Matt Lesniewski's Got It Covered: Reality Meets Fantasy in 'Crimson Flower'

 

by Troy-Jeffrey Allen

“From as early back as I can remember, I was already hooked on comics,” artist Matt Lesniewski begins. While many other longtime comic readers might be able to pinpoint the moment the medium captured their attention, Lesniewski can’t think of a time where comics weren’t around. “My Dad was a fan and had a collection. So, I didn’t discover them. It was like eating: you don’t remember your first bite. Comics were already a regular part of life, just like cartoons, toys, etc. Whatever else kids are usually into.” You’d think that level of exposure would create an impenetrable nerd buffer, but, of course, kids can be cruel. “It wasn’t until I got to kindergarten that I realized I was the only one reading them (at least from what I could tell). I only expressed to one friend that I was a fan, indirectly, and got made fun of for even liking them. I kept my comic fandom a secret for years and years.”

Fortunately for the art world...the secrets out! Over the last handful of years, Matt Lesniewski’s visuals have earned him an Eisner nod (for The Freak) and a current run on Crimson Flower (APR210381) with writer Matt Kindt (Dept. H, Mind MGMT).


Released through Dark Horse Comics, Crimson Flower is kind of like Kill Bill meets The Neverending Story. Or more accurately, a revenge fantasy by way of Russian folktales. At the center of this is Rodion, a red-headed, pill-popping force of nature avenging the murder of her father. As Rodion makes her “first step into the twisted woods” she seems to suffer from delusions where she envisions her enemies (and herself) as these folkloric anomalies -- a possible mechanism that dates back to her childhood reading dad’s book of Slavic tales.  

“Matt Kindt read my book The Freak, from AdHouse Books, and liked it,” Lesniewski explains. “I was sent three different ideas [Matt Kindt] had and Crimson Flower jumped out at me as something I’d love to draw.” One look at the title and you can understand why. Crimson Flower -- with its blurring of reality and literary fiction -- plays perfectly to the artist’s sensibilities. In Lesniewski’s fantasy world, every panel looks like it belongs on the cover of a Charles Perrault collection. The artist’s textured line work makes the book appear as if it were carved from an ancient tree. The character designs would fit right at home with Greg and Tim Hildebrandt's Lord of the Rings work. Matt Lesniewski’s art is the definition of high-fantasy.


“I decided to draw the cover bigger because I could fit more detail,” the artist says. “I inked it on 11”x17” sized paper, and at the time I was doing everything on 11'x14'. It may not seem like that big of a difference, but for me it was.” Those few inches definitely make a difference in scale. The cover to Crimson Flower #1 is an impressive peek into the frosty, snow-blanketed epic inside. “I wanted to communicate some of the ideas with the overall image,” Lesniewski describes. “I penciled it with a Venus 6H pencil and inked it with Micron pens.”


Lesniewski and Dark Horse are not done. Next up, the publisher will be releasing his solo book. An original graphic novel called Static (arriving May 12th). It would seem that Lesniewski is having a moment in his career. A hard-earned moment, but a moment nonetheless. “I had been drawing for years, but right after high school is when I took it seriously and sent submissions to different publishers. For years, [I tried] to break in as a penciler. I was endlessly denied, and rightfully so. I was nowhere near ready. I also collaborated with several writers essentially doing the same thing and sent pitches out that mostly went nowhere. The reality of things started to set in and I started to realize what this took. Along the way, I eventually tried writing for myself and fell in love with the process. I was no longer looking at comics as a place I’d get a job at and draw for a living. I fell in love with making comics as a whole and wanted to tell my own stories.”


Similar to his heroine Rodion, Matt Lesniewski is bridging the world of dreams with reality. In his artwork, but also in his life. “Drawing comics was one of many things I wanted to do when I was a kid and kept it in my head that I already knew it’s something I would do when I ‘grew up',” says Matt. “[I just had] this foggy idea in my head that I loved comics. [That] I’d be someone who drew them and that was that. I didn’t know the amount of work and effort it took just to ‘break in’ or even where to begin that process. I was delusional at that point. I thought I was miles ahead of everyone because I knew what I wanted to do, and everyone else was thinking about college. I just knew comics was a potential avenue I could take and I had a chance at making it if I tried and worked hard at it,” he concludes, seeming surprised. “It was mostly fantasy, though.” Not anymore. 

 

CRIMSON FLOWER is currently being released by Dark Horse. It is available at your local comic shop now.

DARK HORSE COMICS
(W) Matt Kindt (A/CA) Matt Lesniewski
From New York Times-bestselling Mind MGMT creator Matt Kindt and Matt Lesniewski (The Freak) comes a brand-new, mind-altering journey through Russian folk tales, trained assassins, and government conspiracies.

After losing her family in a violent home invasion, a woman uses folk tales to cope. In a blood-soaked journey toward revenge, she tracks down the man responsible for her family's deaths, only to discover a startling government plot-to weaponize folk tales and use them to raise children into super assassins.
In Shops: Jan 20, 2021
SRP: $3.99
PREVIEWS Page #62

DARK HORSE COMICS
(W) Matt Kindt (A/CA) Matt Lesniewski
On the trail of her father's killer, a young woman begins to blur the line between reality and fantasy as the folk tales from her childhood become more real than the world around her-and as she makes it one step further toward avenging her father, the line between justice and vengeance becomes equally fuzzy.
In Shops: Feb 24, 2021
SRP: $3.99
PREVIEWS Page #84

DARK HORSE COMICS
(W) Matt Kindt (A/CA) Matt Lesniewski
After taking down four assassins she met at a Russian dive bar, Rodion continues her hunt for her father's murderer and comes face-to-face with perhaps the ultimate killer who may have the answers!
In Shops: Mar 24, 2021
SRP: $3.99
PREVIEWS Page #92

DARK HORSE COMICS
(W) Matt Kindt (A/CA) Matt Lesniewski
From New York Times-bestselling Mind MGMT creator Matt Kindt and Matt Lesniewski (The Freak) comes a brand-new, mind-altering journey through Russian folk tales, trained assassins, and government conspiracies.

As Rodion uncovers a secret Russian program that raised children into brainwashed super assassins she finds herself trapped in in her father's killer's murder room in which there is no escape!
In Shops: Apr 21, 2021
SRP: $3.99
PREVIEWS Page #92

DARK HORSE COMICS
(W) Matt Kindt (A/CA) Matt Lesniewski
From New York Times-bestselling Mind MGMT creator Matt Kindt and Matt Lesniewski (The Freak) comes a brand-new, mind-altering journey through Russian folk tales, trained assassins, and government conspiracies.

After losing her family in a violent home invasion, a woman uses folk tales to cope. In a blood-soaked journey toward revenge, she tracks down the man responsible for her family's deaths, only to discover a startling government plot-to weaponize folk tales and use them to raise children into super assassins.

Collects Crimson Flower #1-#5, including all covers and bonus material.
In Shops: Aug 11, 2021
SRP: $19.99
PREVIEWS Page #113

****

Troy-Jeffrey Allen is the producer and co-host of PREVIEWSworld Weekly. His comics work includes MF DOOM: All Caps, BAMN, Fight of the Century, the Harvey Award-nominated District Comics, and the Ringo Awards-nominated Magic Bullet.

Follow Us Facebook Icon Twitter Icon Instagram Icon YouTube Icon Rss Feed Email
Outside North America? Click here

Cookies
We use cookies to understand how you use our site and to improve your experience. To manage our use of cookies click here.
By clicking 'Accept & Continue' or closing this banner, you accept our use of cookies.