Artist of The Phantom
by Richard Vasseur
Richard Vasseur: How did you decide you wanted to draw comics?
Jerry Decaire: There was nothing I enjoyed more than illustrating the human figure. The same holds true today. As a youngster I was always doing the "Michelangelo" thing by rendering classic drawings and paintings of the human figure. At the same time I read comics for entertainment. My favorite artist was John Buscema. Interestingly enough, Stan Lee is in fact quoted as saying that big John was the Michelangelo of the comics. Both preserved the anatomical integrity of their subject while at the same time combining both beauty and power. Both science and art was present in their work. One day I simply imagined what it might be like to be one of those guys creating the books instead of just reading them. I also understood that virtually the only way an artist could make a living drawing the figure in the 20th century was to draw comics.
RV: Do you have any professional training?
JD: I have a Bachelor of Science degree from Central Michigan University. Most of my art training and tutorial inspirations came from Larry Butcher-associate professor of Delta College here in the tri-city area of Michigan. I took beginning and advanced drawing and painting from Larry. Almost as if we're the same birds of the same philosophic, spiritual feather, we seem to keep running into each other at various locales even to this day. With each encounter I derive a sort of up-lifting experience as Larry fully understands the travails of the professional artist. Larry has a keen awareness of what constitutes the human condition and I draw upon that with a sort of reassurance that I am not alone in the universe.
RV: What do you enjoy and dislike the most about being a comic book artist?
JD: What I enjoy about being a comic book artist is, you guessed it, the drawing! I especially enjoy the sequential narrative along with the visuals. Somehow there is a whole other dimension present in the art when it is accompanied by an intricate story filled with emotion and drama. The thing I dislike most about being a comic book artist is the lack of respect by my fine art counterparts. I find it unusual that according to many of them the only - expression left in America that doesn't count as art is illustration. They believe that illustration is nothing more than "technique" and is absent of "content", "significance", "concept" and "idea". They employ a sort of bad logic by assuming that the presence of one element in a work precludes the absence of another. That is, if the piece is well rendered it must follow that it has no significant content. If they only understood how passionate I am about my work along with the other comic artists out there, they would know that we're more than just commissioned automatons. We not only draw well, but our imaginations are on full throttle when we do our work. It's a genre, that's for sure, but so is Duchamp's Fountain. Or at least it has become one with the advent of so many rip-offs. Makes one wonder if there really is such a thing as "fine" art. It's all innovation and to borrow a line from Pink Floyd, "All you touch and all you see is all your life will ever be". So pardon me fellas for being guilty of mirroring the things that I know-just like you!
RV: Who has been the most influential person on your drawing style?
JD: John Buscema, John Romita Jr., Bill Sienkiewicz, Lee Weeks and a few others. Buscema for the beauty + power thing, Romita for his illumination of volume in his figure by use of oblique characteristics, and oh yes, his wonderful layouts, and Sienkiewicz for his amazing artistry-his stuff just flows.
RV: Have you ever watched any of the Phantom movies or TV shows?
JD: No, I haven't watched the Billy Zane movie with him as the Phantom. As I'm about to do a spectacular 96 page trade, glossy stock, full color, cinemagraphic adaptation of the origin of the Phantom, it might behoove me to get off my butt and get even more accustomed to the hero of the ages that I'll be portraying. Seriously though, this book will have my best work ever with Ben Raab as the writer. The first inside page will have a stone effect close-up of the skull ring and when you turn the page you will see 1 panel and 1 panel only stretching from the left all the way to the right on both pages. It will be like a letterbox edition of a major motion picture with a strip of black at the top and bottom of the "screen". You'll feel as if you're sitting in a movie theatre. In like fashion the entire story will be told. I'm really excited about this project as I have been a major influence with my publisher Joe Gentile on the format of this one. Joe has called me the "cinematographer of comics", and I intend on proving to the whole world what that means. Please pardon the lack of, ahem, modesty. And, oh yes, for the retail store owners out there that might be interested in a signing of issues # 5 and # 6 of the Phantom and perhaps even the big kahuna, the Phantom's origin, simply contact me at email@example.com (another shameless plug). Also, go to http://moonstonebooks.com for the lowdown on the latest Phantom books. I will ask anyone reading this post to take a hard look at the quality of Moonstone's books. I firmly believe it's some of the best work out there. We just recently had Peter David write a piece for Kolchak, Ron Frenz is aboard, and so is Ben Raab and Eddy Newell.
