As originally posted at OzComics.com, archived here

INTERVIEW WITH IMPURE STUDIOS
CLAYTON CRAIN, KEVIN CONRAD AND JONATHAN GLAPION

By Darren Close 11.10.00


Impure Studios is situated in [insert city & location here] and is the workplace of three comic artists, Clayton Crain, Jonathan Glapion and Kevin Conrad. They've been together for the best part of 4 years, working primarily for Todd McFarlane Productions on books such as KISS: The Psycho Circus, Curse of the Spawn, Sam & Twitch and Spawn: The Dark Ages. More recently they have worked on the Darkness for Top Cow, as well as an upcoming mini-series entitled "No Honor".


LEGEND: I will label each question with a moniker to indicate who I'm asking the question, however if someone else would like to add their comments as well on that particular question, feel free; I'm trying to make it as ad lib as possible.

CC: Clayton Crain
JG: Jonathan Glapion
KC: Kevin Conrad
ALL: Question to all of you, however not everyone needs to answer the question unless they want to.

Please use this legend with each of your responses to help me determine who's saying what :)

ALL: Guys, thanks for your time!

CRCRAIN: No problem and thank you for being so patient with us
KC: Absolutely! It’s our pleasure!

ALL: First of all, how did Impure Studios form? Do you all live nearby and needed some studio space and decided to join together in your efforts? Or did you know one another for years before forming the Studio? Or is there no actual physical studio, and Impure is just an imprint that you all refer to?

CRCAIN: I had an Idea for a while to create a website where myself and others artist could have work displayed and available 24/7. March of this year I brought the idea of having a website up to Jonathan and Kevin and it that is when the ball started rolling on the studio. Keeping the ball rolling was due to Jonathan’s enthusiasm and consistent interest. Which soon turned from ‘my’ project to ‘our’. We don’t live very close unless 2000 miles is close, but we’ve known each other for about a year and a half. It would be ideal if we lived closer but unfortunately it is not an ideal world.
KC: Yeah, there is no ‘central’ studio, but it’s cool to have it perceived that way. We all help each other out though, kind of like we’re all together in one big room…FedEx and Ma Bell makes it all happen.

JG:I liked the idea of having a website. Clayton had the name Impure tucked away in his pocket since high school. We thought it was perfect, it's short and to the point. For me the attraction to doing a website stemmed from the lack of attention given to the artist at TMP. The website would also give people a rare look at the process of a page from start to finish. It is still a work in progress, however I feel it's one of the best comic related site out there. I guess what I'm saying is the designers kick ass.
ALL: Do you have any plans for creator-owned stuff, or are you happy for the moment doing work for hire?

CRCRAIN: Of course and of course, but the difference lies in ‘making a movie’ and ‘playing in a movie’ and to switch from the latter to the former are steps I’m not ready for.
KC: I know exactly what you’re talking about, It’s a bit scary taking on something that you’re wholly responsible for with nobody but yourself to blame if it bombs. I think we all have concepts we would like to see come to fruition, I know I do.

JG: It's something we talk about. I have much to learn about this business and now wouldn't be the best time to jump into a creator-owned situation. Crain's answer was cooler than mine. What's up with that?

ALL: What sort of music is on high rotation on the studio stereo?

CC: Pearl Jam and Janis Joplin are on the top at the moment but public Radio seems to creep in more and more often. Classical music is more of an escape. The harder music of Def Tones, Rage Against the Machine and Ministry demand more of my attention.
KC: I love just about all of it…from swing to metal to thrash.

JG: We do have three different locations so I don't know about those other two chumps. In my studio however, you will hear Backstreet Boys, Brittany Spears and then a loud bang from the gun I shot myself with. Seriously I range from Wu Tang to Limp Bizkit. Lately I've been into motion picture score (i.e. The Insider & Gladiator).

ALL: Who has the most annoying habit?

JG: Crain has a habit of leaving message on my machine that a dog couldn't hear. Sorry Crain.

CRCRAIN: Across the board it would be safe to say our friend ‘Procrastination’. But in it’s defense, due to a stigma; the drive for creation is necessity.
KC: Huh?

ALL: Is it true that comic artists get all the babes?

CRCRAIN: Like a curse it is.

JG: Yeah but it's costing me a fortune.
KC: pssst…don’t tell our wives!

CC: Clayton, I was so blown away by your Spider-man pic, I emailed Joe Quesada and demanded that he hire you for that book! Would you do it if he asked you? Dumb question I know, I was mainly asking whether you've always wanted to do a run on Spider-Man, or was that just a one-off?

