Check out Chad Nuss

I had the pleasure of meeting Chad a few months back at the Cavalcade of Comics in Louisville, Ky. Obviously, the first thing I noticed was his undeniable artistic talent. As I continued to talk to him I quickly realized what an interesting person he is to talk to and I knew I had to interview him for my site. Luckily for me he was able to spare a few minutes of his time, in-between getting his PhD, (no that is not a typo) to do an interview. Hope you enjoy the interview, and I cannot wait to check out The Silence when it is finished.

 

Tell us a little about yourself and your background? (where are you from, where you grew up, when did you start drawing ect.)

Interview Portfolio.001I was born outside Toronto, Ontario Canada. My parents were divorced when I was young and my mom remarried soon after. My dad often transferred jobs growing up so we moved several times. After my mom remarried, we moved to Niagara Falls, Ontario and lived there until I was in 2nd grade. Then, we moved to San Diego, California for about 5 years. Next, we lived in Williamsport, Pennsylvania for about 3 years. We finally settled in Louisville, Kentucky in 1992 and have lived here every since.

I graduated from South Oldham High School in 1994. I received my undergrad in illustration from the Ontario College of Art and Design in 1998. I worked on a Master of Divinity at Southern Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky from 2002-2012. After graduating with the MDiv, I began and am currently pursuing a PhD in theology and philosophy from Southern.

I met my wife in Louisville, KY in 2005. We were married within a year and since then have had 4 kids: Georgia (7), Noah (5), Silas (4), and Eli (2).

I have been drawing as long as I can remember. My focus on comics came around middle school when my mom bought me the book, How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way. From this book, I learned the basics of comic book art. After high school, I pursued a degree in illustration from the Ontario College of Art and Design with the intention of drawing comic books for a living.

During my time in college, however, my dad died. This event deeply changed my life practically, philosophically, and spiritually. As a result, I became deeply interested in the teachings of Jesus and in 2000 I had what I can only describe as an encounter with God. I took the next 14 years to study and reflect on what had happened in my life and to deepen my understanding of what it means to know God personally. As a result, I put art away for many years. I entered seminary to study theology and philosophy and earn a Master’s degree. I met my wife and had children and life became very busy.

In the last couple of years, several friends encouraged me to get back into drawing. I was invited to attend the Lexington Comic Con and my love for comics was refreshed. I began drawing seriously again and continued developing my comic book storyline and characters from my youth. Over the past year, I have been focused on developing my comic book, The Silence, and currently am working on completing the first issue. I will also be writing a PhD thesis on the philosophical and spiritual themes in comic books and plan to pursue publishing my work after graduation.

When did you first start reading/getting into comics?

My uncle gave me an old G.I. Joe comic when I was in elementary school. Soon after this, my mom bought me the book, How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way. When I received this book, I began to take comic books seriously, both drawing and collecting. The first comic book I ever bought was The Thanos Quest. I began collecting comics in middle school. I started with the Thanos books and then the Armageddon crossover series that ran through the DC books. I also collected Green Lantern, Jim Lee’s X-Men, McFarlane’s Spider-Man, and most of the Image booksInterview Portfolio.002 from the 90s.

I collected comics for the art. I rarely read the books I bought but admired them for the artistry. I began buying comics according to the artist rather than storyline or character. I fell in love with the big names from the 1990s, particularly Jim Lee, Marc Silvestri, and Whilce Portacio. When I got back into comics in the last couple of years, I was happy to find out they were still involved in the comic industry and doing great work. I still love Lee, Silvestri, and Portacio, but lately I have been getting into the work of Jason Fabok, Greg Capullo, Leinil Yu, and the new Thor artwork by Russell Dauterman.

What is your favorite thing/comic/superhero/genre to draw?

I love working on my own characters and stories. I know this may sound self-absorbed or egotistical, but if you don’t love your own characters then your comic book is not going to be any good and you won’t have the perseverance to complete any work! I am fascinated by the process of creating an entire universe of characters and stories. I have many ideas and story lines floating around in my head that I look forward to getting down on paper over the next several years.

I am probably like many other comic book artists in that I love to draw cool action shots. The problem with this is that over time I have neglected certain fundamentals that I find myself having to go back and work on like backgrounds, cityscapes, and dialogue interaction between characters. Drawing sequential art is forcing me to work on these areas and I am thankful for this growth. I love doing page layouts and the challenge each page brings to try something new.

You have been working on your own comic called The Silence, can you tell me a little about it, how you got the idea, and what do you plan to do with it? (web comic, print, ect.)

