John Bruggman credits his dad’s past hobby for how the 21-year-old got involved in collecting and drawing — and now joining the ranks of being published for — the comics genre.Bruggman just celebrated the debut of his first published book cover, Slumber #1, for Image Comics. It depicts a dark- and hollow-eyed woman holding a shotgun in a large doorway. He didn’t actually design the character, he said, but studied the sample pages, examples, and a brief description provided by the company. He submitted his version of lead character Stetson, which was chosen for the March cover release.
“I’ve always been interested in drawing, and in high school, I started taking it more seriously in my junior year. As a kid opening up my dad’s comics, this is like a dream come true to be published with this company. But also professionally, it's a confidence boost in a weird way," the Batavia native said during an interview with The Batavian. “ "When I first came to college I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to find work or if my style would be popular with an audience. And it was a really nice confidence boost to see the praise from not only the company, but the people who bought it, and the orders that came in, and the support from the local area as well.”
The book is available at 3D Comics in Lancaster, Pressing Matters LLC in Buffalo, and through Bruggman’s website. It’s a freshly written comic with new characters and storylines. The premise features Stetson, a nightmare hunter and a dream detective.
From Image Comics:
"She runs a shoddy back-alley business where she helps clients sleep at night by entering their dreams and killing their nightmares. But Stetson’s past comes back to haunt her when she tracks down a literal living nightmare—a serial killer that murders people in their sleep. SLUMBER is an ongoing series from the twisted minds of writer Tyler Burton Smith (Kung Fury and Child’s Play), and rising-star artist Vanessa Cardinals.”
Bruggman remembers how his passion was ignited for classic comic books. The then-middle school student had been down in his family basement and discovered his dad’s filing cabinet full of old comics. The paper materials were kindling for his own desire to join in as a collector.
“It’s like our family thing that we do. My brother started doing it as well. So we got into comics that way,” John Bruggman said. “It’s mostly from the artists I’ve been influenced by who worked in comics, they kind of worked more in horror. I’ve also taken influence from several tattoo artists as well.”
Bruggman’s process for the cover submission was to select a few key details from the premise — in this case, a door, the woman and a shotgun — and began with a loosely based sketch of poses, he said. He then figured out which poses he liked and worked out a final compilation in black and white to get an idea of the light and shadow placement. He finished it by digitally painting the work in color.
A 2019 Batavia High School graduate, Bruggman is attending Daemen College pursuing a bachelors in illustration. His future goal is to be a freelancer working for Marvel and/or DC Comics. He’s into 1990s style comics, and likes “the diversity” of characters devised by individual artists. For example, Batman has been around since the 1930s, he said, and yet “no one has really drawn him the same.” He leans toward figures of horror with a punk, edgy influence.
His practice has been to nail down human anatomy, so often integral to comic book characters. Take a look at one of his favorites, Silver Surfer, depicting a well-chiseled body displaying many muscular poses. His work displays those fine-tuned details of muscles and curves, and he also appreciates the complexity of one’s limbs.
“Figure drawing has been a super big help, with live models. Hands and feet were the hard ones, because they’re so expressive,” he said. “We’re always progressing as artists and trying to be better.
“And I feel like my work, especially as I keep working, I've noticed a lot of improvement, even in this last year. My work has come a long way and I'm very excited to see where it goes moving forward.”
He has been influenced by such artists as Simon Bisley, Frank Frazetta, Bill Sienkiewicz and Glenn Fabry. He believes there has been “kind of a resurgence” in the comics market with exclusive and limited covers and special editions. Those items have drawn a wider pool of collectors, he said.
Drawing helps to relieve stress, he said, and is “a highlight of my day.” He hopes to work his way into a freelance status and sees this published book cover as just the beginning.
“I really want to promote that because I really do think this is going to go somewhere very special. And usually when it comes to artists’ first issues that they work on, are like drawings: they do become more valuable. And I could see this happening with this book,” he said. “And then just looking at the story, the book, it's very well-read and the writers worked on a lot of comics and movies that were more horror related and artwork on the interior. I didn't do it, but it's a very unique style, a little cartoony, a little loose, and it's a good read. And, I don't know, I love it.”