A couple of weeks ago, we knew George Folz as the talented artist of The Roman Nose, an upcoming collaboration with Seth Kushner that earned a mention alongside Kushner in our 101 Comic Creators to Watch in 2015 list. Now, however, Folz has become something of an internet sensation thanks to his campaign to draw and color one original interpretation of a classic Star Wars scene daily until the end of the year. The thing is, fame isn’t at all what this is about for Folz.
In our exclusive interview with Folz, we talk about his effort to become a better artist through the daily challenge of paying tribute to the characters that served as some of the biggest inspirations of his youth, the practical concerns that come with taking on a project of this magnitude, his opinion on the dreaded “Special Edition” scenes, and what we can expect when we finally get a full look at The Roman Nose.
Den of Geek: Tell me a little bit about your love of Star Wars and why this is something that you wanted to spend a bit of time with for no money.
George Folz: My love of Star Wars all goes back to when I was four years old. My Dad brought home to original trilogy from the video store, and sat my siblings and I down over the course of the week every night to watch it. From the moment Darth Vader came onto the screen, it was pretty much a wrap for me, I was hooked.
My four biggest childhood inspirations: Star Wars, Batman: The Animated Series, the ’96-’98 Chicago Bulls, and Street Fighter are still probably my biggest inspirations at age 27. I frequently re-engage with them to recall that childhood joy, and find new inspiration. This holiday season, I was inspired by the Del Rey book, Vader, to start drawing Star Wars characters again. I had so much fun, I decided to make a year-long thing out of it, knowing I’d have a blast.
I think it’s really important to enjoy what you’re drawing, and these characters and this world are never a chore for me. At worst, they’re an exciting challenge. This project is my way of making sure I’m doing something that I absolutely love every day, and also a very deliberate artistic exercise as I spend most of my time drawing in a style that is wildly different from this — a style that’s driven by line as opposed to shape. Drawing this way will hopefully allow me more versatility, and also strengthen my Roman Nose work.
With regards to the no money thing, people have asked to buy prints/originals and that’s not really legal, so in an ideal world, the enthusiasm would continue, and Disney/Lucasfilm commissions me, putting out a tear-away calendar — or something.
Some of the original art is getting out into the world for free — I’m giving away one piece of black and white artwork to the first person to messages me every Sunday on Facebook, Twitter, or what-have you. At this point in time, [what] I’m focused on is the fact that this is my daily drawing project. I’m getting to spend a year doing some work that makes me and some other people happy, and that’s good.
Practical question: what if you catch a cold or get overburdened with other work? Are you banking a few spare pictures just in case you can’t get draw a new picture on that day?
One of my co-workers asked me that yesterday. The practical answer is yes, and if I get some free time, I’ll probably do that.
About how long does each picture take you to draw and color?
I try to place a 90 minute time limit on myself. There are a few drawings where I’ve finished in under that, and a few where I’ve gone over. The penciling and inking usually takes about 45 minutes or so, and then I’ll move onto whatever color treatment I think is going to work best. I work full-time for a not-for-profit called Y.O.U in Evanston, Illinois, and I also spend about 15-30 hours a week doing The Roman Nose, so the idea is to do these quickly and decisively.
Was there ever a thought to go in order and what is guiding you as you pick these specific scenes to re-create?
I was originally going to go in order, but then I watched Return of the Jedi last night, and remembered how cool the Rancor, Jabba, and Boba Fett are, so I’ll probably be hopping around from here on out.
This is a real dickhead question when you’re 7 pictures in out of 365, but is there another franchise or story that you’d want to do this with in 2016?
I’d thought about that. I’d hope to be working full-time a Roman Nose sequel or whatever comic project comes next in 2016, but we’ll see. Tim Burton’s Batman movies might lend themselves well to this, but I really hope to be working on something original. Time will tell!
What can you tell me about Roman Nose? The concept and how you and Seth Kushner came to work together on the project?
The Roman Nose is Robin Hood meets Casanova by way of Tintin in 22nd Century Rome. It has freedom fighting political radicals, the mafia, an evil Pope, lots of cool sci-fi gear and it’s just old-fashioned fun — our love letter to the form.
Seth and I came together thanks to the ever-wonderful Dean Haspiel who I became friends with after studying with him in Florida a couple of years ago. Dean, Seth, Chris Miskiewicz, and Jef UK, serialized a web comic of mine on their Trip City site, and Seth was a very early and vocal supporter of my work before he’d even met me in person, which I thought was nice. It was mutual too as I burned through most of his Schmuck stories over the course of an evening that winter — I just got sucked in. He eventually asked me to draw one of his Schmuck strips and that collaboration proved to be especially successful.
One thing lead to another, and this 14-page “chase comic” that I had asked him to write for me turned into something more. We couldn’t be more excited to share it with folks, we have interest and are looking for the right publishing partner for the project.
Can you talk a little about what inspired story and style?
The story evolved out of me asking Seth to write me a “chase comic.” I’d wanted to do one for awhile as I thought it would be a good challenge, and he just kinda ran with it throwing in a lot of fun stuff.
The larger story was inspired by the comics that we had mutual appreciation for — the work of Herge, Moebius, Crepax as well as some current political events. There are shades of the 99% conversation (that is still going on) to be found in the comic, as the Roman Nose is trying to bring power back to the people with the help of some friends, amongst them a very politically radical freedom fighter named Eva, his ex-girlfriend.
From a visual stand-point, I’m trying to pull off a cocktail that combines my love for Akira (the coloring in the night scenes, specifically), Batman: The Animated Series, Tintin, and as strange as it may sound, the work of John Porcellino: for my money, probably our greatest living cartoonist. He has mastered simple, effective communication, and I look to him often for inspiration.
You can follow learn more about The Roman Nose and follow George’s #DarthDays art campaign on Twitter.