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Matt Lesniewski Bets on Himself with 'Faceless and the Family'

We chat to the cartoonist about his Oni Press title and why he double-downed on his strenuous process.

Matt Lesniewski Faceless and the Family

Welcome to our Creator Corner, our reoccurring interview series, where we chat with the coolest and most thought-provoking creators in the comics industry. In this entry, we're conversing with Matt Lesniewski about Faceless and the Family. Listen to the unedited audio HERE.

 

You cannot deny Matt Lesniewski. When you crack the cover on one of his comics, you're guaranteed to experience something unlike anything else published in the field. Last year, when Faceless and the Family launched via Zoop, we spoke to the cartoonist about his latest trippy science fiction saga and how his characters ripped themselves free from his soul. Now, the comic is being released monthly via Oni Press, and more folks are putting it before their eyes. Instantly, they are the converted. We could not be happier.


Once again, we chat with Lesniewski about his process and the strain he puts himself under to get these comics into the universe. Faceless and the Family represents a critical turning point for the artist. He's placed a significant bet on himself and hopes folks will acknowledge the magic he's brewing within this book's pages. We certainly see his leveling up, and we cannot help but cheer as he rises to such a creative height.


We ask only this of you, the reader. The next time you're at your comic shop, whether in-person or online, browse through Faceless and the Family. The second issue just hit the stands last week. It's a marvel; we believe you'll take it home immediately after you gaze upon it. And follow him on all the socials.

 

Matt Lesniewski on Faceless and the Family


Lisa: We're so excited to be talking Faceless yet again. In preparation for this interview, I was looking at other interviews with you to springboard off, and so I read your CBR interview, and you talked about how coming off of working on Mind MGMT with Matt Kindt, you felt like you had learned some new tricks that you were excited to implement, but that these new tricks made your whole process a bit slower and maybe a bit more laborious. But you have this tendency, once a comic is finished, you feel like, "Okay, now I know all of the things I wished I had done differently." Do you always have this optimism about starting a project, and then you hit...


Brad: Like a postpartum situation.


Lisa: Yeah. It's like, "I'm so excited for what it's going to be." And then it's like, "Oh, well that's what it was."


Matt Lesniewski: Mind MGMT, that issue that I drew, and the drawing of the first page, the stuff that I was doing or the stuff that I had learned, I was only doing that in commissions. I think because I was thinking of them as... I don't know, I was thinking of them in a different way. I can take my time drawing this one piece, almost like an illustration.


And I feel like my drawing skill had improved in doing those. It just hit me, why am I not just doing this for everything? If everything could look this quality, why not implement that into my comics? So I had never done that until the first page of Faceless, but it just takes so long that there's so many steps and it improves it. I like the way it looks. And then through doing that, I started noticing this is taking longer than ever. I need to kind of get this moving. Otherwise, it's never going to get done. So in certain areas, I would kind of dial it back a little bit, and that's the part where you mentioned I'm like, "Ah, I didn't really fully do it." And so I'm never fully proud of the performance, I guess you could say. I don't know. There are always points where I wish I just stayed the course.


Lisa: You had raised your standards, you had been doing these commissions, and your standards had raised. I want to know a little bit more, like you said, "Okay, it's a lot more steps." So what I find so beautiful about what you do is that it is so detailed and bizarre and liquid looking. But what are the steps? You have process pages in the back of the volume and you have one picture of where you're deciding how a sandal is going to look and you're like, "It's round and then it's square, and then it's round and then it's square." So what are the steps to finding the most weird Matt Lesniewski thing?


Matt Lesniewski: Mainly it's slowing down and kind of tiptoeing into the drawing rather than what you always hear is - "You got to do it quick." But I've always questioned, "Why does it need to be done that way?" I mean, I know why, but what if there's a way to not do that? What if you can put a little more effort or a little more time, a little more thought into it and see what the results could be? Without showing you, so I basically I'd pencil like everyone does, and then I would do kind of a second penciling phase, but really, it's a very fine ink line, but I'm using basically all microns.


So it's kind of like I'm solidifying the pencils in a second phase. That'd be step two. And I'm doing it for everything. It's hard to describe it without showing it, but it is very time-consuming. But the results are the best they could be for me, at least. Then once I have that, then I'm thinking about all the different light source, where the shadows are going to be, what texture I'm going to use where. Making sure they don't clash with one another. So there's a lot of thinking being done in there to not just the actual act of doing it.


Once I have that, then I'll do the line weights and establish where everything is to the reader basically. So really, it's like four steps, but it's a whole thing. But before that, I would only do that for commissions or covers, but I liked the way it looked. I could tell there was way more care put into it and way more time, and it just looked so much better. And I'm like, "I need to just do this. I need to try at least one comic using this full-effort approach." And I think it was worth it.


Lisa: We think that it's worth it.


Brad: The first conversation that we ever had about Static, we talked about the strenuous nature of creating from your point of view and how making it hard, making it difficult is kind of key to your process. And it just seems like since that conversation, rather than going, "Okay, let's find easier ways or more efficient ways to execute what I do, let's just make it harder and more difficult and more detailed and more intense." You're doubling down on a philosophy that some people within the industry might go like, "It's not financially feasible."


Matt Lesniewski: Even for myself, pretty much, once I finished it, finished the whole book, I found myself at a crossroads. Does this even make sense to continue doing it this way? And there's a reason why no one does it.

