Where did you get your start as an artist?
I've pretty much always been an artist. As a child I suffered from severe asthma, which had a large impact on my physical activities. Being pent up inside a lot left me not much to do to entertain myself other than draw. I inherited a lot of my talent from my grandfather on my mother's side. He was an amazing artist, but never had a chance to show off his talents as he had to "get a real job" and became a lawyer. Fortunately for me, my parents knew that I could eventually make a living off my talents and so they let me pursue them. I was a big fan of comics and newspaper strips, and by the age of 11 had created my own comic book, which I would photocopy and sell to other classmates. I made about 10 full, 24-page issues over the course of two or three years, a feat I have yet to top in my adult life as I average 1 comic a year nowadays.
I also showed an interest in computers early on, and made games on my Commodore 64 until the early 90's. One of my first real paying gigs was doing computer art on a C=64 for some magazines. My friends at school hated the fact that they had these minimum wage jobs at fast food restaurants, and I did one piece for a magazine and got paid the equivalent of two or three of their paychecks.
Did you go to school for art? If so where?
I did, though I wouldn't say I went to school to LEARN art. I had been doing freelance before starting college, but I went to school mostly to make contacts in the industry, and for that it was worth it. I went to School of Visual Arts in Manhattan where I majored in Graphic Design. I wouldn't say I'm a graphic designer, but that program had a 100% hiring rate after graduation, and the curriculum for that major wasn't quite as restricting as the major for illustration or cartooning. I was able to take the required graphic design courses and take the illustration and cartooning classes I really wanted as electives. I was able to take Klaus Janson's sequential storytelling class, which made the entire four years worth it. Klaus has been a comic book inker for nearly 40 years, but I swear he must've started at 5. He's worked on nearly every comic out there, most notably The Dark Knight Returns, the book that revitalized Batman in the mid 80's.
What do you do for a living?
Primarily I'm the Comics Consultant for Disney Adventures Magazine. What that involves is pretty much some aspect of every comic in the magazine, from writing to coloring to lettering to layout and production. I also take on similar chores for various other books and magazines. I've lettered, colored and handled production on the first two volumes of a graphic novel titled WJHC, about a band of high-schoolers who run their school's radio station. Currently I'm lettering the second volume of a graphic novel adapting The Baby-Sitters Club into comic book form, which is coming out from Scholastic.
What else do you do?
I also co-create and co-publish a couple of other comics, with a friend I met in college, Dave Roman. Dave writes while I illustrate, though Dave's also a cartoonist in his own right. We've put out 13 issues of a comic called Quicken Forbidden, which is a sort of twist on Alice in Wonderland. It's a sci-fi/fantasy/adventure about a girl named Jax Epoch who finds a gateway to an alternate world. So far the first 10 issues have been collected into trade paperbacks retitled "Jax Epoch and the Quicken Forbidden" by AiT/PlanetLar Publishing, and can be found in bookstores, libraries, or online at Amazon.com. Dave and I also do a mini-comic called Teen Boat, about a teenager who has the ability to turn into a small yacht. The comic features "the angst of being a teen, the thrill of being a boat!"
What kind of video games do you like?
I like a whole array of video games. I'd have to say I favor adventure-type games, though. Ones that have some sort of world that I can immerse myself in. As it turns out, I end up getting into a lot of licensed games, which I know many will say aren't really great games, since the game producers figure the property recognition will sell the game, so the game play doesn't have to be that great. But still, those are the games I really get into, because they "extend the fantasy". Games based on Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Spider-Man, X-Men... I don't play too many wholly original games, I guess, at least not on consoles. I do like some other genres, like the occasional WWII shooter, or racers like Mario Kart, or SSX. Lately, though, I've been playing a lot of the classic LucasArts games. I was always into adventure-type games, I'd played the Space Quest and Police Quest games in my youth, and Willy Beamish is one I fondly remember, though I have no idea if that'd hold up. If you were to ask what one of my absolute favorite games ever was, though, I'd have to say Project Firestart from Dynamix, for the C=64.
What got you interested in Pinhead Games?
Not too long ago I came across the ScummVM emulator--I'm not sure how I found it, probably just some random link or something on someone's website. Anyway, I had been a big fan of the classic LucasArts games since Maniac Mansion, but never got to play many more of them. I had played Fate of Atlantis, Sam n Max, and Curse of Monkey Island but that was about it. I guess that's still a fair amount... but at one point working for Disney Adventures I was the editor for the video game editor, and they had all these leftover games, as game companies send copies to magazines for review, and they had these classic LucasArts adventure collections. I thought that was neat since I'd always wanted to play them, and they were just collecting dust, but of course they were all for PC and I had been on Mac at this point for quite some time. But then just earlier last year I found ScummVM and was finally able to get these games out and play them, so I finally got to play the original Monkey Island games and The Dig and Full Throttle. And that led me to tracking down Escape from Monkey Island since they made a Mac version of that (though it wasn't quite the same). Unfortunately I haven't been able to play Grim Fandango, though I have the game. But how does this lead me to Pinhead? Well, naturally, I started looking for additional adventure games, plus kinda got bit by the "I wanna make a game" bug again. I hadn't made any computer games in over 10 years, but I've always kinda wanted to again at some point. So, looking around I found games made with the AGS, Agast, Sludge, and Wintermute engines, but they're pretty much for PC. Yeah, AGS has a Mac port, but it's just the player, not the editor, and it's also kind of hit and miss with what games made with it will run on the Mac version. But the sites for these engines eventually led me to Pinhead, and since the Nick Bounty games are done in Flash, I was able to play them, and I noticed the Nelly the Wonder Dog game under construction. I figured that might be one way to satisfy my hunger for making games. It was also around that time that I came across Greg MacWilliam's LASSIE, which is an engine designed to make games similar to Curse of Monkey Island, and it's cross platform utilizing Flash and Shockwave.
What can you tell us about Nearly Departed?
Nearly Departed is an idea I'd come up with awhile ago that I was originally going to do as a comic book, but I had so many comic projects going on at the time that it was just an idea and a few sketches that I stuck in a box and left alone. When I came across LASSIE I remembered the idea and realized it would be the perfect basis for a point-and-click adventure game. The story is very silly, full of puns, play-on-words humor, parodies of the zombie genre. It's not a violent "you're a zombie, go kill people" kind of game, though you will have the opportunity to zombify a few poor souls. Like many adventure games, it's kind of a mystery--you've got to figure out who you are and how you became a zombie. Hopefully people who play it will just have a good laugh and enjoy it.
Do you have an online portfolio or samples of your work you'd like to
I have a number of samples of my artwork on my website, www.johngreenart.com . There you can see art from my comics and other projects I've worked on. There's also a section devoted to Nearly Departed: www.johngreenart.com/nearlydeparted .
Random piece of little known but bizarre trivia about yourself!
When I was a child, doctors wanted to put me in a bubble and said I'd be dead by the age of 18. Man, that's a downer. Hmm, something more upbeat... You know, actually all of the bizarre trivia about myself is really WELL known. Ok, how's this? I'm 30 and still play with LEGOs. And I proposed to my girlfriend by building a little LEGO set of me proposing to her (she said "yes.")