Jack Reickel and I ran into each other before the COVID-19 quarantines, we think in fact about a year before at Nerds in NoMa. Jack recently reached out to tell me about his new webcomic, Unclaimed, and to answer our usual questions.
What type of comic work or cartooning do you do?
I'm creating an episodic long-form story. In its earliest stages it was planned as a written novel, but I found out that I can't write prose without sliding into a humorous tone, and it's a serious story. Luckily I'm a capable enough illustrator (at least to start) to bring it to life as sequential art, but it is slow-going. Releasing it free online myself means the schedule and format is only limited by my ability to produce it, which again, is very slow.
Unclaimed is a graphic epic told in sporadically-released episodes. In a universe ravaged by opposing destructive forces, life and interest occurs in the clash between the abyss and annihilation. The story begins on the frozen isle Idep, surrounded by frigid emptiness.
How do you do it? Traditional pen and ink, computer or a combination?
It's a combination of digital linework and tones drawn in Clip Studio Paint, with traditional watercolor scanned then mixed in with Photoshop.
When and where were you born?
Late 80s in Walkersville, Maryland (a small town in northern Frederick County)
Why are you in Washington now? What neighborhood or area do you live in?
I spiraled closer to the DMV after undergrad, finally making my way into the District-proper in Petsworth. I lived in Columbia Heights and Adams Morgan before being pulled out into the suburbs to more spaciously support my ever-growing fur family. My wife and I met at RFD in Chinatown, and now live in Alexandria with our five pets.
What is your training and/or education in cartooning?
I have a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Illustration, and worked two summers as a caricature artist in Ohio at Cedar Point: the largest seasonal amusement park in the country.
Who are your influences?
If you could, what in your career would you do-over or change?
Coming up with the concept for Unclaimed and figuring out what I wanted to do with it earlier would've been great! I came up with the idea for the novel in 2014 and started seriously developing it as a comic in 2016.
What work are you best-known for?
Realistically, for designing apparel for DC's ultimate-frisbee community. I design jerseys and other gear for tournaments, festivals, leagues, volunteer gifts, and travelling club teams. With COVID-19 cancelling all of those things this year, I created gear for Unclaimed instead, which is available through July 6. Use the code readunc to save 20%!
What work are you most proud of?
Unclaimed! To be more specific, at this point, probably Unclaimed part ii page 10 panel 4.
What would you like to do or work on in the future?
Unclaimed is going to keep growing. It's penciled in to take up my entire artistic future.
What do you do when you're in a rut or have writer's block?
Writing and drawing Unclaimed around a full-time job and life full of other interests and efforts has kept me from dealing with writer's block, but artistic ruts happen. Drawing is exhausting, physically and mentally, and it's something one gets better at through sustained effort. If I draw 15 hours in 3 days, hours 13–15 will produce more good work than 1–10. Fábio Moon said something about going for a few days without drawing and struggling coming back from even that break, and he's been at the top of the industry for a decade. Finding the time to be able to exert that kind of sustained effort is a challenge.
What do you think will be the future of your field?
COVID-19 was a shock to the industry and we still have to see what those sustained effects are going to be. For all that we're in a prolonged golden-age of long-form story in television, I'd love to see more comics produced and appreciated at a similar level. The enthusiasm and interest for good stories of all types is there and won't ever go away, we just need to figure out how to align the creators and the audiences. I don't think the monthly nothing-ever-changes status of superhero stories will carry the medium any further, and we're already seeing that in reader demographics.
What local cons do you attend? The Small Press Expo, Awesome Con, or others? Any comments about attending them?
Small Press Expo and Baltimore Comic Con, MAGFest if you count that. Baltimore Comic Con in 2006 was very meaningful for me, as I met and befriended a handful of talented pros I've kept in contact with across my transformation from high-school senior to art-school grad to someone-finally-making-art.
What's your favorite thing about DC?
All the perks of a big city, but with plenty of visible sky. I think my preoccupation with beautiful skies is already showing through in Unclaimed, and that's here to stay.
The current sitting president acting as a hostile occupier. DC is the most politically-informed populace in the country, and doesn't have the representation at the federal level and even deals with congressional obstruction in governing the city itself.
What monument or museum do you like to take visitors to?
National Gallery of Art!
How about a favorite local restaurant?
El Sol -- it used to be in Petworth then moved to Mount Vernon Square, and it's got the best tacos I've had in this timezone.
Do you have a website or blog?
Unclaimed is free to read at https://unclaimed-comic.com/ ; I also post art @jackreickel on instagram
How has the COVID-19 outbreak affected you, personally and professionally?
My wife and I are very fortunate in that we've each been able to continue our jobs through full-time telework. We fostered a rescue puppy, then of course couldn't give her up.
It's also continued to stun me, watching the public's varied response to everything. Wear a mask. Maintain social distance. "We've got a better chance of survival if we work together." It feels like this could've been a moment for our divided country to rally together, and it very much hasn't been.
Through my apparel partner Savage, I've arranged a way to donate high-quality fabric masks to Pathway Homes, a Fairfax non-profit which supports the homeless and mentally ill, who asked for fabric-mask donations. The discount code readunc works for donations as well. Anyone who can: please support local businesses, please tip the service industry generously.