20 Question Tuesday: 207 - Jason Masters

On the eve of the celebration of the US’s Independence Day, I am publishing something that has nothing to do with America, fuck yeah!

I have had the honor of dealing with people from many many continents in the shit-ton of 20 Questions Tuesday’s that I have been doing over the years.  Mainly I have gotten questions from the US and Canada, but I also have gotten some from people in Europe, Asia, other parts of North America, South America, and I even got a question years ago from someone in OZ (Australia for you non-slang peeps).  There are two continents that are conspicuously absent.  Antarctica and Africa…  This week, I get to remedy part of that… I have to opportunity to ask 20 Questions to Jason Masters, a comic book artist, graphic designer, illustrator extraordinaire from South Africa… Coordinating this email conversation will be interesting since our schedules are so wildly off.

Jason is another artist associated with Ten Ton Studios(…. what can I say, I find all of the people there interesting if not wonderful).  He is currently slated to do DC Digital… and his work is crazy clean with strong uses of spots.  The work he does is very precise and always on model.  Seriously, his work is sick and it makes me a little bit jealous.  I am very excited to see him doing work for DC Digital and cannot wait to see where that goes.  So without further ado…

I was born in Oklahoma City, moved to Montgomery, Alabama, then to Birmingham, Alabama.  I went to college in Kent, Ohio and then settled down in Columbus, Ohio. Question 1:  What is your geographic story?

Wow your preamble makes me sound awesome and professional, more of the same please. Geographically I’m pretty boring, I moved house a lot as a kid but generally stayed within the same basic area. I was born in Discovery, Roodepoort in what was then known as the Transvaal. I believe we lived in Benoni for a little while, while I was an infant, then back to the Roodepoort area for most of my childhood, a brief stint in Randfontein, then back to Roodepoort. I now live in the Randburg area of Gauteng(which used to be Transvaal). One of the first major changes after our first democratic election in 1994 was a re-division of the country. We went from 4 provinces to 8. Transvaal was divided up into Gauteng, Mpumalanga, Northwest Province, and Limpopo Province. I didn’t so much move as the country changed around me.

Okay, Google maps don’t fail me now… So, pretty much you have been circling Jo’burg.  I have very little knowledge of things African.  So, just for my own cultural edification…  Question 2: What do you think I need to know from you about South Africa that may not be in Wikipedia or some other public site?

I contemplated going into a bit more detail about my geographic evolution but any reference I’d make would just make it more confusing if you’re not from here, but basically yes, circling Jo’burg my whole life. As for question 2, only 3 out of 10 zebras has poisonous spines, and yes they do poop diamonds.

so you have a 30% chance of being poisoned by Zebra spines… Gotcha, but they poop diamonds… it makes me wonder if it is a deadly poison or just a make you sick poison…. the poop diamonds might be worth it if it is only “make you sick” poison.

Question 3: Do you get the opportunity to travel much, if so, what is the furthest you have traveled?  In case you are curious (and I am sure you are)… Hamburg, Germany is the furthest I have gone.

No, unfortunately, I’ve travelled a bit, but not as much as I’d like. I’ve travelled to London, Mauritias, Greece, Dubai (only a day though), New York but the furthest, I think, from Johannesburg is Chicago. Great trip, I met some of the Ten Ton fellas, went to Wizard world Chicago and did a road trip around lake Michigan with a buddy of mine. One of the most fun travel experiences I ever had.

Also I’m what you’d call a zebra expert, so just trust me when I say the excruciating pain,  carbuncles and hair loss you get as a result of those poisonous barbs isn’t worth the risk.

I had no idea the zebra was such a dangerous foe… I know that the Hippo is an asshole, but I was unaware of the dangers of the striped equine… I don’t even want to know what threats a greater kudu poses…. because, you know, they are greater and all that…

There are literally 15 people out there who really want to know this… and honestly, of those 15, 5 really don’t care.  Question 4: Cake or pie?  Which genre and is there a particular kind that really trips your trigger?