Well, some do, but very few are thinking of it in that way. "Oh, let me just take all the time," not all the time in the world, but within reason. And one thing I could say, the biggest takeaway from the first issue is that the feedback has been great. So people are liking it. They are definitely noticing it. So I'm getting results out of it. People are liking it. They do notice the change. So now I'm kind of leaning more toward, yeah, I think I just have to keep kind of doing it. But part of me is still a little bit... "Is there a way I can somewhat simplify?" And part of the way I'm doing that is - so I guess I am in a way, not doing as many different textures. Just kind of do two or three, but still fully put in the time. So you're not doing as much thought like, "All right, I've got 10 different ways I can shade a pipe or a jacket or whatever. Keep it to two or three." But you still put in that effort and it still works still.


Lisa: So the effort's the same, but the decisions are less.


Matt Lesniewski: Yes. So you're cutting down time that way. Part of me was thinking, "All right, just do covers that way. Keep doing covers the full-out way, and then do the interiors. Maybe find a way to simplify." But now, with the feedback I've been getting, it's like everything's telling me to keep doing it.


Brad: Yeah. Yeah. I want to talk about that feedback a little bit because I do feel like since the announcement of Faceless and the Family, going to Oni Press, and since the release of that first issue in shops with Oni Press, I feel like people are really taking notice of Matt Lesniewski and Faceless and the Family. And what you're saying is you're feeling that.


Matt Lesniewski: Not only that. We were at New York Comic Con and people just... That was the biggest positive - people stopping and just telling me like, "Hey, we notice what you're doing. It's great. Keep going. We love it." I don't really think I've ever had that. I've gotten positive feedback, but it was different for this book. People were stopping and telling me like, "We like what you're doing. Keep going at it. It's great. Awesome. Two thumbs up." So it's like, if you're getting that, how do you not continue? But it's also, I don't know, I enjoy it. I should say this. Let me clarify. I enjoy doing it. It's just a matter of, does it make sense? I'm kind of gambling, I don't know. I don't know.


Brad: It's the tension. I guess what we have been told, what you have been told, is how these things should go, or at least the speed at which they should go. And then there's your process and it's you. And if you're being you and now you're starting to get even more positive results from it, well, how can you not continue to bet on yourself?


Matt Lesniewski: Right. And well, for example, the covers now, covers and commissions, they take a week for each one, so it's taken even longer. But again, I feel like I'm improving. So isn't that the point?


Brad: Yes.


Matt Lesniewski: It's not always the case, but you'd think the more time you put into it, the better it'll be. Which it's not the case for every artist, but for me, the longer I've put into it or more planning, the more thought, slowing down. Don't just get it done. It's gotten better. So yeah, I don't know.


Lisa: Yeah. Well, you've proved that it can get done, and all it takes is all of the time in the world. I think about the character of Faceless and how his conflict is the peril of being recognized. When you are recognized, you are then responsible for your past, you're responsible for the person that you have been. And now Matt Lesniewski, the pipe is off your artistic face. We see you and now you're responsible for the artist that you've been all of this time. And there is pressure, there is a certain amount of pressure to that. Do you find yourself relating to your character in that way?


Matt Lesniewski: Yeah, that's kind of the key word. That's the theme of me doing what I do and it's becoming more pressure. Every time I improve, now the bar is set for myself. Okay, now I have to continue that. If I dip down, everyone's going to notice what's happening. Yeah, right now, I'm just doing commissions and each one, I'm really, not only will I'll finish one, and then I'll feel exhausted. I'll just feel like, "All right, I just exhausted myself of every ounce of being that was in me." And now the next one is sitting there waiting and I'm super procrastinating, but it's also a combination of thinking about it. How am I going to do it? What's the right pose? What's the right this, that, everything? So yeah, pressure - it's really self-imposed. I do it to myself, but yeah, I don't know where this is going. It just keeps more pressure, more pressure, more pressure, and I'm just kind of stressing myself out. Again, I do enjoy it. It's just there's an element of, I don't know. Yeah, whatever.


Brad: Well, that tension is felt by the reader, and I think it is recognized as something precious and unusual. And I think what I'm seeing just by talking to people who are discovering you now is that you immediately get folded into the small cadre of artists that fans are like, "Okay, well, when a Matt Lesniewski book comes, that's an event. I need to buy it no matter what it is."


Lisa: That's how you actually ended your CBR interview. You said, "The only intention that I put into the book is I want the reader to come away with the desire for more comics by me."


Matt Lesniewski: Pretty much. Yeah. That's great. I love that. "Hey, if he releases a comic, let's pay attention." Because that's really the only way this is going to work. Then I can put all the time into it, make it what I want it to be. I've said this before too, but it's kind of like a home-cooked meal. I'm getting out all the ingredients, and I'm taking my time putting it together for a feast. It's taking a while, but it's going to be quality once you get it. So please be patient.


You're going to enjoy it, though. I don't think of it in that way where it's like, you need to get this from what I'm making. Whatever you get from it is what you get from it. It's not wrong. It's just like, especially The Freak, when I did that, I've gotten dozens of different interpretations of what it really means. And I love that. None of them are wrong. And they all make sense too. Each one, it's like, "Oh, wow, I never even thought of that. And yeah, I could see how." So I like that better. I don't want it to be like, I'm just spelling out the ending, and this is what it all means, and if you don't get it, you experience this the wrong way.


I just don't understand that.

 

Faceless and the Family is currently available from Oni Press. Issue #2 just dropped last week.

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