Twenty-four year old artist Long Vo is getting some well-deserved attention for his East-meets-West style of anime-inspired artwork. With his new book "Last Shot" now on the stands and future work planned for Marvel Comics "X-Men: Evolution," Long Vo is a name many comic book fans are learning to recognize.
CBR News spoke to Long Vo earlier this week about his work on "Last Shot," "X-Men: Evolution" and the new things on his drawing board for the coming months.
"Last Shot is what we call a Medieval Punk Western," Vo told CBR News. "The universe in which Last Shot occurs is a part cyber, part medieval fantasy, part western frontier, all mixed in with a dash of steam punk. The story revolves (no pun intended) around a bounty hunter nicknamed Revolver who has twin hand guns built into his hands. He is like most people. That is, he's stuck in his every day grind doing his job every day with no hope of becoming something more. In this regard, Revolver is accustomed to a hardened lifestyle which has made him quite the realist. The guy has been paying off this huge debt that he accrued for his "hand guns" for the past 10 years, and he's just over half way done. For him, he feels like there's no way out. He has no expectations in life and expects to die the same way he lives. This all changes however, when a huge bounty is announced. All he has to do is transport a mysterious girl who has no memory of her past to a specified location on the other side of the continent. The reward is 6 Million dollars,more than enough to pay off his debt and live well for the rest of his life. The interesting question is though, does he really want to? He' s a bounty hunter who's good at killing, (look at his hands for God's sake), and keeping someone alive is not something he's used to."
Vo has no doubts that "Last Shot" will appeal to a wide range of comic fans.
"Last Shot would appeal to anyone who's into Science Fiction, Medieval Fantasy, Westerns, Hong Kong Film, and Anime or Manga or if you're just looking for something different from the norm," said Vo. "Any fans who are into slick anime styled visuals should really dig this book. Our goal with our visuals is very cinematic, as if you are watching a high quality anime film. We combine anime cel styled characters with painstakingly created backgrounds and state of the art computer effects to bring everything together. Other than the visuals, Last Shot is an entertaining read as well, with characters that makes sense. All too often, we see books with characters that do things because it's cliché to do so. In Last Shot, we strive to make believable characters who all have motivations to do what they do. Fans should also appreciate the fact that we created a ton of cybernetic bounty hunters which will be appearing throughout the series. One of the main draws for me as an artist and a creator is creating new kinds of technology for the Gunners in the book. It 's really very cool stuff."
Artist Long Vo is new to the comic book industry, but fans may have noticed his work previous to "Last Shot" and "X-Men:Evolution." His first professional work were some alternative covers for the "Tekken 2" comic series, while the first comic series he worked on was "Echo." With a strong work ethic already in place, Vo is determined to insure that his comic book career is a long one.
"I'm working on 1 and ˝ books every month, and I also handle a lot of the business end of the studio as well, so I'm usually working all the time. It's very taxing on my stamina, but it's what you have to do if you wanna stay alive in the industry," he said.
From an early age, Long Vo knew he wanted to be an artist.
"I've learned most of my drawing skills through experimentation when I was a kid. I learned a lot from reading comics when I really got into them," said Vo. "Though I did go to art school a few years back and did some more classical art study. In terms of the computer coloring aspect, I'm self taught. Most of my artistic influences are Japanese artists. I started out with Jim Lee as my main influence though, him being the exception. My list would include Nobuteru Yuuki (Lodoss War, Escaflowne), Satoshi Shiki (Riot, Kamikaze), Masamune Shirow (Ghost in the Shell, Orion), and many, many more."
"As with any other artists, I'd like to be able to get to the point where I can look at a piece of art I did and not see anything wrong with it," said Vo. "I'm still learning and because I am on a schedule, sometimes I have to let things slide. That's the funny thing about commercial art, you can't be too nitpicky about it. Eventually though, I'd like to be able to reach a wider audience with my work, and try to inspire people to be more creative. Growing up, I've been influenced by so many cool ideas and things. I want to be able to do that for younger kids in the future," he said.
So, Vo challenges himself as often as possible, but the greatest challenge for him is to stay motivated.
"You have to WANT to draw comics everyday," he said. "Most of the time, I'm having fun with the stuff I draw. But there are some days when everything just seems to not come out right. You lose heart, and you lose motivation. The hardest part is trying to motivate yourself even though you feel like utter crap. Sadly to say, you can see it in the artwork on those days when things just don't come together."
Vo is excited about the opportunity he's been given to show the world what he can do, but he also knows that there are many obstacles in the way for a new artist or a new title to overcome.
"There have been so many new titles coming out from smaller publishers that are very promising and are very innovative," Vo said. "The problem with this is that these titles never get off the ground because no one knows about them. As a result of this, a lot of very talented up and comers get disheartened and fall out of comics just because their first published book didn't make enough money to cover its own print run. In terms of keeping existing readers, the only thing to do is just to keep pushing the limits of comics. Give readers what they want but don't overdo it. In terms of getting new readers, we have to start advertising OUTSIDE OF THE COMIC INDUSTRY. When was the last time you saw a TV commercial for a comic book? There are no kids reading comic books anymore, and that is a major problem in my opinion. Also, there should be more of a variety of books in each store. Most comic shops I go to only carry the superhero titles and maybe some anime and translated manga. You can never find anything else but. How are we supposed to attract new readers when we only offer them 2 genres? Because of this, most people think that all comics are just guys in spandex or big-eyed Pokemon fluff. We need to break this stereotype and show people that there is much, much more to comics. People shouldn't be afraid to try new things with storytelling. One of the main goals of our book Last Shot was to try to tell an entertaining story that is unlike anything you've seen before."