Finally, here’s a self-portrait from Robert James Luedke. Amazingly, he is self taught. The “eye” has been a gift in Robert’s life. His visual skills were sharp enough to help him perfect his own artistic style — and his most famous graphic novel is called, “Eye Witness.”
Here are Robert’s words:
I have been involved in the comic book and graphic novel industry one way or another for about 15 years now. I established and ran a pair of comic book stores in the Dallas area, from 1989 through 1995. In mid ’95, I founded Head Press Publishing as a way to bring my sci-fi adventure story, Template, to life. After writing, illustrating and publishing an issue of Template (and its spin-off title, Max Damage), approximately every 60 days for a span of about two years, I finally had to throw in the towel because I had run myself out of working capital and the comic market was extremely difficult in those years, (especially for indy titles). But on the bright side, Template was voted as one of the 10 Best Indy Titles of 1998, by the now defunct trade magazine, Combo.
From 1998 through 2000, I teamed up with my wife, Sandy, and built a very successful nutritional distribution company and along the way I found God. I became born again in Christ, in October 1999, and became consumed with determining what part I was to play in God’s big picture. Was I to go into ministry? Was I destined to teach, which is what I was doing at that point in my business life? Was there someplace God wanted me to be besides Dallas-Ft. Worth, Texas?
After months of prayer and reflection, the answer came to me in the form of a Bible study I sat through in late 1999, entitled, “Did Jesus Really Die on the Cross?”
This presentation opened my eyes to the fact that there was medical and archeological evidence to support the biblical telling of the passion story and that highly educated people truly could (and did) believe! Since I had always been driven by learning the facts behind everything, (I’m an avid History-Channel fan), hearing this information really served to strengthen my faith. The foundation of this lecture became my first graphic novel, “Eye Witness: A Fictional Tale of Absolute Truth,” and I truly understood how God would work through me — by reaching young people through an artistic medium that had really not been utilized much to further his kingdom.
AN EARLY LOVE AFFAIR
As someone who purchased his first comic book at the age of nine, (and yes it was only 12 cents way back then), submitted his first artwork to Marvel at the age of 11 and had created boxes full of my own comic creations by my teens … I grew to love comics not only as a form of entertainment but also as an art-form. By my high school years, I could amaze my comic-reading friends by not only being able to name the penciler on just about any Marvel or DC title just by looking at the pages, but also the inker.
Like many young comic fans, I dreamed of one day becoming an artist for my favorite titles. But like many young adults, I soon found that the time it took to crank out a continuous supply of sample pages for my portfolio started to test the limits of my patience and my ability to focus on pursuing a “real job.”
So like the scriptures say, once I became an adult, I had to put away childish things…and for me, that included my pursuing a career in comics. That is of course until my early thirties when I opened my first comic book shop.
MASTERING THE TRADE
As an artist, inker and writer, I’ve been mainly self-taught. God gifted me with the ability to look at a work of art, including comic pages, and be able to figure out and duplicate the techniques used to create it. I’ve spent many hours at comic book conventions over the years, pouring over stacks of original art, making notes, then going back to my studio to work on mastering the techniques I had viewed. During my con visits I’ve also asked as many questions as I could of established pros.
I didn’t set out to become a trailblazer or spokesman for the developing genre of Christian based comics and graphic novels! At first this was just about creating something that God had placed upon my heart, using the gifts and lessons he had supplied me with over the course of my life. That responsibility, it seems, was added to my mission as I began to create a marketing strategy for the first Eye Witness book, back in 2002, when I saw how few titles there were with a Christian influence in the marketplace. There was a number of small or self published creators doing titles, but no one was really pushing the envelope and bringing their creations to the attention of main-stream comic fans.
It falls upon more artists and writers to come out of the spiritual closet, so to speak, and use this medium as a tool for witness and worship. The development of Christian contemporary music industry over the last decade was, in part, a similar response by modern musician to this same void that had occurred in musical arts. And their music has been used effectively to reach hundreds of thousands of young people with spiritual messages. But there are so many other avenues of worship within the graphic arts that can be utilized!
I am currently working feverishly to complete the artwork on next book in the Eye Witness series, Rise of the Apostle. This third book in the tetralogy, is scheduled for an August 2008 release to book stores and comic shops, with a world-premier at Comic-Con International 2008, (in San Diego), in late July. It features a cover painting by world-class illustrator, Lee Moyer, and interior coloring by Carsten Bradley.
By the time EW3 is released, I’ll already be working on the art for the forth chapter in the Eye Witness saga, (which has already been scripted), and wrap up the series. That volume will tentatively be ready by late 2009. From that point, I’m going to go back and re-master the original volume from the bare art pages forward, add some new pages and bridging sequences, and produce a collected edition of the entire series in a smaller digest sized edition.
To hear more of my personal testimony, learn more about Eye Witness or see what we are up to at Head Press Publishing, visit us at: www.headpress.info Or, go to my page at Shoutlife.com: http://www.shoutlife.com/profile_view.cfm?uid=2307