Thursday, December 14, 2017
Home  >  Features  >  Stuart Sayger: Shedding Light on his Art of Darkness

Stuart Sayger - Comic Book Artist & Creator of Shiver in the Dark  The Incredible Hulk by Stuart Sayger

recently caught up with Stuart Sayger, the man behind the beautiful and haunting art found in such comics as Bram Stoker's Death Ship, Machete #0, and Infestation 2: 30 Days of Night, to shed some light on the process and motivation behind his dark, expressive creations. Stuart shared some intriguing insights about his incredible artwork, comics in general, and the creation of his own comic series, Shiver in the Dark. Read on to see more of his dreamy, shadowy artwork and find out about the mind that produces these ghostly images.


You’ve done a wide variety of work as an artist, from covers, cards, and commissions to several comics for IDW and your creator-owned work, Shiver in the Dark. Is there one type of work that you particularly enjoy these days, or do you thrive on variety?

I think that most creators will give the same answer for this question... We all have our own ideas that we want to work on... Shiver in the Dark was the book that I really cut my teeth on. I wrote it, drew it, published it, and everything else that lead to the production of that comic book.  I was given the freedom to do what I want to do, and at the same time, as the only creator, I carry the full responsibility of the work’s success or failure. Making a book entirely by yourself makes you very naked as a creator. All the statements of, "oh, the inker didn't get what I was going for", or, "the script wasn't that good so it's not my fault that... yadda yadda yadda", are gone!  When you make a book by yourself you are 100-percent responsible. Everything in the book is there because of you... it's all you, and when it is published you invite everyone to judge you.  That makes for high stakes gambling.


Joker by Stuart Sayger  Talia by Stuart Sayger

Do you have particular characters that you love drawing? Which ones are most popular with your fans?

I enjoy drawing organic characters... those dressed in cloth, not metal. I like theatrical characters. There are some people who want comic character costumes to be "practical".. that doesn't interest me. I want expressive theatrical costumes... I also enjoy drawing characters that have things going on inside them that have to be pulled out and shown on the outside...  For example... The Joker's brains are scrambled, so it's my job to show that influence on his outward appearance.  I certainly grew up a batman fan and have an affinity to him and the characters in his world. I think that the fans pick up on that as I get asked to draw Batman a lot... Someone could make the statement that I am asked for Batman simply due to his own popularity - if that were the case I would also be asked for Superman... but it just doesn't happen nearly as often.

The work you have done for IDW has been generally horror-based. Is that due to your style, which is quite dark and expressive, or do you have a particular interest in horror and horror comics?

Any good comic book will feature art in a style that serves the theme of the story. In the case for the work that I've done for IDW I believe that the editors have gone to great efforts to fulfill this goal.  They have matched me and my darker style up with darker themes.  I do like horror comics. But the horror that I'm drawn to is always "small" and internal... something along the lines of "the tell tale heart"... Zombies aren't really my thing... I'm always ALWAYS much more drawn to stories and problems that deal with issues of "Self"... I like stories that are about how people deal with problems of who they are and what they think. External issues that are imposed upon them are much less interesting...  Shiver in the Dark is LOADED with exposition and thought balloons.  It's the internal struggle that I care about.

 Machete #0, art by Stuart Sayger  Infestation 2: 30 Days of Night, art by Stuart Sayger

You worked on Machete  and 30 Days of Night. Did you take inspiration from the films with those two? When working on a comic or character that has been drawn by many other artists, or portrayed on the big screen, how do you adapt it to your own style and make it your own?

Most of the time that an artist works on an intellectual property that has such a large life outside of comic books there are demands and restraints put on the artist and writer in terms of what the characters can say and do... and how they can look doing it...  For both 30-Days-of-Night and Machete it's important to remember that the reader has likely seen the movies/books that have come before you and they will likely bring their own sense of expectations to the project. While I like to play with things, push things... experiment, I can't go so far as to create conflict with these existing expectations. This can often make for an interesting challenge as an artist.  The question is always "how do I make this ‘mine’ and still make it recognizable and true to the work that has come before?" At the end of the day the artists should still ask themselves if they think that they have created images that are truthful to the source material.  For both Machete and 30-Days-of-Night I understood and more or less agreed with the source material, so drawing these characters within the existing expectations is very easy... What is HARD is when you completely disagree with the source material....  How convincingly would I be able to draw something that I myself don't believe..?

Tell us about your creator-owned comic, Shiver in the Dark. What can new readers expect if they check it out? What can you tell us about the main character, and the adventures she experiences in the series?

