Creative Nestlings: Please introduce yourself, who you are and what you do.
Sean Izaakse: I’m Sean Izaakse, a Joburg-based comic artist. I’ve been a freelancer for about 7 years now and before that, I worked in graphic design. I’ve done work on comics like Pathfinder (Dynamite Entertainment), Thunderbolts, Avengers and Deadpool (Marvel Comics) and am the co-creator of Stray (Action Lab) and I have also worked on tabletop roleplaying games like Mutants and Masterminds.
CN: How did your love for comic books start and what got you into drawing?
SI: Short answer is my parents. They collected comics and so I noticed them around the house. My father was a huge Green Lantern fan and my mom was into Magnus Robot Fighter and Enemy Ace. The first comic I sort of remember for myself was probably a Spider-Man or Superman comic. I just remember being drawn to the bright colours on the cover. I was mesmerised by comics. So when I was very young I started trying to copy the images I saw in the comics onto paper. That’s sort of where it started really.
SI: I can’t remember the very first one. Like I say it was mostly the colours that got me to notice them. That was when I was like 3 years old. But I think that the most influential comic for me was Justice league of America #200 (1982). I think around that time was when it really cemented my love of what comics could be. Then years later I had the same feeling when I read Uncanny X-men #275 and X-men #1. Same with New Teen Titans #38 and #43. There were many others, way too many to mention.
CN: You recently joined Marvel Comics. How did that happen?
SI: Oh man. It’s a long story. But I’ll spare you the pages and pages of the long version. Basically I got retrenched from my job as a graphic designer and couldn’t find work, so I put all my efforts into making comics and getting my work out there. One of the jobs I did was a couple pages for an online comic called Gutters. That sort of led to me getting work a couple years later for Dynamite Entertainment on a comic called Pathfinder where I worked with a writer named Jim Zub.
Also for the past few years I’ve been sending samples to Marvel on and off, whenever time would allow. And they sent me a lot of great advice which I still keep in mind with every page I draw.
At the same time I became friends with someone online, Vito Delsante, who is my collaborator and the other half of Stray, a comic series we created together.
Making Stray and working on Pathfinder both taught me a lot and I think I grew immensely as a comic artist and storyteller.
So years later I sent some new samples to Marvel which they seemed to like. Strangely around the same time I had finished up the crossover with Stray called Actionverse, and also it was then that Jim Zub recommended me for a couple issues of Thunderbolts. It’s like the whole universe brought everything to this point. All starting with a small two-page job I did 7 years ago. It’s kinda weird if you sit and think about it.
CN: Let’s talk about what it has been like to be a professional comic artist for you. What has been your career’s major highlight?
SI: Major highlight, well again there are a few. One of which I have to mention is when we were kickstarting Stray, one of the coolest things that happened was that Stan Lee tweeted a shout out to Stray, which I’m sure in no small way contributed to its success.
Another highlight would have to be all the friends I’ve made because of working in comics. I’ve met some really amazing people which I’m hoping to actually meet in person eventually.
And lastly, you want a highlight, getting to officially draw Spider-Man AND Captain America! Life goals achievement unlocked.
CN: As you have already mentioned, you co-founded Stray; tell us everything we need to know about it.
SI: Stray is a character that we (my co-creator on the series Vito Delsante and I) are extremely proud of. Stray is the story of Rodney Weller who was a superhero sidekick named the Rottweiler and his mentor the Doberman who was his father. They had a falling out because as Rodney got older they didn’t see eye to eye.
Many years later someone managed to kill the Doberman, and Rodney who, during his time away had fallen off the rails has to come back and solve the mystery of who killed his father and then from there what type of person he wants to be and if he’s capable of being a hero again. Along the way you meet a whole new universe of heroes and villains and their mythology. Everyone who’s read it has gotten hooked. Go and order it and check it out.
CN: What does it take to turn a passion for drawing into a job?
SI: Lots of hard work and sacrifice. It doesn’t happen overnight and it can be very frustrating. It’s a lot of long hours and if you don’t have passion for it then it’s really not the job for you. That passion has to burn white hot to get you to the finish line every time.
CN: On a daily basis, what are your inspirations and go-to references for your work?
SI: I have a lot of comic artists that I’ve always looked up to and constantly draw inspiration from. Artists like Alan Davis, Stuart Immonen, Chris Samnee, Olivier Coipel and many more. I have folders on my laptop filled with pictures of their art and tons of comics and graphic novels of their work on my shelves which I look at daily. As for other references I look at everything around me whenever I’m out somewhere, from clothes people wear to the folds in a person’s clothes to their body language. Everything can be a reference.
CN: What do you think of the illustration and graphic design / creative community in Johannesburg?
SI: I think it has potential. There are a lot of very talented creators and artists in Johannesburg, but I think we’re all off in our own little corners doing our thing. Not so much of a community as it is in say, Cape Town. Or that’s the impression I get anyway.
CN: What is creativity to you?
SI: Creativity is self-expression made real, tangible for all to see.