Dive In and Swim Toronto Artist Helps Seaguy Find Legs

Dive In and Swim Toronto Artist Helps Seaguy Find Legs
Talent is not always enough. Luck plays a part in a successful career, and Toronto-based artist Cameron Stewart has had his share. A chance meeting five years ago got him his first break; now the talented illustrator has been handed an innovative new title.

Born in Canada, Stewart grew up in England and decided early on he wanted to draw comics. He taught himself by copying a variety of styles he admired, teaching himself the language of the medium without dropping thousands of dollars at an art school.

"There weren't any schools that centred on and catered to comics," he says, "so I taught myself. Once I figured out how artists were constructing their panels, I would file it away until I needed the information."

His vision caught the eye of Grant Morrison, creator of the DC Vertigo title The Invisibles and writer of many DC titles such as JLA. At the 1999 San Diego comic convention, Stewart handed him his portfolio. "I showed him my portfolio of Invisibles art and asked him if I could work with him. Next thing I know, Morrison's pulling strings and I'm working on The Invisibles. Wild." From his work on The Invisibles came other opportunities, none more momentous than Catwoman.

"I had been inking on a title called Deadenders, and the creative team was just about to shift to Catwoman. I was brought on as inker for Catwoman based on the suggestion from the writer of Deadenders. Once my inking work was seen, I was offered the book."

Although he'd prefer to work on creator-owned books, he doesn't deny that mainstream work had its perks — it solidified his reputation in the industry. "Working on Catwoman taught me many valuable things about comics technically and the industry in general. Before Catwoman there were a few people who knew who I was, but it was that book that really gave me a lot of exposure."

Yet Stewart always wanted to do a full-length comic with Morrison, the man who got him his first break in comics. "Grant just called me up out of the blue and said, ‘I'm doing this book for DC Vertigo, do you want to do it?' I agreed to it without even seeing a script. When I saw the script, I was glad I had said yes."

Entitled Seaguy, the book centres on a utopian society where the need for heroes has been eliminated. After the defeat of the last evil villain, Anti-Dad, the heroes who hadn't perished in the battle simply hung up their capes. Everyone but Seaguy. With his sidekick Chubby Da Choona, a tough talking cigar smoking tuna fish that somehow swims in midair, Seaguy longs for his days of adventure. Tranquilly playing chess with Death (who's a colour-blind gondolier) while longing for the beautiful She-Beard (yep, she's got a beard) fills up his days. When strange lunar meteors begin to fall to earth bearing hieroglyphic markings, Seaguy and Chubby start playing hero again.

When asked if Seaguy is a rip off of DC's other water warrior, Aquaman, there is an edge of irritation to Stewart's answer. "Aquaman is King of Atlantis and has telepathic abilities that enable him to communicate with various forms of sea life. Seaguy is a regular guy with no powers in a scuba suit. Seaguy drives a boat. That's as close to the water as he gets."

Stewart's distinctive style is perfect for this project. Based on a young Peter O'Toole, Stewart has broken out of the habit of bold action poses and not following a structured art style has helped him make a personal connection to the characters. And he's pleased about drawing a smoking fish.

Royal Academy of Illustration and Design
Two years ago, four artists met and began discussing the pitfalls of working at home. None could afford their own studio space, so they shared. Deciding on a name took a bit of time, but after batting around a few names, the Royal Academy of Illustration and Design finally stuck.

Made up of Kagan McLeod, Cameron Stewart, Ben Shannon and Steven Murray, the studio is where the four go to work on their individual projects. With so much talent wafting around, one would think it would be difficult to concentrate with all the activity, but Cameron Stewart enjoys the diversity. "It's great to see what the other guys are working on and offer or receive feedback. I'm constantly learning things from the others, and I relish the creative environment."

Kagan McLeod independently publishes Infinite Kung-Fu a comic that centres on kung fu. Ben Shannon has illustrated for Nike, Rolling Stone, Universal Records and Exclaim!, among others. His comic work appears in Big Dumb Fun published by Oddgod Press. Steve Murray, aka Chip Zdarsky, is the man behind Prison Funnies, a mature comic based on the lives and loves of felons. He also illustrates for Popimage.com and All-Star Magazine. The foursome have pooled their creativity together to publish an anthology of their own original works titled Rumble Royale.