Brian Stelfreeze is a wonderfully talented artist who is probably best
known for his work on the Batman series. Brian has worked on several
comicbook titles, and has done numerous illustrations. He has been a
guest at AggieCon for several years now. This was my first AggieCon
and Mr. Stelfreeze was kind enough to sit down with me and let me interview
him. He's a very amusing and talkative man. I hope you all enjoy
this interview as much as I did.|
Picture by Stephanie G. Folse
How did you become interested in art?
Its kind of odd. My dad was in the military, so
we moved around all the time and I had to end up making a new group of
friends every time I'd go to a new State. I found out that if I was
drawing stuff, it would kind of be an in road to making new friends.
Did you have any formal art training?
I guess. I started working at an illustration studio
when I was really young, and a lot of the guys there were just masters of
illustration. So, they kind of taught me a lot of stuff, and that was not
a school situation, but hanging out with some massively talented guys.
What's your favorite art style or medium and why?
Oh that's got to be acrylics. I love acrylics
because it kind of gives you a little bit of what you can do with
watercolors and a little bit of what you can do with oils. To me
its one of the most versatile mediums that you can play around
with. Its just perfectly suited for illustration because it
reproduces really well, and it suits my attention span. I can't
think about things for too long.
When did you first become interested in comicbooks?
You're gonna have to ask my mom that one. I
was always interested in comicbooks. Before I could read, I would pick up
comicbooks and just look through them. I was interested in comics
primarily when we lived in West Point, New York. After a while we had to
move back to South Carolina, and there wasn't a comicbook shop
there, so I kinda dropped out of comicbooks for a real long time. I got a
job doing illustrations, and later on I kind of fell back into it, but
comics are something I've always been in love with.
Did you ever hope or think that you would end up drawing
comicbooks as a kid?
Its weird. I always kind of knew that I would be
drawing comicbooks, but I didn't think you could make money
drawing comicbooks. I thought that everyone who worked in comicbooks
worked a regular job and also worked doing comicbooks, you know, for the fun of
it. So I kinda of thought I'll get a regular job and I'll do
comicbooks like everyone who does comics. It wasn't really until
I got into comics that I realized "Hey wait a minute, you can
actually make a living doing this thing".
How did you end up going from illustrations to comicbooks?
The first comicbook that I did was a comicbook called
CyCops for Comics Interview. The way that that worked out was I was
starting to get interested in comics again, and I was really interested in
illustration, but I wanted to do a comicbook just for the fun of it. Not
really get serious about it, not really change my career or anything, but
just kind of do a fun comic. I did the comicbook, and I had such a good
time doing it that I thought "Okay, okay just one more". It
was, I guess, something similar to a crack addiction. It was something
that I kept doing just a little bit, and I'd do less and less
illustrations and more comics. There wasn't a day I decided
"I'm going to change my career". It was one day I
looked up and said, "Man, I haven't done an illustration
in a couple of years now". It was just kind of something that took
How did get your assignment on the Batman series?
That was a really tricky thing. I did some work for a
comicbook shop owner, and I did some Batman drawings. Someone at
DC Comics looked at the way I drew Batman, and they didn't like it.
So I decided "Okay I can just forget about this whole Batman
thing." I just didn't even pursue doing any Batman stuff,
and I got to know Pat Bastienne, who worked at DC for a while. She asked
me to send a portfolio up, and I sent her a portfolio. I thought "
Okay, maybe I can get a job on Green Lantern, The Flash, or something
like that but you know Batman that's just out of my reach." I
remember getting home one day, and there was a message on the
answering machine. I flipped it on and it was Denny O'Neil, the Batman
editor at the time. I've always been a Batman fan, so I recognized the
name Denny O'Neil immediately. It was almost like getting a call
from God, you know. I just kind of stood there like "Oh my god,
it's Denny O'Neil, and he's asking me to draw
Batman." I played that message so many times and I'd
call up friends and be like "Come on over, you'd go to hear
this." I got everyone over to play the answering machine
message of Denny O'Neil asking me to draw Batman. So that's kind
of how things got started. I got a good relationship going with Denny, and
I've been kind of associated with Batman ever since.
