Between the Panels: Artist Alex Ogle on Branding, Kickstarter, and Working in Black and White

“Between the Panels” is a bi-weekly interview series focusing on comic book creators of all experience levels, seeking to examine not just what each individual creates, but how they go about creating it.

Whether it’s Marvel promo images, Star Wars t-shirt designs, or successful Kickstarter campaigns, Alex Ogle has found multiple outlets for his art. But he also wears another hat: proprietor of a combination comic art gallery/workshop space where one of the goals is helping the general public to better understand the comics-making process.

First off, the basics…
Your specialties (artist/writer/letterer/inker/etc.):

Depending on the project I’ve been the writer, penciler, inker, colorist, and letter. Even logo designer.
Your home base: Chickamauga, GA  

Instagram: alexogle

Twitter: @alexogle

Current project title(s) (either already released or upcoming):
Jacin and the Argonauts - written by Shane Berryhill, art by Alex Ogle (Kickstarter May 31).

Kevin Sharp, Fanbase Press Contributor: I like to start with the big question up front. Why comics? What attracts you to making comics specifically over other art forms?

Alex Ogle: What I have found is that comics, unlike animation and movies, requires fewer people to be involved and less financial risk. I think that gives comics more freedom to experiment, which is what I find exciting.

KS: As of this interview, you’re about to launch a new Kickstarter campaign [May 31]. Tell me about the project, Jacin and the Argonauts.

AO: It’s written by Shane Berryhill, and I’m doing all the art on the book. Shane has defined the universe really well, and I love his script. In some ways, it is like Voltron, but we have an all-female team, and instead of robot lions, it’s mechanical robot creatures like Griffins and Minotaurs. It touches on the elements I like to work with which is strong female characters and giant robots.

KS: What have you learned about using Kickstarter for comics in the past? Any advice you’d offer to creators considering that route?

AO: I want people to remember that they don’t publish you. Kickstarter is a pre-sale campaign system. Then, you publish yourself or even take it to a publisher after the campaign. Think of Kickstarter like you are making some early copies to take to a convention and hand sell. Make sure to have a plan to do something with the book after the campaign ends.
KS: Let’s go back to your “secret origin.” At roughly what age did reading comics first become an important part of your life?

AO: 12 or 13. I got hooked reading Marvel’s Excalibur series. That led me into the X-Men universe, which in the late eighties captured my attention.  
KS: Do you have a specific memory where a comic book or comic strip made you think “I want to do that?”

AO: I was inspired by the launch of Image Comics, because there was so much focus put on the creators. At that point, I was about to go into college, and I was thinking about what I wanted as a career. I knew I wanted to do something that involved drawing and comics seemed to fit.

KS: What’s the first “real” piece of comics work you remember creating? I’m looking for something that felt like a serious project for you at the time — whatever age that was and whether or not you showed it to anyone else.

AO: In 1997 I did a creator-owned book called The Iliad. It was a black-and-white book published by Amaze Ink. I wrote and drew half the book, 12 pages per issue. We only made it a few issues before getting behind and the book was canceled. You learn very quickly that comics are a difficult medium. It’s important to not let projects that don’t work out keep you from moving forward. You must believe that you always have the ability to improve.
KS: Walk us through your gallery/studio. You have a setup that’s different from that of a typical artist — granted that there probably isn’t such a thing as a typical artist.

AO: I have a small art studio / comic book art gallery in a small town in North Georgia. The studio gets me out of the house and is open to the public on weekends when I am not exhibiting at a comic book show. I have rooms dedicated to displaying my work and other artists that I buy from at conventions. The space is big enough to hold workshops and other events like 24-Hour Comic Book Day. Besides giving me a place to focus on work, I like educating people on the process and art of comics.

KS: Do you have a set daily (or nightly) work routine?

AO: I am a morning person. 4:30 a.m. hits and I am up listening to Pandora and drinking black coffee. I do also love documentary films and having those going while working.
KS: Many of your comics art pieces are in black and white, while others feature a limited color palette. Tell me about that style choice.

AO: It’s easier to not define edges in black and white. Often, when I add color, I have to lose the openness of the art. Maybe black doesn’t create the edge, but the other colors end up defining the edge. I can be clever and make it work, but it’s just more work.

KS: Do you just like the look of black and white overall?

AO: I do. I get many comments [from customers] at conventions that after walking through the show my art stands out because of the contrast.

KS: If you look back at your earlier work, what’s something that stands out as different versus the current version of you?

AO: I use fewer outlines when rendering and rely more on shadows. I think that helps engage the viewer’s brain. I often explain that the viewer can imagine the line better than I can draw it. I don’t draw, I just imply form.

KS: What’s a comic or graphic novel by someone else that you look at with admiration?

AO: I definitely like reading Silver by Stephan Franck. He has a great aesthetic and storytelling style. His characters feel well rounded and distinct; maybe that comes from his background in animation. Plus, all four graphic novels are printed in black and white, which you just don't see as often as we once did. It's a bold choice to go black and white when color printing is an affordable option.
KS: Finally, give us one word that sums up an important trait for being successful in this business.

AO: Brand. You have to define what makes you different. It might be story choices, art style, or even colors. This is the reason you are hired to do freelance jobs or why someone chooses to buy your art. If we all blend together, then you are just making it difficult for someone to choose you.


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