INTERVIEW: Tim Bradstreet - Punisher Illustrator
Chances are that, if you've seen a cool, gothic-looking piece of art on the cover of a comic book or in some role-playing game, Tim Bradstreet has had a hand in it. The man has done work on The Punisher, Hellblazer and Vampire: The Masquerade, among other
This week features an exclusive interview with game illustrator, film developer and comic book cover artist extraordinaire Tim Bradstreet. In it, Tim discusses his work on Punisher and Hellblazer, as well as the statuses of his Red Sky Diary, and other current and future projects.
UGO: Where are you from? Are you married? Kids? Where do you live now?
Tim Bradstreet: I was born in Cheverly, Maryland, I grew up in Bloomington Illinois. I'm married to the gorgeous Mrs. Leigh Anne Bradstreet - no kids yet. I now reside in San Diego, California.
UGO: What was your first comic book purchase?
Tim Bradstreet: My first comic book purchase was X-Men #109. I'm pretty sure the villain was Mesmero. Wolverine was the impetus. That hair, those claws. Very cool.
UGO: I know that you are spoken of as being self-taught regarding your artwork. What was your inspiration to teach yourself?
Tim Bradstreet: In sixth grade, my teacher, Mr. Livingston, had a break time session for like a half hour during the school day. We got to have snacks and take some time to read, draw, talk, play records or whatever. It was like a free half-hour period.
He had a bookshelf full of books ranging from To Kill a Mockingbird to Dune. He also had a table with comic books. Among the titles were Tales To Astonish starring Deathlok and War Of The Worlds starring Killraven.
I was hooked immediately. Before that all I drew was cars and Dinosaurs. I voraciously started drawing super heroes. That's when I started buying comics and that's when I really started to draw them. Comics and TV shows like The Twilight Zone, Star Trek and Johnny Quest were the fuel for the fire. Pure escapism, not that my childhood wasn't spectacular. I just felt different from other people. And just for the record, I want to thank Mr. Livingston for introducing me to Dune and Deathlok. My favorite book and my favorite comic
book character. Kids are so impressionable.
UGO: Who are the influences upon your work? If there are any, being that you are self-taught.
Tim Bradstreet: I'll just give you the list. Lots of guys but mainly Frank Frazetta, Bernie Wrightson, Jim Steranko, Paul Gulacy, Gene Day, Moebius, John Byrne, Joe Kubert, P. Craig Russell, Michael Kaluta, Barry Windsor-Smith, Michael Golden, Brian Bolland, John Bolton, Walt Simonson, Bilal, Serpieri, Roy Krenkle, Neal Adams, Jack Kirby, Tim Truman, and Bill Sienkiewicz. Pretty much just comic book artists and movies.
UGO: Who are your closest friends in the comic and gaming industries?
Tim Bradstreet: I'm in such a vaccum. No one lives close to me so I don't have any best friends in the biz. But my closest pals are Tim Truman, Bernie Wrightson, Jill Thompson, Brian Azzarello, John Mueller, James O'Barr, Chris Warner, Fred Fields, Larry Elmore, Keith Parkinson, Joe Jusko, Steve Niles, Mark A. Nelson, Jeff Laubenstien, Essad Ribic, and editors Axel Alonso, Will Dennis, Bob Schreck, and Diana Schutz. I'm leaving off a ton of people but those are the ones that come to mind.
UGO: How did you break into the field and become a wage-earning professional?
Tim Bradstreet: Pretty much right out of high school I got involved in the Role-Playing Game market. I showed my work to a guy named Steve Venters who was doing covers for Game Designers Workshop and FASA. He was also doing interior illustrations for a book called Twilight 2000. He wanted to concentrate on covers so he asked me to do a try out illustration in his style. I did a few and he was happy with the results so he took me in to meet the art director. They liked what they saw and I got the job. Twilight 2000 was a series so I picked up a decent job right off the bat. Steve then introduced me to other clients and I started getting work from them all. One led to another. I was pretty busy.
During this time I would attend comic book shows big and small. I used to go up to Chicago Con and see all of my heroes and artistic influences. I wanted to make the leap to comics. Tim Truman was a major influence on me. I met him at a show in 1983. He was just then making his big splash on the scene with Starslayer and then Grimjack. I was a huge fan and he was very personable.
UGO: Tim is a gentle and kind soul. He is one of my heroes in comics.
Tim Bradstreet: He was always surrounded by other cool artists and writers, Tim's posse. I kind of idolized him. Anyway, I'd see him every year at the big Chicago show and would always show him my work. In 1990, I showed him my latest stuff, which were the illustrations I'd done for Vampire: The Masquerade. I could see a different look on his face this time. He looked up at me and said, "Would you want to work on something with me sometime?" I almost died right there. I walked out of that show on a giant cloud. A week later I had pages for Dragon Chiang in my mailbox. I have never looked back.
UGO: What was your first published work?
Tim Bradstreet: Both suck. In games it was actually a couple illustrations for a book called Traveller Digest, published by GDW. In comics, it was a pin-up and several illustrations of Kanjar Ro for Who's Who in the DC Universe. He's a character from Hawkman/Hawkworld. One of Truman's friends, Graham Nolan, set me up with that.
UGO: Dragon Chiang ruled. How was it working with such a great artist?
Tim Bradstreet: Working with Truman was unreal and surreal at the same time. I respected this guy so much I didn't want to ruin his pencils. I lightboxed at least 4-5 pages before I felt comfortable enough that I wouldn't ruin his artwork. What can I say, it was a dream come true. Tim was so supportive. A great teacher. I was a huge fan of Joe Kubert and Tim was a former student of Joe's so that was hanging over me as well. I felt this tremendous pressure to not screw it but I also had the time of my life. My dad got a tremendous kick out of watching it all unfold. He supported me in my dream a lot. Drove me up to Chicago to the shows before I had a license, all that stuff. That was a magical time.
UGO: Hmmm, my magical time was when I found a five dollar bill on a snowbank. I need to get a more exciting life.
Did you have designs of a full out storytelling-style pencils or did you nearly always understand that you'd be more of a cover artist than interior penciller?
Tim Bradstreet: I started out doing a lot of inking and trying to get cover work cause that's what I really wanted to do. I don't think I was thinking along the lines of being a penciller until Cat Yronwode offered me Clive Barker's Age Of Desire. I knew it would be a big task, shooting it all. Casting it, finding locations, the whole thing was rather daunting, but I said yes. Hell, I was 23 years old, who was gonna stop me?
After working on the project for about 9 months I was a page from being done when Eclipse went bankrupt. I had not been paid for a lot of the pages. It turned into a nightmare when I couldn't get any of the art back. I had no idea what happened to it. It was lost, along with Eclipse. I was pretty crushed. That whole episode very much soured me on doing interiors. I started getting regular cover work not long after that so I just moved on. It's not that I won't do sequential work, it's just that the project has to be worth the time I'd have to invest in it. Covers and illustration is my passion but I definitely have a good bit of sequential work in me as well. Right now it's only a question of what and when.
UGO: For many years I have heard about Red Sky Diaries. Did it ever come out in published form and where is that project now?
Tim Bradstreet: A link to an interview available on my website right now that addresses this question pretty well. However, suffice it to say that right now nothing
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