The Silence has developed over many years of wrestling with issues of spirituality, philosophy, culture, and belief. In high school, I created a group of characters called “The SileInterview Portfolio.003nt Knights.” This original work was modeled after the traditional super hero format. The main group consisted of three characters: Whisper, a blind female character with telekinetic powers; Brindol, the leader of the group gifted with strength; and Railrun, a man struck by lightning who traveled using the electricity from the city’s subway rails. Over time, this group developed and changed. Whisper became Naomi. She remained blind, but instead of telekinetic power she was endowed with holobiotics, an imaginary medical treatment enabling her to see and make holographic weapons become real objects. Brindol became Lazarus. He retained his unusual strength, but was given an abusive background which left him crippled. This abuse intensified his anger, but his disablement impaired his ability to express it to full measure. Finally, Railrun was replaced with the Guards. The Guards are artificial intelligence robots assigned to watch and eventually protect Lazarus and Naomi.

The Silence takes place in the Prologomenon System-a solar system composed of 12 planets each named after the tribes of Israel, and representing a distinct worldview and philosophy. Lazarus and Naomi are raised on the planet Issachar-a dystopian society with which they soon become disillusioned. As I mentioned above, Lazarus grew up in an abusive situation which left him not only physically cripplInterview Portfolio.004ed but emotionally scarred as well. Lazarus deals with deep anger with people and the world. Naomi is blind and eventually finds out her treatments are killing her. She is mad at God over her sentence of death. Lazarus and Naomi discover a crash landed spaceship and are immediately confronted with a world that is not all that it seems. They travel into space only to discover a universe filled with war, violence, depravation, and brokenness. The Silence follows Lazarus and Naomi in their search for answers: Where did the spaceship come from? Who is Colonel Robert Graves? Who are the Guards? What is The Hierarchy? Who is the Face? They eventually discover a series of prophecies that will challenge everything they believe about life and God.

I call The Silence a science fiction parable because I have several purposes for the books: First, I want to create a comic book that is beautiful. My goal is not for it to be flashy orkitschy or typical. Instead, I hope when someone looks at the work and engages with the story they appreciate it as a work of beauty. Second, The Silence storyline presents a metanarrative, particularly a Christian metanarrative, that ties everything together in a way consistent with our experience of reality. Third, as a parable, The Silence is more than a fictional narrative to enjoy. The story is a rebellion against the postmodern disintegration of truth in our society. I want to show with this story that the relativism so many of us assume about life is self-referentially absurd and leads to some potentially dangerous conclusions. Additionally, I want to explore other issues in philosophy, gender, culture, and religion. My aim is not only to entertain or produce a high quality product, but to challenge our assumptions about life, reality, and belief in God.

My hope is for The Silence to be published in print format. In the meantime, I will continue to post drawings, sketches, and completed pages on my website.

Who is your biggest influence?

As I mentioned above, I learned a lot about comic book art from guys like Jim Lee, MarcSilvestri, and Whilce Portacio, but I have other important influences as well. Really, other than learning a few drawing techniques, most of my influences come from outside the comic book world. People often are thrown off by the fact that I don’t know much about comic books in terms of history or story lines. I once again find myself having to go back and learn much of this for my studies, but I am most influenced other sources.

First, obviously my friends and family are huge. My mom has always been one of my biggest fans and encouragers. My wife is my best editor. She does not have an eye for cInterview Portfolio.005omic book art, so it is interesting to hear her reaction to my drawing. I can always tell if my work has too much detail or is confusing when she starts turning the picture sideways or asking me questions that I think should be obvious. She helps me simplify and clearly communicate ideas. I want to be able to communicate to anyone with my art so if someone like her who is not a comic book fan can get what I am drawing and appreciate it, then I know my work is successful. Also, I have a circle of friends who are great encouragers and supporters of my work: my friend Terry, the guys at DT Comics (John, Daniel, Trey, and Ed), my good friend and drawing buddy Alex, and my fellow students from the IDEA group.

Some important artistic influences come from French and German Dada artists Marcel Duchamp and Max Ernst. Duchamp is my favorite artist of all time. Not only is he historically significant, but with him I grew to love modern art and conceptual design. Ernst’s collage work is fascinating as well. Interestingly, Ernst created one of the early pieces of sequential art with his Une Semaine De Bonte.

I love the writings of Franz Kafka. His existential, dystopian approach to story writing was a huge influence during the years after my dad died. Although, Kafka was not a science fiction author his work embodies the kind of hopelessness and angst that life without meaning, purpose, and (I would argue) God entails. His influence will definitely show up in The Silence as I explore the implications and logical conclusions of the various worldviews of history.

I also love the work of C. S. Lewis. He writes literary critiques, novels, myths, and fairy stories from a Christian perspective. I am fascinated with his ability to communicate profound thoughts using a genre as seemingly simple as children stories. Lewis is one of the best examples of what it means to be a Christian who is both creative and an intellectual. I hope to follow his example with The Silence by telling stories that are engaging both for their entertainment value and for their philosophical depth.

