Russ Kazmierczak Jr. is a modern renaissance man, he is the creative force behind the ultra-popular Amazing Arizona Comics and he’s an incredible author, poet and spoken-word artist. He’s a founding member and plank-owner of the Red Avengers, sings some mean karaoke and is also a routine contributor on Nerdvana with exclusive Amazing Arizona Comics content.
Russ is the “go-to-guy” that the local press contacts when they need authoritative commentary on comics and their impact on pop culture. He is dedicated and passionate about comics, the comics business and the history and legacy of the medium, but he is also one of the funniest creators you’ll find. His local and national satire has some serious bite, but it is never mean-spirited.
For Nerdvana’s Artist Profile series, leading up to the 2012 Phoenix Comicon, Russ found time between dodging Joe Arpaio’s hit squads and his charity work at the local Boys & Girls Club to answer a few questions about his artistic influences and his preparations for the upcoming convention:
What is your secret origin?
After I was rocketed to earth from a doomed alien world, and bombarded with strange cosmic rays along the way, I was bitten by a box of radioactive comics right before it killed my adoptive parents, so I vowed to forever read and draw comics in an endless pursuit of truth and justice!
How do you describe your artwork?
Necessary, and constantly evolving. I used to self-publish comics with my friend Brent Otey in California, and HE was the REAL talent, but when I moved here I wanted to keep the creative juices flowing, and the only way was to draw my stories myself. I have a LOT to learn, and so far everything is self-taught through practice and observation.
What is your goal/ambition with your art?
I’d like the pictures to be as fun to look at as the story is to read. Right now, throwing in as many twists and turns as possible seems to keep both the art and the writing interesting.
I’m always working on Amazing Arizona Comics, my mini-comic series that puts superheroes behind real headlines in Arizona. I’m wrapping up a story with Speed Cameron along Route 66 in Flagstaff, and my next strips will star Family Fun Bot, one of the real discarded relics along the I-10 between Phoenix and Tucson. Keep an eye on Nerdvana for that one.
Who/what has influenced you most artistically? Which artist(s) do you most admire?
In comics, for me it all started with Erik Larsen. Amazing Spider-man #347 certainly wasn’t the first comic book I ever read, but it was the first that inspired me to see the connection between how all of the elements worked together. Basically, Spider-man is trapped on an island with Venom, and he has to use all of his wits to escape. I hung on every word in Spidey’s thought balloons, just as I felt the heat of the island as Larsen detailed beads of sweat on Spidey’s brow. It was intense! Since then, I’ve grown to admire Paul Grist, Norm Breyfogle, Mike Allred, Scott Morse, Jim Rugg, Farel Dalrymple, Paul Pope, Steve Rude . . . this could be an endless list!
Who is your favorite local artist?
In local comics, Derrick West (a.k.a. Dadicus) is the man.
What is your favorite music to listen to while working on your art?
David Gray is my favorite singer/songwriter, and Face to Face is my favorite punk band. That’s as diverse as it gets — but I also like to listen to talk radio, and if it’s on, “Coast to Coast.”
What is your favorite movie and how has it influenced your art?
I never thought of how movies affect my art, so this is an interesting question! One of my favorite movies is Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (the original, not the Burton/Depp remake), and as much as I like everything that happens in the factory, the first half of the film is probably my favorite, as the world scrambles for those golden tickets. The satire on news media was ahead of its time! So, as I always try to incorporate current events in my comics, I think that child-like view of the world that ends up making everything look a little less serious than it really is — that’s a driving force in my work.
What are you most looking forward to at Phoenix Comicon?
I love sketching for people, and especially kids whose eyes light up when they see their favorite superhero come to life on the page, so I’ll be doing that all day, for free!
I’d like to have an issue available, but at the very least I’ll have an exclusive pin-up of Speed Cameron at the Con, and I can sketch people in their costumes right into the scene!
What is the craziest thing you’ve been asked to sketch?
There was a real doozy last year — but I’ve blocked it from my mind. It was TOO CRAZY! I remember a squid . . . maybe a dragon . . . no, the horror . . .!
If you had a superpower, what would it be and how did you acquire it?
I like Speed Cameron’s powers and origin the most, so that’s what I want. I want to be struck by lightning at the same time a speed camera pops me doing 90 — and I want the result to be super speed. Then, I can draw all the comics I want with plenty of time to do everything else.
You can find Russ at the 2012 Phoenix Comicon Artist Alley Booth #437. He’ll be appearing at Samurai Comics in Phoenix for Free Comic Book Day on May 5, and he’ll also have Free Comic Book Day exclusives at Cab Comics in Flagstaff and Heroes & Villains in Tucson.
Arizona catches a lot of heat in the media and from the nation as a whole, but nevertheless our crazy ‘Hellscape’ is proudly called “home” by some of the greatest pop culture artistic talent in the country. So leading up to the 2012 Phoenix Comicon (May 24 – 27), Nerdvana will showcase a series of posts profiling some of the amazing local artists that will be appearing at this year’s convention. Read ALL the Nerdvana Artist Profiles!