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FanBros Originals – An Interview with the Creators of Employee of Tomorrow



Jamie Righetti sat down with Rus Wooton and Kelly Fitzpatrick, creators of the FanBros Originals: “Employee of Tomorrow,” to talk about their comic and more.


Tell us a little bit about your individual role in creating a comic. How do you take it from an idea to a finished project? Rus, Can you explain lettering a little bit?

Rus Wooton: With my “day job” of Lettering comicbooks, the process starts with getting the script from the writer ad the art, usually still just inked, with no color yet. Sometimes the writer or editor will give me balloons guides which can help speed up the lettering so I can quickly tell who’s saying what line without constantly referring back to the script. I take the art into Adobe Illustrator, break down the script line by line and assign the font or fonts needed, then lay out the dialogue on the page in a way that best helps the storytelling and avoids covering up too much of the art. I then draw the word balloons and the tails and design any sound effects that are called for. Once I get the finished art from the colorist, I double check the alignment of all my lettering and choose colors for sound effects that compliment the colorist’s work. I’ll often do production on the book as well, putting everything together in InDesign for publication, designing credits pages, etcetera.

Kelly, can you explain coloring a little bit and how it plays a role in dictating the tone of a comic?

Kelly Fitzpatrick: I remember specifically asking Rus what kind of tone and color palette he was going for on the book- basically what he liked/ and disliked to have a launching off point. I think Chris actually mentioned old Tex Avery cartoons. I feel that color is very important. Color sets a mood, grounds forms and figures, and creates an environment for the artwork. It creates a sense of clarity. For example, when you think of iconic books like Batman, you think of cool colors and night time, not warm tones and sunshine. I’ll buy books specifically to look at the colorists I admire because I find them such an integral part of the comic.


What inspired you to start writing/drawing/lettering? Any specific artist/comic/cartoon/etc?

Rus: The first comics I remember are some Spider-Man comics my older cousin Jim gave me when I was 4 or 5, and when I was 7 my Dad bought me a comics subscription; I chose Marvel’s ‘Godzilla, King of the Monsters’ because I was a big fan of the Japanese monster movies on Saturday afternoon TV, particularly Godzilla. That comic series introduced me to the Marvel Universe at large as Godzilla had run-ins with everyone from S.H.I.E.L.D. to The Avengers. When it came time to renew, the series had ended, so I naturally picked The Amazing Spider-Man. By that time I’d also seen Spidey on The Electric Company, so I think by 1978 I was pretty much hooks on comics for life.

Kelly: When I originally started drawing I was an infant. I only really started focusing on coloring quite recently. I think music and film inspires me the most, alongside the obvious thing being comics. I’m inspired by a lot of illustrators and painters like Alphonse Mucha, James Jean, Yoshitaka Amano, Arthur Rackham, etc.

The Walking Dead has a pretty iconic look to it, both in the art and the lettering.

Rus, what inspired your work for this project – did you create the signature font on the cover? What drew you to this project? Did you anticipate how popular the series would become?

I met Robert Kirkman back in 1999 at Wizard World Chicago, having known and been in an online comicbook art group called Café DNA with his friend and collaborator Tony Moore since around 1995. Robert and Tony were debuting their self-published comic ‘Battle Pope’ at the time, and I was working at Wizard as the web designer and Online Assistant Editor. We all kept in touch over the years, and when Robert needed someone to take over the lettering on ‘Invincible’ and later ‘The Walking Dead’, he asked me to step in and ape his style to keep the books consistent and help get them out in a timely manner. I’d been lettering Marvel books for a few years at that point, as a part of Chris Eliopoulos’s lettering studio Virtual Calligraphy, so Robert was familiar with my lettering work. I took over lettering on ‘Invincible’ with issue #14 and ‘The Walking Dead’ with issue #20, right after Michonne arrived. I do design comicbook logos, most recently for Rick Remender’s ‘Black Science’ and ‘Deadly Class’, which I’m lettering as well, but I didn’t have anything to do with The Walking Dead’s logo. I’m not sure who designed it, but it may have been Robert himself. It’s definitely a cool and iconic logo.

Rus, you’ve worked for Marvel, Dark Horse and Image among others. What was your favorite project(s) you’ve worked on so far?

I really can’t pick one favorite. I’ve been fortunate to work on some great comicbooks with a variety of incredibly talented creative teams over the decade that I’ve been lettering comics. I had a bast lettering Marvel books over the years, lettering just about every main title at some point and a bunch of cool smaller Marvel books and mini-series. I lettered more ‘Fantastic Four’ books than any title I’ve worked on except for ‘Invincible’ and ‘The Walking Dead’, and I’m proud to have had my name in the credits alongside not only comicbook greats whose work I enjoyed growing up in the ’70s and ’80s, but contemporary creators and legends like Stephen King, Stan Lee, and several of the founding members of Image Comics, who not only changed the business but continue to do so.
Some of my favorite work though has been with a few creators I’ve been able to work with time and again on independent, creator-owned work — Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore, Rick Remender, Joe Casey, Glen Brunswick, Whilce Portacio, to name a few. I enjoy all the books I’m currently lettering, and not every letterer can honestly say that, so I feel lucky in that regard.

