Last month, PopCultHQ had the privilege in reviewing a new, creator-owned series entitled Hyper Force Neo by creator/writer/artist Jarrett Williams. Not only was I floored with the overall talent of Williams, after publishing my review I began following him on Facebook and Twitter. Jarrett is a high-spirited, fun, engaging, and humble artist who just radiates positivity and energy to the point that it is infectious.
An all around great guy and extremely talented, Jarrett agreed to be interviewed by PopCultHQ, as we wanted to put the spotlight on this writer/artist for you to learn more about him, his work, and everything that got him to where he is today. After reading our interview with him, we’re sure you are going to want to keep tabs on this rising creator. We’ll show you how you can follow Jarrett on social media and where you can view/purchase his books. But all that comes after our interview, so without any further delay, let’s meet PopCultHQ’s Spotlight Artist… Jarrett Williams!
A New Orleans native, Jarrett grew up watching his family work tirelessly to get out of the Magnolia projects, which inspired his own formidable work ethic. At 31, Jarrett is soon to have three creator-owned series: HYPER FORCE NEO, SUPER PRO K.O.!, and KNUCKLE UP. A mix of all the things Jarrett loved as a kid himself — manga, video games, cartoons, and TNMT — Jarrett’s style is loud and colorful. If you love fun, vibrant art, likable characters, and exciting storylines, Jarrett’s got you covered with some great all-ages comics that are perfect for superhero parents to share with their superhero-in-training children. You ALL will love it!
PopCultHQ: What was the pivotal, defining moment in your life that made you decide to make being an artist a career?
Jarrett Williams: When I was younger, I remember my mom dropping me off to a Comic Book Workshop at the local library. I must have been 7 or 8 years old. It was advertised in our local paper. It took place on a Saturday from 10am – 4pm and I looked forward to it all week. We just made simple one-page gag comics but I remember being so into it. From there, I was put in art classes and that continued throughout high school. So I’m really glad my folks really supported my interests in creative areas.
In elementary school, I remember my teacher handing out those Scholastic book order forms. I usually could get 1 or 2 books from my saved allowance. It was usually Goosebumps, Calvin Hobbes, or something along those lines. I would stay up as late as possible reading them as soon as they arrived. Even assigned Summer Reading books were awesome to me so I read The Odyssey, Huckleberry Finn, To Kill A Mocking Bird, etc. early on. I loved reading so I knew I wanted to produce a book one day.
PopCultHQ: The characters you draw are fun and lively. Who was your inspiration early on? Which artists do you currently admire?
Jarrett Williams: I appreciate hearing that. Comic wise, I loved TMNT, Archie, Richie Rich, Spiderman, Uncanny X-men, Simpsons and stuff like that as a kid. I also read a lot of Disney Adventure, Nickelodeon, and Fox Kids Magazine that had some cool comics too.
I was hooked on Ranma 1/2, Dragon Ball, Magic Knight Rayearth, Ronin Warriors Project A-ko, Sailor Moon, and more as a teen. I loved Tezuka’s style. It was so clean and fluid. I think most creators in my generation were exposed to everything so our work encapsulates so many influences.
I also loved video games. Super Mario 3 is probably my favorite game of all time, I’ve played it so many times. I had a Gameboy and Game Gear too so some of my fondest memories involve playing video games during the summer breaks and reviewing level maps in Electronic Gaming Monthly and GamePro Magazine. Since I couldn’t afford most games, I truly studied those level maps (laughs).
You’ll see a lot of the influences above in many of my new comics out this year like Hyper Force Neo (Z2 Comics) and Super Pro K.O.!: Gold for Glory (Oni Press).
PopCultHQ: You have a delightfully unique style that’s instantly recognizable for anyone familiar with your work. How did you come to developing this style and in effect making it your signature look?
Jarrett Williams: When I was in college, I was really trying to go for this mainstream look. I was thinking about Jim Lee, Joe Madureira, Jim Balent, Todd McFarlane—I really just wanted that superhero look to my comics. However, it just didn’t come natural. And the pages I was creating were strikingly different from my sketchbook doodles. Those were always naturally “cartoonier” and more bubbly. So one day, I thought, why not go in that direction. This was in the 2000s so there were indie-rific books like Owly by Andy Runton and Goodbye Chunky Rice by Craig Thompson gaining some steam.
