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FOG! Chats With ‘Stumptown’ Artist Justin Greenwood

stumpStumptown is your favorite Rockford Files private detective story in comics form that you may or may not be reading!

Greg Rucka puts leading tough gal Dexedrine Parios in danger every issue but she can get to the bottom of the jig when that jig is certainly up, or in this instance, the bottom of a very dank coffee cup. Volume 4 of Stumptown, The Case of The Cup of Joe, comes out in January but is available for pre-order today (Diamond code: SEP161833)

Artist Justin Greenwood joins us to talk about the mystery comic set in Stumptown aka Portland, Oregon, cat-shit coffee and ‘silent’ issues of comic books!

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stumptownint4FOG!: The Case of the Cup of Joe was one of the funniest crime comics and of a lighter tone than the previous volumes. Was it fun to play with Portland’s barista and coffee culture obsession?

Justin Greenwood: Yeah, we had a lot of fun with it! I remember Greg telling us about the idea for building a case around some very valuable, sought-after coffee beans and you couldn’t help but chuckle at the premise.

I really enjoyed the interplay of allowing for the naturally funny elements to work and balancing them against weight of the family issues Dex deals with in this volume.

It makes for a very compelling story that still gets a laugh out of me when I re-read it.

How thoroughly did you research the art for these Kopi Luwak beans? There’s always great authentic cartooning in Stumptown. I have to ask you, have you ever had cat shit coffee?

Y’know, I had heard of Kopi Luwak beans but hadn’t really looked into what exactly was meant by “cat shit coffee”.

Turns out it’s exactly as you might think. I would bet that Greg had to do a lot more research than I did, at least specific to the coffee itself. But there was much more to that kind of specialized coffee brewing than I had really ever come into contact with.

Gear like high end Burr Grinders and Chemex-style glass coffee makers is pretty far from the dirty old coffee maker sitting in the corner of my kitchen.

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And I’ve found I could draw Civet skulls all day, given the choice.

Do you prefer working on these types of stories more based in reality than more fantasy based work? I do appreciate the backup material where you show your research!

I don’t know if I prefer one over the other, although I feel lucky to have the opportunity to do both. There is a challenge in making a story visually exciting when located in a really familiar, reality based setting that is pretty different from one that’s completely made up and can be bent to suit your needs without restriction.

But I do enjoy researching and building reference for these kinds of stories. There’s always much more to learn about any given area than you think, and with a setting like Portland that is well traveled within the comics community, I put more emphasis on being accurate without being too hung up on the minutia.

What directions were given about the introduction of Dex’s sister Fuji in this arc? She’s an artist too!

Oh man, Fuji is such a great addition to this arc! I don’t remember getting a ton of visual reference so much as Greg really trying to convey who she is at the core and really understanding the context of her relationship with Dex.

It strongly informs her look and how she carries herself—she is trying so hard without really ever putting in the effort. We definitely wanted her to have a hipster look and her strong personality made it an easy fit from there.

Issue #10 is a Silent Issue. This will also serve as an introduction to the next main Stumptown story. How was it working on this issue? Is the script any longer than usual from Greg?

I really enjoyed working on this issue a lot, it created a bunch of new storytelling challenges by not having much dialogue to lean on. And not just that, but its pretty different in comparison to the content of the other Stumptown stories I’ve gotten to tell with Greg as well.

It’s a stakeout where we pretty much are silent observers on what an average day might look like for Dex, but in true Stumptown fashion it doesn’t exactly go as expected. And you’re right, it is a change in mood, a one-and-done story that acts as a beat to shift gears as we head into what will be a decidedly different upcoming storyline.

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Also, I should note that Ryan Hill (colorist) was a big part of creating that change of mood, giving the issue a very distinct palette that was a perfect fit for this story.

The script was not much different from the others, aside from a distinct lack of dialogue. Greg still needed to convey a lot of information and understanding as to the specifics. But the ending of the case really caught me by surprise and it’s become one of my favorite Stumptown stories for that reason.

Actually, this volume contains two cases that both end in a way that I found particularly poignant and personally made them feel very satisfying to draw.

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Were you at all influenced by any previous silent issues? I’m speaking of course about G.I. Joe #21!

That G.I. Joe issue is the gold standard of silent comic book issues! I really liked the Sixth Gun one too, from a while back. But admittedly, I was much more influenced by the mood of really classic, noir type detective stories. It was more incidental that it was mostly silent, due to the fact that Dex is primarily alone throughout the issue.

The goal was more to put her into a very traditional PI setting and having it be silent sort of grew from that idea. It created real impact having all that silence before getting to the dialogue at the end, and gave it a great punch.

What does 2017 have in store for Dex?

It’s too early too give much away, but we definitely were conscious that Volume 4 would be a bit more fun and that the next arc will be a strong contrast to that. As hinted at earlier, things will be taking a darker turn in the upcoming storyline and things are going to get a lot harder for Dex before they get any easier.

And if there’s one thing I look forward to drawing, it’s a pissed-off Dexedrine Parios.

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Pre-order STUMPTOWN VOL. 4: THE CASE OF THE CUP OF JOE by @ruckawriter and @justingreenwood with Ryan Hill at your local comic book shop via comicshoplocator.com.

 

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