Disney, Dreamwave, IDW, and Toys- An Interview with Josh Perez
Hello, everyone! Rachel Stevens here again with yet another interview with a member of the IDW Transformers creative team, this time with colorist Josh Perez.
Say hi to the audience, Josh!
Hi, audience! Make sure to write down that I said it in high pitched 30s cartoon voice.
[laughs] So, Josh, what are you working on right now, and what have you worked on in the past?
Well, right now I’m working on The Transformers #44. In the past, I’ve worked on Transformers, Godzilla, some other ones. If it’s not Transformers, it seems to fade away, that’s the one I’m known for anyway.
How long have you been working on Transformers?
Hm..this September or August, it’ll be twelve years.
I somehow lucked out on that.
How did you get started working on Transformers?
Way back in 2003 before the Internet invented driving automocoaches to California for the Gold Rush [aside] that actually happened [/aside], Dreamwave did a More Than Meets The Eye profile book.
I was told that they had lots of artwork, more than they could handle in house. They were looking for extra chicken nuggets to do some for them. I’m not 100 percent, but I think I was told my friend Espen [Grundetjern] who’d been coloring for a year or two and that he threw my name in. Dreamwave liked my stuff, and I bounced around for a while after I left with whoever had the license.
Alex Milne didn’t want to talk about the less savory aspects of Dreamwave’s practices, would you mind getting into some of it it?
I didn’t have much interaction with it. There was one thing they did, which is an assumption on my part. Along the time they had financial troubles, it was taking a while to get checks. This happened with one or two checks, they sent checks with expired dates and I couldn’t cash it. It might have been a delaying tactic, it might have been an accident. It was funny when the person at the bank said [speaks in funny voice] “This is expired, you can’t cash it!”
It was along the time they were shutting down, it was kinda sad. A lot of us were willing to work on the books free just to have a chance to save it. We were unaware of how deep the problem was with Dreamwave, a lot were completely willing to do free work to help the company. As we figured out what happened, this sentimentality changed really fast. For me it wasn’t that much fun, I was excited to be in comics. I was not aware, I knew, but I wasn’t aware how shortcoming that would be.
When Dreamwave went under it put me in an awkward place financially, but I was lucky that I wasn’t going under or going to be on the streets. I was in college staying with my folks, it sucked getting excited and having that happen. It paid well. For all the trouble they paid relatively well, very well, extremely well- when you saw your money.
So, how’d you bounce around after Dreamwave shut down?
My friend Cil Cheung was working with Arcana for 100 Girls, she was going to college and her schedule was getting dense. She couldn’t handle the schedule and passed the book to me, I colored it for her. When that ended, around that time I wasn’t finding comic work. I’d done art for a Fleer Transformers card project that got scrapped. Around that time I was done with comics, it felt like I wasn’t getting that chance again, whatever. I was just trying to get a job that paid now.
I was in college again, Disney was doing a college program. Me and my twin were in the program, he did it the year before, and we decided to do it together. We were character performers in ’06. Meanwhile, Alex Milne was seeing Fun Publications, doing art for Games of Deception- no, it was the one before it, the Beast Wars set. I did colors for FunPub in the summer, Alex was getting more and more Transformers artwork. We collaborated, did fanart. When he got work he was tossing things my way. I colored Nick Roche’s Spotlight: Kup cover, I colored for Alex- lot of colors at that point. Alex and I got offered to do the Transformers movie adaptation.
The college program offered to extend, but I ended it to go into comics. I didn’t pursue Disney, went straight back into comics. I was fortunate to keep getting work.
So, I asked Alex a similar question in my last interview, but how do you feel about Alex Milne?
I like him, a little toooo much. [ominous voice] staring into sky.
No, but we’re really close. I’m really lucky to work on a lot of stuff together. I color his covers, we have the same back and forth, we’ve just moved from Messenger to Skype. When I’m working on something, I get into the habit of Screenshare. When I’m working on his covers, he won’t edit but make suggestions as I’m working. For the most part he lets me do my thing. We’ve been working for so long together doing fan art and pro work, he trusts my judgment to let me do whatever- unless it’s a continuity error or overall color interaction.
He’s a great guy- he also gives great hugs.
[I laugh here from the sudden change in subject, Josh laughs with me.]
On another note, what tools do you use, and what have you used in the past?
For the most part, computer and tablet. I used a mouse early on in Dreamwave, a combo of mouse and tablet. Mouse evolved to tablet, Photoshop and this. I was lucky enough to do some artwork for various things, places, companies.
I did buy Manga Studio, which is really easy to draw in, a lot more natural. There’s that, it’s more fun, I prefer it. If people want to draw on their computies I think Manga Studio’s really fun, but Photoshop is too- I’m rambling.
