Eisner-nominated artist Matt Lesniewski and I talked over Zoom Friday afternoon. We talked about Matt’s humble origins to his path to notoriety, his favorite tools for drawing, and his artistic process. What you really want to know is that his newest release STATIC from Dark Horse comes out on May 12th at a local or online retailer near you.
COMIC BOOK YETI: First question: Who are you and what do you do?
MATT LESNIEWSKI: I’m Matt Lesniewski (LezNouSki), I’m an artist from upstate New York. I’ve been drawing since I was a kid – probably since three or four years old. My dad was an artist – I pretty much didn’t have a choice, to be honest (laughs). But I loved drawing as a kid. I watched cartoons and read comics. It was a language I had to learn but I also wanted to learn it. Then I ran with it.
CBY: Your newest release, STATIC, places us in a wild and fantastic world where there are biker gangs, a mad scientist, and our protagonist Emmett (think of a combination of Fred Williamson and Carl Weathers).
ML: Yes! We begin the story with Emmett who has been doing the bidding of a mad scientist but is considering a change of career. The dilemma for Emmett is he is actually very good at being a bruiser and a bounty hunter for the mad scientist – so what are his options? It’s a savage world with savage people trying to make ends meet. Whatever the cost.
CBY: When or where was the transition from family hobby to professionally working as an artist?
ML: (laughs) Well, all throughout school I was the “drawing kid” and I would make drawings for my friends. They would ask me to draw something and I’d do it. Just furiously drawing in the corner.
At one point I started to realize that I am good at drawing and it’s what I’ve put the most of my time into, but not so much with school. So I told myself, “I’ve got to do this. This has to work.” After high school, I had a short stint of figuring things out for myself.
As far as what area of drawing would I want to do? At the beginning, I considered being a video game concept artist or a penciler. Though my first real gig as an artist was actually a children’s book for a local writer many years ago. I did all of the art for it: pencils, inks, and color. I can’t remember the name of it, but it’s out there. (Laughs)
For a while, I sent submissions to publishers – to which I received a very consistent “No, thank you” response. Sending blind submissions yielded no progress for me. At that point, I decided that I should start making pages and one-shots for myself or commissions. During that time, I proved to myself that I can do this. That helped me build my skills and find what types of stories I wanted to tell.
Approaching the publishers was like storming a castle with high walls and guarded by orcs. There’s no door, but you can hear the revelries from inside. I had no way inside.
"Approaching the publishers was like storming a castle with high walls and guarded by orcs. There’s no door, but you can hear the revelries from inside. I had no way inside."
CBY: So, you’re an Eisner nominated (2020) artist now.
ML: Never in a million years did I think this would happen. I was encouraged by AdHouse to submit THE FREAK to the Eisner commission. I had a very indifferent feeling about it but was pleasantly surprised when I got the news. The nomination has definitely helped bring new eyes to my work.
CBY: What is your process for creating a new story?
ML: The way I usually start is I begin imagining the world I want to write in and who might exist there. Once I’m past that stage, I’ll just start typing. I throw ideas out until I have what I need to move forward. Usually, I’ll have some kind of dilemma or specific idea that I let the characters explore. It comes from a personal space in my mind, but it’s always fiction. It is also human and based in reality.
It’s my hope that people pick up on that, but it’s not going to ruin a person's experience if they don’t. I often have people tell me things about my books that I never even thought about. If someone has that experience, I think that is great. I give my books room to exist on their own.
CBY: That’s a great approach to story-making. In both THE FREAK and STATIC, you populate your books with very human characters. They have real problems and real dreams but they must be prepared to make tough decisions.
ML: That’s a great analysis. I like to put characters in my books who have relatable struggles and make human choices. I find that generally appealing in other comics as well.
CBY: What tools do you use for your drawing?
ML: I don’t need much. That’s a part of what I love about comics. It’s very accessible. You can just grab a sheet of paper and a pen and go. You can do a lot with that. Someone can take what’s around them and make something out of it. Simple or elaborate.
However, my go-to pens and pencil are:
6H drawing pencil
Zig Cartoonist: Mangaka Flexible Fine
These have been my tools for long enough that I know what to expect from them. I know how to best use them for whatever project I am doing.
CBY: Last question: What makes you want to pick up a new comic?
ML: I like to see passion in the work. I want to see someone who cares. I hope the person or people making that comic felt a mortal imperative to get their book out there. I need to feel that intensity. I want to see your soul.
It’s hard to put it into finite terms because there’s no tangible things to point to. I want something unique. I want someone who isn’t holding anything back.
"I want to see someone who cares...I need to feel that intensity. I want to see your soul."
STATIC comes out May 12th at a local comic book store or online retailer near you. Recommended for fans of post-collapse sci-fi fantasy worlds with brutal action sequences and a lot of heart.
Fans of Matt will be excited to know that he is raffling off a one-of-a-kind STATIC drawing on the 12th of May. All you have to do is take a picture of your pre-order receipt or physical copy of STATIC, put it on Instagram, and tag @mattdrawscomics!! The winner will be announced on the 12th.