to Captain Canuck to people in Winnipeg, Toronto, Calgary and who knows who else. So, your guess is probably better than mine.
1st: In the current series, Captain Canuck: Legacy, the art is -I feel-just fine, although of course, it lacks the polish of a George Freeman or of a Jean-Claude St. Aubin job, but the writing seems uninspired, in my view. This is, of course, the opinion, of just one man, myself.
And, oddly, the ink or the paper in the first issue,h as an odd, almost overpowering odour. I have no idea why. This is, of course, a comment on the paper and ink or publishing aspect of it, and certainly not the writing or the art.
1st: Do you do art type work also, outside of comic books, say, in advertising, for example, or are you able to find enough work to employ you in the comic book field?
Jean-Claude: Once in a while, someone will call me to do some graphic work design, but that’s not too often. I prefer comic book work. I’m much more comfortable doing that. So far, I’ve been self-employed in doing just comic book work.
1st: What, if any, periodicals did you have work published in, prior to your art in volume one of Captain Canuck? Which, as most people who read comics know, was and is a Canadian superhero, although there have been no less than three different men who have worn variations of that costume in various incarnations/-mini-series of that title.
Jean-Claude: I have no idea! I tried so many ways to live that dream that I didn’t keep track of any I did, nor for who. I know that I did some spec works in Montreal for all kinds of supposedly “publishers” that did not go anywhere. The same thing happened in Winnipeg and Toronto.
1st: How did Captain Chinook come about? I recall this wonderful newspaper strip that you did, Claude, from several years ago, it having been reprinted in the slick Canadian fanzine ORION, of which there were only two issues, in 1981 and 1982! I thought then and still think today, that Captain Chinook was a marvelous newspaper strip, very funny and whimsical! It stands out to me as something that I think you must have had a great deal of fun creating for the page! It sure was an amusing, delightful read!
Jean-Claude: I was trying then, desperately, to make a living with my art. That was just after Captain Canuck folded for the first time. And the newspaper strips, to me, were the next best thing to comics. It didn’t work out. So, I went back to the graphic design field, specifically, advertising. I really don’t remember how this fanzine got a hold of this particular newspaper strip of mine. It was fun while it lasted… but I had to face facts and do a “real” job until another opportunity would come up.
1st: What newspaper or newspapers did Captain Chinook appear in, when did it appear, and how long did it run?
Jean-Claude: There were only very few Canadian newspapers that showed an interest. Not enough to make a living right away. That’s when I dropped the idea.
1st: Also, Claude, could you perhaps, kindly, give me, in point form, all the features, strips, fanzines, etc, you have worked on, with a sort of timeline?
Jean-Claude: I’m embarrassed to say that I did not pay attention to it. I know I participated in a few fanzines and other things, but frankly, I don’t remember, because I was doing a few things then, to try to get back into comics that did not go anywhere. I must have blotted them out of my mind and went on to do other things.
1st: Claude, that’s quite alright. Can you tell me how the wonderfully whimsical Captain Canuck backup series, from volume one of Captain Canuck, ‘Chaos Corps’, and ‘Beyond’, came about?
Jean-Claude: We wanted to do a backup story for the monthly issue. We being Richard, George and I, with the idea of doing a fantasy type story. Richard, if my memory is still good, came up with the name and did the logo for it. He wrote the first story, and then it became a collaboration between George, Richard and myself. That was fun to do. The Chaos Corps name came from Richard. We used some characters I had drawn up, in my portfolio. I came up with the design in Montreal and brought them with me to show around and to try and find out if I had the right stuff or not to become a comic book artist. Both George and Richard thought that they were good enough for a guest shot in the Captain Canuck Special issue or something. Like a “showcase” kind of thing. It was supposed to be humorous.
1st: It was. It was great, one of my favourite features. ‘Beyond’ was a great backup strip, really good, too! And ‘Jonn’ was a great strip too. The first Jonn story started as the backup strip in the back of Captain Canuck vol. 1 # 1, illustrated by my good, late Halifax friend, Owen McCarron. I loved that strip. And, of course, The Catman was superb, although there was only one comic book story of that and one text story. There should have been a lot more done with that interesting character.
1st: It’s somewhat embarrassing to me, to know that, in later Captain Canuck mini series in more recent years, The Catman was ruined, when it was turned into the nonsensical strip “Splatter“. It became just a guy in a purple costume, which Comely Comix’ Catman, was not. The new nonsensical version of Catman, “Splatter“, ran around with a paint ball gun, which he used on the bad guys, hence — his ridiculous name!