CRCRAIN: Spiderman is on my top three books I’d like to curse with my talents

ALL: The bulk of your work seems to be for Todd McFarlane Productions, what's it like working for Todd? What sort of relationship do you have with him, have you met with him often? What's your thoughts on the company and its direction in relation to the industry?

CRCRAIN: Todd is an interesting fella’ and I’ve enjoyed our conversations. Being a huge fan of his amazing spider-man work back in the 80’s. As far as TMP, my view maybe distorted, their like a good friend you find hard to put any stock into.

JG: I broke into comics at TMP. Up until I learned my days were numbered on Sam and Twitch I never went out side of TMP. Whether you like Todd or hate him he has succeeded were many have failed. I don't agree with all of his decisions. The funny thing is that I literally lived five minutes away from Todd (even before I worked for him). Todd has always taken the time to give me those valuable lessons. That's a big deal. Remember Todd is on the phone about 85% of his day.
KC: From my first stint with Todd back in the Blood Feud and Spawn days, I know from experience that if you hear too much from him, your in trouble. I got a lot of direction from him back then and I couldn’t grasp what he was trying to teach me, so I ultimately failed and lost my gig. I came back on board three years ago this past June and I have talked to him twice in that time; I like it that way. As far as his direction, I think he’s doing the right thing by expanding his business. I also think that he’s ignoring what got him there in the first place. The tree will die if the roots can’t get to water.
ALL: There seems to be quite a turmoil at TMP lately, with books being cancelled left right and center, writers leaving, creative teams switching... has any of these executive decisions affected any of you guys and work that you thought you were doing for them? Has that led you to the recent Top Cow stuff?
KC: Yeah, our book (Kiss-Psycho Circus) got cancelled!
CRCRAIN: I was aware that my time with TMP was short

JG: I was told Sam & Twitch could be a revolving artist book, so it was just a matter of time. I still think the best issue was the one Crain did.

ALL: How did you feel about your work on Curse of the Spawn, did you enjoy working on that book? Was it cancelled out from under you, or did you know it was being cancelled beforehand?

CRCRAIN: The stories were liner but I enjoyed the book very much.

JG: It was fun working over Turner and Crain, but the writing was on the wall.

ALL: Was a lot of this TMP work hopefully going to get you a short gig on the big one, the Spawn book? Were you contacted as possible replacements for Capullo, or did Angel Medina have his foot in that door too far ahead of you guys? :)

CRCRAIN: The hope was there. Beau Smith called me on the hush-hush and asked for a pin-up of Spawn and who ever the better man in Todd’s eyes gets the job.

JG: I actually have the original pin-up Crain did inked by Conrad. I think the best guy lost, but that’s my opinion. You be the judge when it debuts on www.impurestudios.com underground section.
KC: Amen, Brother!
ALL: Do you get along well with Angel? You've worked with him so often in the past he'd probably be a natural addition to your little studio, assuming he lived nearby.

JG: Does he even like inkers?
KC: If stabbing someone in the back is getting along with them, then we got along fine. That aside, he’s a nice guy, go figure. About midway through Angel's stint on KPC, he started to grind his pencil into the pages, creating ‘gullies' in the paper making it very difficult to get a spontaneous inked line. We always had
friendly banter about it; with me knowing full well that he didn't want me to change one line of his pencils. I was 'taught' by two industry heavy weights (Todd & Greg), to 'do what ever it takes to make the page work'. I can honestly say Angel was the only penciler that I've worked with (to my knowledge) that had a problem with me doing so. To Angel's credit, he is very talented and has stated that I was probably the best inker he's had (before Danny Miki, that is!) When Angel left KPC and was still doing covers, he called me to tell me he was going to ink
certain parts of the covers. I told him it was not his book, it was mine and the inking was my job and my job alone. He proceeded to tell me that he had been telling Todd since issue #2 of KPC that I was not the right inker for him; keep in mind that he told me this after 17 issues have gone by. I told him if Todd thought the same, I would not have stayed on the book for 17 issues (and finally 31). For 17 issues this guy was trying
to get me off the book while pretending he's my friend; I poured my heart and soul into that book from the first issue to the last. That book was my livelyhood, my job, it paid my mortgage and fed my family and he tried to pull that out from underneath me. Angel has a way of insulting you while smiling to your face and feigning ignorance while doing it to get his point across. I defy anyone to compare his pencils to my inks and tell me the
page sucks. I don't have anything against Angel personally, he is a great talent, but he continually tried to stifle mine. If he wants someone to trace his inks (and I've told him this), he needs to do his own project where he has complete control over the whole thing. Todd's studio is every bit an inker driven studio as well as pencils, and if he doesn't understand this he’s working for the wrong guy. If we ever were teamed up again, nothing would change on my part. I would do whatever I needed
to to express my own creativity, i.e.; in the past I've redrawn and light boxed his pencils so I wouldn't have to deal with the ruts he would intentionally leave in the pages. And you can print this.
ALL: Were you big-time KISS fans before you started working on The Psycho Circus? And if you weren't before, are you now? Have you met the band, and if so what was that like?

