(By Jeff Ledington, The Mountain Advocate)
A 2011 graduate from Lynn Camp High School can add working for one of the world’s premiere comic book companies to his portfolio. Justin Mason, 27, was born in North Carolina before moving to Corbin at a young age. He developed an interest in drawing from “as far back as I can remember,” he said. His father was a portrait artist, often busy at his easel. “I remember asking my mom for pencils and papers all the time, wanting to draw Spiderman and Batman,” he recalled.
In high school, Mason’s art teacher pushed him toward portraiture. “people around here didn’t really understand comics or that you could make a living drawing them,” he stated. Mason did become more interested in portraits and realism for some time, getting back into cartoons and comics in the last six or so years.
After high school, Mason put drawing on the back burner. “I started doing what everybody else did, doing odd jobs here and there,” he stated. He had little push to continuing pursuing his art as a career, instead focusing on other work, such as restaurants. One day, however, he came to the realization that he was unhappy working dead-end jobs. “I at least need to try and do what I want to do, regardless of what anyone says,” said Mason.
Mason says it took a few years to work off the rust in his art. Eventually he and a friend, who was interested in his work, headed to Lexington Comic-Con. Before leaving they researched the event and saw that renowned DC and Marvel artist Jay Leisten was from Louisville. Mason says that seeing Kentuckians like Leisten and Tony Moore, a co-creator of The Walking Dead, make it in the business was inspiring. “Kentucky isn’t a dead-end despite what some people say,” he stated.
Mason wrote a quick message to Leisten on Facebook, asking for some advice. Leisten asked Mason to meet him at comic-con and took an interest in his art. “He sort of took me under his wing … it was a few years of going back and forth with him,” Mason said of working with the veteran artist. Leisten later took Mason along to the massive Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo. Mason described the moment as when his career really escalated.
On Dec. 9, DC Comics released “DC’s Very Merry Multiverse,” a collection of holiday themed stories. Mason did the art for one of the stories featuring classic Superman baddie Bizarro. Mason also created alternate covers for a newly released Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles book, “The Last Ronin,” from IDW Publishing.
Mason has built connections with numerous people throughout the comics industry. “I believe they’re the ones that believe in me more than myself,” he said of the friends he’s made. Mason hopes that five years from now, he’s built a respectable name for himself in the field. “I’d love to have a book I’m doing steady,” he added. He hopes to get the chance to draw Spiderman one day and dreams of being able to work with Spawn creator Todd McFarlane. “Chase your dream,” Mason says, adding “If you have a dream, push for it. If it doesn’t work, at least you can say you tried.”