One of the earliest mass-produced collector’s items was trading cards. With a history going back to the 1860s, trading cards were typically associated with sports, but as collecting science-fiction/fantasy/pop-culture items became more popular (and profitable) comic book, movie and videogame companies began producing trading cards to further profit off their intellectual properties. Additionally, starting in the early 1900s trading cards created with the intent of making trading card games – such as Magic: The Gathering (1993) – started being produced and widely enjoyed. As such, I’m grateful for the opportunity to present this interview with Frankie B. Washington.
Frankie B. is commercial artist who earned a certificate in commercial art from Butera School of Art in 1991. Since then he has worked for Upper Deck, 5finity, and other leading trading card producers. Most recently, he has been working on multiple card series based on Marvel properties. These card series being Marvel Beginnings, Avengers: Kree/Skrull War, and the trading cards for the films Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger.
To learn more about Frankie B.’s work, you can visit his homepage by clicking here.
Nicholas Yanes: There are a multitude of different mediums artists can get work in, what was it about trading cards that attracted you this profession? Specifically, is there something about the trading card format that gives you an artistic freedom other art forms don’t?
Frankie B.: Sketch Cards are, in my mind, another form of what I’ve already been doing for nineteen years, which are storyboards for ad agencies, production houses and animation. The challenges of producing art at a size of 2.5x 3.5, half that of a 4×5 storyboard frame is what continues to excite me when I work on a new set. I will add that since I started working on sketch cards, I have found a vast improvement in my artwork. My ability to layout and compose artwork are more precise than when I was drawing at 11×17.
Yanes: You’ve been designing trading cards for close to two decades. What are some aspects of the trading card industry that you feel up-and-coming artists should know about?
Frankie B.: I actually don’t design trading cards and I only started doing sketch cards in 2009. I had no idea about the sketch card sub-culture that existed from that point when I started doing them – which is made up of various fans who love comic books, horror, fantasy and sci-fi. The process of working on a sketch card is similar in ways to trying to get a gig at a comic book publishing company. You either are contracted by someone affiliated with a company, as I was by the owner of 5FINITY Productions back in 2009…Or you do your research of a particular card company that you’re interested in doing work with. You draw samples of your best work and you send samples via email to their submissions dept. A great place to find out the ins-outs of the sketch card world is the Scoundrel Art Community – http://scoundrelpublishing.com – a fantastic place for “newbies” to introduce their art and get the info needed to make it in this business.
Yanes: Thor and Captain America are going to be two the biggest movies of the summer. What was it like working on their trading cards? Specifically, were you tasked with referencing the movies, or did you work with the characters as they are portrayed in comic books?
Frankie B.: Upper Deck sent me a contract which outlined the do’s & don’ts for working on these card sets. Marvel wanted the sketch cards to have characters more connected to the comic books than the films. I was so happy because the film characters are a lot more limiting than the vast pool of characters available in the Marvel Comic Book Universe.
Yanes: You contributed to Moonstone’s Zombies vs. Cheerleaders; which is quite possibly the funniest book to be published in years. As an artist, what’s it like to work on something that allows you to go as crazy as you want to be? On this note, what are some of the other comic books that you’ve enjoyed working on?
Frankie B.: Steven Frank the owner of 5FINITY Productions and the individual who brought me into the sketch card world decided on doing a set called Zombies vs. Cheerleaders for fall of 2009. I was on that set and had a blast working on those cards. It proved to be a challenge because I have a love/hate relationship with the “Undead.” Anyway, 2010 rolled around and Steven asked me if, I would like to do the third story act of the ZvC comic book which was going to be published by Moonstone Books. I of course said yes, because my first and foremost love is sequential artwork and anytime a chance comes around for me to do actual pages- I’m all over it. I also worked on a 12 page story in Scott Nicholson’s Graphic novel Grave Conditions called “Sleep Tight” and a 10 page Lucinda story for Witch Girls Adventures.
Yanes: You seem to always be working on multiple projects at once, but what are some of the project you are working on now that sci-fi/fantasy/comic book fans need to look out for?
Frankie B.: Well I did an exclusive Transformers art print thru Fun Publications to debut at the 2011 BotCon – very excited about this because I love robots.
This fall will see the release of Penny Dreadful’s Cauldron of Terror comic published by Comic Book Divas. I’m currently working on the second act story titled “Puppy Love” and I’m really having a blast. Penny, Garou and the gang are rising stars in late night horror hosting arena and I’m happy to be at ground zero and a part of the magic.
Finally me and my co-creator, James Biggie, have been working since 2009 on a concept which is a retelling on the giant robot genre called Robot God Akamatsu – a definite nod to Marvel’s Shogun Warriors & Go Nagai’s creations, which is currently being represented by the literary agency: Killing The Grizzly. (More information about Killing The Grizzly can be found here.)
Needless to say, my pens are always flowing and I wouldn’t have it any other way 😉
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