Jakub Rebelka (born in 1981) is a Polish artist, who’s name is quickly becoming recognisable within the international comic book community. October this year sees a release of his four issue miniseries ‘Namesake’ written by Steve Orlando and published by Boom! Studios. We couldn’t stop ourselves from asking him few questions.
Hi Jakub, I will start with a little bit of honesty. The first and only example of your work I had seen (until recently), was ‘Oskar’, a comic printed in the AQQ magazine in the late 90s or early 2000s. It was a fully painted (printed in grey tones) ‘cartoony’ comic, far removed from more realistic SF illustrations you are creating now.
Since that time I moved to the UK, where (unfortunately) I’ve lost touch with Polish comic art for the greater part of a decade, that is until recently when Dave Kendall, an artist working for British anthology 2000AD, posted illustrations by you on his facebook page. I was stunned by them, but thought, ‘Jakub Rebelka? Can it possibly be the same guy?’ So I googled the name, and it turned out, it was you indeed! You can imagine my surprise, which leads us to the first question… Could you please tell us a little bit about your journey as an artist. What inspired you to draw comics, tell us about your beginnings, and about the style change? Was it a natural transition, or maybe, at some point you decided to reinvent your work?
I was always a drawing kid and I always wanted to be an artist. My father is a painter so from the beginning I had huge support of my parents. In the time of my childhood and teenage years in Poland it was hard to find comics. Some mainstream tittles once in a while pop out here and there but it was more like hunting for whatever comics you could get. My parents had a friend that was a French translator and he gave me a pack of Spirou magazines from 80’s that for me was a blast and a real school of a craft. Some time after, my father brought me from France Kameha anthology including Appleseed and Akira and that was enough to understand who I want to be. Also a huge part of my comics education was the Comics Festival in Lodz, where I first saw a book drawn by Moebius. This festival had a contest for a short story. I was taking part in this contest year after year. At that time together with Benedykt Sznider we created Oscar – the short story you mentioned. Taking part in this contest was the only thing you could do if you wanted to create comics in Poland. And still remains so. There is no comics industry in Poland so it’s difficult for an artist to work in comics here. I was studying Painting at the Academy of fine Art in Gdansk, and following that I worked as a storyboard artist for major commercial agencies in Warsaw, but I always felt it was a compromise. I was able to earn money by drawing but not from drawing what I wanted to. So I returned to north of Poland and started to draw more and more but only the things I wanted. It was hard to pay the rent but I was alive. Now I know that it was the best decision I could make. I started sharing my art online in 2014 and things started to go from there.
Which body of work is your favourite until now?
It is always the one I am currently working on. It’s like working on a mathematical equation, once it’s solved it’s done. The most interesting and my favourite part is ‘solving’ it.
Where are you taking your inspirations from?
I belive inspiration is a process that’s live it’s own life. I don’t control it, it controls me. I don’t take inspiration, it comes to me. I guess from everything around. Art, nature, every day life.
Can you tell us about your artistic process? You receive a script, what happens next ?
First I try to understand the vision of the writer and to picture the story in my head. That’s the hardest part of the process and it takes time. After I do sketches and layouts of the pages. Once the sketch is there the fun part begins.
Earlier this year you drew a variant cover for issue one of Marvel’s ‘Doctor Strange’. How did this collaboration came to fruition? Did you approach Marvel, or maybe their editors saw your work somewhere and approached you?
My agent Tommaso told me they like my works at Marvel and they asked me what character I would like to draw. Dr. Strange was the first one in my mind, I’ve always like the guy.
Can we expect you to work with Marvel again, in the near future?
The variant cover had a very positive feedback. A lot of people liked it and asked me about it. We will see, it would be great to work with Marvel again.
In November, Boom! Studios release first issue of ‘Namesake’ a creator owned mini series written by Steve Orlando and drawn by yourself. How did this collaboration came about? Did you guys meet in person?
Matthew and Eric from Boom! contacted me. They liked my works and wanted me to do a cover for Namesake. I started with the cover and continued with interiors. I have had too much fun drawing this story. I don’t know Steve personally but he is an awesome writer, drawing this story is like watching a movie.
How do you feel about creating a universe like this? Was it a collaborative process? How much of artistic freedom did you have?
The guys from Boom! and Steve gave me all the freedom I needed. In fact, they even encouraged me to go further and build this strange world in my own way. That’s a dream situation for an artist.
Is there anything in the comic you are especially proud of? If yes, please tell us what is it and why?
I am still in the process of working on the story but the world building staff including vehicles, cities, characters and weapons is very absorbing.
Do you have any future work planned for American market?
I am not planing future. I like to be surprised.
Can we expect to see you drawing for European publishers soon?
Yes, in the beginning of the next year the second volume of the book ‘Les Cité des Chiens’ written by Yohan Radomski will be published by Akileos in France.
Great news! Thank you for the interview!
If you would like to see more art by Jakub, please visit his website.