Back in the early 90s, Comic Books were GOLD. Literally. They exploded onto the entertainment scene in the U.S. and almost everyone who made great comic books during that time had a blast, earning lifetime fans and making the best artwork and storylines for all publishers.
One of the smaller publishers at that time was Sirius Entertainment, with Comic Book titles like Dawn, Poison Elves and Animal Mystic.
Fan favorite images from Animal Mystic
Dawn, one of the groundbreaking comic that featured painted pin-up art you'd only see in fantasy magazines like Heavy Metal, was the quintessential gothic pin-up goddess, catapulting creator and artist Joseph Michael Linsner to fame with rabid fanboy worship.
Poison Elves was a cutting edge black and white inde title featuring the lush Pen-and-Ink art of rockstar artist Drew Hayes. Poison Elves featured a murderous elf named Lusiphur, a card carrying member of the Guild of Thieves, and his wild adventures in a strange and magical world of Thieves and Assassins. A very dark portrayal of elves as anti-heroes and even villainous and sly bastards.
But our favorite at the time was Animal Mystic, another painted-art comic book made by the awesome Greg 'The Dark One' Williams.
Animal Mystic featured an environmental crusader named Jatarri, a cross between amazon warrior, Red Sonja, and the girl hero from Princess Nausicaa from the Miyazaki movie.
Jatarri, Klor, Ryntha, and giant Tiger steed of jatarri for Animal Mystic
Facing off against ravaging mutant hordes called Spigmodites and other environmental aberrations and abominations, Jatarri and KLOR, her Stallion Centaur ( in the Philippine Mythological lore, a horse headed nightmare creature is called the Tikbalang) Warrior friend, fight off all the enemies of Gaea, on land and in the underwater realms.
Greg Williams had a run of three Animal Mystic mini-series, a Klor mini-series, an Animal Mystic-themed collectible card set, and two art books printed in comic book format, 3rd Eye and Monsters.
Greg was even designing character-themed costumes at that time, getting publisher Rob Horan to feature cult favorite, B-movie starlet JJ North to don the leather armor and weapons set of Jatarri, as featured in his art book, 3rd Eye. As a kid in high school he was already designing costumes and even putting them together, before character-themed cosplay was a popular hobby among kids.
During the time that Greg was making comics in the 90s, he chose the pen name, The Dark One. His painted comic book art pages were lush, stylized and very intoxicating (that means sexy). REACH had the opportunity to interview Greg Williams and catch up with him on his classic Comic Book work, character design ideas, his current work doing air brush commissions, and art prints of fantasy and science fiction imagery, and pop sculptures for various icons in fantasy entertainment. You should see how he draws DRAGONS—blow your mind away!...
Reach: First off, Thank You Greg for doing the work you've been doing all your life as a Comic Book artist and as a character designer. You are a big inspiration to all of us who grew up in the 90s getting swamped with comics and choosing our favorites among the glut of heroes.
Animal Mystic and Jatarri were waaay ahead of its time, before even Final Fantasy cemented that kind of character type as a bankable story and theme, you were kicking ass on Sirius Comics. What inspired you to come up with a female crusading environmentalist fighting against the Mutant Spigmodite Horde? Can you tell kids of all ages who love good fantasy and science fiction, who might be interested in picking up your books, who Jatarri and Klor were?
Greg Williams: Hey first let me just thank you guys for hitting me up and taking an interest! I'm amazed that anyone noticed back then, being a newcomer to publishing my stories. Plus, the company of creators I was among at our indy publisher had greater sales on their comic book titles.
Queen Jatarri was actually a side character from a comic book I was creating during my high school days . She was a wealthy young History major, who hung out with a hidden tribe of amazons, and the girlfriend to my feature character (me). She was a huge question mark in the song I called Jungle Patrol, I think I still have it in storage somewhere. ( A ton of that original art for Jatarri was stolen from me also. One day it will come to light I hope. )
Nikki and her adventures definitely come from all that fantastic art in foreign comics I was not supposed to be reading. I was raised on D&D, Red Sonja, dragons, but my fantasy hero at the time was Conan. In the first film, his woman Valeria was just awesome. Then I also discovered an animated film called Heavy Metal and a wonderful female character named Taarna showed up, it was becoming clearer to me what interested me most. Not that I'm recommending that children pick up adult material but that's asking a lot these days.
