Q: Give buried.com your biography, in a nutshell...
STEVE: The short answer is that I'm a painter, who wanted to tell stories. The stories took various forms but I've settled in on sequential art as the vehicle.
The long answer is that I grew up in the NJ burbs and have been an artist my whole life. I went through a fantasy art kick for a while but by mid high school really started focusing on portraiture. I went to college at The School of Visual Arts in NYC and was a fine art major...which gave me lots of freedom but not a whole lot of preparation for the outside world. After graduation in 1994 I started getting an inkling that I needed to get a computer and learn how to use it, both to make a living and also to try out some ideas which I thought would work better drawn on the computer. The computer snowballed into graphic design, web design and being the Art Director of a magazine publisher. During that time I was also creating illustrations on the computer and was slowly building up to drawing full sequential books. The truth is, I'm a sloppy person and paint is forgiving which is not so much the case with drawing or inking. The computer helped me move forward into areas, like sequential art, which I would have probably steered clear from otherwise.
Q: BLESSED THISTLE deals with real-life horrors, namely a bunch of mentally unbalanced individuals. How did the idea for this graphic novel come about?
STEVE: I had originally pitched a couple of the ideas ("Autograph" and "Terrible Terrible") to a writer (Chris Kirby) as potential stories for him to write (me to illustrate) in his anthology "Bride of Freakshow". He decided to go with his own stories but I kept my ideas in the back of my mind for later. When Dark Horse announced the New Recruits contest it seemed like the perfect time to clear the dust off those shelved ideas. I started with the basic plot for "Autograph" and "Terrible Terrible", treating them as interconnected narratives. "Concerning Ms. Cooper" grew out of an interest in exploring the teacher's life and also to give the audience a more tangible character to aid in the cathartic conclusion of "Terrible Terrible". Ms Cooper's story lead to adding "In Vivo" as a way to relate the impetus of Ms. Cooper's odd behavior. Underlying this framework is the central theme, questioning the nature of God's relationship to His creation, be it active, passive or inert. "Autograph" initializes this theme in a direct way and then the subsequent stories address it indirectly.
Q: There are several stories interwoven-which is your favorite tale and why? Who is your favorite character?
STEVE: From a writing standpoint Autograph was the most meaty and complex and pushed me to play with multiple levels of subtext. I also like to write wordy and "Autograph" was not short for verbiage. On a base level I enjoy "Terrible Terrible" because Abbey is an archetypal villain...she's over the top and completely self centered but she still has a certain deviant charisma which keeps her palatable. I think Murry is my favorite character from a intellectual standpoint because he operates in a very subtle way and his manipulations are meant to leave his target with the sense that they are acting of their own mind. Abbey manipulates as well, but often in a very obvious way. She enjoys letting people know that they're being manipulated by her and that there isn't allot they can do about it. For her, the manipulation is the end game while for Murry it's only a means to an end.
Q: When you work, do you think of the visual first or do you write the script first? Or do they go completely hand-in-hand?
STEVE: When I write, the visuals are always playing in my mind, although I don't format the text into panels and pages until I'm completely done with the scripting. I'm not sure where one starts and the other ends. I've had stories inspired by purely visual dreams and I've had art inspired by abstract concepts. I try to let them develop off one another and I'll often keep adjusting each as I find nuances between them that can help add more depth.
Q: Given a choice between the do, would you prefer to illustrate or write?
STEVE: I think I would stick with the art because I can better gauge my competency with it. It's also easier to make money as an artist than a writer. But visual art can be very time consuming and demands that you stay glued to a canvas or computer to make it. Part of what I enjoy about writing is that fact that I can do it anywhere. I can be standing in a checkout line at a deli and write scenes of dialogue in my head, there's a mobility and freedom that just doesn't exist with visual art. I guess it's hard for me to say which I actually prefer, they both satisfy something in me, which neither can alone.
Q: What else are you working on right now or in the near-future?
STEVE: I've been focused on the writing of stories. Both are horror related, but one is a fairy tale and the other leans more to the real world. They are both about double the size of Blessed Thistle and I plan on using different styles of art for both.
Q: How can people order a copy of the graphic novel or contact you?