1st: I understand that you have worked, in the capacity as penciler and inker, for Marvel, DC Comics, Topps Comics, Acclaim, Valiant, Crusade, and Penny Farthing Press, to name just a handful! Some of these titles includedMagnus Robot Fighter, The Frankenstein/Dracula War, Aquaman, X-Files, Batman and Green Lantern. I also understand that you did at least some issues of Cadillacs and Dinosaurs. That was, I must say, an interesting series, rather offbeat and different. Dick Giordano did some of those, too. Do you have any thoughts on working on that title?
Jean-Claude: Yes, that was my first project at Topps Comics. I worked very hard on the pencils so I could at least show some respect to Mark Schultz, but the inker and colourist kind of killed the pencils and the mood I was aiming for. It was a great eye opener. If you don’t have the right talents working on a project, it can turn very different from the intended results. Still, I enjoyed drawing the dinosaurs and the Cadillac. That was a real treat!
1st: Claude, I was also talking to one of my favourite comic book writers, for literally decades, on the Internet, just a few short weeks ago, Don MacGregor. I’m quite a Zorro fan. Believe it or not, that little segue way really DOES have quite a connection to you. I’ll give a little background here for readers, some of which, Claude, you will know most certainly know about. Several years ago, there were two Zorro mini-series which were supposed to be published by the late Topps Comics. One was called Zorro: Matanzas and the art was drawn up for it, if memory serves, by Peter Mayhew, and written by Don MacGregor. But for unknown reasons, the mini-series was never published. Eventually, only part of it was published, in black and white, as a single ‘ashcan’ type comics edition. It looked well-written, what little there was of it, and the art by Peter Mayhew was breathtaking. Whereas, Topps Comics previously published an eleven issue Zorro comic book series by the same creators, in addition to a two issue Zorro mini-series entitled Dracula versus Zorro, again, written by Don MacGregor, but this time, illustrated by Tom Yeates.
1st: The other Zorro never-published mini-series, aside from Zorro: Matanzas, also from Topps Comics and also written by Don MacGregor, and illustrated by you, Claude, was the one that I want to talk to you about. I, of course, knew about this one for several years, but it is only in the past couple of months that I learned, over the internet, from Don MacGregor himself, that you were the artist of it. And that is the planned, written, and illustrated, by you, mini-series, which teamed Johnston McCulley’s Zorro with, interestingly enough … The Lone Ranger-!
1st: I found that to be a very intriguing concept. But the thing of it is, Zorro is set around the year 1820, the time in history where California was a legal parcel of Spain before it was taken over by Mexico through force, and before it became part of the United States. It was the time of the religious Missions. The only firearms then were flintlocks, single shot revolvers, and flintlock type muskets, the type of rifle like weapons wherein one used gunpowder from powder horns, like the earlier Daniel Boone!
1st: While both Zorro and The Lone Ranger are fictional characters, The Lone Ranger, meantime, was set much later in history, several decades later, I’d say about the 1860’s to the 1880’s, where Smith and Wesson and Colt multi-bullet firing type revolvers were commonplace. The question thereby becomes, how would Don MacGregor, who knows these things, have Zorro and The Lone Ranger possibly team up since Zorro would have been an old man by the time he would have met up with The Lone Ranger in his prime? Did Don MacGregor, who I also have a great deal of respect for, as a truly gifted and passionate writer, , give any thought in the storyline of how there two characters could possibly meet and both still be young, or were those time period logistics against the possibility of these two characters meeting each other in their primes…get glossed over?
Jean-Claude: Don MacGregor would be much better than me, to be able to tell you how the time travel aspect for the Zorro/-Lone Ranger crossover was done. If I remember correctly, though, The Lone Ranger was sent into Zorro’s earlier era by an old woman’s magic. She was the mother or relation to the bad guys…. I am so sorry to have such a bad memory. I guess, when things get so and go nowhere, I tend to forget the not-so-good experience, the fact that it wasn’t published, and move on to something else.
Jean-Claude: I was really into that one. I am a big western nut and believe me; I was thrilled to work on that project. It was very well thought-out and the same for the script! I put a lot of efforts into it and spent long hours of research to be as accurate and honest to the story and characters, as I possibly could! That was a highlight in my career… until they canceled the book!
