The Jedi Blogger (TJB): Why did you decide to get into the comic business?
Brian Ching (BC): I was in my second year at college as a bio major and really had no idea what I wanted to do in life. I knew I liked to draw and during some of my classes I would sometimes doodle comic book characters. I signed up for some art classes and had so much fun I knew this is what I wanted to do.
TJB: What comic book artists inspired you?
BC: I’d always collected comics since I was pretty young but during my high school years I stopped. I guess you get more interested in other things. But after high school I started collecting again because the artwork was so great, the guy that got me hooked again was Jim Lee. At that time he was working on Punisher War Journal and later on X-men. That showed me you didn’t have to be limited to any genre or style. Today, I’m inspired by so many artists but the few that really stand out are Bryan Hitch, Travis Charest, and Adam Hughes. I think these three artists have had such a huge impact on the way comics are drawn today.
TJB: Where you a Star Wars fan before you signed on with Dark Horse?
BC: I thought I was… you know everyone thinks they are a Star Wars fan until they meet a STAR WARS FAN, someone who knows every little intricate detail about the Star Wars history. Then I realized I was just a casual fan of the movies.
TJB: How did you get the job working with Star Wars comics?
BC: I was working for a place called Top Cow, I think this was about 5-6 years ago. I was finishing up an issue and I got an offer to do some work with Dark Horse and Star Wars. I could only fit covers into my schedule at that point so that’s what they offered. A couple of months later I was done with my commitments at Top Cow and working on the Star Wars comics full time.
TJB: You have been involved with Star Wars comics since the early days of the Empire series. What has been your favorite project to work with?
I have two favorite projects. The first was Obsession. Obsession was important for two reasons—I was able to read the script for EP III well before it was released in the theaters. And the other reason is that it was a turning point in the way I worked. We decided (along with my editor) to go with a no inks approach to the artwork. Obsession was where I started to experiment with this approach. At the time the book was coming out I was extremely disappointed with how it looked, so scratchy and rough. You could see all the sketch lines which to me was very distracting and I wasn’t happy. Doug Wheatley suggested I scan the pages myself ( and do the clean up digitally in Photoshop) and take control of how the lineart looked. Up until that point I was FedExing all my pages into the Dark Horse office and they would scan and send the pages out to the colorists. I took Doug’s advice and picked up a scanner. I could see the difference immediately. When your pages are inked they are at the discretion of the inker—meaning that there are nuances in the facial expressions, rendering, etc that sometimes get lost. It’s impossible for an inker to get inside your head so in some ways you are at his mercy. With pencils only it was all up to me. So regardless of whether or not it sucked it was my doing, which is a nice thing to have.
My second favorite project to work on has been KOTOR. I was involved from the beginning and was able to design nearly everything in the first 6 issues. It was such a gratifying experience—I still consider the book to be my baby.
TJB: What was it like drawing the comic book adaptation of The Force Unleashed?
BC: Fun! The graphic novel is so action packed and there are so many cool new characters and things to see. Everything was already designed by the video game’s artists but it was just a lot of fun for me to go off on that.
TJB: As Knights of the Old Republic’s initiator, how much creative freedom were you given while designing the world of KOTOR in it’s first arc, Commencement? Did you use the original video game as reference while designing the locations and characters?
BC: I was given quite a bit of freedom to design things as I liked. We discussed early on that we would use the video game designs as inspiration and go from there. I know some readers are disappointed that we didn’t follow the original TOTJ comics more closely. I can understand the frustration but I just think that series was done in the early 80’s and that it had a somewhat dated quality. No offense to any of the original artists because I’m sure in 20 years the next batch of Star Wars artists will be saying the same thing about my work.
I figured as long as I kept things looking like they belonged in the Star Wars universe we were okay. It has to look like it has medieval influence, Asian influence, and a touch of the future. All of it needs to look a little worn down. These were the principals I tried to stick to.
TJB: You haven’t penciled an issue of Knights of the Old Republic in a while. Do you have any plans to return to the series? Are you happy with the way other artists have portrayed KOTOR?BC: I’d love to return and do a bunch more issues. I’m doing covers right now and hope that things work out with scheduling that Dark Horse will let me do more stuff.
Obviously, Dustin is the stand-out artist. He’s just phenomenal and seems to get better with every single thing he does. I designed the Last Resort but he has done such a great job interpreting it that I look to his version as the definitive one. If it were up to me I wish I could have done every single issue but unfortunately I don’t have that Mark Bagley or John Romita speed.
TJB: Who has been your favorite character to work with in the Star Wars universe?
BC: That’s a tough one. I’ve been fortunate enough to draw the younger Obi-Wan, the Ewan Macgregor version. He’s easily one of my favorites. But I also really enjoy drawing Zayne and Gryph.
TJB: What advice would you have for aspiring artists wanting to break into the business?
BC: Just to work on your craft. Make sure you understand anatomy, perspective, and lighting. Even if you don’t make it into the comic business (which is extremely difficult) you’ll still have the drawing ability to make it in another industry.
TJB: What projects, if you can tell us about them, do you have coming up? Do you plan to continue working with Star Wars comics?
BC: Nothing I can say right now. I don’t want to jinx any of it! There are still a few things I’d like to do in the Star Wars world so I hope they’ll keep me around for a little while longer!
Thank you again to Brian ching for the great interview! To check out some of Brian’s art, head over to his blog at http://brianching.blogspot.com/