Posted February 12, 2013 by Chris Romero in Comics

Interview: Mark Roslan of Aspen Comics


Mark Roslan, Director of Design and Production at Aspen Comics, has played an important role with the publisher’s creative team since its debut a decade ago. Now celebrating its tenth year in the comic industry, Aspen Comics has begun its “10 for 10″ initiative as of this month, with the release of Legend of the Shadow Clan #1, written by David Wohl. Mark discussed with Geeks Unleashed his role with Aspen, and the company’s upcoming plans for its new titles.

mark roslan aspen comics

© Mark Roslan

GU: You’ve done extensive artwork in the past for Marvel, contributing to popular titles such as Ultimate Comics X, X-Men Schism, Fear Itself, and the recent AVX VS. series. What are some of the key differences between working for Marvel and Aspen?

MR: Both are a blast to work for but working for Marvel is purely a work for hire job while at Aspen, I’m far more integrated with the projects I work on. Both are very trusting in my abilities but I would say I have so more freedom with Aspen Comics, mostly because I’ve been with the company for almost ten years now and they give me the freedom to do my thing and experiment where I see fit. I have no complaints with working with either one.

GU: You recently made a career transition from artist to writer with the 2011-2012 Aspen series, Broken Pieces. What were some of the creative challenges you faced while making this transition?

Broken Pieces #1 Aspen Comics

© Aspen Comics

MR: First of all, it was simply a matter of finding the time. I had to block out time to write and it usually ended up being from eleven till three in the morning. While it’s really fun when you get immersed in your projects, it started to take a toll on me after a few months. I can’t write more than one title at a time right now just because I have to balance my work at Aspen with the writing. Secondly, it’s a shift in gears and my brain already has trouble shifting from production, to graphic design, to inks, and then adding in creative writing.

I had to find triggers to switch my mood from task to task. For instance, I like to watch sitcoms when I’m working on Aspen or Marvel artwork and I like it completely quiet when I do graphic design and typesetting. Before I sit down to write, I read some great inspirational prose, and sometimes put on a movie soundtrack while I stare at my outline. At times it can be exhausting, but I welcome the challenge… and caffeine.

GU: Do you have any other plans in store for the Broken Pieces title now that the series has concluded this past December?

MR: I have a unique idea for a sequel, but I’d like to take my time to devote fleshing it out. Broken Pieces played with a non-linear structure and I’d like to do the same with a second volume. Currently, I’m knee deep in another idea I’m excited about. Whenever possible, I like to work on whatever makes me most excited. That way, I’m giving it my very best effort and I think that my enthusiasm translates onto the page.

GU: What projects would you consider to be your proudest accomplishments?

AXE: Anarchy

© Aspen Comics

MR: There are a few. I worked with Michael Turner (along with Loeb and Steigerwald) on the historic Superman/Batman run where I was digitally enhancing, or some people call digitally inking, Turner’s pencils. I also worked on the online graphic novel for NBC’s HEROES, which ran for a few years where I was heavily involved with the whole process. Also the AXE: Anarchy Graphic Novel was a blast to do. It was fast paced comic book making where fans determined how the story progressed as Scott Lobdell frantically fleshed it out.

Broken Pieces obviously is a very very proud moment. It was a passion project that most creators dream for a chance to do. I was given that chance, and despite insecurities, I was able to craft the story how I dreamed it. To add to the list, I’d like to say the current project I’m working on is also molding up to be something I think will be very special.

GU: Can you explain to GU readers how you started in the comic book industry?

MR: To not go into the boring details, I basically fought for an internship in the comic book industry while I was in my junior year of college. I knew helping to create comic books would be way more exciting than making pamphlets for politicians. I emailed and called a few offices until Top Cow (with Image Comics) gave me a shot. I drove across the country in my Oldsmobile with my best friend from Virginia to California in less than three days and simply gave it my all. I stayed after hours and tried to soak in as much information I could.

I made some great friends there but I had to return to school to complete my final year of studies. A few months passed by and I heard Michael Turner, Frank Mastromauro, and Peter Steigerwald were starting up a new company. I called them up and told them I wanted in, regardless of the involvement. It was just too exciting for me not to try.

I left all my friends and family to move out to Los Angeles as soon as I finished school and I worked part-time with Aspen Comics in their first year. I also worked part-time with Dreamer Design, a comic lettering and design studio, where I learned to letter books as well. To take away anything from my story, I would say you have to really put yourself out there and give it your all, no matter what you’re aiming for. You have to love it. It doesn’t work out for everyone, but at least you can say you gave it your everything.