What inspired your Fan Bros Original comic “Employee of Tomorrow?”

Rus: Well, when Chris asked if I’d be interested in writing a story for the ‘Fearless Future’ anthology, I jumped at the chance but immediately asked him if I could illustrate it as well. He was cool with that, so I was off to trying to come up with a story I’d enjoy reading but wold also have fun writing and drawing. I wanted a dark horror aspect but also wanted the visuals and setting to kind of belie that darkness, so I was inspired by those old cartoons about the homes of tomorrow, with all the automated stuff in them. I thought it’d be cool to juxtapose some of that idealized 1950s futurism with the dangers of dependence on technology with some corporate control and greed thrown in. Sci-fi and horror are both under-represented in comics these days, particularly horror, so it was a blast to work on the story. Kelly Fitzpatrick did a killer job on the colors, too, with just a little bit of direction from me. She made some choices I probably wouldn’t have thought of, and it worked, so that’s one f the nice aspects of collaboration in comics.

Kelly: The colors were definitely inspire by old cartoons (like I mentioned before) and modern works like Manhattan Projects.

Okay the typical geek stuff we just have to know:

1. Star Wars or Star Trek?

Rus: Both! I saw the original ‘Star Wars’ in theaters when I was in the second grade, and I was watching ‘Star Trek’ reruns on TV back then, too. I saw ‘Star Trek: The Motion Picture’ in theaters on opening night with my brothers and a family friend, and it was packed. I liked it but not nearly as much as I loved ‘Wrath of Kahn’ a few ears later, of course. I love the original Star Wars trilogy, too, but I never really understood the either/or mentality with the two properties. They’re really different types of storytelling that can be enjoyed and appreciated in different ways. I’m more of a Trekkie though, since I’ve seen much more Star Trek stuff than all the Star Wars animated TV stuff. But I’m psyched for the next Star Wars trilogy, hoping it has more of an affinity for the first trilogy than the second.
Kelly: I grew up liking Star Wars more, but those first 3 movies. Ugh.

2. Favorite comic and/or superhero?
Rus: Spider-Man is my all-time favorite superhero and comicbook character. Hands down.
Kelly: Favorite? How about top 3 in no particular order because I love too much stuff? I love Spider-man:Blue (Jeph Loeb/ Tim Sale/ Steve Buccellato), Arkham Asylum (Grant Morrison/ Dave McKean), and I Feel Sick (Jhonen Vasquez/ Rosearik Rikki Simons).

3. Most underrated comic book character?
Rus: Hmm… maybe Heath Huston of ‘Fear Agent’. I think a lot of comicbook readers overlooked that series, and I think most of them would really like the book if they gave it a shot. Its main character Heath is someone most people can relate to because he’s imperfect but tries his damnedest to do the right thing, to do right by his family and by humanity, making some huge mistakes along the way but learning and growing. And hell, that’s what life’s all about, right?

Kelly: Honestly, I’m not sure. Maybe Namor?

Any advice for aspiring comic book writers/artists?

Read outside your comfort zone or favorite genre or favorite publisher. Seek out variety and different stories than you’re used to, then make your own; collaborate, share, learn, get better, and keep doing it. Don’t aspire to create, just create. You might suck at it at first, and you might not get paid much, or at all, at first, but just do it and enjoy the process. Don’t have any local friends who want to make comics? Find collaborators online! My career in comics can be traced back to talking with comicbook pros and readers online back in 1993 on CompuServe; I made connections, made friends, learned, created, shared, made some crappy comics, some okay art and design, but kept networking and ended up getting hired by Buddy Scalera and Wizard in 1998, and I kept going from there. I didn’t plan on becoming a professional letterer, but I did plan on working in comics and adapted as I went.

Kelly: Work hard and expect to keep working hard. Put as much time into your craft as you possibly think you can and then some. Also, go to conventions and meet other people working in the industry. You’ll have fun and it’s always good meeting people who are passionate about the same thing you are.

Finally, anything cool you’re currently working on that we can look for soon?

Rus: My ‘Siblings’ webcomic which I put on the back burner a while back will finally be making it’s debut soon, and I have two comicbooks I’m doing myself that I can hopefully talk about in the coming months. They may not see publication until next year though. Other than that, I hope to be collaborating with my buddy and comic artist Mario Wytch to resurrect our ‘Blacksmith Jones’ sci-fi/adventure comicbook project.
Oh, and people can come by and see me at the inaugural Cincy Comic-Con next weekend!
Kelly: Can I shamelessly plug my own blog? I post my work on kellyfscribbles.tumblr.com. You can see all of the cool stuff I’m working over there!  Thanks again to Fanbros, Rus, and Chris for this very cool project. I’ve enjoyed seeing the beautiful work that’s come out of it. 🙂