I really had to sneak about to get my hands on the REAL inspiration that my parents simply could not condone. Thats how it was in my house. Little did I know that Queen Jatarri was always there destined to surface and as a wild-eyed dreaming teen, I had quite a few dreams (or something) about a tiny blonde exploring the cosmos with a centaur and a zebra-striped woman.
Klor was easy, I can draw that guy with my eyes shut. I think the first time Earth saw him, he was on a Metal band cover called Taken by Force. I'd love to have THAT art back. He must be a compilation of all that is good about any soul. With strong Shaolin monk overtones, samurai honor, that kind of thing. I also grew up around horses. The two, together, made an obvious great team to me.
REACH: Comics were crazy during the 90s, and everything was awesome for kids. You guys made collectible cards for Animal Mystic, Dawn and even Poison Elves! The bigger companies were making foil stamped covers and hologram stamped covers. We know you guys at Sirius still had a good following and Animal Mystic number 1 first print even spiked above $100 or so on the collector's market according to Wizard magazine at the height of the comic book craze. The best art I saw you do was that sailboard commission with Jatarri on it. How was it for small publisher creators like you and Drew and Joseph Linsner during that crazy time?
Greg Williams: Indy publishing was awesome, at one point Sirius and other companies were like a family. We all wanted the same thing. I will say I was surrounded by the eldest talent of any small press out there, though. We just kept meeting super gifted folks and brought them onboard. I owe it all to those guys, they helped me put Animal Mystic on the map. It was Robb Horan that found me a show in D.C. once. After that, it was on...became great friends.
Painted Art Book of Greg Williams, 3RD EYE, collecting early character designs of Animal Mystic Klor, and some amazing pics of costume designs with JJ North cosplaying, and the competition windboard Greg made.
I think all of us miss those early years, During some point I had heard a rumor that out of all the titles from Sirius, Animal Mystic was the hit in Australia. I even had fans in England mailing me fan letters. The coolest part of it all was getting to meet the creators that shaped my drive to create as well like the mighty Moebius, Syd Mead, Stan Winston, Simon Bisley and Kevin Eastman. Are you serious? I just draw comic books and I get to sit on Mr T's shoulders at the Comic Con? We were able to be comic rock stars, I'm blessed.
REACH: We absolutely want to show readers what you did with the Jatarri, air-brushed Fantasy Art on that custom-made sailboard in the 90s! How did you put together that priceless artifact and what materials do you prefer for work on surfaces like the sailboards? What other commissions have you done for airbrushed fantasy art and can we share pictures of your best work to our readers? Is the sailboard still together? That artifact would be priceless if it ever came onto the market...
Greg Williams custom art for extreme sports windboard athlete Roger Kelly. Image from 3rd Eye volume 1. All rights reserved Greg Williams.
Greg Williams: Thanks for the kindness on the windboard. It was fun. Roger K. found ME, and wanted something uniques. He flew me to Kittyhawk, N.C. where a custom shop ( wish I could remember the name) was finished shaping his new board. It was only styrofoam at this stage. Any pencil mark for outlining the art might leave a gouge, and would affect the overall performance. So most of it came exclusively out of the airbrush, freehand basically. This beast was 9 feet tall and 2 feet wide. I was kinda nervous, because he was spending a pretty penny for this project. Both of us were thrilled at the final result, and they proceeded to glass it, and home I went after my good deed. A few weeks later, he sends me some photos of him riding it. He told me it took two good rock dings, couldn't take anymore, and so he retired it to his wall where it remains to this day. I imagine, I lost touch with him years ago.
REACH: Joseph Linsner was a comic book god during the 90s because we fanboys fell in love with a green eyed, Angel redhead armed with Lucifer's halo... But few people were aware of the amazing work the late Drew Hayes was doing in Poison Elves for Sirius. His pen-and-ink, black and white fantasy noir comic read like the Sin City of Murderous Elves, and those who took the chance to follow his book got shredding blood-sugar-sex-magik of a comic book read.