CRCRAIN: NO.
JG: Nope
KC: OH YEAH! HUGE, ABSOLUTELY HUGE FAN! Read my interview in issues 8-10 of the comic and #5 of the mag for more on that, I won’t bore these guys with my fan-boy rantings! I will say that KISS-PSYCHO CIRCUS has been and will probably remain the high point of my career until I’m able to do my own project.
ALL: In issues #23 and #24 of KISS, many fans have long wondered if it was Kismet that handed tickets to Iris and Ivy to the club. Do you know if this was the case?

CRCRAIN: It was one of Kismets hottest moments.
KC: WOO HOO!
ALL: Do you have a favorite issue of KISS that you worked on?

CRCRAIN: 24 and 25 were two of my favorites. There was something about working on an issue that didn’t take place in a city with cars and other modern crap of the world.
KC: I definitely agree, especially 24. Clayton and I sort of added a bit to the story through the middle of it and it really worked. It reads like an old Hammer horror film. The last issue (31) is very special to me also. I got my cover that I penciled and Clayton inked on that one. I’d say it’s more of a jam piece, Crain busted hump on that one. I memorialized my mom in my signature…finished penciling it on the morning of her wake.
JG: Issue 28. The only one I worked on. Hehehe!
KC: Thanks for the much needed help, bud.
ALL: And what's going on with KISS: The Psycho Circus? There hasn't been any official announcement from TMP on the status of the book, and many fans are wondering what's going on. Is it cancelled?
KC: It went to the big circus tent in the sky.
CRCRAIN: I heard a rumor of a Spawn/Demon Crossover.

ALL: Does the recent shift to Top Cow indicate a change of direction for Impure Studios in the future? Do you have any other projects in the pipeline for them, or is there more TMP stuff on the horizon?
KC: They moved me right over to Spawn-The Dark Ages and left Clayton swinging in the breeze. I have helped out on a couple of the Darkness issues that Clayton did. TMP has been my home for some time now, but if anyone knows me, they know I do a bit of work on the side for Top Cow and DC.
CRCRAIN: Jonathan and I are currently working on NO HONOR with top cow. As far as TMP I see no future.

JG: I'm happy to be with Top Cow and No Honor looks to be a fun book. As for TMP, I never say never but it's kind of like going back to the girl friend that ignored you. Who needs that bitch?
KC: Never, never burn your bridges.
ALL: There seems to be a very identifiable 'style' or look to most work produced by TMP. Is this something you're encouraged to perpetuate, or is the fact that Kevin has been working for them for so long actually been attributed to that?
KC: Yes, yes, I am the God of all that I survey! Seriously, there is a ‘freestyle’ approach to inking at TMP that really allows inkers to grow and be a creative force on the books instead of becoming just some kind of inking drone.
CRCRAIN: I was influenced by Todd’s 80’s/early 90’s style but I hope to find myself someday soon and break away from others shadows.

JG: That's the case for every studio. Todd gives the freedom to explore, so I think it's just an influence thing and of course being professional you want to have some continuity.

KC: You've worked with TMP the longest, were you responsible for bringing Clayton and Jonathan into the fold, or did you meet them through TMP?
KC: They just throw me whoever is closest and hope we get along.
JG: So that makes you the old goat Kevin.
KC: Old is a state of mind…and don’t talk back to your elders!
KC: For a while there your name was synonymous with Tony Daniel, with X-Force and even on your first Spawn stuff, the Blood feud mini-series. It seemed like where he went, you went. Do you still get along with Tony these days or did you have a bit of a falling out?
KC: Being an inker leaves you at a bit of a disadvantage in this industry. You need to ‘attach’ yourself to a penciler for as long as possible for job security. I thought I had my grubby little ink hooks in deep with Clayton, but alas, fate has dealt me a shattering blow! Tony and I are friends, and I do help him out occasionally, we just started growing apart creatively. I also hooked him up with my former assistant, Rich Bonk, who has done quite a bit of work for Tony lately.

ALL: All (Tony) Daniel's books these days seem to be desperately trying to keep pushing the T&A mentality in comics, what's your views on the whole T&A issue?