I must answer your question with another question. Sweet or savory pie?

Hmmm… So the answer seems to be pie… so if the answer is pie, I am more than happy to learn about your favorite sweet pie as well as your favorite savory pie (or the purposes of this exercise, we will exclude pizza from the pie category).  However, if you answer is to be cake, why are you asking me this question?

‘cause it’s late and I’m tired? The answer is cake, savory pie is gross and while lemon meringue pie/rhubarb pie are both delicious nothing beats homemade chocolate cake.

Question 5: So, this chocolate cake, vanilla frosting, butter cream frosting, chocolate frosting, or some kind of crappy coconut thing that makes people hate and murder and kill and hate some more?  Gimme some details about this cake. People want to know!

Ha ha chocolate buttercream frosting I think. I need to ask my Mom, it’s a family recipe.

I have heard of this chocolate buttercream… super rich, but smooth and creamy. The richness of the buttercream is offset by the sharper flavor of dark chocolate. Milk chocolate would be too weak to pair with buttercream.  I know waaay too much about frosting.

Bullseye throwing a Semi Tractor Trailer at Matt Murdock (Daredevil)

So Question 6: When did you know that you could draw (and by that I mean when did you know that you were really good at it and found enjoyment in doing it)?

Sounds like you’ve already sampled my mother’s baking… Dad?

I remember deciding I wanted to be able to draw in Nursery school (preschool) and then just drawing I must have been 4 or 5. I think It was motivated by the teacher going on about someone else’s abilities and me thinking ‘I’ll show you, dammit!”

Sadly, I am not your father.  I just know a shit ton (shite-tonne?) about frosting… I love frosting in an unnatural way.  Don’t judge me.

So, you started drawing because someone else was told that they could draw?  I can think of many activities other kids could potentially do well that you should be very happy did not get praised by authority figures.  Here is the scenario, little Timmy from your preschool gets praised heaped upon him for his dancing ability, therefore the modern day Jason Master’s dances professionally for Ke$ha.  Another scenario, little Timmy is a complete ass and ends up getting praised ironically by the preschool teachers for getting tranq-ed out with some Benadryl to shut his assholish self up.  Little Jason Master’s sees this and realizes that praise comes from drugging yourself to unconsciousness…  I think you can see where this goes. Wow, those preschool teachers were horrible.  Why would they tranq a kid for being an ass?  Horrible people.

Question 7: Were you always soooo contrary and oppositionally defiant?

Ha ha all those scenarios could easily have happened and completely change they way my life turned out. In some cases maybe for the better.

My wife would say yes but I don’t think so. I like doing things sometimes because they’re difficult or because someone says I can’t. I like testing myself to see if I can do something. I do have to want to do it though. I’ve done a few white collar boxing fights recently purely to see if I could and because the idea of fighting in front of people terrified me. Every fibre of my being said no, so I had to do it.

I am confident that the reason my best friend who is dyslexic with authority figure issues became a JAG Lawyer for the Army is because of tons of people saying he couldn’t.  Hey, Maj McArmypants, I bet there is no way on earth you could possibly buy me a car for free.  Let’s see where that goes…

Question 8: Do you find yourself having an issue with comfort?  It seems like you have a need to constantly challenge yourself, is there something out there that you are trying to find though all these challenges and activities?

Good luck with the car sir, I’m sure that plan is bullet proof!

Oh no issues with comfort, I LOVE comfort! I’m just stubborn I think. It’s about finding my place in the world. How do I know where I belong unless I know what I can do?

So, the oppositionally defiant piece is completely about discovering your limits. Interesting.

Question 9: Have you found anything within you that is surprisingly unlimited or surprisingly limited?  For example, I have found that the range of motion on my right ankle is extremely limited.

That and keeping myself from getting bored. I’m certainly not a thrill seeker or adventurer, just bored easily.

Unfortunately not, physically I’m pretty average. I can touch my toes that’s about it. Limited, I broke my index finger on my right hand when I was in high school punching a friend of mine (joking around though, not a fight). As a result my I make a pretty awkward fist with that hand.

