Published by Red Stylo Media, 7th Voyage is an upcoming graphic novel by writer Enrica Jang and artist Matthew J. Fletcher.
SketchBook Team: How did you get your creative start?
Enrica: I was a writer and comics fan finishing grad school when I scored an internship at Marvel. I launched my first series, AZTECA, with a fellow intern: a story about a vigilante serial killer in Mexico (kind of Dexter meets Machete). While promoting AZTECA, at conventions and signings, I kept meeting other comics creators whose work and talent I admired. Eventually I formed a publishing company, Red Stylo Media, and put together The Poe Twisted Anthology: a collection of thirteen original comics inspired by Edgar Allan Poe. The next year we put together an even bigger collection called Shakespeare Shaken with thirty-two artists! Now, with 7th Voyage, this is my opportunity to feature some of my own writing again.
Matthew: I have been drawing as far back as I can remember… Stories of King Arthur, Robin Hood, Medieval Europe, and the entire spectrum of Mythology were really what inspired me in my youth. Well, that and Star Wars. If mythology was my passion, then Star Wars was my religion. So, naturally, growing up I wanted to be an artist and an astronaut. After a short stint in the Young Astronaut’s Club, I abandoned all hope of traveling in space and concentrated on scribbling with pencil on paper. I took my talents on the road - exhibiting at comic book conventions, drawing commissions, and picking up contract work as a freelance artist, until last year when my first comic book story was published in Shakespeare Shaken. Since then I have worked on a few sketch card sets: Classic Mythology and Spellcasters for Perna Studios, andThe Walking Dead, Series II, for Cryptozoic.
SketchBook Team: How did you come together for 7th Voyage ?
Enrica: My company had just put out an open call for artists and writers for Shakespeare Shaken. Matt and I met at a convention and I mentioned the project to him.
I said, “Hamlet.” He said, “Robots!” and somehow a story was born.
Over the next few months, I worked with Matt and his story partner, Seth Mullins, on this wacky combination of kings, ghosts, robots and tentacles that miraculously came together into an amazing short comic. It was such a success, I asked Matt if he’d like to collaborate on another, bigger project with me.
SketchBook Team: What speaks most to you about the story of 7th Voyage?
Matthew: While it’s true that Rica offered me the story, the WHOLE truth is that there were actually two projects up in the air and Rica was leaning toward putting me on the other. But once I read the script for 7th Voyage I knew I had to have it. As a history buff, there were elements that were so intriguing to me already, but then when I started reading the story, I noticed how the history of it is really just a backdrop for these amazingly complex characters and relationships.
Enrica: 7th Voyage is a story I owe to my father. He introduced the conspiracy theory that it was the Chinese who may have discovered America long before Europeans, but China destroyed records of the great voyages when the Emperor died. The main character of our book, Zheng He, is basically China’s own Christopher Columbus. I’m fascinated by the idea that this epic voyage could have changed the course of history but was instead locked away and almost lost because of national politics.
SketchBook Team: Matthew, can you tell us a little bit more about your artistic process?
Matthew: Growing up, illustration technology simply did not exist so it was a lot of pencil and ink, and then later – paint…watercolor primarily. Eventually, I gave into temptation and purchased my first Wacom tablet...and my world changed forever.
One day, at Wizard World Chicago, we were sitting next to Skottie Young and he had a handful of copies of Sketchbook Pro that he was giving away. For the first time I had found an illustration program that FELT like drawing. From then on I started incorporating Sketchbook Pro into most of my finished pieces.
In terms of method and technique…I think it varies depending on the project I am working on. The story I did for Shakespeare Shaken was all traditional - Morning Glory flat lead pencil and Pentel brush pen. For 7th Voyage however, I am going all-Sketchbook Pro. I am using the Android App for layouts on my tablet and doing the finished drawings using my Cintiq 12.
Whether it was just for layouts, or for fully finished pieces, black & white or color pieces, Sketchbook Pro became an art tool that I could not live without.
SketchBook Team: When can we get our hands on 7th Voyage?
Enrica: The book will be released in two parts. We’re making a mad dash to get a teaser ready for San Diego Comic Con in July, and then the trade paperback for Part I will be printed and debut at New York Comic Con this September. Depending on its success and reception, we’re hoping to have Part II ready for Chinese New Year in 2014!
Want more about 7th Voyage? Stay tuned for for more tutorials from Matt.