Founded in 2011 in Sacramento, California, Black Jack Comics is an independent comic book studio created by artist and writer Nick Garber, who believes strongly in producing quality comic books with interesting characters and stories that captivate readers. Now based in Mission, Texas, Black Jack’s first comic, Phantom Hawk #1, was released in April of 2012, and the universe will soon be expanding with the pending publication of a pair of new titles, Pendragon and The Ape.
In addition to bringing gritty and dynamic characters to the page, Garber and Black Jack Comics have remained highly interactive with their readership via social media and at comic book conventions.
Learn more about Garber and Black Jack Comics at www.blackjackcomics.net.
I had a lot of energy and that energy usually earned me extended periods of time in my room without toys. However, my parents wouldn’t take the paper and pencils I had in there so I would spend hours drawing characters from my favorite comic books. My punishments were not that long but I would stay in my room drawing for hours.
Who were your biggest creative influences growing up? Were there any particular artists or comic book titles that made you want to pursue a career in the industry?
My biggest influence growing up was Jim Lee. He is such a tremendous artist with a unique and visually stunning style and attention to detail. I would stare at his work in awe. I still do.
The first comic book I ever had was Daredevil and it was when Frank Miller was having his run with that title. Loved the gritty style of the artwork as well as the grittiness of Daredevil himself.
How did Black Jack Comics come about?
I’ve wanted to draw comics since I was 6 years old but I never had the courage to really pursue it. I would draw pictures and come up with backstories for the characters I drew. Eventually, after years of friends trying to persuade me to start my own comic, I locked myself in my office and wrote the first story arc for Phantom Hawk. I figured I needed a company name to go with it and I always liked Black Jack, I thought it sounded cool.
How did it feel to see Phantom Hawk #1 in print for the first time? And how did you celebrate its release?
It was a special moment for me to see all the hard work and years spent dreaming of seeing my character in print finally come true. I signed the first copy and had it framed with a personal message to myself. I didn’t really celebrate till months later when I appeared at my first convention as an artist and as Black Jack Comics. That feeling topped seeing the first print of Phantom Hawk.
What does your work environment look like?
My office is my home so it has my computer and pen tablet display, my drawing table, a bookshelf filled with reference books, history books and medical encyclopedias from my youth ( I wanted to be a doctor when I was a kid). Above the bookshelves is my geek shrine to my favorite comics. It’s always in a state of organized chaos.
Are you much of a comic collector these days? If so, what are the most interesting items in your collection?
I’m more of a casual collector now. I’ve been reading Batman: Zero Year and the reboot of Daredevil, both are awesome. I have quite a few first appearances like Venom’s and Gambit’s but the one I treasure most is Wolverines first appearance in The Incredible Hulk #181.
What is your process for creating a character?
I figure out what type of character it is going to be then I think about what powers or abilities that character would have. Then I try to pick a theme for that character which leads me into hours on the internet researching that theme. As I do that, I start getting ideas for the backstory and how that person became the hero or villain that they are. The last step is drawing that character, how they look, how they dress “off duty,” their style of clothes and style of costume.
What is the most difficult aspect of running an independent comick book studio?
The most difficult part is keeping up with the bigger comic houses because everyone that is involved with Black Jack has a day job and we produce these comics and run the business in our spare time. Lack of sleep as well.
What do you enjoy most about going to comic book conventions?
I love the feeling I get when I’m there talking to fans of the books and making new fans of our books. I feel so humble that people spend their hard earned money on my comics. I also love talking comics with my fellow geeks. There is such a passion that comes along with being a comic book fan; it’s electric and you can feel it in the convention halls.
Both DC and Marvel have been very successful at the box office recently. In your opinion, what is the best superhero movie of the past fifteen years or so?
I think many people will disagree with me on this but I would have to say the best comic book movie in the last 15 years is Watchmen. It is the closest transfer of subject matter between mediums that I have ever seen. It was visually stunning and they got some fantastic actors to bring the characters to life.
What’s the best meal you’ve had recently?
The best meal that I’ve had recently was BBQ tri-tip with grilled veggies.
What advice would you offer to aspiring comic book artists?
Learn to take criticism, it’s an important part of our job and it’s what pushes us to do better and help us improve our craft. The second thing is never stop learning. Study those artists out there that you admire, learn from them. Always be humble.
What are you working on next?
I just finished up with the first issue of The Ape (created by Shane Will, illustrated by Nick Garber). Currently doing some character development on two new characters that will be introduced into the Black Jack Comics Universe very soon while inking Phantom Hawk #4.
I would also like to mention and thank Joy DeCapua, my business partner, who really got the ball rolling this year for Black Jack Comics. Her dedication and hard work has really put our name out there and our books in stores.