I’ve used a traditional medium for little lineart jobs, not coloring, nothing really big. I don’t have a huge repertoire of lineart. I’ve been using these tools for as long as I’ve been doing this. I’ve been using them before I’d been bouncing around, but I mean professionally.
How’d you develop your coloring style? In a few words, I’d describe it as sleek, shiny, and chrome.
Nice, I like those descriptions. I grew up with 80s mech anime, there’d be certain episodes that were really good with four tone cel shading. It gets heavier in the late 80s, early 90s. I really like that look, even if it’s not realistic. Human skin, shirts won’t do it, but I like how it looks, how it pops, with it being shiny/cel shading. My paint style feels neglected, though- I like to think people can identify what I do with brush strokes, but I prefer to use cel shading, very 80s anime based.
Well, it’s rad.
On another note, are there any projects you want to draw the lineart for?
I just got something that I’ve been wanting to do and I can finally do it, but I can’t say what it is. It’s not comics, but that’s a thing.
I would like to do some Transformers covers, I’ve gotten a lot more confident in style and how I work. For the longest time I’ve always wanted to work with Derrick [J Wyatt, co-creator of Transformers Animated].
I did so for the Allspark Almanac, I’m such a fanboy when I talk with him. I got to meet lots of cool people through him.
I would love to see more Animated stuff- it’s such a nice universe. Unique characters, refreshing takes on old characters. I’d love to see it continue, but it probably can’t for the legal reasons that made it stop. Hasbro’s focusing on other stuff now, that’s fine.
I’d love to do something Spider-Ham, anything with Spider-Ham. I should spam Marvel offices with Spider-Ham art.
Ahhh, I get it.
With Jim Zub writing it, there was this Dreamfinder/Figment comic, it was really great. The writing was amazing, Figment sounded like Figment. I got to be Figment for Disney, I didn’t know about him til then. I have a connection with the character now, I want to do something with him.
I don’t know, I like doing licensed properties, I like doing Transformers. If I get to keep working on it for a little bit longer, I’d be happy.
I do want to flex my pen more and not so much my crayons. It’s been fun, I couldn’t not do something Transformers.
That was a long answer, for something that could have been a simple answer. I’ve had lots of sugar, I’m VERY talkative.
I don’t know, it’s interesting stuff, the readers will be interested.
[jokes] If they can stop rolling their eyes for a bit I’m sure they will.
Something I would love to do if Mattel could bring back Computer Warriors, would love to do that. It was a very neglected 90s toyline, showed up and disappeared. A unique line ahead of its times. With people carrying around computers and smartphones everywhere, it could thrive today. Would love to do something with that — design, comics, if someone gets the license, but I don’t think anyone will. [sighs] I love Computer Warriors.
I’m going to make sure to write down the sigh there.
[laughs] Please do!
So, Nick Roche is an artist who also writes a lot of his stuff, or co-writes it. Is there anything you want to do if you could both write and draw something?
I’m going to put out a- I’m slowly putting out a Pizza Party comic. [Interviewer’s note: Pizza Party is a goofy series of doodles Josh puts out on his deviantart and twitter accounts] It’s not so much the Transformers version, it’s a dumb little Pizza Party cop thing, a cop who don’t listen to no rules. It’s a pet project, I’ll put out a small book, a small comic.
If I could, I’d love to tell a Transformers horror story — I know MTMTE and RID have their horror moments, but I’d love to do a whole anthology with a Generation 1 type story, I think that’d be fun. It’s a weathered device kind of thing- I’m stuck in the late 80s and early 90s, I want to write goofy things that I think are amazing and scary. [criticizing voice] What’s scary is they gave him a job!
I do think Transformers lends itself to a variety of genres, like superheroes.
I also asked this to Alex: is there anything I haven’t asked you that you want to talk about?
[thinks for a moment] What’s your favorite kind of pizza topping.
[Laughs] I’m very boring and I like pepperoni pizza.
[Very serious voice] There’s nothing wrong with pepperoni, the good thing about it is that you can walk into a pizza store and know that they have it for you.
I’m a Hawaiian pizza or meat lovers pizza guy- if they have spicy, I like spicy.
That’s just about everything about me- pizza, Computer Warriors, 90s toys that fell into obscurity like Food Fighters or Barnyard Commandos.
[Laughs] Thank you so much! That just about wraps it up, thank you for the interview!
Yeah, this was very much fun interview thing.
Those words fell out, you’ll have to put them together like a puzzle.
[Laughs] We’ll have to do this again sometime, maybe catch up in a year or so to check in on The Transformers?
Sure! I’ll practice my old man voice and speak in it the entire time- [affecting an old geezer voice] “Things have been good since the war!”
[Laughing] Thank you again, I hope you have a good night!
Thank YOU, I hope YOU have a good night! I’m pointing at my mic to represent YOU.