Justin Greenwood used spend his chore money buying comic books at as a teenager, but these days local kids are the ones flipping through works illustrated by the 34-year-old alumnus.
The Castro Valley native is known for completing "Resurrection," which highlights the aftermath of an alien invasion, along with issues 33 through 38 of the long-running series "Wasteland," a post-apocolyptic western.
Unlike comic genres that include superheroes and humor, Greenwood's comics are a bit darker, and realistic, even. His latest project, "Stringers," for example, resonates with everyday life topics.
The 120-page graphic novel is about a team of TV news hustlers who "get into things that they shouldn't," said Greenwood, who hopes to have the work finished by the beginning of 2013.
Though the story is based out of Los Angeles, Greenwood says most of his inspiration stems from life here in the San Francisco Bay Area.
"The Bay Area is full of so many interesting people and places that it's easy to incorporate that into 'Stringers,'" he said.
On his blog, Greenwood shares with his faithful following the entire process of working on "Stringers" and even posts several thumbnail previews of his drawings.
Paying homage to his childhood comic book store
Michael Cresser, owner of Crush Comics, recalls Greenwood as being a regular for more than 15 years.
"He was always a customer that you could tell really looked forward to coming in getting the new comics that he enjoyed reading," Cresser said.
Greenwood has held two book signings at the local store for "Resurrection."
"The first one was on the day of our annual Free Comic Book Day in 2009," said Cresser.
and draws in a store full of comic fans. Check it out.
Keeping things steady
Though Greenwood always had a love for art and comics, the illustrator waited a few years before seriously pursuing such a career.
For Greenwood, getting a decent and steady paycheck was his main concern at first, even if the job-at-hand had nothing to do with art.
"When I was in college, comics were considered like the step child of the art world. You don't get involved in it for the pay, you get into it because you love it."
While attending school, he kept his day job of working 32 to 40 hours in produce at Safeway.
Though Greenwood now works at Whole Foods for steady income, he manages to pursue his passion with comics while also earning pay for it.
"Regardless of whether I draw them or not, I was going to read comics forever."
After studying advertising in various Bay Area colleges, he finally decided in 2001 to focus solely on pursuing classes in comic book illustration. He spent a year putting together a portfolio and went to comic book shows to speak and gather feedback from editors and industry professionals.
Being realistic, he gave himself three years to find a gig.
"I told myself if I didn't get any work, then it just isn't for me," Greenwood said.
Pow! Wham! Shazam! — A breakthough moment
Greenwood's breakthrough moment came when he pitched "Ring," to the independent comic book publisher Oni press. After "Ring," came "Resurrection," Oni's first full-color ongoing series, then "Wasteland," which remains in progress.
"Actually getting the work and keeping it, it's so satisfying," Greenwood said about "Wasteland."
Throughout his work on "Resurrection," Greenwood's worked closely with Marc Guggenheim, the writer involved with comics like "Blade," "The Amazing Spider-Man," and even films like "Green Latern." The two are now collaborating on "Stringers."
Both have been collaborative processes, according to Greenwood. After the narratives are written, he pencils and inks the artwork. Color is then added, along with lettering and a book design. A designer then helps in printing the book while an Oni editor is involved throughout the entire process.
"It's such a team effort to get a comic done. So many hands have touched it by the time it's finished," he added.
Inspired by dear ol' dad
Greenwood says he gets his artistic knack from his father, Cary, who was a custom paint and pinstripping artist.
"He had a special tone when he talked about art," Greenwood recalls.
He also claims it was his father's voice he heard in his head saying, "You're just being a baby," that pushed him to speak with an editor of Oni Press, thus opening the door to a comic book career.
"I hate selling myself because you're literally asking to be picked apart," Greenwood said. "But you have to do it as an artist who wants to improve and get work in the industry."
To see more of Greenwood's work, visit his blog at www.jkgreenwood.blogspot.com.