CRCRAIN: It’s crude and easy like toilet humor & cursing. So I have no problem with it.
KC: T&A? In comics? Nah, it will never sell!
JG: It's a sure shot, so go with what you know right. Sometimes it gets old though. Who the hell said that?
KC: There he goes again…talkin’ about us old folks!
CC: Clayton, your surname seems to be spelled differently depending on which book you're working on! Even I wasn't sure at first. Does this bug you a lot? I know for sure it bugs Eric Larson, oops, make that Erik Larsen!

CRCRANE: What do you mean?

CC: There's been a lot of criticism by the hardcore Darkness fans that your recent renditions show Jackie as a "short-haired dweeb" to name a few. Do you see that as the natural stigma of a "fill-in artist", or was the script for the book calling for a different physical description of the character?

CRCRAIN: it was written, “short or pulled back tight”, short sounded different. He’s in witness protection program and looking unlike the high profile GQ kind of guy he is was intentional. I wouldn’t worry his hair will grow back, he’ll shower, shave and be back to normal by issue 37.

CC: On the other hand, many of these same people are really looking forward to your upcoming Top Cow mini-series "No Honor", penned by Fiona Avery. Can you give us some more details on this project, have you been involved in the story or character development much? Is Kevin or Jonathan going to ink this book? Can you send us any preview art or sketches for this book? :)

CRCRAIN: The writing is all Fiona. I drew characters until she was pleased. When Jonathan and I are closer to finished (and get the “Okay”) we’ll send you clips.

JG: I saw in your online portfolio that you've done some penciling work yourself, is this something you'd like to pursue further, or are you happy to keep inking? What about you Kevin?

JG: Absolutely. Then Play station 2 came out, damn. My wife has been bugging me to do some paintings (water color) for the house. Did I mention I also have two Dreamcast systems?
KC: You should see some of my work on the site when it’s updated. I would love to pencil full time, only my full time job doesn’t allow me too! I have penciled a few things in comics that made it to print; a Spawn pin-up in #31, a cover for Samson Comics’ Blood Bath #1, and OvertKill trading card for the first series, a cover for a Kiss fan mag, and finally Kiss, Psycho Circus #31 cover. In addition, I just finished a CD cover for a band out of LA that is searching for a record label. With my luck, they won’t get signed.

ALL: You have a pretty awesome website for your studio (www.impurestudios.com), where do you see the future of comics and the Internet? Will they eventually become one, or will the world of printed books always remain? With the rising production costs, surely the Internet can provide a more cost-effective solution to comics entertainment? (once the logistics of "How does it make money" are figured out)

CRCRAIN: Thanks but it’s due to the impure web designers. I believe comic books will be eaten alive by the Internet and video games and forty years down the road the collecting of comics will strive once again.
KC: Forty Years?!!! I can’t wait forty years! Do you know how old I’ll be in forty years?
JG: I think it would be a sad day if print were killed by the Internet. I don't see it happening. People will always have the need to have something they can hold and pick up later. Besides, if you're stranded and run out of toilet paper, how useful is that computer now?
KC: We must put our heads together and find a way to link the printed book and the Internet.
ALL: Well, thanks for your time guys! Be sure to keep me informed on what’s happening there at Impure, and good luck for the successes of the future!

JG: Thank you for giving us the attention.
KC: Thank you for letting us ramble.
ALL: Here I have compiled a short checklist of your work in the industry. Please amend with anything I've missed:


Clayton Crain
Shadowman Vol.2 Issues 16-20 (pencils) Acclaim
KISS: The Psycho Circus Issues 18-31 (pencils) TMP
Curse of the Spawn Issues 24-29 (pencils) TMP
The Darkness Issues 34-36 (pencils) TOP COW
No Honor (upcoming) Issues 1-4 (pencils) TOP COW
Sam & Twitch Issues 15 (pencils)

Jonathan Glapion
KISS: The Psycho Circus Issue 28 (inks) TMP
Curse of the Spawn Issues 22-29 (inks) TMP
Spawn: The Dark Ages Issues 12, 16, 18 (inks) TMP
Sam & Twitch Issues 1-8, 10-15 (inks) TMP
Violent Messiahs Issues 4 (inks)
No Honor (upcoming) Issues 1-4 (inks) TOP
The Darkness Issues 34-36 (inks) TOP
Objective Five Issues 5 (inks)

Kevin Conrad
X-Force Issues ?? (inks) MARVEL
Spawn: Bloodfeud Issues 1-4 (inks) TMP
KISS: Psycho Circus Issues 1-31 (inks) TMP
Spawn: The Dark Ages Issues 15, 16 (inks) TMP

Too many to list, see my fan site at kevinconradart.com for a complete list of my books.


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