5 for 5, in 5, with Mike Rooth. (Part 1)
Welcome to the first instalment of a bit of fun that we hope to make happen on a pretty regular basis – 5 for 5, in 5!
Simple concept, we ask creators to sit down and answer 5 questions, for 5 pics, in about 5 minutes.
First cab off the rank is the incredibly talented, Mike Rooth! *Thunderous applause* Now rather than myself trying to introduce him, let's kick it off with the man doing that in his own words…
Please introduce yourself – can be standard or how your “dream” introduction would go (e.g. Your WWE intro) (also doesn’t count as a question lol).
I’m an art mercenary, a ruthless and unstoppable drawing machine, and have been for many long days and years, spanning 4 decades and 2 centuries.
I have been working as a freelance illustrator since 1996 and have created illustrations in just about every corner, of every industry, that illustrations are required.
In the late 1990s, I studied at Sheridan College Interpretive Illustration where they convinced me that I was never going to be good enough to work in comics. Instead, they suggested that I focus my skills and portfolio development in advertising and magazines, and more corporate stuff like medical journals or textbooks. I immediately began freelancing and entered a world of total poverty and near starvation, even temporary homelessness for several years, taking every gig possible, getting published anywhere and everywhere that I could, often working for free or for ‘exposure’ (DO NOT RECOMMEND, but…).
Eventually I landed a regular gig as an illustrator for an educational book publisher. I illustrated more than 50 children’s books and textbooks from 2004-2010 for publishers such as Rubicon Ltd, Scholastic Books, Harcourt Books, and others. I’ve been published in magazines such as The Atlantic Monthly and The Walking Dead Magazine, illustrated instruction manuals and donation campaign brochures for charitable foundations, menu signs for restaurants and worked from blueprints to draw concept houses for land developers. All kinds of boring shit like that.
But the desire to work in comics never went away, it festered in me like an old wound... and so when I found myself suddenly jobless in 2010 after the publisher I was working for had to lay off their entire art team, I decided to take a wild chance and chase after my dreams. It began with volunteering to do pinups for Indy comics and offering to do posters and program covers for comic cons in exchange for a table at the show. Then, I started to get cover gigs for Indie guys and then illustrated short comic stories for Captain Canuck and FUBAR. I have done about 50 gajillion covers and variant covers for comic book publishers big and small. I’m also co-creator on DODGE! with Matt Nixon, a comic book about an American Commando Werebear battling against evil forces that threaten freedom.
I enjoy my work and enjoy my life. I have a beautiful and talented silversmith/designer/illustrator wife and two awesome cats, and one day I will get to sleep.
- What got you into art, or earliest memory of art/drawing?
Short answer- my Mom.
My Mom is a phenomenal natural talent at drawing, and my earliest memories are of her drawing comic characters for me, copying them from old issues of ‘Marvel Two In One’ or Hulk or Spidey comics that I stole from my neighbour... I was probably 4 years old? A few years later my little brother was born, and she couldn’t really spend the time drawing with me that she used to - but encouraged me to try it on my own and kept me well supplied with paper and pencils. She really just encouraged me to keep going with art my whole life, and she and my dad, my whole family, continue to be my biggest supporters.
- What are your artistic influences (comics and/or general artistic inspiration)?
I love monsters. I love characters. I love masks. I love action. Sword and sorcery. I love epic battles. Pro wrestling. Heavy Metal. D&D. I think I gravitated towards comics and artists with that flavour, so I loved guys like Frank Frazetta, Catherine Jones, Bernie Wrightson, Ken Kelly, John Buscema, John Byrne, Mike Grell, Ron Frenz, Ron Wilson, Simon Bisley, Joe Jusko, Tex, and all those guys.
- Favourite character/style/layout i.e., cover or internal, or commission to work on?
Anything with big monsters and epic action is fun. I love the Thing and Swampthing, Hulk and Hellboy, Conan, stuff like that. Commissions are fun, and I miss doing them - I have a long list that I’m never able to get to. Drawing DODGE! full time and doing so many variants makes for long days.
- What would you consider your career highlight so far?
That’s a tough one, I have been fortunate to have many career highlights that I thought I would never experience in my wildest dreams.
But probably getting to work on TMNT: The Last Ronin has been the biggest one. As a fan of the original black and white comics in 1984, then the role-playing game from 1986 featuring TMNT, and later enjoying ‘Turtlemania’ with my younger brother as it unfolded into the 1990’s. Having the opportunity to work on something that has been a part of my life for so long has been a tremendous honour and privilege.
- Any advice for young artists just getting into the biz?
Keep drawing. Keep dreaming. Stay humble. Stay hungry. Be polite. Ask questions. Assume nothing.
There’s room for you at the table if you play nice. Don’t piss in the pool.
Above all- respect this business and your great privilege to have a place in it.
Bonus Question 1: How does one produce a beard so magnificent, so majestic, that it would make Vikings jealous?
Make bad choices as a dashing young rogue, get cursed by a witch, then just let nature take its course, man.
To be continued in Part II...
We hope you enjoyed the first part of our chat with Mike!
Not only is he a gentleman and a scholar, but Mike was so generous with his time that we will have part two of this interview coming very soon. So watch this space!
Also, are fortunate enough to have not one, but TWO EXCLUSIVES on the way from him!!
- Primordial #1 - On sale now
- Last Ronin #4 - SOLD OUT
And in the meantime, go check out Mike on the interwebs and buy some of that good stuff and support the man! (and stop by our store if you haven't already…)
And we out!