Shiver in the Dark is my own comic book playground... I've made the book entirely by myself. I wanted to explore a character that really wasn't very likeable... but does have talents, gifts and advantages in life... some of them earned, some of them not... I wanted to make a horror story, but I also wanted to make a romance comic (seriously)… All things are fair in love and war but some people are willing to cheat, or play dirty, and others aren't...  I'm interested in seeing how far people are willing to go to "win"... and how "winning” feels when you cheat to get there...   Shiver in the Dark features the widest variety of art styles and techniques of anything I've ever made... I decided that I would change the art style from scene to scene as necessary to communicate the mood and attitude of each scene.... They are the first comics that I've ever made. They do have some bumps and bruises, but I'm very proud of it and I want desperately to return to working on those characters.


Shiver in the Dark by Stuart Sayger  Shiver in the Dark by Stuart Sayger

You primarily work as an artist. What made you decide to write Shiver in the Dark and produce the whole thing yourself?

I do work primarily as an artist, but I'm indeed very interested in writing as well. Both are exceptionally interesting disciplines. I would love to do more writing, but at this stage of my career I've been given more opportunities to draw than write. Without a doubt I encourage EVERYONE interested in making comic books as either a writer or an artist to try doing both jobs. I love the process of making a book from start to finish.... If you ask me what made me decide to write Shiver in the Dark as well as draw it, my answer is "it's the best way to tell a story."

You attend a lot of comics-related conventions and events. What do you like about interacting with your fans? Do you have any interesting fan interactions you can share with us?

At any convention the room is filled with fans... And I'm one of them. I grew up a comic book fan. I've attended many conventions as a fan before working in this industry. I'm delighted that I have the opportunity to contribute to this medium that has given me so much. At the same time there are moments at conventions when I get to switch hats and feel like a fan again... Earlier this year I had the chance to meet Doug Sneyd. He's a very interesting artist...That I already knew. But only from going to shows and meeting him did I learn that he's also a very interesting person. I don't know how I could have such an interaction with creators that I admire without the comic conventions. Like I said. I got to meet Doug. I became a fan again at that moment. It was a thrill for me and I only hope that I can give other fans the same sort of experience. If there are people out there who receive enjoyment from my work, that is a wonderful thing.  I'm happy to answer questions about my work. I hope that I'm able to inspire fans the way that the pros that came before have inspired me.  It's a big circular motion.... A great thing.

 Hawkgirl by Stuart Sayger  Batman - pencilled by Jim Lee & inked by Sayger

You are a long-time comic fan yourself. What are your favorite comics, and what are you reading these days?

I am a life-long comic book fan… I love the medium. I grew up a Neal Adams fan... He was THE Batman artist in my mind. When I think of Batman's face, it's drawn by Adams. Other big early influences were Jim Aparo on Brave and the Bold... The Michael Golden Micronaut issues were the first comic series that had me going to the drug store spinner looking for the next chapter.  I'm a big Dan Decarlo fan as well... I love his Archie comics from about 1959-1962... I have a good friend who likes to point out that some of my girls have Veronica's mouth... and you know what… HE'S RIGHT! I still read lots of comics, but my favorite are always the old stuff...  (Heck... I’m a big fan of the first year and a half of the Flash Gordon newspaper strip starting in 1934)... Growing up I used to buy more used (old) comics than new comics... used ones actually cost less, and I'll say this as well… the art was MUCH BETTER in pre-1975 comics simply because of the metal printing plates that the comics were made with vs the plastic printing plates that took their place... the line work reproduces much better from a metal plate...  While all the kids that I knew were buying new comics featuring art by Byrne, and Perez... I was reading older comics by Adams, Wrightson, and Kaluta... I was probably 9 years old and I had the two issues of Wonder Woman with the Jeff Jones covers...   I think that these older influences have added to me having a style that stands out from my contemporaries. There is a big a difference between looking at those pre-1975 comics and flexograph gems of the 1980s!


Thanks to Stuart for his thoughtful responses to our questions and for sharing his experiences with MightyVille! Be sure to check out his website to view more of his artwork, find out what he has coming up, and learn where he'll be next so you can see him and his work in person.



Comments (2)
  • Joe_Kach
    Great Interview!

  • Joe_Kach
    This just in! Looks like some of Mr. Sayger's artwork will be used in the production of next year's Superman film, "The Man of Steel"! artist-visit

    Way to go, Stuart!

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