1st: I’m a western nut/-aficionado like you, Claude, as is Don MacGregor. I’d also like to know, to ask you, how many issues was that mini-series to be, and how many pages did you actually draw?
Jean-Claude: I must have done quite a bit of pencils on the first issue… not quite a full issue but close to it.
1st: Also, do you have any pages from that Zorro/-Lone Ranger unpublished mini-series which you might possibly be able to scan for the interview? Or, are they online somewhere?
1st: Also, what was the title going to be for that mini-series? And, if there are any questions you are unable to answer about this, I’ll ask Don MacGregor about it later, so not to worry….
Jean-Claude: Unfortunately, I have none. Nor have I any photocopies. You see, I have moved quite a few times since then. A lot of my stuff got damaged, stolen and simply destroyed. I really am not a fan of moving. Charlie Novinskie, who was the editor of the book, or even Don MacGregor, might have something.
As for contacting Don MacGregor for elucidating my poor memory, please be my guest. He’s sharp, articulate and very friendly!
1st: Did you get paid for that unpublished project, and do you know why this mini-series was not published?
Jean-Claude: Topps Comics always paid for the completed pages even if a project got canceled. Again, I was told that there was a change of heart by the publisher. My guess is that the powers-that-be at Topps Comics might have felt that the book might not sell well or something… who knows. One thing I do remember is that I was bitterly disappointed. In the publisher not publishing it, not with Don MacGregor.
1st: I can understand that. I would have loved to see that series! But sometimes publishers make decisions that the rest of you simply cannot understand.
Claude, I talked with Don MacGregor again last night, by email, and he sent me some very interesting, and even surprising answers on that topic as well, which I’m going to shoehorn in here.
Don MacGregor comments:
Okay Phil, before I’m whisked away into Cyberspace, and while awaiting from all you folks on characters you’d like to see in the NEW series relaunch of SABRE, a quick response to your questions about Jean-Claude St. Aubin’s and my unpublished project, ZORRO and THE LONE RANGER.
Another heart breaker for the story-teller:
Thanks to Jim Salicrup, who knows I’m always begging for more pages, we had actually THREE #1 issues for ‘KILLING TIME’, which was the title of the project.
There was a ZORRO issue.
There was a LONE RANGER and TONTO issue.
And then there was the first ZORRO/LONE RANGER/TONTO issue.
This was not a sales gimmick on my part. To tell the story, I felt I had to set up all of the characters and hopefully get them together in a fashion you readers would accept, and that everyone would understand the emotional consequences for all involved.
I believe there are five complete scripts, although the series was not finished.
Claude St. Aubin drew a number of pages of The LONE RANGER/TONTO issue.
I have my drawn copy placement hand stapled issues to this day. The full scripts still exists.
But the ‘KILLING TIME’ series will probably stay dead still. Forever.
I’d love to be wrong on that score, but the odds are really against it ever becoming a reality at this late date.
1st: Thank you very much, Don, for elaborating on that matter. I know that I and Claude and a lot of other people were, and will be, when they read this, sorry to hear that those Zorro/-Lone Ranger by you and Jean-Claude St. Aubin projects never, ever got published. And never will. Sounds like a great storyline. Sigh. I think that Topps Comics made a serious miscalculation, there. And we are all the poorer for it.
1st: to Jean-Claude St. Aubin: Claude, you worked on the comic book title Smoke and Mirror as well as The Victorian. Could you kindly tell our audience what these series were about, and your thoughts on them?
Jean-Claude: First, for The Victorian. The challenge for me was to make this techno-thriller visually interesting by keeping the readers interested and curious enough to buy the next issue. Far from boring, but rather, a very sophisticated and subtle, perhaps a little too subtle for the average reader who’s used to reading the more known title by other publishers.
The Victorian has a very intelligent premise, attractive characters and it is more real than most other popular books. It’s very original, unique and powerful in emotion and climax built up! It has quite a very creative team behind this project! Lots of sweat, time and effort were put in the book!
Jean-Claude: Overall, a lot of creativity went in, throughout the whole series. A modern tale using Victorian technology mixed with ultra modern technology! I was privileged to have a part in it.
1st: You are too modest, Claude. Your art is really quite outstanding in this series, and I urge readers of this interview to seek it out!