One of my favorite and influential social commentators and Christian philosophers is Francis Schaeffer. When I became a Christian in 2000, part of what convinced me of the depth and beauty of Christianity was Schaeffer’s writings on art, culture, and philosophy. Since becoming a Christian I have read most of his writing. Although he can sometimes be criticized as over simplifying the history of philosophy, I find his insights to be profound and helpful in thinking about art, culture, social issues, and philosophy.Interview Portfolio.006

Finally, I am fascinated by Jack White and Russell Brand. Jack White is not only an amazing musician, but he is a consummate performer. He understands the value of presentation, of creativity, and of quality. In interviews I have seen of him, I admire his thoughtfulness and intentionality in approaching music and his attention to detail even down to the vinyl records his company produces. I hope to approach comic book art in a similar way he approaches music with the same intensity, discipline, intentionality, and attention to detail. I see many parallels between the comic book industry and the music industry in terms of celebrity and cultural influence.

Russell Brand is brilliant. I know that may sound strange to include Russell Brand on my list of influences, but if you watch his stand up routine or interviews or YouTube commentaries, he uses comedy to communicate important ideas and observations about modern culture (ie. Messiah Complex). I do not agree with the solutions he proposes, but I do admire his ability to use comedy as a platform to get people to consider deep philosophical and sociological issues. Again, this approach is exactly what I hope to do with my comic book. I want to take a pop culture avenue of communication and engage people to consider important ideas.

Currently you are studying for your PHD, what do you plan to do when you graduate? Pursue a career in comics?

After I graduate, I want to pursue getting my comic book published. I would love to teach theology and philosophy as an adjunct professor on a college or seminary level as well, but my dream is for my comic book to be successful enough so I can work on it full time. Currently, I am working on my first issue of The Silence, and potentially, this issue will be part of my PhD dissertation.

I try to remain realistic.Interview Portfolio.007 Friends and family will tell you always tell you your work is good. This is not in a condescending or patronizing way, but they realize how much work you put into something and want to encourage you out of love. But reality is determined by whether the work can get published and if it sells. I pursued the PhD because of my love of learning, my desire to teach, the importance of ideas, and my love of God, and this study will pour over into the comic book.

For example, one of the main characters, Col Robert Graves, will be modeled after the author of the same name. Graves was a great influence on the atheist philosopher Christopher Hitchens. As I write The Silence, I will be using the tools and research strategies that I have learned from PhD work to learn about Graves’s life and philosophy and incorporate this information into the character. Likewise, as the story explores various worldviews and philosophies, my PhD studies will inform how I write and what will be included in the narrative. This is not to say that the book will be dense and difficult to understand, rather the background study and information will add dimension to the stories, making the book multi-layered and engaging.

I read you studied at OCAD, can you talk a little about how you time there has helped you grow and develop such a very unique style.

My time at the Ontario College of Art and Design (OCAD) seems like a lifetime ago. I graduated in 1998 and I was a different person back then. Of course we can all say that about ourselves from 16 years ago, but I was so immature and emotionally young. As a result, I did not leverage my time in the most profitable way possible. I did well in school but did not have the focus or wisdom necessary for this type of study. Taking a break from art over the past decade to work through my philosophical and theological issues and deepen my understanding of what it means to know God was the best thing I could have done. I feel like I am in a better place to focus on my art and have a clearer direction on what my next steps are and what areas I need to work on artistically.

I remember a particular professor during my studies at OCAD that pushed us really hard in our creative thinking. He was one of those teachers that was hardly satisfied with anything we submitted. He critiqued us hard and challenged us to create in ways beyond our normal range of ideas. This class helped add a conceptual aspect to my art, both in personal and comic book ideas.

As for style, I have had several influences as mentioned above, but mainly tons of practice. I believe we are all created as unique individuals, so even if you emulate a particular artist, unless you are directly copying their work, your individual style will inevitably come through in your work. We should not resist this aspect of creation, though I think it is hardly possible.

What pieces of art in your portfolio are you most proud of and why?

I am trying to push myself to be better with every piece. Working on sequential pages has challenged me to get better at backgrounds, composition, inking, etc. So I suppose I am most proud of the current piece I am working on, but in looking at my portfolio,Interview Portfolio.008 there are three pieces I particularly love. First, my pencil drawing, Lazarus and Naomi on Issachar’s Moon, is the piece I get the most comments on in my portfolio. I am happy with the composition, action, and level of detail in that piece. I worked hard on the background of that piece. Second, my character piece, A Priest of the Temple of the Four Orbs, is my favorite in terms of action, inking, and composition. Last, I am excited about my sequential work from the first issue of The Silence. This work is the first I have done in completing a book and has pushed me to become a better artist on multiple levels.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

My work can be found at www.thesilencecomics.com. I regularly post new drawings, sketches, and completed pages on this website.

I regularly post on Twitter (@thesilencecomic) and Facebook and I can be reached at

thesilencecomics@gmail.com.

 

Thanks Chad!

Manik

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