A Little Book About Japanese Vending Machines

Back in the spring, my girlfriend Sabina and I took a trip to Japan. We had a great time and it was interesting to see firsthand the differences between North American and Japanese culture, both big and small. One of the small differences that most caught my attention was their affinity for vending machines.

So when I got home I drew a cute little illustrated book/comic/zine about the vending machines I saw during our trip to Japan. I printed a small run just in time for the Vancouver Comic Arts Festival. I’ve since re-printed it and you can order a copy from my Etsy Shop.

Join me and Sabina (drawn as a dog and a cat) as we explore the various drinks and mysteries to be found in Japanese vending machines.

If you don’t want the paper & staples version, you can order a digital PDF of the book via Gumroad.

Atomicon + Vancouver Comic Con + VanCAF

If you dig comics and other graphic arts, there are a few events you should check out in Vancouver this month.

ATOMICON — The animation studio I work at, Atomic Cartoons, is putting on a convention at the Anza Club on Friday, May 12, from 6-11pm. I’ll have a table there, as will over 30 other artists from our studio. It’s free to attend but you do need to be 18 or older, since it’s a licensed venue. A great place to grab a pint and then buy some cool prints, comics, buttons and other art objects.

VANCOUVER COMIC CON — Then on Sunday, May 14, there’s a comic show at Heritage Hall. I won’t be a guest at this convention but my pals James Stokoe and Marley Zarcone will be back in town to promote their current comics, Aliens: Dead Orbit and Shade the Changing Girl, respectively. $4 admission / free for kids under 14.

VANCAF — I will be tabling at the Vancouver Comic Arts Festival on Saturday & Sunday, May 20-21. That weekend you can wander into the Roundhouse Community Arts & Recreation Centre for free and check out what over 250 comic creators have to offer. There will also be a bunch of panels and workshops, including comics lessons for kids & teenagers throughout the weekend. Featured guests this year are Brandon Graham, C. Spike Trotman, Chip Zdarsky, Faith Erin Hicks, Sandrine Revel, Mike Lawrence, Marcelino Truong and Katherine Collins.

Hanging Up My Teaching Hat

Tonight is my final comics class at VanArts (the Vancouver Institute of Media Arts). For the past 12 years I’ve taught a part-time course called Introduction to Comic Book Production. I showed students the tools & tricks of the trade, helped them learn about all the things a comic artist should think about when crafting a page and encouraged them to strive for clear storytelling so the reader has a smooth and enjoyable experience.

It was good. I feel confident that I was able to give students their money’s worth and, in most cases, make them stronger storytellers. It was also a nice outlet for me to share the things that get me excited about the comics medium. But it’s been difficult juggling the course with full-time employment in animation, especially as my responsibilities there increase. So I’ve decided to bring this chapter to a close. I’ve accomplished what I wanted to as a teacher and now it’s time to focus on new opportunities.

Thanks to VanArts for providing me the venue and support to share my comic book knowledge over the past 12 years. And thanks to the 151 students who passed through my course and let me ramble at them about the comic creation process. I hope you got something out of my post-it note critiques.

Just remember: You should always plan out your lettering in your thumbnails!

A sampling of those post-it note critiques.

Everafter #6

I drew issue #6 of EVERAFTER for Vertigo Comics. It’s a stand-alone story, hitting comic shops on Feb 1st! It’s a spin-off of FABLES! Go get it!

Experience the dawn of the Everaftering through the eyes of the legendary magician, The Amazing Szymon! At a crisis point in his tired career, the Amazing Szymon is on the verge of throwing it all away when his tricks of the trade are suddenly revitalized by real and inexplicable magic. After Feathertop intervenes with a promise to guide this new Fable in exchange for his service with the Shadow Players, Szymon’s mission to rescue a Mundy pop star from a distant goblin realm reveals sinister underpinnings.

Written by Dave Justus & Lilah Sturges. Pencils by Steve Rolston. Inks by Ande Parks. Colours by Michael Wiggam. Cover by Tula Lotay.


Hourly Comic Day 2016

February 1st was Hourly Comic Day, where people do a tiny comic for every hour that they’re awake. I had posted mine on Instagram and Twitter (hashtag #hourlycomicday) throughout the day but here’s the entire load compiled together:

Public Relations #6 in Previews Catalog

Wow, has it really been 5 years since I’ve had something new on comicshop shelves? Well don’t cry… the wait is over!

PUBLIC RELATIONS #6 is in the current Diamond Previews catalog with a launch date of March 9th. Our publisher, Devil’s Due / First Comics is also putting out a collection of the previous arc, so everyone can catch up if they’re late to the party.