My brother was playing soccer in high school and a cleat broke the periosteum (the membrane covering the bone) on his left pinky finger, but it did not break the bone.  He started developing a pretty weird calcification on his finger, so he can never make a “true” fist with his left hand. And he always looks so proper when sipping now.

Question 10: Does the healed broken index finger cause any difficulty for your drawing… or is it the reason you draw so well?

Ha ha, that’s a pretty bizarre injury. The human body is an odd thing.
I wish it was that easy, I’d break all my fingers if it’d help my drawing! No it doesn’t hamper me in any way, I don’t even notice it unless I’m making a fist. I still maintain that if there was drawing steroids I’d take them in a heartbeat. Take steroids to get big muscles? Never! But to draw better? Heck yeah!

Speaking of drawing, and reigning in these questions to comics for a second. Captain America has always been my guy and then I drifted towards the X-men’s Cyclops.  Those were my guys as a kid.  Question 11: Who were your guys growing up? and who are your dreams to draw professionally today?

I’m afraid I’m pretty typical here. I loved Spider-man first then Batman and then G.I. Joe. Those are my top 3. I just recently completed a Batman one shot for DC Digital which should come out in a few months! I’m still amazed I got to do that. More than any character I’ve wanted to draw him. Now I want to draw him again and do it better. I have a long list of characters I still want to draw though. Spider-man, G.I. Joe, The Flash… oh jeez just name it I want to draw it

Really, GI Joe?  I would not have called that since it seems amazingly US-Centric in its existence.  Question 12: How was GI Joe packaged in South Africa… some of the main characters in the cartoon and the comic books were Roadblock, Stalker, Doc etc…?  How did integrated elite forces play out in 1980’s when Apartheid was still in effect?

Media didn’t get repackaged just because it featured African’s or African Americans. Television here wasn’t very white centric. We got cartoons and show’s as they were featured stateside, unless we got the same media from the U.K. The U.K. turned G.I. Joe into Action Force to make it more European I guess and turned Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles into the Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles. I think they believed the word ‘Ninja’ would cause violence amongst the youth there. For a while we got the same show’s repackaged from the U.K. as well as the regular unedited shows. It was pretty stupid.

Back to 1980’s apartheid, it never affected television here. We all grew up on a steady diet of most of the shows you watched. Everything from The Cosby show, Sanford and son to Good Times. So from a pop culture background we’re pretty similar except we also had a big influx of English shows.

Well, isn’t that an interesting conundrum.  I would have thought the state would have created an environment where no black personas were lifted up on equal footing with a white persona, otherwise it would be incredibly difficult to maintain the inferiority based rules system, but seriously, that is just my bias having grown up in the US Deep South.  The idea of racism started to erode more in the South when modern positive black role models gained entertainment footholds within that society.  The positive black role models did sway some of the people who were only “culturally racist,” and not necessarily holding racial hate within their heart. Interesting interesting interesting.  I have to say I am absolutely loving this 20 Questions so far.

Question 13: Do you hold on to any specific superstitions or is there a ritual aspect to your life?  For example, when I played soccer in high school I had a very specific lucky sequence of getting ready for a game that I felt “would help me play better”, and I know other players on the team did as well. In truth these sequences were a nice ritual to center my thoughts and create focus.  Got anything like that? or even anything like “I turn around three times in a doorway to scare away the ghosties?”

Our old apartheid government kept their hate local. International black people were perfectly fine. At least that’s what it felt like. For a lot of the older people here racism almost felt like a family tradition as opposed to a set of actual beliefs. We could go deep here but for the sake of keeping it light maybe we shouldn’t.

I wish I had a ritual, maybe it’d help me focus better than my two cups of coffee before working. Having said that there’s something comforting and ritualistic about actually putting on a uniform for sport. Beyond that, no. I feel like less of a man now.

pfft, you are no less of a man than you were prior to this conversation. (take that as you will).

