I first discovered Jozef's work on the Dart mini-series he illustrated for Savage Dragon creator Erik Larsen. Dart was a member of one of my favorite superhero teams, Freak Force (Ah, how I miss that group.) I'm sure largely in part to her long mane of platinum blonde hair, cool silver costume with dart-laden silver hip boots, and a tough-as-nails no nonsense attitude.
After the series ended, I kept my eye out for further work from Jozef but to no avail. I assumed, like some comic artists, they dive in and then move into greener pastures never to be heard from again. Usually, that's relegated to most of my favorite artists. Years went by and I often pull out and re-read my Dart mini-series, and the art always brings a smile to my face. I liken Jozef's style and sexy fashion design with a pinch of Disney for good measure.
Imagine my surprise when, through the miracle that is Instagram, I rediscovered Jozef Szekeres! Although, this time he wasn't drawing comics; he was designing fashion dolls. And they are amazing! They are gorgeously sculpted, with multiple points of articulation. A real doll collector's dream come true!
But why not let Jozef tell you about his artistic journey throughout the years. Grab a tub of popcorn and settle in. This is such a good one!
Michael Fitzgerald Troy: Hi, Jozef! Thanks for doing this interview. Your career has taken an interesting path. Can you tell us when you first took an interest in art?
Jozef Szekeres:Thank you, Michael, for this opportunity. I look at art and creative talent as a multifaceted gem. It’s all the same stone, just with different pressures grinding away to create different surfaces of where the light can shine through. It’s all related, and the more facets you create, the more brilliant the dazzle, as one surface refracts light through to another surface you may not have anticipated.
As far as I remember, I always did art. I remember having colouring-in books, keeping within the lines, and even redrawing the images, or fixing them, where I felt they could be improved.
MFT: What was your first paid gig?
JS: My first official paid art job was with Walt Disney Animation Australia, where straight out of school, I started training as an Inbetweener. Within a year I was doing actual Animation. I had one month to prove I could do the quality and footage needed to stay in Animation, It was a scary intense time, but I did it. You weren’t only doing art when you felt like it, but it was like switching on a tap, and letting the creative energy run all day. It was brutal, but it taught me how to see art as a job, with proper artistic goals and deadlines.
Prior to that while in school, I used to do drawings of Dungeons and Dragons player characters, and I had a book of them with almost 100 images in there, I remember going to my first ever D&D gaming convention, and selling each illustrated page for $5 each. It was at this convention that I saw for the first time, the ElfQuest leather bound hardcover for $300, that I bought with my money earned from my character sketch sales. I was thrilled that I could afford something like this from money earned from my art sales. I think that’s the first time that I realized that the art I do as a hobby, may be able to be my career as well.
MFT: I discovered you on the Dart mini-series for Erik Larsen at Image Comics. How did that collaboration come about?
JS: I co-created and illustrated 6 issues of ElfQuest/WaveDancers with writers Bruce Love and Julie Ditrich, published by WaRP Graphics. While in publication, the rights to the series characters would be held by WaRP, then after the last issue published, these rights would revert back to us, as we originated this tribe of characters.This was something we all agreed to, with legal counsel, prior to starting any of the work on the WaveDancers series. WaRP reneged on the agreement and tried to break the team up after the 6th issue, by Richard Pini directly asking me to ditch the co-creating writers and work directly with him, which I refused. Thus ended the series. It took about 7 years to get the rights back, and that basically happened only when a solid case and court date was arranged, and WaRP had no legal standing to defend themselves against the agreed contract regarding the reversion of rights.
The experience wasn’t a good one, though I enjoyed the creation process and the art. it taught me that you cannot judge a creator by their creations. Erik Larson heard of the goings on, as he’d experienced a legal challenge against his own character Dart, by the WaRPed ones, and so invited myself and the writing team (Bruce Love and Julie Ditrich) to do an origins tale of his character Dart!
MFT: Would you ever consider another one?
JS: I wanted to paint the interiors as well as the covers of Dart, but It was the era of “COMPUTER COLOURING”, and Image Comics at that time was famous for its digital coloured finish, so Erik wanted that look. I personally found the final interior colours lacklustre and dull, with little effort in creating form through colour. as I was doing for the hand painted covers. The 3 issue Dart series sold over 30,000 per issue at the time, so it did well enough, but several years later when catching up with Erik, he agreed he should have let me paint the interiors. I’d certainly work again with Erik Larsen, as he’s a super nice guy, and fantastic, honourable, and fair to work with.
MFT: What path did your career take after that?
JS: I did more comic work, Safety-Belt Man for Sirius, then with Joe Linsner on his DAWN Goddess character, and got to paint the interior pages for that, and it's something I’m still very happy with today. I did about a decade of gaming artwork, and also some self-published comics, such as Elf-Fin, co-written with co-creator Julie Ditrich, which was fully hand painted covers and interiors, using the characters originally published in WaveDancers. Starting early in my art career… while working for any larger company or firm, I always took the Wednesdays off to do my own artistic endeavours, so I wouldn’t be enveloped only by their needs and wants, allowing myself to creatively grow and do what I want to with my own art. During my time employed for the gaming company Aristocrat Technologies, on my days off, In 2003 I created and released my first fashion doll “Elizabet Bizelle”. I treated it as a hobby job, as I was earning a good wage, but… my first edition did sell out, and it made me think… this could be viable! But my entry into the doll world with my posed limited articulated doll sculpt was up against big players that were starting their evolution into fully articulated dolls. It broke my spirit at the time to see that my posed sculpt was being passed over for another sculpt only because the competing doll was articulated. I put my focus back into my illustration work, and thought that my doll creation days were done.