GU: What are some of the major responsibilities you undertake as Director of Design and Production at Aspen Comics?

Legend of the Shadow Clan #1

© Aspen Comics

MR: I’m basically the hub for Aspen Comics. Virtually everything gets filtered to my computer and I collect, organize, distribute, and construct each and every book and project we work on. After all that, it’s getting the books to the printer and making sure that everyone’s hard work shows without mistakes. Comic books is publishing.

It’s not just pencils and paper. There are a lot of people and factors to take into account but, it comes down to me to put them all together, design, construct the final book files, and get them to the printer so they can deliver the book to your local comic book store. To add to that, I also prepare our digital comic book files.

There are other responsibilities, like helping with scheduling, cover ideas, convention preparations, digitally enhancing/inking pencils and online social marketing, but at the end of the day it comes down to me and my design/publishing knowledge.

GU: How did you become part of the Aspen Comics’ team as Director of Design and Production?

MR: I’ve been with the company and making comic books since its first year in 2003. I worked heavily with coloring and design guru, Peter Steigerwald, co-owner of the company. He took me under his wing and showed me all his tricks to which I’m forever grateful. As time went on, his coloring career and company tasks grew, as did my responsibilities with the design and production of Aspen’s projects.

GU: What are some of the major obstacles comic book publishers face in today’s industry? How does Aspen adapt to these challenges?

Aspen Comics 10 for 10

© Aspen Comics

MR: Some major obstacles comic book publishers face today is reaching a broader audience. Even with the movies and TV shows, comic books are not as booming an industry as it should, and I believe, can be. I’d like to see more of a push with the media to direct entertainment fans towards comic books. They’re better than television shows and movies in my opinion. There are no restrictions to what you can put on those pages and the stories are just as enriching, engrossing, and satisfying as anything you’d find on-screen.

If you think about it, a comic book has no budget for its effects, or limitations on location, or ageing to its characters. There is literally a book out there for everyone’s taste. Our “10 for 10” initiative is aimed at helping our independent company take a greater presence on the comic book shelves by catering to both comic book retail store owners and the fans that read them.

We’re hoping that our loyal and new fans, along with us, will help spread the word on how great these books are with their friends. This is just a baby step but, we believe we are doing our part by trying to change the perception of what a comic book can be and will continue to do so as the company continues to grow.

GU: Aspen Comics is making some major moves to attract new readers with its upcoming “10 for 10” launch beginning in February. What can we expect from these ten new titles?

Shrugged Aspen Comics

© Aspen Comics

MR: It’s our ten-year anniversary but we’re as pumped as if it’s our first. We’re approaching these ten titles with fresh eyes and making sure each one is the best book on the shelf. We’re not just competing with other company’s heroes in tights, we’re competing with each other’s books to see who can make the best “10 for 10” title!

You know what they say: competition brings innovation. Each book will be infused with what we do best, great action and adventure with characters that you care about, along with artwork that will amaze you. You’re going to have a hard time finding something you don’t like within these ten books and I can guarantee they’re as good, if not better than the books you currently subscribe to.

GU: What are you most excited about in regards to Aspen Comics’ future for 2013?

MR: I think people are frustrated with both Marvel and DC Comics right now and will hopefully look to Aspen for great stories that aren’t redone favorites or rehashed licensed properties. I’m personally interested in new unique stories and fresh characters, and I think fans that are looking for the same thing will find it with Aspen Comics.

Fathom has now reached its fifteen year anniversary and Soulfire its tenth. We are pushing to make these titles bigger and better while maintaining our volume story structure since day one. We also have five brand new properties that aren’t movie pitches, but rather exactly what the comic book world is looking for. I will be writing one of these titles and I’m purposefully writing it towards what I miss from the comics I loved while taking it into fresh territory.

I can’t think of another book like it currently on the stands. Aspen has been around for ten years now, which is an accomplishment not to be taken lightly, and we feel like we’ve just gotten started.

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Teacher by day, hero by night, Chris’ superpowers include holding his breath under water for ten solid seconds and unjamming a photocopier machine at work. You can find him at the comic shop every Wednesday afternoon, looking for what Geeks Unleashed readers should be adding to their list. Check out Chris’ weekly comic review column, ComicBurst, for the latest reviews of today’s hottest titles.