Around that time, I decided to make a commitment to draw 6-8 hours a day, outside of school and my part time job. I figured it would help me find my style/voice and just get more confident in general. I also figured if i wanted to take this seriously, I’d need to put in the time. Hell, manga artists are producing so much on a weekly basis so I figured I could as least complete a page a day.
Over time, I think when you become more comfortable in an area, your personality begins to shine through. I always hear from readers that my comics are pretty funny. I think that’s partially an extension of my personality coming through within my stories. So again, I just think it comes down to just drawing as much as possible on a regular basis.
PopCultHQ: You’ve created the comic ‘Knuckle Up,’ created self-published volumes of ‘The Lunar Boy,’ have ‘Super Pro K.O.!’ published by Oni Press, ‘Hyper Force Neo’ by Z2 Comics and have contributed to the ‘Yo Gabba Gabba’ title. How full is your plate right now?
Jarrett Williams: It’s definitely very full (laughs) but I’d rather be busier than not have enough to do. I feel like this is the time for me to produce as much as possible, and really just prove myself to myself.
‘Hyper Force Neo’ has taken up the most time for sure. The mecha scenes are sometimes pretty grueling for me to draw. ‘Super Pro K.O.: Gold for Glory!’ also took over 2+ years to produce but I’m really happy with the final outcome. That releases in June.
‘Knuckle Up’ hasn’t released yet but I can’t wait for people to see that comic. The few images I’ve posted online seem to really connect. I also have some other comics coming in the next year too that I’m excited to show off.
Overall, I really prefer creating my own stories, characters, and worlds though. I get a lot more satisfaction from that side of the comic industry. The final product is way more rewarding for me. I drew a ‘Yo Gabba Gabba’ comic a few years back. I’ve also done covers for ‘Adventure Time’ and ‘Regular Show’ too. Drawing licensed stuff is pretty easy for me since there’s already a template in place. I can look at something and adopt that style fairly easily, especially if it’s based on a cartoon. That being said, ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ would be a dream gig since that was the first comic property I remember becoming obsessed with. I’d also like Nintendo to get into the comic game, I’d create a killer Mario comic.
PopCultHQ: With regards to your relationships with Oni Press and Z2 Comics, are there plans to develop more titles under their publishing company?
Jarrett Williams: Totally! What’s great about both is that they really embrace fresh ideas. Oni Press really took a shot on me with ‘Super Pro K.O.!’ back in 2010 so I’ll always have loyalty there. And Z2 reached out last year and they’ve been awesome to work for too. I’m working on some new ideas with both publishers in the future and I’m excited to get them all out there.
PopCultHQ: Are you solely committed to comic publishers at this time, or are there other lines of work you do? (i.e. video games, commission work, etc.)
Jarrett Williams: It’s interesting. I actually take on a lot of freelance work these days. I can’t really speak on a few projects but it’s cool that my comic work has led to other projects in fields I never really considered. One project I worked on for years involved making employee safety calendars for Citi Trends. You really never know who will come across your work and want to collaborate with you.
PopCultHQ: Are you making any scheduled appearances in 2016 where people can meet you and check out your work in person?
Jarrett Williams: Right now, I’ll just be going to two conventions, the American Library Association conference in June in Orlando, FL. I should also be roaming around New York Comic Con in October. Outside of those dates, I’ll just be working to crank out more comics. I’m hoping to have more time for conventions in 2017.
PopCultHQ: Do you have any upcoming projects or plans in 2016 you can share?
Jarrett Williams: Right now, the focus is on ‘Hyper Force Neo’ and ‘Super Pro K.O.!: Gold for Glory.’ I’m working on several new comics too but they’ll be releasing towards the beginning of 2017. I’ll be posting pics here and there on Instagram (@JarrettWilliams), so stay tuned.
PopCultHQ would like to thank Jarrett for taking the time to be interviewed and for being for our Spotlight Artist. Be sure to follow Jarrett Williams and his work on all of his social media outlets!