Barbra Dillon, Fanboy Comics Managing Editor: I had the great opportunity to read Carnal: Pride of the Lions last year, which is the first book in a series of five illustrated graphic novels. What inspired you and co-writer Jason Bergenstock to write this story?
John Connell: It started 10 years ago from a dream I had of a humanistic rhino who was fighting hyenas. From there, I built on that image and created the world of Carnal. I picked it up and put it down for many years, creating images and short stories. I was tortured with this idea and for not having the time to be able to write it. Writing is not one of my strengths. I then collaborated with Jason Bergenstock to help me write it.
BD: Aside from its exhilarating story, Carnal is made unique by its presentation as an illustrated graphic novel. It features full pages of art, which are then complimented with story and dialogue. In which ways do you feel that this layout affects the experience of the reader?
JC: I looked at a weird mixture of art as a kid. I ranged from Norman Rockwell books to books of Frank Frazetta’s paintings. They were both great at conveying so much in one single illustration while your imagination would fill in the rest of the story. That is what I want to shoot for in the Carnal series. Spark the imagination with story and illustration, and let the reader's imagination fill in the rest. I would like to think that the reader's imagination would fill in all kinds of details that aren’t shown or written.
BD: Without giving anything away, what are your plans for the next four books in the series? Are you already at work on the stories?
JC: Each book is going to feature a different species of animal while continuing the story from the first book. Book two is on the Cape buffalo, which are my personal favorites. Through the series it will be revealed how this new world came about and how it will end. Humans are going to play a big part later. I started on book two as soon as book one was completed.
BD: Given that you are both a writer and artist on Carnal, which aspect of the creative process did you find most challenging, and why?
JC: Writing by far. That blank page with the cursor blinking is daunting, waiting for some words to appear. It is much easier for me to draw the world than write about it. Writing is a challenge for me, but I’m honored and lucky to get a chance to do it.
BD: Being that we focus on all things “geek” at Fanboy Comics, would you care to geek out with us about your favorite comic books and graphic novels?
JC: To tell you the truth I don’t read may graphic novels. I love artist such as Norman Rockwell, Phil Hale, and Frank Frazetta. I’m drawn to the amazing cover art for the graphic novels and comic books. I like a lot of different styles of art, so it’s hard to nail down my favorites.
BD: What is the most important piece of advice that you can offer to comic book fans, young and old, who aspire to work in the comic book industry?
JC: Being that I’m new to the industry myself, I feel it is unfair of me to give advice. But, I have been working as a professional artist for over 20 years, and I can tell you that good work ethics, being easy to work with, and not giving up has gotten me to achieve some of my goals.
BD: On that same note, which creators have inspired your work?
JC: As I mentioned before, I would have to say Norman Rockwell, Frank Frazetta, Rembrandt, and N.C Wyeth.
BD: Lastly, what would you like to tell fans who want to learn more about Carnal and your artwork?
JC: First I would like to say thanks. This has been a goal of mine for a long time, and I intend to work my a-- off and, hopefully, make this a really cool series that is a little different from other stuff out there.