I had recently previewed the print edition of Jim Zub and Max Dunbar’s Stone Star, Vol. 1 (which came out on July 7th). Needless to say I was impressed with the volume. For both its entertaining story as well as its spot on art work. Because of that, when given the chance to talk to the creative team behind this book, I was eager to find out some of the behind the scenes machinations that brought the book to life. We have talked to the other member of this creative team, writer Jim Zub. So, let’s complete the set by talking to the man who brought Jim’s words to life for Stone Star and did it with style. Let’s welcome Max Dunbar to GVN’s Talking Comics.
GVN: Thanks for giving some of your time Max. Before we get into Stone Star Vol. 1: Fight or Flight, lets cover a little of your artistic history. When did you take an interest in art and did you have any artists that you admired and wanted to perhaps emulate?
MD: I think I’ve always loved art for as long as I can remember. I loved the work of illustrators like Graeme Base, Wallace Tripp, and Stephen Biesty from a really early age. When I got into comics as a young kid, Jim Lee, Todd McFarlane and Marc Silvestri really blew my mind. They were hugely influential to me. A little bit later I discovered J.Scott Campbell and Greg Capullo.. I definitely think my artistic DNA comes from all those guys.
GVN: As I have looked over your work, the detail is quite outstanding. It kind of reminds me a bit of John Buscema’s work with just a touch of whimsy. It really shines in some of the Dungeon and Dragons examples you show on your website and of course, on Stone Star. Do you have a certain genre you prefer to work in or does that matter?
MD: I’ve been lucky enough to dip my toe in a bunch of different genres at this point, and while I absolutely love sci-fi and superhero stuff, I think medieval fantasy might be my favorite. That genre encompasses everything I love to draw most, and usually allows for a ton of creative freedom. I think when I’m just sitting around doodling in my sketchbook, I’ll usually drift towards some kind of D&D character.
Penciller or Inker
GVN: Back in the day, it was usual for there to be a penciller and a separate inker. These days, it seems that many artists (like yourself) do both. As you learned your craft, did you even consider a separate inker for your drawings?
MD: When I first learned that there were art jobs in comics, I always read that the penciller and inker were two separate positions, and I never thought they were ever done by the same person. I definitely wanted to be a penciller, and started my career as one, without even considering inking. My first work in D&D was just pencils, and I did a couple other projects without inking my own work.
Ultimately, it was working in books that didn’t have the budget to hire an inker that motivated me to try my hand at it, so the finished product wouldn’t just be my raw pencils with colors. I still don’t consider myself an inker, but hopefully I’m competent enough to get the job done.
GVN: So, getting to Stone Star, I loved it. In my preview for the print version, I called it part Gladiator, part Running Man. The character designs were particularly strong. Did Jim layout the look he wanted, or did he give you leeway to experiment? Whichever direction, it was a major success.
MD: I love working with Jim because I think we’re on the same wavelength with our aesthetics and what we like to see in comics. When we were figuring out the style of the comic, there was definitely a little experimentation, but I think we reached a general idea fairly quickly. Then it was just a matter of figuring out what each individual character looked like!
Working with Jim Zub
GVN: Speaking of Jim, what is it about Jim’s storytelling that first impressed you and made you want to work with him?
MD: I first saw Jim’s work in Skullkickers, his creator-owned fantasy series he did with Edwin Huang and Misty Coats. It’s just everything I love about comics. Funny, fast-paced and full of action and big-crazy moments. Another creator-owned series he did with Steven Cummings called Wayward just hooked me from page one with amazing, complex characters and a super-intriguing storyline. Jim’s got a huge range in what he can write, and I was lucky enough to work with him on the first D&D 5e comics. Ever since then we had been keen to work together on a creator-owned book.
Personality Coming Through
GVN: I talked to Jim about the way your characters and their dialogue suggested certain voices. Like for example Volness and his spaghetti western cool made me hear Sam Elliott or Clint Eastwood when he spoke. When you draw these characters, do you ever consider how they might sound as you develop them, or do you leave that to Jim or whoever is writing?
MD: I definitely think of what their personality would be, but I don’t think I go as deep as what their actual voice would sound like for the most part. I tend to focus on how they would carry themselves, or react to a situation in a more physical way. Volness in particular was definitely inspired by Clint Eastwood. But in my case, it was more about how his face might crease up when he squints, or how he might slowly look around when entering a room. The stuff that I hopefully can capture on the page without dialogue.
Volume 2 on ComiXology
GVN: well you certainly succeeded in that. I do want to thank you so much for your time, Max. Before I let you go, do you have any other works coming soon that you want our followers to know about? Perhaps Volume 2 of Stone Star?
MD: Thanks so much for the awesome questions and the very kind words! Volume 2 of Stone Star is now available on ComiXology! If you like volume 1, it picks up right where that story ends, so check it out for sure!
Be sure to check out this entertaining book.
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Senior Writer at GeekVibesNation – I am a 50 something child of the 70’s who admits to being a Star Trek/Star Wars/Comic Book junkie who once dove head first over a cliff (Ok, it was a small hill) to try to rescue his Fantastic Four comic from a watery grave. I am married to a lovely woman who is as crazy as I am and the proud parent of a 17 year old boy with autism. My wife and son are my real heroes.