MFT: I rediscovered you on Instagram and see you are now a fashion doll maker with glamouroz.com. How did this come about?
JS: In 2006, I started sculpting again, and sculpted a 22 inch female figure that I stopped and started with over several years till 2009 which is when I thought I shelved it for good, as the cost for production seemed astronomical for an articulated doll. My illustration jobs were doing well, and my fashion doll collection grew, and as much as I loved them all, I realised that they were not answering what I wanted to see and experience in a fashion doll, so again I realised if I wanted what I wanted in a fashion doll, I’d have to make it myself for myself. To have it the way I wanted, being a hard plastic doll that was beautifully sculpted with full articulation that actually allowed beautiful supermodel fashion poses, plus be resilient enough to throw into my backpack and be my travel doll, to then look spectacular with a quick hair flip when I take her out… meant I’d need to do it not just for me, but due the the costs involved, I’d need to do it as a commercial enterprise, and thus for the doll world. So… funding this venture with the equity from the roof over my head (rather then something like Kickstarter), and returning to my 22 inch sculpt that I resized to 17”, I started into this new doll creation endeavour looking at it this time as a business, with the intent that I do this full time, not just for this first release, but to do more fashion doll releases and new sculpts in the future too.
MFT: I love the dolls and '70s fashion inspiration. Do you make everything by hand?
JS:The fashion sketches and designs were done in the 60’s by family member Stephen Moor. I wanted to honour his amazing talents for the doll line’s first year, as Stephen and I used to sketch together when his son (my brother-in-law) started courting my sister, and I was still in high school. Stephen Moor is in the Who’s Who of Australian artists, having a hugely successful art career, with his leadlighting, painting and sculpture, but remained a frustrated fashion designer. I knew instinctively that his fashions were important to the history of Australian fashion, and they needed to be seen and shared, as they were never released during his lifetime. After a discussion, with the family’s blessings, I made the decision to bring Stephen Moor's fashions to life with my first line of GlamourOz Dolls.
MFT: How long does it take head to toe to make one of those beauties?
JS:The retooling of the 22” full body sculpt into a working ball and socketed raw sculpt doll took abut 8 months, plus adding about 2 weeks per additional head sculpt. After doing the NEIS Government (6 week crash) business course, I started with the factory in China in January 2016. The original 22” sculpt was scanned in 3D and resized to be 17”. Molds had to be created, then recreated due to a factory fault, and all the fashions needed patterns created for them, which I art directed to get the quality finish I felt they deserved. Face paint designs, stencils and colour palates needed to be created, and hair colours and designs as well. The box design needed to be done, including the box art, and other paper goods that are included. And all of this before the first production doll is produced. It takes longer then you could imagine... certainly longer then I imagined. I have heard it said that it takes about 2 years to bring a new toy product to market, and that also seems to be the case with my own experience.
MFT: Would you make a male doll? I'd be your first costumer.
JS: I’m now a full-time doll creator and manufacturer, so my plan is to expand on my GlamourOz female doll sculpts with a male counterpart doll sculpt. But… for "him" to be viable to come into existence, the female doll needs to be able to pay for her investment first. He would be after all, an accessory to the female doll. So, if you want a boy doll by me, buy one of my GlamourOz girl dolls first, to show your interest and support for me to expand.
MFT: Since this is Wonder Woman Wednesday: Artist Spotlight, I have to ask a free WW questions? Are you a fan?
JS: I was a DC reader growing up, and have loved Wonder Woman from my first reading experience of her in comics. The 70’s TV series was AMAZING. I loved Lynda Carter in this role. It was probably because she embodied Wonder Woman so completely and iconically, that it took so long for a truly successful new actress to fill the role convincingly. So I definitely am a Wonder Woman fan.
I’ve never done a Wonder Woman illustration, but I did redress one of my Bindi Merinda GlamourOz Dolls, wearing a Tonner released Wonder Woman outfit, and she now owns it!!! :-)
MFT: Would you ever draw her for DC Comics?
JS: Australian artist Nicola Scott is the current penciller for Wonder Woman since 2016, and I couldn’t think of a better artist than her to be the artist behind Wonder Woman. She’s a Wonder Woman herself. Plus she’s a friend, that lives in my home city. I wouldn’t mind doing my own licensed Wonder Woman doll edition, with possibly my own box art illustrations... but the comic world version totally belongs to Nicola.
MFT: Have you seen the film? Thoughts?
JS: I’ve seen the new Wonder Woman film, and it blew me away!!! I laughed, I cried. It was gripping, and I cared about all the characters in the film. I totally believed that this was Wonder Woman. Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman was spectacular in every way.
MFT: Thanks for the interview!
JS: My pleasure. Thank you.
I was sad to hear about the sad business between Jozef and the Elfquest creators, as I am a big fan of both. But hey, life happens. Every story has two sides, and that's just the way the cookie crumbles.
Now, I would totally be down to see Jozef work with Erik Larsen again. I love what they did with Dart, and think they could easily top themselves this time around!
But I think I have a few pitches for Jozef myself. In the meantime, check out Jozef's website at www.glamourozdolls.com.
Thanks for joining us. Be sure to check out our "I Am Wonder Fan" sister page on Facebook. Follow me on instagram @MichaelFitzTroy and be here next week for another exciting edition of Wonder Woman Wednesday!