Jean-Claude: The Victorian is sent to the future, to our present, from the late 1800’s to New Orleans, to stop a twisted genius intent on bringing down our world! There were two more Victorians sent from the Victorian era to the future. The first one was sent to the 1940’s, during the Second world War. And later on into the late 1960’s, another Victorian was sent, to find the first one and return with him. Both would fail not only in their respective missions but also to return! The first used his knowledge to become a powerful figure and the second, a woman, the woman our Victorian loved then, became the villain’s ally. She was convinced by the mad man’s dream of making a better world.
Jean-Claude: Their efforts were constantly frustrated by our hero until they meet at last face to face. Throughout all this, we follow the investigations of a professor and detectives, who try to unravel and clear up all the mysteries popping up in strange places and situations, resulting in deaths. It would have made a great movie!
Phil, here are some more answers that might elucidate some of The Victorian’s mysteries… You wrote to me by email, “Seems to me if the person who hijacked the nuclear submarine in The Victorian, (the first graphic novel that collected the first several issues), that if he wanted to blackmail nations, he gave up his bargaining chips — the missiles. So, presumably, he just wanted the sub.”
Jean-Claude: That is exactly right. It is the submarine’s technology that the bad guy is interesting in. Not the nuclear missiles aboard her. Phil, you also wrote,”And you’re right, it is a lot more complex than most intelligently written comics. It might make a good film, too!”
Phil, I agree completely. It would make a better than most films by a long shot! Phil, you also said, in another private email to me,”By the way, I may have mentioned this earlier, but I also enjoyed the various Captain Gravity series from Penny Farthing Press as well, a little while back.”
Well, Phil, Penny Farthing Press did a few different versions of this title. I think it is still ongoing, with a new creative team. I find it very interesting, also!
And Phil, you said to me,”By the way, I already find the character of Fitzpatrick, in The Victorian series of comics that I have worked on, quite interesting, as well as the cab driver in New Orleans, and the female character, Eurora.”
When I was drawing the saga, Phil, I started with Fitz and I got attached to him.Eudora, meantime, is a teen with an eye for adventure. Her curiosity helps move the story along with the help of the cab driver. I won’t tell you more because I will give the plot away. It is more fun discovering the intrigues and getting more mystified as the story unfolds in each book.
Then, Phil, you also asked me,”Who was chasing her? That wasn’t made clear. At first, early in the first graphic novel, I thought Fitz was an immortal. Now Inullm thinking he isn’t but I’m not totally sure.
1st: I’m wondering, Claude, if he, Fitz, is TheVictorian? Likely not, or one of the other people that were in his group before The Victorian left the group….?
Jean-Claude: Well, Phil, you will find out who is chasing Eudora and why, in one of the sequential issues. And no, Fitz is not an immortal. There are some immortals and that fact is important. You will discover that, too, as you continue to read the three Victorian graphic novels that you recently acquired from Penny Farthing Press and are reading in order. And you’ll probably be surprised at some of the characters who are in them! I won’t tell you who The Victorian is, that is also revealed in subsequent issues. I learned that one while drawing an issue of it, and I was told to draw that character more heroic because I was informed then that he was The Victorian.
To me, they should have included me in the secret since I was the penciler. It would have helped… Penny Farthing Press wanted to keep it a secret from most so that none of the plots would leak out ahead of time. Who knows why…
You also said, Phil“It’s almost like there’s too many subplots with too many characters going on, though….I don’t know how it’s all going to fit together but I am very intrigued. It’s a fascinating read, though! It’s hard to put it down when I go to bed at night.” Well, Phil, a lot is explained on the way and at the end of the series.
1st: Oh, assuming The Victorian regular comics series is still ongoing, will the real life floods in the real New Orleans, with the city destroyed, people killed, drowned, murdered for real, etc, be covered in the comics series? I’m just curious.
Jean-Claude: I really don’t know if the saga is still ongoing. It could be. I haven’t heard anything about it since I stopped illustrating it.
1st: Like you, I get the sense that Penny Farthing Press, publisher of ‘The Victorian’ that you’ve illustrated a lot of, is full of top notch people: creators, writers, artists, editors, colourists, letters, publishers, etcetera! Especially ifPamela Miltenberger is an indication. She’s very friendly and bubbly in her emails!
Jean-Claude: Again, you’re right there, too! They are wonderful people. Actually, Penny Farthing Press is not as so much a well-kept secret as before! The word is getting out, and that’s good. A lot more people are noticing that not only are they a different type of publishing house, in a greater way than most, but the people in it are also genuine and super friendly! They understand the industry and they are there for the readers and the talents. When you meet the owners, you’ll find out why Penny Farthing Press stands out from the rest in a very positive way!
