Sheltered Artist Johnnie Christmas on Growing Up in Miami and His Top-Selling Comic

Categories: Culture

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From the upcoming second installment of Christmas' Sheltered series.
Like a list of highest grossing movies, the week's top selling comic books are filled with familiar names: Batman, Spider-Man, X-men, Superman, Sheltered...

Wait, Sheltered?

There's not even a man at the end of its title, but the first issue of a creator-owned comic book about a separatist community recently managed to crack Bleeding Cool's top ten list this month. With its deft characterizations, cinematic pacing, and action packed cliffhanger of an ending, Sheltered drew as many comparisons to The Walking Dead as a work with zero zombies in it possibly could.

Days after a triumphant journey hobnobbing with fanboys at the San Diego Comic-Con and a week before the August 7 release date of Sheltered #2, New Times caught up with Sheltered artist and co-creator Johnnie Christmas from his Vancouver art studio as he reminisced about his South Florida childhood and how beer can serve as one's muse.

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Johnnie Christmas
New Times: Where in Miami did you grow up?
Johnnie Christmas: I grew up in Opa-locka, 28th Avenue and 164th Terrace. Growing up there was a unique experience; the neighborhood was considered tough but on my block it was pretty peaceful, like an oasis.

I attended the art magnet program at South Miami Senior High; it used to be called the Center for Media Arts, but it's my understanding that it's called something different now. For college I divided time between the New World School of the Arts and Miami Dade College's North Campus. I had great instructors at both schools, Jon Kitner and Aramis O'Reilly among them. I then transferred to the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York, and finished my BFA there.

Do you have fond memories of Miami, or scarring nightmares?
Ha ha, a little bit of both! Miami is a beautiful city bursting at the seams with potential. There have always been great local artists, like T. Elliot Mansa and Pablo Cano. But, when I lived there, there weren't a lot of professional artistic avenues, or perhaps they weren't open to me. So I know many artists who left Miami for places that fostered their development a bit more.

How did Miami shape your art?
Miami greatly influenced my sense of color and composition. I'm not talking about stuff you pick up in art class, I mean simply from walking around. Big open skies, hurricanes, waves. Not to mention all the great Caribbean and Latin American culture.

Before Sheltered what comics did you work on?
Most recently I worked on a graphic novel based on the Syfy TV show, Continuum. I've contributed to a crime series called Murder Book as well as some stories for the Cloudscape Society.

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