We chat about his original concept BATTLEMONKS and collectibles from said concept, comicbooks and toy collections, his plans for STGCC, and how he draws! *ONWARDS*
TOYSREVIL: Tell us about Battlemonks? What is the story about? And what should folks look out for?
KELVIN CHAN: The Battlemonks are a group of elite monks led by Abbot, their master, who've been tasked to protect an ancient all-powerful relic. The story unfolds in China some 3000 years ago. It is the end of the Shang Dynasty and the Emperor entrusts the safekeeping of this relic to the Battlemonks from the hands of evil.
The Monks are betrayed and the relic is broken in two with the traitorous crown prince, Dawang, keeping one side and Abbot holding onto the second as he falls into bottomless crevasse and is crushed under a collapsing mountain.
The story then flashes forward to current day Singapore and we follow the exploits of a police woman as she is 'awakened' and recruited by another 'awakened' Battlemonk, Killack Dew.
The descendants of Prince Dawang and the more evil Empress Daji are still searching for the other half of the secret relic to claim their right to China's Dragon throne and also the world. So the Battlemonks now have to find the relic before they fall into the wrongs hands again.
TOYSREVIL: Sweet! Liking that you chose to continue forth and establish a Singapore-presence for the story. Now that we've the story revealed, what tangible form will they take in the real world?
KELVIN CHAN: The first Chapter of the Battlemonks 'ABBOT' will be released as part of an Anthology called 'THREE' or 'SAN', with two other artists called the ANIMATION TWINS, my nephews who are themselves amazing artist. Each will be a 20-odd page story with very Asian attributes and backgrounds.
There should be about 7 chapters in total, each featuring one of the Battlemonks and culminate in a finale showdown. I hope to wrap everything up by end 2013.
[Click on above image to view page art previews in a previous feature]
TOYSREVIL: How did Battlemonks come about?
KELVIN CHAN: I was working on another Comic project way back in 1994 and through its creative process I thought wouldn't it be cool to have a series of Shaolin monks but modernized and superhero-sized for some sci-fi future. So the story became a pet project that I kept going back to every few years, thanks to a very busy career and family commitments.
The story as evolved at least 7-8 times and now it's all kind of gelled together.
TOYSREVIL: What is your thought process by releasing a webcomic first, then the print version later? Any worries of dilution or over-exposure of your work?
KELVIN CHAN: As for the web-comic, its just one way to push myself forward to finish this. I'm more concerned with getting it done than readers feeling overexposure, I hope that they'd still support me when the graphic novel comes out.
I believe your art speaks for itself, so if its good people will follow, and it makes me strive to constantly improve.
TOYSREVIL: I've seen your art in newspaper strips decades back, and now seeing your plans for Battlemonks is exciting! Is this your first comic publication? (Not counting your portfolio, of course). Why such a long time in-between?
KELVIN CHAN: I actually have another comic which is the illustrated "MEN IN WHITE". But apart from that this is my first creator owned original title.
I actually ran a toy-shop business in the 90's and than when that wrapped I had to focus on my career to support my family and parent. I'm an only child so the responsibilities have to be met first.
Although being a comic artist has always been in my vein, I just couldn't commit. Even now, Battlemonks is done on the side in the wee hours between family and day-job. I never gave up my passion for comic and concept art, always sketching and practicing, and I still strive to be better.
So in 2009, after being egged on by some close friends, collegues and followers of my work I tried my hand at getting into comics, In fact, Nicola Scott (Wonder Woman) was one of the first to send me a note to say I should go for it. I got into final round interviews with DC, Marvel and Darkhorse, but the projects just haven't surfaced...
To me that means I just have to keep getting better and better.
TOYSREVIL: Share with us what technique you use for your art! (Feel free to get all technical with us (I might have no clue, but the readers might lol)
KELVIN CHAN: My comic style is very 80s classic pen and ink, with very influences by Moebius, Al Williamson, John Byrne, Arthur Adams, Bill Sienkewicz, Dave Mckean and later, Mike Mignola. But for the Battlemonks, I wanted something clean and also like an animated cel.
So I start with a blue colour pencil, any kind, and rough out the page layout, I follow this with fine pencil strokes which I use a mechanical 4B pencil and 5B pencil for the thicker key lines.
The page is then scanned into the computer and with photoshop I use a technique called flatting to fill all parts of the page with a random colour, the tones are subdued using the Hue and Saturation filter.
KELVIN CHAN: I then fill in the correct colours in midtone and duplicate to create a separate layer which darken for shadows.
I duplicate a second midtone layer to lighten as highlights.
I then erase off the midtone areas to reveal the shadows in a layer below.
When the shadows are done I merge the midtone and shadow layers. I then bring the highlight layer below and erase the midtone layer to reveal the highlights below.
And viola, the page is done.
TOYSREVIL: I remember seeing your sketch (Superman, I think?) pasted on the glass-window of Comicsmart in Serene Center decades back, and feeling extremely jealous of it back then (even when I had my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles stuck there that only one time ;p) and then meeting you in arts collage subsequently afters … what has essentially changed in your art, or your direction towards art now, versus then?
KELVIN CHAN: I think my art hasn't so much as changed as it has..evolved. I'm constantly influenced by new artists, absorbing what I feel is really cool or practical or an improvement. Through the years your art matures with you and you have less margin for error, which I still make. So I don't think I'm there yet, I still look back at my drawing a few months back and say: "Hey, that sucks, everything is off, I must be blind" I still believe i need to improve greatly.
TOYSREVIL: You're also an avid collector of Superman toys! Why Superman? And what is your fav Superman product?
KELVIN CHAN: As an only child, I pretty much had a private childhood, so my action figures were my best friends which is why I'm still so seeped into this culture of comics, toys and films.
I've always loved the character, especially the Christopher Reeve films, I'm even a fan of the Brandon Routh Superman, though the story was a disappointment, and I'm looking forward to next year's 'MAN OF STEEL'
I just realized one day that I had quite an extensive collection of Superman memorabilia and made a calculated decision to just collect them.
The pride of my collection is a 1978 Mint in Box 12-inch figure from MEGO, it was a movie edition that looked nothing like Chris Reeve. So now my favourite Superman fig is the Hot Toys Superman figure.
TOYSREVIL: You've also mentioned that you'll release a vinyl figure from Battlemonks! What can you tell us about that? Will you be sculpting it yourself?
KELVIN CHAN: There are two Battlemonk figures in the works. One is the 'ABBOT'4-inch figure that will be an STGCC exclusive. There will also be a TOYSREVIL special edition.
The second, which will be launched later this year is the 12-inch Killack Dew figure. I will be showcasing this figure at STGCC for pre-orders.
I didn't have the time to sculpt them and left all production to the manufacturers in China. This project is being overseen by Adeeb of HairyAsHell.
Though, the next figure which will be the lead female heroine, I will sculpt myself. I hope to have that ready in early 2013.
TOYSREVIL: What's up next for Kelvin Chan?
KELVIN CHAN: At STGCC I will be working toward releasing two books One is the anthology "THREE" which will feature the first chapter of the BATTLEMONKS. The second will be a new sketchbook of my drawings and original concept art.
There will be one Battle monk figure "ABBOT" for sale, and a second 'KILLACK' figure for pre-order.
And I will also be releasing an STGCC exclusive JUDGE DREDD print which will tie-in with the film to be released in October. Every purchase from the ROCKETRAYGUN booth is entitled to a movie-pass. While stocks last of course.
Whats next? Well I've now been bitten by the sculpting bug and will be looking into developing that into a business. Also look out for more ROCKETRAYGUN figures.