The parameters for this award would include:
- ability to render epic-level fight sequences skillfully and with non-clichéd flair.
- uniquely imaginative portrayals of characters of extraordinary and/or otherworldly origin.
- demonstrated comfort with gratuitously graphic content, though never to the point where the violence and/or sexuality overwhelms the subtext.
- bonus points for sequences involving mass evisceration.
With this checklist in mind, absolutely the first name that would grace my shortlist of contemporary Canadian artists would be Eric Vedder.
Vedder, who resides in St. Catherines, Ontario, is the author, artist and creator of Aardehn – a dark fantasy/sci-fi webcomic of epic scale.
Aardehn, which launched in February of 2008, chronicles the adventures of Celeste – a demon hunter who is herself marked by darkness and carries a burden of prophecy.
Prominent secondary characters include Aveenda, a fiercely independent elf currently held in captivity, and the demonic Lady Skar – as delightfully twisted and sadistic a villain as one could hope for, really.
Last September, Aardehn was officially added to the Transmission X roster of high-quality webcomics.
Outside of Aardehn, Vedder works on concept and character art for videogame development companies, and has worked as a penciler on various titles from Udon Comics.
In fact, recently he was drafted to share penciling responsibilities on the latest Darkstalkers miniseries from Udon, the Night Warriors – a job which Eric was particularly (and understandably) excited to work on.
Eric was amiable enough to do an interview with the Fabler about Aardehn, Darkstalkers, and beyond.
That interview….(dramatic pause, for effect) is below:
KD: What have been some of your most prominent influences with Aardehn? I would guess that you have some pretty distinct influences in anime/manga – would that be totally off the mark?
EV: You guessed correctly. I’ve been a huge fan of anime/manga for quite some time and they have totally influenced Aardehn. The first anime I watched was Akira and it opened my eyes to a whole new world. Here we had violence, swearing and slight nudity all in a cartoon format… I loved it! Then I saw Ghost in the Shell. Well, that was it. I collected anything I could get my hands on that had Masamune Shirow’s artwork on it.
Following that was Blade of the Immortal by Hiroaki Samura and Naruto by Masashi Kishimoto. Two phenomenal manga’s that completely influenced Aardehn’s art and storytelling style.
KD: Aardehn seems as much of an epic adventure in high fantasy as it is an experiment into different artistic styles.
Can you tell me a little about your decision to use Aardehn as a testing grounds of sorts for your art?
EV: From the get go, I made the decision that Aardehn would be where I grew as an artist (hopefully).
Basically it comes down to the fact that I appreciate all art styles and if the mood strikes me to play with other styles, then I wanted to use it in my crazy world. It’s also a way for me to help break through my many bad habits and barriers that have grown stubbornly over the years. I always feel I can do better or rather should be doing better, so this keeps me trying new things and I find that’s the best way to learn.
KD: Aardehn is definitely not a G-Rated comic. If the violence/glimpses of nudity you’ve had in the comic prior weren’t enough of an indicator, this a point you certainly drove home with your January 25th update (featuring what we’ll call the “uninvited tentacle” scene).
Were you wary at all about posting that particular update/was there any consideration of portraying it differently?
EV: Ah, the infamous tentacle scene. This page definitely gave me pause and posting it made me feel a little uneasy. I struggled with other ways to portray it or perhaps take a completely different approach but in the end it felt right. I had to establish how unflinchingly creepy Lady Skar was and hint at some of her bizarre powers.
Having said that, I can now limit how many times, if ever again, we see that same scene. A simple shot of her arm unraveling should be enough to let the viewer know what’s coming next.
KD: How early on in Aardehn’s conception did you make the decision not to censor the more graphic elements of the comic?
EV: I loathe censorship of any kind. Let me decide what I want to see, read, hear and ingest. That’s basically my thought process when it comes to comics as well. Years before it was on paper, I knew I wanted Aardehn to be un-censored.
However, I will say I feel that there is a time and place for all things and over-doing anything will just turn out poorly, in comics and in real life.
KD: Can you give any hints as to where the tales of Celeste and Aveenda will be heading in the coming year?
EV: Think dragons, archers, aliens and spaceships… ok that might be too vague. Over the next year, we’ll see Celeste grow into much more of a leader and we’ll learn how Aveenda is connected to her and to many others.
I have a long story to tell so hopefully people stick with me.
KD: You officially joined up with Transmission X last September, adding Aardehn to the TX Comics stable of high-quality webcomics.
What are some of your thoughts on working with Transmission X this past year, and on working with a webcomic artist collective in general?
EV: Joining Transmission X was a huge moment in my life. It also made Aardehn seem more real. Those guys are all professionals and really force you to think and act like a pro more and more. They really challenge me to be better as an artist and as a person and I’m so stoked and grateful to be moving forward along side them. We have big plans ahead so make sure to check out the new website and the new store!
I think working in a collective can only make your comic better. Also, you are part of team to a degree and a lot more gets accomplished this way. I really think more people should try hooking up with other artists and help promote each other, especially in the beginning stages of your comic/art career.
KD: I understand that you were a pretty big fan of the Darkstalkers universe prior to being asked to pencil the new miniseries.
What has it been like for you, having the opportunity to work on this particular franchise?
EV: I’ve been a huge fan of Capcom, particularly the Street Fighter series, for years and years now. Going back to the earlier question of influences, the artists from Capcom blew my mind. I would try and draw like them for years and still do!
Kinu was perhaps my biggest influence as her mix of cartoon and life drawing like style resonated within me.
Along comes Darkstalkers with its insanely designed monsters and sexy heroines. I couldn’t believe the characters and being a fan of monsters and women, this game was made for me. Also, not many people know this but, Morrigan was my inspiration for Celeste and yes, she too was originally a succubus.
When Udon approached me to split the penciling duties on the 3 issue mini series, I was shell-shocked. It really was a dream come true for me and was a long time goal of mine. Getting to draw the comic with my good friend Joe Vriens was awesome and made the experience even more special. Needless to say, I was really happy.
KD: Do you have a particular favourite Darkstalker character to draw?
EV: I love drawing Capcom characters in general, particularly the females.
Hands down my favorite character to draw and for obvious reasons is Morrigan. Beautiful and deadly, a perfect combination.
KD: My questions so far have been focused on your experiences as an artist of comics and webcomics, but you also have a strong background in videogame art design.
Can you tell me a little about the specifics of your work in gaming, and what it entails?
EV: Currently I work on a game called Sacred Seasons. I’ve been working with them for over a year now dabbling in almost every aspect of art for it. Initially I was doing character concept art for them, which I then transferred into in-game character art.
As we are nearing the end of our first content update, I’m finding myself doing website design, item and weapon art as well as advertisement art. They are great bunch of really talented people to work with and look forward to continuing on with them.
KD: How do you portion your time between working as a comic artist and your work in the videogame industry?
EV: It’s a bit of a juggling act at times. For the most part the videogame comes first as it’s a full time job. Aardehn is only a weekly update (for now), so the time needed for it is much less and splitting the penciling duties for Darkstalkers provides a little breathing room… but not much!
KD: As a final question, what’s next for you outside of Darkstalkers/Aardehn? Are there any projects that you’re particularly excited for coming up in the near future?
EV: After Darkstalkers, I’m not sure what Udon has lined up for me. Aardehn however, will continue on as scheduled. There is a secret project being released later this year that I’m very excited about but I can’t share with you just yet. You’ll just have to stay tuned!
-Interview by Kevin de Vlaming