Question 14: Fill in the blanks: “I find that I am mostly ______________.” “Others find that I am mostly _________________.”

"I find that I am mostly tired." "Others find that I am mostly stubborn."

How’s that?

Kids will do that to you.  I was starting to not be tired when my oldest turned 4… and then the we had the youngest… I am so so tired.  Just so tired.  Why can’t I sleep more?  The stubborn thing might be due to your oppositionally defiant nature. You are just so contrary… so amazingly contrary.

So 2/3rds if the way through this…. Question 15: Is there anything out there that I have not asked that you feel I should have?

'Amazingly contrary' is now on my business card.
Other ways to answer that question could be
I find that I am mostly sitting. Others find that I am mostly damp.
I find that I am mostly joking. Others find that I am mostly a douche.
I find that I am mostly ambitious. Others find that I am mostly a unrealistic.

I could go on forever!

Hey now buddy my job is to answer the questions not make them up, you getting tired?

Let me ask you, have you got any special skills? Something you feel makes you better than the average person?

Usually I don’t turn the tables until Question 18, but I will allow it. I am nothing if not magnanimous.  But before I get to my answer, I want to address your continued answering of Question 14.  Yes, you could go on forever, but are the answers true?  Do people really find you mostly damp?… sure they could probably find you moistly damp, but mostly damp?  I think not.  Anyway, that is neither here nor there.

To answer your question posed to me…
I am a really good cartographer.  I can create some really kickass maps. Cartography is where I am an em-effin viking.  That being said, I seem to be losing my drive to do the mapping.  I am not quite sure where the drifting interest is going, but I just seem to feel uninspired by making maps these days.  Doesn’t matter if it is for the stodgy data driven maps I have to do for work or the artsy fantasy/sci-fi maps I attempt to do from home.  I just am uninspired and disinterested at the moment.  What did the Vikings do when raping and pillaging just didn’t do it for them anymore?  I seem to be getting more internal fulfillment from drawing right now.  Go figure.

Back to the matter at hand…  Question 15 was a catch all that I sometimes include to address the elephant in the living room.  I try to stay away from the typical questions that people usually get asked for whatever profession they have, but some people secretly want to answer that question that they constantly get asked.  15 would have allowed for that to happen.

Question 16:  How do you foresee where the Internet and its mere existence changing how media is distributed, comic books, music, news, tv, comedy etc…?  I ask since you are doing digital comics for DC (notice how I got the plug in there? {it’s like I am a goddamn Viking at this as well})

Damp and evasive, ok maybe one friend found me damp but it might have something to do with drying my hands on him every time I was done in the bathroom. Yup still a friend.

I sometimes forget there are people out there with cool real jobs like cartography! You’re like an old school explorer guiding people to new lands, or maybe drawing those little maps in the beginning of fantasy books.

I understand being disinterested though. I’ve had to revive my love for drawing as well. Everything is a job but that doesn’t mean it can’t be amazing.

Question 16
Yup a raping, pillaging, mapping viking!

With people’s reluctance to pay for things there seems to be few financial models that truly work. The most successful strategies seem to be employed by a few web-comic creators. They give their content away for free, create brand loyalty and earn through the sale of eventual book collections and ancillary products. Of course this only seems to work if your product is amazing. That’s the real game changer for me that the internet has unleashed. With anything literally at your fingertips why would you waste your time watching/reading or listening to something that is brilliant? This is forcing the quality of all things to go up and that’s a great thing.

Thanks for the plug sir! Yeah I drew a Batman story for DC Digital, It’s written by Joe Harris who wrote into one script all the things I’ve ever wanted to draw. It’s a really great little short story that’s part of the Legends of the Dark Knight banner. Ben Abernathy, editor supreme, has put together an amazing collection artists and writers on this series and I’m really lucky to be part of it. Our story doesn’t come out for a while still but the first few parts are available here for only $0.99. Who doesn’t want to read Batman stories by Damon Lindelof, Jeff Lemire, J.G. Jones, B. Clat Moore, Ben Templesmith and more? No nobody paid me to say that, I’ve been buying them myself and they’ve been brilliant.