A graphic novel by Drew Hayes for Sirius Press. Long before the LOtR movie made elves cool for everyone who never read the trilogy, the fan fave elf among comic book fans in the 90s was a murderous assassin named Lusiphur.
How was Drew as an artist and colleague? We hope somebody looks up his work and does something amazing with Poison Elves given today's advantage of special EFX in media and gaming, and the good box office for fantasy films. Poison Elves and Lusiphur would be a better Dark Knight even today, or that kind of anti-hero everyone loves nowadays, except that you get only brooding handsome YA fantasy heroes today. We hope some angel of a publisher buys the property and continues Drew's amazing story like all the old pulp heroes like, Solomon Kane, Flash Gordon and so. Lusiphur and Parintachin are amazing! Can you describe Poison Elves to our comic book readers who might want a different take on elves through Drew's comics?
Greg Williams:I didn't know Drew that well. He was having health issues and rarely made it out to conventions. He was always super cool with me, though. I DID get to a bar downtown during a convention once, just he and I talking comics. Did you know he wrote and drew all those while laying on his stomach on the floor? That's insane to us.
As I understand it Poison Elves WAS Drew's life. Out of all of us he did more books than the rest. Something like over 100 issues! THAT is awesome. I do know Robb and he made a contract that makes Robb the soul owner of the property. I for one wish Drew was still around.
REACH: We've seen samples of your character designs on your artbooks, you've even designed a Jatarri costume for JJ North (she' was an angel in leather)! You're doing art sculptures nowadays, and you still do damn gorgeous, hand sculpted work. I also know that you write as well as the best of any worldbuilding storyteller in comics. In fact few art professionals today can do the stuff, underrated comic book guys like you have accomplished. How are people responding to your artwork when you meet up with them at comic book or fantasy conventions? Do you still do private art commissions aside from prints and airbrushed paintings, like a sculpture of one of your gorgeous dragon heads? Nobody leaves a convention without one if they see you having a menagerie on display!
Fan favorite B-movie actress, JJ North dressed up as Animal Mystic comicbook heroine, Jatarri the environmental crusader. Image also from 3rd Eye volume 1, artbook by Greg Williams.
Greg Williams:Did you know that JJ showed up on the Donahue show dressed as the Queen? I was there and had to fit her with my costume, she even went to say "This is from a comic called Animal Mystic ' THAT was fun! I've got it on old videotape somewhere. I love costumery and over the years I've gotten braver with my outfits. Mostly with Halloween in miind. I try to do something new every year. I wish I could get into a FX house and really expand.
Werewolf sculpture commission made by Greg Williams. Amazing stuff.
Greg Williams:As for convention encounters, many times I meet one of my readers, and they can't believe it. That I'm Dark One from Animal Mystic. Even though they're some pics of what I look like around. I guess I don't fit the imagery I produce. I'm a big fan of just handing things out at shows and having everyone walk away with something even if it's only a sticker or button. A guy came up to me at one con and blew my mind by giving me a simple translation to a name in the A.M. series. He was astonished that I didn't engineer it intentionally. It is so cool to keep learning and get educated by an audience that pays attention. There is still much to know and miles to travel in this field that chose ME.
Greg Williams' workplace where he does his painting and digital art. Vintage iMac looks awesome! Looks like a bunk bed on top of the workplace too.
Thank you, DARK ONE, Greg Williams for giving us the opportunity to interview and show all comic book fans the great fantasy art you were doing and are still doing—from comics, to airbrushed paintings, and even sculpted busts.
Bless people like you for inspiring guys like me to dream about dragon riding warrior amazons (Chloe Grace Moretz or Miranda Kerr might make for an awesome version too) fighting evil. If TV is getting stories like Penny Dreadful together and rebooting Mad Max, they should look at the old Sirius comic book library for the best dark fantasy-apocalyptic stories ever.
One of the amazing pieces that Greg does extremely well, DRAGONS!