Caitlin Yarsky Black Hammer Reborn Q & A Interview by Anthony Andujar Jr 5/16/22
Interviewer: Anthony Andujar Jr
Interviewee: Caitlin Yarsky
Q1. You’ve been working in comics for some time, having worked on titles such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Boom Studios), Coyotes (Image), Bliss (Image), and various variant covers. You recently wrapped up work on the latest installment of the Black Hammer series, Black Hammer Reborn (Dark Horse Comics) with Jeff Lemiere (Writer), Dave Stewart (Colorist), and Nate Piekos (letterer). The first question that should be asked is: How did you get into comics? What started you on your journey to working within this beautiful medium of storytelling?
CY: I had been drawing personal comics on and off my whole life but hadn’t thought to try and turn that into any kind of career. I was working at a game studio for about 6 years when I saved up some money and left the job, and was able to stay with a friend rent-free for a while, as I figured out my new direction and pursued freelance illustration. When I decided to try comics, I wrote and drew a ten-page story and shopped it around as a portfolio piece. Early on I got some game, logo, animation, and a couple comic gigs, none of which got published. At some point, I was contacted by Sean Lewis who had seen my pages on Facebook (I had submitted to Boom!’s wall as part of their submission process). He sent me what he had written so far for Coyotes, and I loved the story and agreed to work with him. We eventually got picked up by Image and the rest is history.
Q2. When you landed your gig on Black Hammer Reborn, how did you get involved in this project? Were you familiar with that universe prior to taking the job? What attracted you to working within that peculiar universe?
CY: A friend has asked me to submit my work for a new project but I didn’t know what it was or who was writing. When I was picked I found out, and it was my first exposure to Black Hammer. I immediately picked up the main series and loved the story- the characters felt so real and nuanced, the mystery of the farm was compelling, and the twist on traditional superhero tropes was wonderful.
Q3. What was the process like in regards to coordinating with the entire creative team?
CY: Everyone was very professional, excited to work together, and super communicative. Things went really smoothly and we had a great time chatting about each new book.
Q4. What was the drawing process like starting from the conceptual stages, and thumbnailing pages all the way up to the approved finishes of this series?
CY: I usually start with very rough, barely legible layouts that I don’t usually share. This is an important stage and requires the most thought. Once the layout felt good I would look for (or take my own) reference photos for poses, expressions, environments, and props that I would then look at while tightening up the sketch and making it clearer what was happening so I could show Dark Horse. Once approved I would go to the ink stage, drawing tight pencils and then printing the pages very light and inking over that (sometimes adding ink washes for shading).
Q5. What were the challenges that you stumbled upon when working on Black Hammer Reborn? How was the work on this book similar or different to other series that you’ve previously worked on?
CY: This was the first series that had already existed, and that had characters that were already designed (plus an established world and vibe). So it took some getting used to and figuring out how to add my style into this already rich world that Dean had drawn so beautifully.
Q6. In Black Hammer Reborn, you had the opportunity to put your own stylistic flair on the established characters of this universe. What of the characters did you enjoy illustrating the most?
CY: I think I had the most fun with Inspector Insector, mainly because he wasn’t human so I could draw him in more exaggerated cartoony poses.
Q7. Of the 12 issues that you’ve worked on for this series, which issue was the most difficult to work on? And which issue was your favorite to work on?
CY: I think the hardest issue was issue two when the parazone areas started really increasing in size. Establishing the look and feel of that was tricky for sure. My favorite was probably 12 because there was some character acting that was really heavy and really challenging.
Q8. As an illustrator, your art style is lively and full of humanity. Majority of the characters that you illustrate within this series and outside of it have a dynamic range of expression, figure, and individuality/style. When you illustrate, what do you explore for research as you prep for projects that you contribute to? And how did it lend itself to the work that you’ve established within Black Hammer Reborn?
CY: When it comes to character design it really depends on the project. In Bliss, for example, I asked specific friends in my city to pose for reference and cast people in a way where I only exaggerated their features but it was still basically them. So I chose friends who I thought would be particularly interesting and fun to draw. For Black Hammer though, the characters already existed so I took a different approach. I found and/or took reference photos but based the likenesses on Dean’s (and other established) designs, and then tried to tweak them just a little so it felt like I had added my own take to them.
Q9. Now that you’ve completed work on Black Hammer Reborn, what did you learn from your time working on it? Did it change your workflow in any shape or form? Will readers see you return for more Black Hammer down the road?
CY: I learn a ton on every book I work on- lot about anatomy, poses, angles and layout that comes from just trying to problem solve. I don’t know if I’ll be back anytime soon for BH but it was a great honor being able to add to that world. Jeff is just a master storyteller and I can’t wait to see what happens next.
Q10. Are there any projects that you have currently that readers should keep an eye out for? And where can they find you next?
CY: Yes! My first DC book is coming out, it’s called Olympus Rebirth and is a Wonder Woman book written by Becky Cloonan and Michael Conrad (colors by Jordie Bellaire and letters by Pat Brosseau). That will be out late August. I’m also currently working on another DC project but that’s still under wraps.