Noel Tuazon has been involved in comics in one form or another for over twenty years.
His portfolio features credits on a diverse mix of illustrative projects; from poetry books to horror anthologies, fantasy short stories to noir-esque graphic novels.
In the latter category, Tuazon has illustrated two graphic novels written by Joshua Hale Fialkov (Elk’s Run and Tumor), and just recently saw the release of another book. His latest illustrative effort, titled The Broadcast, was written by Eric Hobbs and published through NBM.
The Broadcast, which released in August and began shipping early September, is a noir thriller set against the backdrop of Orson Welles’ famous War of the Worlds broadcast.
What struck me most about Noel’s art was his ability to create uniquely expressive panels using a variety of different approaches. For instance, The Broadcast was done in watercolor and felt, and the gloomy, dark resonance of his artistic tone really sells the overall mood of the story.
I talked to Tuazon, who is himself a long-time resident to Toronto, about his contribution to the book, his early comic book influences, and even the particularities of his day job (as a storyboard cleanup artist).
The full interview is below:
KD: What can you tell me about The Broadcast?
NT: The context is based on the Orsen Welles’ War of The Worlds radio broadcast, which a lot of people thought was real. The story takes place in Indiana, where they’re also hearing the broadcast, and it focuses on four families from different backgrounds.
It’s set in the depression era, and has themes of conflict over land ownership and class prejudice. As the lives of these individuals tangle and intertwine, a mysterious stranger shows up bruised and battered on the doorstep of one of the characters.
All throughout the story, the Orson Welles’ broadcast continues on, contributing to the paranoia of the characters.
KD: How did you get involved with this project, and what originally drew you to it?
NT: Eric Hobbs like the art of another comic I’d drawn called Elk’s Run, and he also was impressed by this water colour piece I used to have up on my portfolio site. It was an image of a little boy, done in pen and ink and gray washes. I had submitted it to the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, they published in their magazine-newsletter The Bulletin, and that’s where Eric saw it.
He wanted that exact style for his book, so he got in contact with me. That was back in late ‘07.
KD: What tools did you use to illustrate The Broadcast?
NT: I just used fine tip Sharpie pens, since I have more control with those than with brushes, and they help keep my hand a little more steady. Then I used black water colour to water it down, and added some white. There are a few scenes where I switched to thicker Sharpie pens, and a few flashback scenes where I switched the style up a bit, but that’s about it.
KD: What did you have in mind when you came up with the specific look for The Broadcast?
NT: I wanted it to be murky, and to keep close to the style of that original illustration that Eric saw. I drew from the style of (Italian cartoonist) Gipi and several other European artists, and also to some extent from Jeff Lemire’s work.
KD: You’ve been drawing comics in one capacity or another for quite some time. Just scanning a couple of your biographies out there, I saw it mentioned that one of your first breaks in comics was with a strip in the Cerebus single page sections back in ‘89.
Before that, where did your interest in comics start?
NT: Back when I was in Elementary School in the Philippines, my parents did the book-keeping for a publishing house out there. I read some of the historical comics they put out, about the lives of these important figures from the history of the Philippines. Then it wasn’t really until College that I read more comics.
A friend of mine in first year College showed me some of the better artists in comics at the time, like Bernie Wrightson, Jeffrey Jones… My brother, he was also starting to collect comics like X-Men and Alpha Flight. It’s funny, looking back at that John Byrne stuff now, I really like what he was doing compared to the other super hero stuff back then.
KD: Your dayjob is as a Storyboard Clean Up artist at Nelvana Studios, is that right? What can you tell me about that job?
NT: When they get the storyboards from the artists, the director will make changes on the board itself – it’s all digital now. I redraw it from his roughs, and it could be something as simple as opening or closing the mouth of a character, or as complex as redrawing an entire scene.
It’s all so much easier nowadays than the old method of cleaning up storyboards, which required visiting and revisiting the photocopier constantly.
KD: What else are you currently up to?
NT: Josh Fialkov, who wrote Tumor, recently showed me a proposal for a story that involves one of the characters from Tumor. It’s way too early to talk more about that, though.
I’ve been doing some illustrations for a poetry magazine, and I also illustrated a trilogy of poetry books by Carolynn Blanchette.
KD: You’ve illustrated poems, children’s books, Westerns, noir… Do you have a favorite subject or genre to draw?
NT: You know, I’d really like to do a horror. I haven’t seen many horror scripts come my way, aside from my work for Steve Bissette’s Taboo and a comic I did for a zombie anthology called Fleshrot.
I’m a big fan of the EC titles, and Wally Wood’s stuff. So I would like to do something in the future along that vein.
-Interview by Kevin de Vlaming