art by Junior Bruce

Fan art is basically the cover song of the art world. To me, good fan art also follows the same rules as a good cover song.

The most boring thing to do is to repeat what has been done before; trying to (in music) sound like The Beatles when covering “Daytripper” will only ever sound like someone trying to sound like The Beatles. Instead, a good cover song recasts that song through the filter of the new artist’s talent, making it sound like a song from that artist’s catalogue rather than something that stands out from it.

Fan art works best in the same way––when I see fan art, I don’t want to see an artist try to draw like another artist; I want to see what a character looks like when filtered through someone else’s hand.

I kind of don’t want to thikn about how long I’ve known Junior Bruce, another Sacramento-area artist, because it merely hammers home how long I’ve been doing this. Its’ surely been almost ten years since we kind of came up together in the Sacramento comics/art scene. What’s even more surprising is how many of those people that I met back at the start of this whole adventure are still at it, improving and expanding their talents as Junior has done, putting my meager growth to shame.

An example of the process posts published on D. Bethel’s Instagram feed.

From the start, Junior impressed me as a multi-talented individual––from making art to podcasts to stand-up comedy––and though he has kind of pulled back from extending himself across multiple media (much as I did when I started Long John), he has focused on the growth of not only his talent but his business over the last few years, and the effort shows. His Instagram feed features mostly his sketch card work and I honestly can’t understand how he maintains such a prolific output with such a consistent––and increasing––quality.

With such a busy and productive schedule, I had no idea Junior had the time to read my comic much less draw fan art for it. So, I was surprised to see his incredibly gracious post online about the comic and how I share the process (the maddening, incremental, slow, painstaking, and frustrating process) online on social media, coupled with sketches of his interpretation of Long John.

Even more to my surprise, he sent me the finished piece above a few days later, and it’s arrival was incredibly humbling.

I have talked about how comicking is a solitary process (as are most creative activities) and feedback is often rare or only really expressed as book sales at shows. To not only get an out-of-nowhere shout-out from a dude I’ve known seemingly forever but to get one so well-rendered in Junior’s inimitable style truly gives me, as a comic creator shut-in, the inspiration to keep pushing forward. It’s nice to hear a cover of your work every now and then, filtered through someone else’s talent and timbre. It drives home that, as much as I know Long John, that the comic is connecting with many other people out there, too.