I find that the predominance of the digital revenue models I have seen either require millions of individual hits to create significant ad revenue, or like you said giving the cow away for free and hoping someone will purchase cow related merch and products. Both of these models require fairly large audiences.  It will be interesting to see when someone figures out a model that works for smaller audience.

So, as many people know, I have adopted my Mother-in-Law’s age old saying of , “Don’t let the fuckers get you down.”  Question 17: do you or does your family have any sayings, mottos, adages, credos that you adhere to religiously?  If so, where did they originate?

Your Mother-in-law sounds feisty, I like that.

I think the closest thing we have to saying ‘if you don’t work, you don’t eat’. It has it’s origins in the Bible I believe. Now my Mom never used that as a threat, say ‘clean your room or no food’. It’s more of a statement about not expecting anything unless you’re willing to work for it.

That is an awesome philosophy with which to live.  Yes the M-I-L is quite a feisty one, but that is one the main reasons I like her so much.  And we are nearing the end here…

Question 18:  Your choice: You can ask me another question or answer this one… What happened this weekend that made you smile?

I choose both. First the question for you.

Hypothetical situation. You’re in a room with a stranger on one side and a million dollars in a duffel bag on the other. You can only leave the room with one item. Either the stranger or the money, but whatever is left in the room is incinerated. Do you save the life or take the money, and why?

I finally got over my cold this weekend and was able to get some exercise, the endorphins made me smile.

Well, in this hypothetical situation the stranger is actually a wookie and I choose him because of the whole “life-debt” thing.  Seriously, I would select the stranger anyway… unless he was a dick.  Life is more important than the concept of money…. $10 mil? $100 mil?  different answer… unless of course it is a wookie, and then I pick wookie every time.  I did it for the wookie.

Endorphins are great things.

Question 19:  What are you taking away from this 20 Questions that you did not bring in with you?

Ok then i throw this to you, how many lives do you think you could save with a million dollars? I’m betting quite a few and I think you’d be forced to by the guilt of killing someone. Wookie or not.

I’m taking away a lot of guilt for taking so long to get back to you there for a while. Beyond that the conversation, I’ve found it interesting meeting you in this. I just have to admit I don’t hate people and like meeting new ones. It’d also always fun crystallizing an idea that’s been rumbling around in your head by writing it down.

Oh, that is an apples and oranges argument.  I am a relatively good person, but I am not a saint.  If I came into contact with a cool mil, I would not spend every dime helping folks.  There is a good chance that I would not spend anything helping anybody.  That money would be mine.  Now, I would not push someone into a fire for it.  I am sure that a million dollars could save a good many people, but that wouldn’t be how I would spend the money.

As far as the guilt?  Let that shit go.  It is not worth any of your mental energy. Unlike you, I do hate people and I do not like meeting new ones.  You are one of the exceptions that proves the rule.

Question 20: So, what’s next?  Be as vague or as specific as you want.  Be as philosophical or concrete as you wish.

Try not to fuck shit up too much.

Unless it is sparring, in which you want to fuck that shit up old skool.

This has been an absolute blast and I have to put it in one of my top 20 Questions ever, but in truth I say that with nearly every 20 Questions interview that I do. Feel special, but not too special there.


Seriously people, follow Jason on Twitter, look at his website (that will be fully functional soon), and join in the fun at Ten Ton Studios where I “met” him.

To recap:
The power went out June 29th
It is still not on
It is projected to come on by Sunday the 8th
I was driving in the nastiness on Friday
It was a bit scary to say the least
On Monday the 9th the wife and kids will be traveling to Arizona for a mini-vacation
The wife has to do 3 hours of work a day and both kids will be in camp in the Tuscon area
I will stay home packing
It is awesome and amazing and is quite a stretch for us
A stretch that is worth it
Happy belated Canada to my Canadian friends
Happy early July 4th to my US friends
If there are other national holidays that I need to address, please leave them in the comments and I will address them in future posts