Ben Stenbeck does what boys only dream about: drawing comics for US publishers like Marvel and Dark Horse. The Auckland-based artist tracks his own journey
I decided when I was 13
that I wanted to draw comics someday. I wanted to work with [comic legend] Mike Mignola someday. And now I do. I’m the artist on a character Mike created with writer Christopher Golden by the name of Baltimore. He’s a sort of Captain Ahab figure, hunting the vampire that killed his family. And having run-ins with weird creatures and characters on the way.
It took a long time to break in.
I sent my first submission when I was 14 and got my first paying work when I was 27. I got pretty close to giving up. I went to the San Diego Comic Con three times; the first two times I just had a sketchbook and didn’t really know what I was doing. The last time I had a ton of decent work and a couple of good contacts, so within a month I was a full-time comic artist.
That first submission I sent
when I was 14 was a crappy photocopy by snail mail to the States. Now, of course, you can set up a blog for free, post your work, and if you are amazingly awesome then editors will find you. I think we’ll see a lot more Kiwis getting jobs in the industry in the next few years.
I worked on
Lord of the Rings for a year. Riveting plastic, and beating leather over a rock with a hammer. Really. I did a little bit of design work and I worked on the storyboards. The Moria orc armour was all sculpted around my body cast (I was skinny back then). It was all a great learning experience, but I’ve gone back to what I love.
– As told to Matt Monk