Friday, March 23, 2012

Leavenworth's Jeff Johnson on being probably the only comic-book extra in the world

Posted By on Fri, Mar 23, 2012 at 7:36 AM

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Leavenworth native Jeff Johnson has an interesting claim to fame. His website, Draw Me In, documents his quest to become art. More specifically, he has become something that he might be the only one of — a comic-book extra. At current count, Johnson has appeared as an extra or background character in more than 30 different issues. Recently featured in a Wired magazine article, Johnson has been on a quest to become a comic-book character over and over again, making him perhaps the only real-life comic character you'll see at this weekend's Planet Comicon. We spoke with him via e-mail about his unusual hobby.

The Pitch: Is this a thing you've publicized, or do you try and keep it on the down-low?

Johnson: Oh yeah, I've kept this on the down-low for sure. I always thought someday I'd have a little blurb in Wizard Magazine and that'd be it for my 15 minutes. Well ... there went that dream, ha ha. I thought I'd get a whole bunch of appearances under my belt and then I'd go public. But, mainly, I just didn't want anybody to copy my idea.

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I guess I'm just curious as to how you came to the attention of Wired.

I started this in 2006 at San Diego Comicon. What a great place to start, right? I kept this secret for four to five years until in January 2011, I appeared in Sweets, and artist-writer Kody Chamberlain tweets my appearance.

Bleeding Cool picked up the story. I get an article in a newspaper in Brazil (their equivalent of USA Today, some 300,000 copies), I find my site casually being mentioned on message boards and comment threads (which is weird, but cool). Then, I get an e-mail about Wired magazine. Turns out, the author of the article is into comics and saw a mention of my site on DeviantArt.

Has there been anyone who has ever recognized you from this?

Nobody has recognized me from this, outside of the local artists/writers that I see at the local shows. They know who I am. After six years, they should.

Where the hell do you get your comics, living in Leavenworth?

Yeah, there's no love for comic-book stores here in Leavenworth. We did have a store for a long while with Ken's Comics. After that closed, I drove to Lawrence every week to Kwality Comics. But for the past few years, I've been going to Limited Figures & Comics off Barry Road. Some friends introduced me to his store, and I've become friends with the owner, who is also named Jeff.

So, you're a Leavenworth native, then? (I grew up in Lansing and once interviewed Ken for a school project)

Leavenworth, born and raised. Didn't live in town, though; went to school at Tonganoxie.

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Any plans for future appearances?

About an hour before you contacted me, I got an e-mail from Yanick Paquette, telling me I was in [this month's Swamp Thing]. I had originally given him a flier last year at Planet Comicon. Sometimes, it's just worth the wait. I'm actually in the preview pages up at Newsarama.

So aside from that surprise today, in two weeks I'll be in Saucer Country #1 and in Wolverine & the X-Men #7. April, I'll be in Fanboys vs. Zombies #1, and in May, I'll be in Near Death #8. Oh, and I have to keep my eyes open on Manhattan Projects — the artist has me currently on a wait-and-see basis. So, nothing confirmed there.

Any dream artist or title you're gunning for?

Mostly I tend to ask artists on books I read (or plan to read). I do have a long wish list, though. First would be Dan Jurgens. I started comics with the Death of Superman, so that should explain that one. However, he's been nice enough to decline a few times already. So it's bleak, if never gonna happen. I'd really like to be in Aquaman (second favorite character) and The Sixth Gun. I'd add Scalped to that list because I didn't discover that book till last year, but it's almost over. But I'll get my Jason Aaron fix soon with Wolverine & the X-Men.

With that said, I wouldn't mind showing up in more Marvel books. I get most of my support in Image and DC books.

Will you be at Planet Comicon?

Sir, I just bought my tickets to Planet Comicon [last] Wednesday. I have been waiting for this show for months now.

As an added bonus, folks can take a look at the cover of this week's Pitch, and see Johnson as artist Greg Smallwood's cover art.

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