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Monday, August 28, 2006

Interview With Sherwin Schwartzrock

You may or may not have heard of Sherwin Schwartzrock, but I believe people will be hearing his name more in the very near future. With the help of writer Ben Avery, he has co-produced what is, in my opinion, one of the best Christian comics ever created. With a slick art style, a flair for characterization and storytelling and a possible Armorquest animated feature in the works, Schwartzrock could be destined for even bigger and better things, very soon. I'm grateful for his indulgence in this interview.

Mark: How long have you been working in comics?

Sherwin: I started drawing comics specifically in 2000.

Mark: What other artistic endeavors keep you busy?

Sherwin: I've been a professional illustrator and graphic designer since 1988. Today, since I'm a freelancer, I fit comic work into my schedule as I do any illustration/design project. One day I'm working on icons for Target and the next I'm drawing comic pages for a publisher in London. It's fun having so much variety.

Mark: So, what kind of response has Armorquest received, from fans and professionals? Include any positive AND negative responses.

Sherwin: From those that have seen it, I've gotten many very positive responses. I don't think I've gotten any negative responses. The bad thing is that not many people have seen it.

It appears the surface story of ArmorQuest has attracted a younger audience. One of those fans is Lewis Tuck (age 12) from the Minneapolis area. I believe we have a photo of us on the Community Comics website at FallCon. I've even talked with a 5 year old that loves ArmorQuest so much he made his mom read it to him every day for two weeks. Those who like the deeper significance of the story are older like Tom Oswald who is 44 years old. That sounds like a wide audience, but actually, those are our only fans. We have three fans. (:

Mark: Has it opened any doors for you where working for other companies is concerned?

Sherwin: No question about it. When we started this mini series, it appeared that Ben Avery (the writer) and I couldn't pay to get it published. Ultimately we found Alias Entertainment as a publisher, but that arrangement wasn't much better than self publishing. Now over a year later, the Christian comics marketplace is set to explode. It appears Christian publishers like Zondervan, Thomas Nelson, Broadman
& Holman
and Barbour all see the value in comics. 2007 will see several Christian comic titles from these publishers and more.

Ben and I sold the animation and future print rights to Wet Cement
. Ben and I will be involved in continued work on the
series. As of yesterday, it looks like the comics arm of Wet Cement
will be publishing my next comic series.

Mark: Do you have an ending in mind for Armorquest, a “wrap up,” or would you like to see it continue indefinitely?

Sherwin: Wet Cement obviously wants it to continue as both Ben and I do. Ben has so many stories to tell with these characters that I foresee many years of development in both animation and graphic novels.

Mark: Was seeing Armorquest in production, and so well-received a personal victory for you, in any way? A milestone?

Sherwin: Seeing your work in print is always very cool for an artist and writer. It's like giving birth to a baby. Finishing the 6+ issues was definitely a milestone for me because I had quit working on other illustration/design jobs to deliver the comic on time. It was excruciatingly stressful to continue to work on this title even though I wasn't making any money. To come out financially alive on the other side was a huge relief and it gave me a greater faith in God's provision. Nonetheless, it was very scary.

Mark: Talk a little about the difficulty in producing a Christian comic with a solid Biblical message that isn’t “preachy.”

Sherwin: I don't think it's difficult at all. My form of Christianity isn't preachy. Either this faith I have is true or a lie. If it's true, you don't need to "make" people believe it... it will become very self evident. If it is a lie, then my life will prove that as well.

What we did with ArmorQuest was simply use a fantasy allegory to unveil some biblical truth regarding the armor of God. ArmorQuest is a story about Timothy but it's really my story. I'm looking to find and effectively use this armor just like Timothy. I want to be a Knight of the Way, so does Ben. Timothy's struggles along the way are really our struggles.

Mark: What are some other projects on the horizon for you?

Sherwin: It looks like I'll be managing some ArmorQuest art chores going forward, but I'm most excited about my new series which doesn't even yet have a title. It's a dark story that is for an older audience... but just like ArmorQuest, it's really a story about my life.

All of the details are just now starting to fall into place so I'll have more information soon.

Mark: Any “dream projects” that you’d like to take on?

Sherwin: Yes, the comic series I mentioned above. Since I support myself financially on my freelance business, I have the luxury of picking my comics projects. And since comics historically haven't paid well (or at all) for me, I am very careful which projects I work on. This new series is so good, I can't wait to start on it.

Mark: On a barely-related note, why do you suppose so many people who enjoy the comics section of their newspaper would never consider picking up a comic book?

Sherwin: Good question. It's odd to think about that... yet it appears to be true, doesn't it. I suppose comic strips in papers don't require much education of comics. They're easy to read and simple to enjoy and the end result is a quick laugh. Graphic novels and comic book series require an investment of time and interest. Unless you're attracted to the medium, I don't think you'll bother to make that commitment.

(Just for the record, I think it's a pretty good guess that Armorquest has more than three fans. Readers should do themselves a favor and check it out. - Mark)