Updated: Jan 25, 2022
Since the first day of 2022, visual artist John Norton has been designing the covers for my stories Blondy, The Lone Wolf, On Freedom, and We´re Not Having Fun, We´re Screaming in Pain. We met online through a mutual appreciation for each other´s work, and I´m thrilled that he accepted my invitation to collaborate here.
Below is a brief interview we did together, in between writing and making art.
Christian Pan: Tell me a bit about your background. Have you always been making art? Did you go to school for it?
John Norton: My brothers and I grew up reading comic books. One of my older brothers, Rob, started drawing just for fun, and made his own characters and comic book when he was young. As a younger brother, I just started copying him and drew my own characters and stories, and from there I never looked back. That was almost 30 years ago that I started.
Rob taught me a lot when I was a kid, and will still give me pointers to this day. I took art classes all through high school but didn't do much after that. It's pretty much all self-taught by drawing over and over, and trying new things, as well as studying other artists that I admire, which are mostly comic book artists.
Over the past couple of years, I have transitioned from working traditionally on paper with pen and pencil, to digital art. I originally started out thinking I would just do my inking digitally, because I find it kind of a hassle and I don't get any enjoyment out of it, but now I pretty do everything digitally. I continue to learn the program and watch tutorials from Youtube and have been able to almost triple my art output, because I can take it anywhere and draw anytime I feel like it.
CP: Wow,´that is so cool! I see on your site that you´re working on a comic book of your own, entitled Bliss. Tell me more about that. JN: Bliss is a character that I have had for several years, who was actually a love interest for another character named Kyle Seals, who at the time was the main character that I focused on. Someone mentioned to me that I should try doing a Kickstarter for my comic, and I was trying to come up with a good storyline for my existing characters. Then I read somewhere that it is hard for writers to come up with new and interesting characters, especially ones that were female. I thought to myself, "That's bullshit, I have a good idea!" And started developing my Bliss comic book.
The story focuses on the main character, who eventually adopts the name "Bliss", starting out swith her as an amnesiac, waking up in a diner, all alone. From there she tries to piece together clues of her identity and discovers that she is a pretty bad-ass fighter, and stronger than your average body builder. She slowly discovers the strange world she lives in and is hunted by a cult called the "Death Covenant". The first five issues are an origin story, with her eventually taking on a vigilante/superhero mantle. I am currently working on the 7th issue, and plan to make it an ongoing series. All the art is black and white, because I am a bit limited in my coloring. But I also do all the writing, lettering and editing too. So my comics are pretty much done 100% by me, unless I have some guest artists contribute to the book.
CP: That is totally rad, John. Congratulations! I also see from your Instagram that you do some "fan art"--borrowing characters from movies and pop culture. Do you have any favorites? JN: There are so many! It's hard to name them all. I'm a fan of most "nerd" fandoms, like Star Wars, Star Trek, Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings, etc., and of course all the Marvel movies. Some of my favorite individual movies are Fight Club, Predator, Serenity (from Firefly), the Avengers , The Dark Knight, Ghostbusters, Big Trouble in Little China, Last of the Mohicans, Tremors. There are just too many to list!
CP: I get that. Do you have any other art projects cooking these days, besides your comic book series? JN: I'm always working on my Bliss comic book, but I also go back and forth between issues and work on a mini-series spinoff called "Blood Moon." That story focuses on my original character Kyle Seals, (who also appears in Bliss), and is more of a horror story line involving werewolves, and some other monsters that I don't want to spoil. It is a very adult-themed comic book, with more violence, hard language, plus nudity and sex.
I have also worked with my brother Rob and we have done a fan comic of a Masters of the Universe and Thundercats crossover, along with some other surprises, that I don't want to spoil either. We have done three volumes of that story, which are about 100 pages each. This story was originally conceived by Rob and was his baby, and I helped with some art and developed some story ideas with him. The premise is that Skeletor was sick of constantly losing to He-Man, so he goes out to find other sources of power to defeat him with. This story is for those that grew up watching old 80's cartoons and want to see them in a more adult way, with higher stakes and bigger repercussions. It's kind of like the Netflix show, but we did it first, and I think we did it better. Besides doing comic books, I make art to sell prints at various comic conventions, and online. Sometimes I just draw something that I want to and see if it sells, other times I will draw something that I specifically think will sell. One of my best sellers are a "horror lineup" series I do, which are various horror characters from different genres standing in a police lineup. The first one I did was a horror icons piece, which had Freddy, Jason, Leatherface, Michael Myers, Pinhead, Chucky, and the Necronomicon (from Evil Dead). I've also done classic horror, sci-fi horror, clowns, vampires and psycho killer lineups.
CP: Are you able to make a living with your art full-time? If not, what else do you do? JN: Unfortunately, I have not been able to make a living just with my art. I would love to some day, but for now I have a day job as a social worker. I work for a company in Salt Lake City that shelters and houses homeless individuals. I have been working at this company for nearly 18 years.
CP: Anything else you want our readers to know about you, and/or your work?
JN: I'm just a simple dude, trying to make his way through the world like everyone else. I am open for commissions and have just launched my Patreon page, where people can read my comics (Bliss #1 is free to read to the public) and they can also see some uncensored erotic art that I have made. I am interested in feedback from my comics, so please feel free to check it out!