Ethan Nicolle's Bio
Ethan Nicolle is an Eisner award nominated artist. Ethan’s first self published his own comics in high school. After working on independent comics including Creep and Puppet Terrors, his Eisner-nominated comic, Chumble Spuzz, was published by Slave Labor Graphics. Ethan does the art on the critically acclaimed comic, Axe Cop, and its follow up Axe Cop: Bad Guy Earth, both written by his seven-year-old brother, Malachai Nicolle.
Take me back to when you were seven or so years old. Were you already reading comic books?
I don't think I started really reading comics until I was 8 or 9. I probably looked at the Sunday Comics, and I don't remember how young I was when I started reading Calvin & Hobbes, but I do know that I have always had a fascination with the visual storytelling of comic strips. I was drawing from the time I could hold a pencil. My mom always tells this story of how when I was two, I already seemed really into drawing, so my Grandpa got me a little chalkboard to practice on. My mom would hold my hand and draw simple shapes and she said in no time I was drawing better than her. It's a bug I caught real young (so young I don't remember starting) and always had a knack for, and a drive to do it a lot. When my mom enrolled me in preschool at age 3, the teacher called her up to tell her I was drawing at an 8-9 year old level.
You were already self publishing comics in high school. Were you making any sales?
I did a comic called "The Hall" which was only called that because I made it up in Study Hall. It started out because my two best friends Mark and Rob had Study Hall right after me, so after Study Hall I would give them a one page comic (double sided) to read and pass around during their period. I started making the pages continue and soon I had this rough idea for a pretty whacky story, so I made it into a comic. I printed and sold 100 copies which I had put together by a local ma & pa print shop, and that felt pretty amazing. I think I did 150 of volume two, but I never released the third and final issue.
When was it that you decided to become a full-time comic creator?
Pretty much when Axe Cop went viral. I was supporting myself in other ways before that, but the success of Axe Cop gave me just enough income to stop seeking out other side jobs. It also happened that I had just been laid off from my two steady jobs in the same week about a month before Axe Cop happened, so I was in the dumps financially, which made even a little income worth the risk of going full time in comics. If I'd had some plush job I don't think I would have grabbed the Axe Cop bull by the horns as aggressively as I did.
I’m sure you’ve told the story a million times, but tell us the story of how Axe Cop came about?
Actually I think I've told it a jillion times! The nutshell version is my (then) 5 year old brother asked if I wanted to play Axe Cop with him. I said yes, and the entire time we played I saw a comic forming in my head that I couldn't resist drawing, so I did. It was something I never thought would go beyond posting on Facebook and showing to family. The way it took off really surprised me.
How receptive were your parents to having your little brother as a co-creator of this? Has their opinion changed as the popularity of the series has exploded?
Luckily we have a great relationship and they really trust me. It was a shock to us all when it took off, and it has been kind of an adventure ever since. We take each turn as it comes and try to handle it with wisdom. They have been supportive the whole way through and I think it thrills them to see us brothers connecting and creating like we do with a 24 year age gap.
Does Malachai comprehend the significance of being the writer of such a successful series?
He comprehends it to a certain extent, but not really. He doesn't have much to compare it to... for him, this is life, and he is still at the age where he is taking it all in. He is told how unique and special it is all the time, but we get told that about a lot of things when we are young. We usually don't realize what it means until we grow up.
Clearly this series has struck a chord with many fans. Besides the great art- what do you think they are connecting with? Innocence of youth?
Yeah, I think it strikes at the heart of what comics are all about. An escape from reality. We have become a reality-obsessed culture. Reality TV, movies like District 9 that try to imitate reality... I think it is rooted in the skeptical culture we've inherited that says only biological, scientific stuff is real. There are set laws in the universe and we can't escape it. Everything has a legalistic biological explanation from gravity to religion. There is little room for magic, and it's hard to escape the narrow walkway created by the dogma of materialism. It is fun to look at the moon and stars as magical things. It's freeing to believe that maybe we could fly, or do magic, or that animals could talk. We as adults have grown bored with the world. Our entertainment is jaded, cynical, sarcastic, ironic... we pride ourselves in creating art that shocks people with how we show dark truths. I think there is a real starvation for soaring imagination, optimism, hope... the kinds of things that come naturally to a child. We all truly should look at the universe as children with wonder in our hearts, but we've been trained to take it for granted. Malachai allows us to escape all that and just have a blast.
Working with what characters would be your “dream project”?
I never really wanted to be a guy who worked on other people's projects. I wouldn't mind doing something with the Ninja Turtles because I grew up on them and they have a special place in my heart. But mostly I just want to keep pulling whatever I can out of my own head because I feel like I have only begun to find what is in there. I don't think I have discovered my dream project yet.
Any other upcoming projects you’d like to promote?
I'm working on getting my other web series, Bearmageddon rolling. It is a horror/action/comedy about bears taking over the world. Other than that, just lots of Axe Cop.
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