I should note that someone screwed up and the Previews listing says #6 is still being drawn by David Hahn, who valiantly pencilled the first five issues. But ignore that. It’s me. Cross my heart.

PUBLIC RELATIONS is a workplace comedy that takes place in a magickal kingdom. It has both dragons AND dick jokes! Written by funny guys Matthew Sturges & Dave Justus, pencilled by me, inked by José Marzán Jr, coloured by Hi-Fi Color and graced with covers by Annie Wu. Are you sold yet?

Head on down to your local comic shop and ask them to pre-order PUBLIC RELATIONS #6-11 from Devil’s Due for you. Maybe ask for that first collection too.

Here’s a sample page from #6 to let you see what you’re in for.

Public Relations #6 pg 18

Comic Lecture at Vancouver Public Library

I’m going to be giving my talk on creating comics at the Central Branch of the Vancouver Public Library on the evening of Thursday, January 14th. I’ll be discussing the basics of drawing comics and explaining the typical stages of script, thumbnails, pencils, inks and lettering, using examples from the graphic novel Emiko Superstar. The event is free to attend.

See more event details here. 

This is a good talk for those who are new to making comics and want to get a glimpse at how another artist does it. This will also give you a good idea of the types of things I teach in my comics course at VanArts. My next course there starts up on January 25th UPDATE: We’ve pushed the next start date to February 15th.

Comics in Transit: Doors of Copenhagen

Doors of Copenhagen comic

Here’s the one-page comic I created for the COMICS IN TRANSIT project put together by Cloudscape Comics and the City of Vancouver. Twenty different comics by local artists are gracing some bus shelters for the next month. Each comic is only at one location and I don’t know which one mine is at, so let me know if you see it!

You can find a list of all the locations on the Cloudscape website, where they also have information about a contest they’re running. Basically, tweet a photo of yourself in front of one of the comics and you can win some Cloudscape comics.

Some of you may recognize the doors from the photos I took while visiting Denmark, meant as reference for another comic. When this project came along to create a one-page comic about an international city, it was a no-brainer to tackle Copenhagen in this way.

Patreon Hiatus

Project Status: HIATUS

A little over a year ago I started a Patreon account so people could get a sneak peek and support me as I worked on a new comic called TRAPEZIUS PEPPER. But the project has been on “semi-hiatus” for the past 8 months as I’ve been busy working full-time as a storyboard artist.

It’s time for me to officially bump our status to “HIATUS” with a capital H.

The storyboard work has been going really well. I’m improving my storytelling skills and paying bills while I’m at it. The downside is that it doesn’t leave me with much time or energy to put toward my own projects.

I don’t know how long the hiatus will last but my current plan is to stick with storyboarding for a while longer. I want to get the loan sharks off my tail before I take another gamble on creator-owned comics. So I’ll be putting this project on the backburner until I can properly dedicate my time to it.

The Patreon account is going to stay online so people can still see the practice pages and process posts I created for it. Feel free to sign up and pledge at the $1 level so you can see all the posts. You won’t be charged! I’ll make sure to give everyone plenty of warning when the hiatus ends and it’s time to start charging for new content.

I’m very grateful to those who have already shown an interest and given me their support. Know that I WILL be returning to this project. I have a bunch of ideas for stories and games in the world of TRAPEZIUS PEPPER and I’ll be tinkering with those ideas whenever I get a chance.

Thanks for checking out what I’ve done so far!


Learn Clear Storytelling

My former student Michael Weber has posted his third and final blog entry about his experience taking my part-time comic book course at VanArts. He’s titled this one:

Learn Clear Storytelling from Steve Rolston

That’s definitely something I emphasize in my class: making sure it’s clear to the reader what is going on and where they’re supposed to be looking. In this post, Michael shows how I coached him through a particularly tricky sequence in his Dawn Line comic. He had some cool ideas on how to lay out the panels but it took some tweaking before we got a version where we knew it would be read in the correct order.

Weird Sequence

My notes on his work also highlight just how much thought goes into drawing a comic page; whether it’s composition, timing, continuity, physics, legibility, sound effects or the many other things a comic creator has to consider. If I see my students doing something that could confuse or annoy their reader, I will call them out on it so they know to avoid those problems in the future.

It’s nice to know that Michael appreciated my critical eye and the advice I had to offer. If you’re interested in having a similar experience and you live in Vancouver, check out my Intro to Comic Book Production course. The next course is scheduled to start very soon, on Monday, March 30th.