B-Squad Banter with Artist Jon Williams

Jon Williams did all of the pencil and ink work on issue two and three of B-Squad. The wacky Tapigami adventures shined a little light on the relationship B-Squad has with the city of Sacramento. Eben first met Jon at Big Brother Comics in downtown Sacramento and collaborated frequently with him during an art night at Temple Coffee organized by Jon. These weekly check-ins served as a way to keep the collaboration fresh. B-Squad was one of Jon's first forays into a full-length comic story and his keen hand and sensibilities stem from a life-long love of comics! 

Check out Jon's Instagram to see all the pinups and doodles he makes every week.

Tell us a little bit about how you decided to get into illustrating comics?

 I made a vow at the tender early age of 5, after drawing an awfully glorious, or gloriously awful, picture of the Flash that I wanted to draw comics when I was older. Every day since then has been working toward it. Except for the many I wasted time on other pursuits... But everyone's a little stupid when they're young, right?

What are your preferred implements for illustrating?

I start with a non photo blue pencil for layouts. From there I flesh everything out with a Staedtler 2mm lead holder with 2h lead. I like the weight of the lead holder, and with the 2mm lead I don't dig as much into the paper, but it still holds its point better than a standard pencil. And I prefer my lead a little harder because I jump around a lot and smear softer lead all over the place. When I ink, the tools I use all depend on the project and what I'm trying to achieve. I would love to ink everything with my Raphael 8404 size 2 brush. I love that guy. But sometimes, like in the case of B-Squad, I feel like I needed a more solid line. Less lush, if that makes any sense. A more animated cartoon quality. I started issue 2 with a brush, but moved into using Kuretake and Zebra brush pens. The allow you to control line weight, but you have to work to change it, so you don't accidentally have wobbly lines. And it's much quicker than a brush or dip pen.

What was your favorite illustration in B-Squad made either by you or a colleague? 

I can never decide on just one... Of mine, the first page of the second issue was big for me... It was a special moment for them and for myself. Then page 13 in issue two, there is a large central panel of the squad marching through the Tapigami jungle... I felt with that panel that I really understood my style of B-Squad. Taking on someone else's characters and paying tribute to it while keeping your own voice is interesting. It was there that it clicked for me, so I enjoy looking at that panel.

With Sean's work, I love his memorial page for Victoria. I was lucky enough to see some of his pages as they were coming in, being on the ground floor for the process of making this book. That one's design popped out at me. I also liked page 5 of issue 3. The bottom panel with the Sacramento buildings and the helicopter. The first time I saw that made me more than a little jealous at the proficiency with which he handled the inanimate objects.

Lauren is amazing. Her design work made this job infinitely easier than it would have been otherwise. Each character is imbued with such a distinct personality. After reading the first issue, and character bios, and doing a couple sketches, you already feel like you know these characters and how they'll react and move in a given situation. And her cover for issue 1 did exactly what it was supposed to. It told me exactly what was in store for the series.

What aspect of working on B-Squad did you find the most challenging?

The most challenging was probably finding my own voice in the context of B-Squad. Like I mentioned above, you don't want to crap on someone else's work, but you can't just ape their style, either.  

 One of Jon's first B-Squad sketches.

One of Jon's first B-Squad sketches.

Who is/was your favorite character so far?

I think it's gotta be Sully. It sort of jumped around a lot when I was drawing the book... I loved drawing Babs' scarred but sexy curves, and Hamlin was fun cause I grew up in the age of angry muscle men. But Sully had the most fun personality to draw. Kind of a goofy nervousness that I felt he had in him.  

What are you working on now?

I just finished and rolled out the beginnings of a print venture called Little Beefies. I'm taking some of my favorite childhood characters and putting an even more ridiculously cartoony muscley spin on them. I also just made a new Inktober sketchbook from last Inktober's illustrations. I am also collaborating with writer David Andry on a sci-fi comedy comic. Early stages right now, but more to come soon. 

What other culture, comics or otherwise, is inspiring your work the most right now?

 Right now I'm super into goofier comedy books. The books that were inspired by things like The Tick, or Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. I love comics that have the "why not?" mentality. Anything can happen, no matter how ridiculous. God Hates Astronauts is definitely one of those books. As well as another Image title called Kaptara. I accidentally stumbled onto that one, but it is currently my favorite comic series. I cannot spread the word about it enough.

Is there an artist who you'd like to see illustrate B-Squad in the future?

Jeez, what a setup... Do I go arrogant and say myself? Am I gonna insult my fellow squaddies by recommending other people? Ha! I'd love to see at least pinups of the squad by every artist out there. Our friend Chris Alvarez has such a unique style, I'd love to see his rendered squad. Hannah Moore has a cartoony bubbly style that would be fun too. Mike Allred, Ramon Perez, Jim Lee (he'd nail Hamlin), Tom Fowler, Francis Manapul, Ryan Browne, Mark Schultz, Alex Ross. The possibilities are endless!