Smoke And Mirror, a previous comic book title that I worked on before The Victorian, is a superhero title. But it’s far more original than most, with a very rich background that started in the Silver Age of the superheroes genre!
Our modern heroes were the newest version of older heroes who had fought the good fight in their time, and they were now witnessing the next generation taking over.
One of the subplots of Smoke And Mirror is about a young lawyer mentored by the original namesake and using similar powers with different uses and results. The earlier version was called Mr. Smoke with the costume of the time period, and the newer version is just called Smoke. He is more powerful and more skilled. Not at first, but as time went on and many battles were fought and he acquired more experiences, he became more powerful. The other was named Miss Mirror, in the Silver Age, and just Mirror in modern times.
Smoke used small magical orbs and by saying the Latin word for the power he wanted to use, he would squeeze the magic orbs, and smoke would surround him and then he would go into action!
Mirror had speed, reflections, and other powers, which I don’t recall at the moment, to go into action. Most of the action took place in Chicago. The villains were from the past in flashback and in the present. All were very creative! The author/creator, Chuck Saterlee’s intent, was to bring back the fun in comics!
I think I did three or four complete issues before I went to work for UMI. I enjoyed it. The potential for success was there. We got good reviews for both titles, Of Bitter Soul and Smoke And Mirror. I don’t know if it is still going, I hope so. It was different in a way from what’s out there, in that genre.
1st: In answer to that, I can tell you that a brand-new issue of Smoke And Mirror, a relaunch, a new # 1 just came out, just about two months ago, by different creators. It almost reminds me of The Justice Society of America crossed with The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, the second of which was a comic book series as well as a theatrical movie.
I like Smoke and Mirror a lot. Despite the way that I myself described it, it really is rather unique! I’d urge anyone to pick it up and give it a serious read! Including especially, of course, the back issues that you did some really good work on, Claude!
Looking at the extensive list of a lot of the comic books which you did in the past, (attached below), are there any that you are particularly fond of, that were more enjoyable that some others, based on favourite characters, or other creators that you particularly like to work with, Claude?
Jean-Claude: Phil, just a few corrections:
I started working on The Victorian in issue 11, 7 or 8 pages, with Andrew Pepoy inks.
Then from issue # 12 through # 25, I did all the penciling. It was in 2004 that the last issue was done.
1st: Claude, by coincidence, I recently interviewed Andrew Pepoy on his
re-introducing The Web superhero from The Mighty Crusaders, back into the Archie Comics universe, commencing with Archie And Friends # 101, which has come out, and the soon to be released Archie and Friends # 107, which also will feature the Golden Age, 1940’s, Silver Age, 1960’s, and early to mid-1980’s “The Web” superhero character from various hero series from Archie and Red Circle Comics.
Jean-Claude: Now that’s interesting. To answer your other questions: years , There are quite a few editors and writers I enjoyed working with. I worked for DC Comics for about three to four years, and for Topps Comics, for years, I still do odds and ends for Penny Farthing Press, a wonderful publishing house to work for, since 1999 to the present time.
I worked for so many talents, that it is hard to tell you which ones I liked best! My favorite character of all time is Plastic Man, The Jack Cole version, and I inked a few pages for a Plastic Man Special at DC in the late 90’s. That was a real highlight for me!
This might seem boring to you, but to me the fact that I was working in comics, which I love tremendously, and that I provided for my family….I was and still am happy! And, as long as the projects were clean and wholesome, I was happy. I never kept track of whom and what I was working for. As long as I am drawing, I am happy. That is why I haven’t really paid much attention to the various aspects of my work.
For a while, I was bailing out projects that were late by other creators, or if artists had injured themselves, were sick, or even left the book in the middle of it…. as long as the deadline was met, that was the important thing! Some of those books I didn’t get credit for. So, in a way, it’s not clear what I worked on and for who, at times. At other times, I was sooooo busy that as long as I met the deadlines, that’s all I wanted. If someone would ask me what I worked on that year, I wouldn’t be able to answer them correctly.
After I left the comic book title Smoke And Mirror, I went to work for UMI on two very wholesome projects.
This is recent so I do remember and I would be more than happy to tell you about the two books I am working on for them.
