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Santa Maria Sun / Art

The following article was posted on January 11th, 2011, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 11, Issue 44 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 11, Issue 44

Dreadful success

An Orcutt-based illustrator is carving out a career in the comic book industry


He's got brains
Illustrator Lance Sawyer just released a comic book with fellow illustrator Mark Slater. The book, called Dreadful, is three short zombie stories and is already finding a fan base.

Lance Sawyer sketched out a design with the familiar ease and confidence of a hot chick used to jotting down her number on a napkin in a bar. Only Sawyer was sitting in a booth in a dimly lit sushi joint just before the lunch hour. With short, quick strokes, he pulled together shapes, stopping only briefly to catch his train of thought.

Sawyer talked about his recent comic book, a labor that has finally come to fruition. It’s something he’s wanted to do for a long time, but things finally came together when he teamed up with fellow illustrator Mark Slater.

The result is Dreadful, a collection of three short zombie stories the duo hopes will become a series. Sawyer said the comic came about in part thanks to the Internet. He met fellow illustrator Slater, who lives in Ontario, Canada, on the art site Deviant Art. Both artists have worked for companies like 5Finity, SadLittles, Topps/LucasArts, and Breygent Marketing. Via their online connection, the two realized they had a lot in common and really hit it off.

“Mark is an incredible artist, and our styles go together really well,” Sawyer said.

With one last, deliberate, unifying pencil stroke, Sawyer pushed the page he was working on forward: Princess Leia barking orders at an exasperated Han Solo. Capturing the nuances of the various characters from Star Wars has become something of a second nature to Sawyer. He just finished a project requiring 300 Star Wars sketch cards: original sketches of characters randomly inserted in sets of collectible trading cards. Sawyer has previously worked in the sketch card market for companies like Topps; the work is steady, but can be tedious and doesn’t allow much room for creativity.

Sawyer had been moving toward creating a comic book for some time when he showed his colleague Slater some samples. Slater mentioned he was working on a comic and invited Sawyer to include his work.

Lance Sawyer, who just completed a set of 300 Star Wars sketch cards, said his work lately seems to be headed more toward the horror comic genre. He said it seems like everyone likes to be scared.

When they finished Dreadful, the result was three short zombie horror stories and plenty of gore. The collection reflects a favorite theme in pop culture lately, with movies and television shows exploring zombie storylines.

“I guess people just like to be scared,” Sawyer said.

With Dreadful finished, Sawyer recently traveled to the Toronto Fan Expo where he sold out of the book and met up with some new fans.

“It was amazing. I met a lot of cool people there, and also a lot of my heroes,” he said. “You think that they are these untouchable people, but then I meet them and they are just like everybody else.”

Sawyer was even approached by one of those heroes about collaborating on another comic book project—yes, more monsters and gore. He said he’s still waiting on the contracts, but he’s reveling in the notoriety.

 “It was cool to have people contact me,” he said.

The book’s initial success is promising for Sawyer, because it’s more of the direction he’s looking to take his art. Work has already started on the second book in the Dreadful series.

Fang fan?
If you'd like to see more of Lance Sawyer's work or to order a vampire commission of yourself, e-mail or visit him on Facebook.

His apparent move from action hero comic books to horror comics isn’t intentional, he said, but the genre fascinates him.

“It’s always been something I’ve been interested in, and now it just seems that’s where my career is going,” he said. “It’s fun to be able to draw monsters. It could look like anything. Drawing Han Solo, it’s got to look like Han Solo, but with monsters you could do anything.”

In fact, Sawyer does make them look like anything—and anyone. He’ll do commission work for anyone who wants an illustrated portrait of themselves as a vampire. He stressed, however, that this is serious stuff; no “glitter vamps” will come from his pencil. For those who want to know what they’d look like as an immortal, in the horror sense, Sawyer is filling a niche.

Arts Editor Shelly Cone wonders, ‘Why zombies?’ Undead, please don’t contact her at

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