RV: Where does your inspiration come from?
JD: My inspiration comes from God. Sometimes I'm not sure who he/she is, but I feel certain that there is a God as much as I am certain that it is highly unlikely that animate matter (us) inadvertently sprang forth from inanimate matter. The antagonist would argue, okay, if you believe that there is a designer then who designed God? My answer to that is that remains an enigma. There is however something we can all be certain of-that we exist. So now we're left with a choice; did a thinking being set all of this in motion or did beings as complex as us in an environment conveniently calibrated to a near infinite level merely come about due to mere happenstance? To me, that thought is similar to asking, how long will Rhodin's statue of the Thinker have to sit there before he turns into a real man? The notion is absurd. Any thinking person will acknowledge my aforementioned premise that the idea of animate matter springing forth from inanimate matter is a huge improbability if not downright absurd. So as difficult as it is to believe that a being as complex and infinite as God had no humble beginnings and has simply always been, it is even more difficult to believe in the absurd. Something was first, and as I often have no idea where I am ultimately from or where I am going, surely something as out of control as myself was not that first thing. And here's the clincher, when I was but 8 years old I remember getting on my knees and praying for the gift of art. I immediately got up from that prayer and began to draw like nobody's business. No joke! How's that for inspiration?
RV: So do you have to read a story plot first before you start drawing to use as a guide for what you draw?
JD: As I work for the company's, yes, I go by a plot handed to me. I have every intention of writing my own books in the future, but that won't be for a while. I would love to do a children's book written by my closest and dearest friend, Brandi Hoffman. Of course, she's written that piece for the most part, but I may have a contribution or two.
RV: Do you have any favorite characters you like to draw?
JD: Without a doubt my favorite character to draw would have to be the Silver Surfer. I never drew him for Marvel but I did draw The Mighty Thor for the big M-my second favorite character.
RV: Why did you decide to start your own website www.jerrydecaire.com ?
JD: The website isn't up right now as I am working on a revision. My reason for the website, however is to shamelessly flash my work. It's my way of saying that there is some considerable talent out there working for the independents. I'm not afraid to say this as I am confident that my work, at least most of it if not all of it, is as good as the best in the business. Before you go off and say that I have a big head, understand that I am bragging about my art not myself as a person.
RV: What do you think about the conditions of working comic book artist?
JD: Conditions of a comic book artist? No unions! Excellent to good to very poor pay-depending upon the book you draw and the company you're drawing for.
RV: What comics did you read as a child?
JD: The Fantastic Four and the Silver Surfer were the best. After that The Mighty Thor, Spider-Man and The Avengers. If Marvel wasn't cookin' that month I'd resort to a Superman mag' and especially the Flash in the DC line.
RV: What comics do you read now?
JD: I really don't read comics so much anymore except I'll browse to check out the competition. Its sad how making comics can rob you of the magic they once possessed. Now I'm kinda' the guy behind the puppet stage. I can see all the strings. Of course, the magic is now in making them!
RV: Who do you most admire in the comics field?
JD: I don't admire talent, although I can greatly appreciate it. John Buscema I greatly appreciated. Mother Theresa I admired!
RV: What do you do when you’re not working on comics?
JD: Studying computer graphics and spending time with the most wonderful person in the whole wide world-Brandi Hoffman. She has a website at http://www.freewebs.combrandihoffman/ She was there at a time of crisis in my life. You know, those times when nobody else is around or can be found? She has the face of an angel, the brain of Einstein, and a heart of solid gold. She really cares about people other than herself. Now that's an admirable person. This is to you "Little Bear"-you're the best!!! Oh, and by the way, you can catch her name on page 5 of the Phantom # 5. I actually incorporated her name on a building window as a tribute to her great spirit.
RV: Any last words of wisdom?
JD: Sometimes the field of comics can be very un-remunerative, so ya' gotta' love it or you'll never make it. I suppose the beauty of this industry is that the compensation has no ceiling. If you hit it big with a winning title, it can make your patience all worthwhile. Even if that never happens you get to have what very few people have-artwork published world over.