I know you drew a few covers for Legion of Superheroes. What
did you think of having to draw so many characters?
I'm just obsessed with drawing. I just love
drawing stuff, and I love any challenge that could be put in front of me
the more difficult the better. Something like Legion of Superheroes is
kinda neat, because to me every character is an individual, and I
don't want to give just them that ideal look. I want to really
think of what type of person they are, and put a personality with it. So,
doing stuff like Legion of Superheroes is a lot of fun, because it
challenges you to think about the person you're doing a portrait
What title has been your favorite comicbook, that you've
read or that you've drawn?
My favorite book that I've worked on has been
the times that I've done Oracle. Oracle is a Batman character, but she
used to be Batgirl. She got injured, and now, she's in a
wheelchair, but trying to get by as someone who helps superheroes. I
think that Oracle is just a really interesting character, because
it's kind of a Phoenix situation. She was just this great dynamic
character and got taken down so far, and she's built her way back
up. I think it's just an interesting story, and of the characters
I've done she is the character that feels most like a real person to
me. So, it's really fun to draw her, because it's like
I'm working on an old friend, and I know exactly what
she'd do and exactly what she thinks. That's just so much fun. Just the
whole thing of me doing comics is really trying to make it real. When I
grew up, I was a retarded little kid. Comicbooks were real to me. When I
heard Superman wasn't a real guy that was like finding out that
Santa Claus isn't real. So what I try to do is take those feelings
that I had of "This is real," and I try to put that into the
comics that I do. So anything that feels real to me, that's the
stuff that I like to work on and that the stuff that I really like to
read. Stuff like 100 Bullets or Crime Stories just so long as it feels
If you could work with anyone in the comicbook industry, who
would it be and why?
Oh man, there's just so many canons of comics
that I'd love to work with and I've got like a hit list that
I'm trying to go through and take them all out one at a time. You
know, I'd like to work with Denny again on a story. Denny
O'Neil, he's just, I think, a brilliant guy. Scott Peterson,
who was a Batman editor, he's now doing Gotham Adventures.
There are just so many people that I would love to work with, and
what's really nice is I will work with them. Whether they like it or not, whether
they know it or not, I WILL indeed work with them.
I hear from my fellow Cepheids that you come to AggieCon a lot. I
was wondering when did you first come to Aggiecon and what is it
about Aggiecon that keeps you coming back?
The thing that I love about Aggiecon is that I actually
get to talk to people. Some of the larger conventions, there are just so
many people there that you never get a chance to talk to them. The only
thing you can do is "Hi", " Thanks," sign
the book, and go onto the next person. And you never really make any
connections. One of the things I like about going to conventions is
finding out what people think of what you do, and you don't find
anything out when you're signing books in kind of a shooting
gallery where you just try to get rid of as many people as possible. Coming to
Aggiecon, it's quiet, and all of the people are really in love with
comics and really in love with fantasy. It's just nice hanging out
with these people. I'm one of these people. You know there
wasn't a time where I changed over from being a comicbook geek
to a "professional comicbook artist". I'm still a
comicbook geek. So, these are people that I'd hang out with, people that
I'd hang out with a comicbook shops. It's nice to actually
sit down and talk to them, go to parties with them and just be there.
One more question, what do you want to work on next?
Right now I'm interested in working on some of the
smaller characters. I'm really not interested in working on bigger
characters. I mean I've done Batman so that dream is out of the way
now. Now I'm more interested in the characters that felt personal
to me, that a lot of times I was the only person who liked that character
and that was my character. So I'm trying to go through and hit some
of those character and I'm also interested in doing more creator
owned stuff. That's something that I think is a lot of fun. I
think that anyone who's into comics, if you go to a comicbooks shop
and stand in there for a few minutes you hear some of the greatest
stories. And it's not stories that were printed in comics.
It's people going "Oh, wouldn't it be cool if
Batman did dot dot dot", and it's just cool stuff. Every comicbook
reader and every comicbook artist loves doing that stuff. Right now
I'm kind of at a point in my career, where I can do that. I can
take that self-expression one more step further. Not doing it with
characters that exist, but actually creating characters, and trying to say
something. That's the stuff that I would really like to get into.