Jake Parker is an incredibly talented and prolific artist with a particular interest in pop culture and fan art. His newest book, Drawings III, was recently released in both digital and print. His art empire stretches across numerous projects and social media outlets. In 2009 Parker started Inktober, a popular annual celebration of ink drawing during the month of October that spawns hundreds of thousands of images each year. His YouTube channel and online art lessons are also very popular. Last year he launched a Kickstarter campaign for a new project called Skyheart. He lives with his family in Utah.
You grew up reading comics at a comic book store in Mesa while your mom bought sewing supplies next door. Explain what appeals to you about these characters and stories. I grew up reading Superman and Batman. I collected Batman for a couple of years. That was fun. I love Batman because, for the reasons everybody loves Batman, he’s a vigilante, he’s taken law into his own hands, he’s got the cool gadgets, and the crazy villains that he’s up against. I switched to collecting X-Men. I really got into X-Men because I was fascinated with their mutant powers and the whole, just the interesting world that Marvel was building. It just felt like it was way more connected, interconnected, than the DC Universe, at least during that time when I was collecting in the early ’90’s. Then things transitioned to Image comics when all the Marvel artists left to make their own comics.
There was a comic that came out that really stood out to me, and I remember I saw it in the comic shop, it was Hellboy #1. I looked at it, you know it stopped me in my tracks and I was like “No this is different. This is something really special.” From that day on I was a huge Mike Mignola fan and a Hellboy fan. I collected all those. The thing that I love about Hellboy is his world is our world. The things that happen in his world have consequences, just like the things in our world. When anything happens … You know I feel like there’s a status quo for Batman. Right? There’s always going to be crime so that there can always be a Batman. As soon as crime is stalled there’s no more Batman. The thing with Marvel is, is everything, as soon as all their problems are solved new problems start and New York is destroyed all over again. Then they fix it and build it up, and then another thing destroys New York. With Hellboy that world is permanent, and the things that happen in there stay happened. If a character dies, they’re dead. They never come back.
But what’s cool, and you know the thing that kind of, I think, worries creators and writers for Marvel or DC, is that if you kill Captain America now you can’t sell Captain America books anymore. What Mike Mignola has done, and the other people who are collaborating with him is, let’s say you kill Hellboy, which they did. Well now we can follow his adventures in Hell, where he was sent, and we get to see him in this new world where there’s completely different stakes, and there’s different consequences, and there’s a different reality and so there’s weird and strange things happening. On one level it’s like we still get to follow Hellboy, but it is a completely different Hellboy now.
The other thing is, if you want to go back, if you want a more traditional Hellboy story where he’s fighting a ghost in some small village in Ireland, you can do a story about Hellboy that took place in the ’70’s and say “Oh we never told this story, but here’s what happened to Hellboy in 1973.” Hellboy has a very strict timeline in that certain things happen on certain dates, and you can’t change those dates, and it isn’t some fake 1970’s or 1990’s. It’s the actual 1990’s and 1970’s. In a way I think Hellboy is a lot like Indiana Jones, in fact it really is. Things have consequences, he interacts with our world, there are things in our world that interact with the Hellboy world. That’s really what I love about it. When I tell stories, and when I create my own worlds, it’s very much inspired by what Mike Mignola and his collaborators have done with the Hellboy world.
I love the Asterix series but few have heard of it. What characters that you grew up with do you wish people appreciated more? I guess in that same vein I really did love the Smurfs growing up, but it wasn’t a comic, it was just a cartoon. That franchise really has been ruined lately with what Sony’s done for it. I think there’s a really cool world there, and some neat stuff with the Smurf’s, I just wish it was being shepherded by a different creative team. You know, the people at Sony are very creative, but I think that the problem there is the actual studio executives not knowing, not having a vision, or having a weird dumb vision. Also, Thundercats are good, yeah they’re really good. It was frustrating because they did the new Thundercats version. They did a sort of revival, or a reboot of the Thundercats, which I thought was really cool but it never really took hold. So I wish there was more Thundercats. Actually SkyHeart is somewhat influenced by Thundercats too, so I guess it’s me taking matters into my own hands and doing it the way I want to do it.