Again, I really must apologize for not being more helpful. I never considered myself anything great nor spectacular. Looking back to the beginning of my drawing comic books to now, I feel very blessed to still be working in comics and making a living at it! That in itself is quite the reward that I really was hoping for!
1st: That’s fine, Claude. I think that you are a really great talent and I’m a big fan. I always have been. That’s why I spent a couple of years trying to track you down, working frequently to find somebody on the Internet, of my many contacts, and friends of friends, for a very long time, till I finally struck the jackpot and found somebody, through my editor, namely Pamela Miltenberger at Penny Farthing Press, who knew you and who had an email address, so that I could contact you for this interview. I tell you, Claude, that was the best Christmas present, ever!
Tell me kindly, Claude, what two series did you work on for the company UMI that you allude to above, and what does UMI stand for? Also, what can you tell me about those two comic book series? What were they about, and what did you think of them?
Jean-Claude: Michael Davis would be the best person to answer what UMI stands for. There’s more than meets the eye, I can tell you that much.
1st: Claude, I did indeed get in touch with Michael Davis. He kindly did respond. Here is what this gent had to say:
Michael Davis: Phil, I will be glad to respond to your enquiries, and you have my permission to print my comments. I am very aware of the Silver Bullets Comic Books.com website, where one can read interview and news! UMI stands for Urban Ministries Inc. Claude. St. Aubin is drawing two titles for the Guardian line! The books are on the stands now!
I think Claude is a truly great artist, and he is one of the most under-rated artists in the industry!
1st: Thank you, Michael!
Jean-Claude St. Aubin: Actually, there are four books. I work on two of them: Joe & Max and Genesis 5.
All the action takes place in “New Hope.” This city is like most cities in that it has good and bad happenings in it. For instance, Joe and Max — Joe, and African-American Boy, is about 11 years old, who plays a big part in trying to save the city from the arch villain Stephen Dark.
Joe is helped by an angel called Max. Max is huge physically and he looks like a bike. He’s got the rip style shirt, chains and the MR. T-like necklace-like jewelry.
Why does Joe need this type of body guard? Because he’s a target of the bad guys under Stephen Dark.
You see, in the future, when Joe grows up, he beats Dark, and Dark knows it. So Dark is trying to control Joe by having Joe on his side or get rid of him before Joe grows up and defeats him.
Also, Max can’t speak to Joe in a normal way like someone would normally talk to another. Max quotes verses from the bible when he talks to Joe. Joe gets ticked off at times, because of it, not really knowing what Max is saying.
Joe has good and bad days, at home, school, and with friends. It’s a very wholesome yet action-packed series! Not preachy yet staying the course on what the book is intended for, making right choices and doing the right thing, no matter what!
So the bad guys are really bad and the good guys are really good, and you get attached to them. Yeah, the bad guys, too!
The same thing goes with the Genesis 5 series! It’s about five angels sent to Earth, in New Hope, to do some good and to help those assigned to them. They are mentored by Walter, a taxi driver and befriended by Aaron, a teenager who is solid
on his feet. Actually, the five young angels, two males and three females, are thrown in Walter’s lap. He doesn’t know what to do with them at first but gradually, with the help of Aaron, they grow on him and get attached to the five teenaged angels. The angels go to school and do whatever young people their age do. Each one of them has their own power, which they use to vanquish demons sent to stop or destroy them. They are fun to read and the writers are top-notch! There are quite a few great talents working on all four books. From writers to artists to letterers and all those in between! They are gems in all senses of the word! If you would get in touch with Michael, he will fill you in on all of it and the purpose of the titles. It’s all well thought-out and well-directed, in order to entertain and enrich and direct the readers.
I’ve just touched the surface lightly. There is MUCH more to it, than what I wrote.
Let me know if you need anything else from me.
I hope in a small way that I was able to answer some of your questions. It was a real pleasure to be interviewed by you, Phil!
Again, my apologies for not being able to be more accurate and to answer more of your questions.
You made me realize that throughout my time as an artist, I didn’t pay much attention to what was going on. Probably it was that I was not interested and as long as I could do my part, I was happy I guess and I didn’t need to know more.
Anyways, thank you again and good luck in your ventures and in your interviews. Wishing you again a very happy and successful 2007.
1st: You’ve told me a great deal, Claude, on a huge variety of subjects. I know my readers will be very pleased!
Thank you very, very much, Claude. It’s been a real pleasure talking to you at length!