New Brunswick

Comic book 'side hustle' becomes full-time gig for Rothesay accountant

Leaving the secure and predictable career of accounting for a freelance life in the comic book world feels more like a duty than a choice for Christian LeBlanc, whose "side hustle" in 3D rendering has already gained him notoriety.

Christian LeBlanc, 39, has strong foothold in field of 3D comic rendering, plans to pursue it full-time

Christian LeBlanc, 39, makes 3D renderings for comic books. (Christian LeBlanc/Submitted)

Christian LeBlanc's new line of work started out as fan art for his favourite comic book artist.

The Rothesay accountant was playing around with free apps on a new iPad he won in 2012 and found one that converted images in 3D.

Inspired, he took some images from "his hero," Madman creator Michael Allred, and made them three-dimensional through the view of red/blue anaglyph paper glasses.

What LeBlanc didn't expect was a response from Allred, who has worked on numerous titles for DC and Marvel comics, among others, and a request to make 3D renderings of some of the writer's comic pinups.

"So I thought, this is a huge responsibility, and if I'm going to be doing something for him, I better throw myself into this 200 per cent to learn everything I can about it," said LeBlanc.

"Because instead of a few pinups, that ended up turning into an 80-page comic special."

LeBlanc worked on the rendering for an 80-page Madman 3D special, which was nominated for a prestigious Eisner Award (best single issue or one-shot) in 2015. (Christian LeBlanc/Submitted)

That comic special earned a 2015 nomination for a prestigious Eisner Award at San Diego Comic-Con, "basically the Academy Awards of the comic industry," said LeBlanc.

Other nominees included major titles like Marvel's 75th anniversary celebration and DC's Pax Americana.

"Getting to work on this project with my hero, I was suspicious I was dreaming the whole thing," LeBlanc said. "So when I saw the Eisner nomination, I thought, 'yeah, this is all a weird hallucination everyone is in on.'"

Right time

LeBlanc says he sometimes zooms into original illustrations at 400 per cent to get the 3D depth just right.
With a few years and additional projects like trading cards, collector packs and 3D box sets under his belt, LeBlanc is leaving the stability and predictability of his day job for the colourful world of comics full time.

Friday was his last day at his Rothesay-based accounting firm.

LeBlanc doesn't feel he's taking a risk.

"I don't feel like I have a choice otherwise," he said. "The opportunity is there and it seems like the right time to try it.

"If I have my dream job in front of me with the opportunity to give it a shot, it doesn't feel like a choice but an obligation."

Burning candle at both ends

Over the past six years, LeBlanc has been juggling his two jobs through "monster drinks and speed metal."

He shows up daily for his 9-to-5 career, while his "side hustle" keeps him up all hours of the night.

His shortest illustration took seven hours to finish.

His most complicated pinup took over 74 hours at his computer, rearranging and tweaking lines and images from the original illustration — at times zoomed in at 400 per cent — to flush out the two perspectives and get the 3D depth just right.

"If anything gets moved, everything has to be moved left and right, and the depth has to make sense in relation to everything else," he said.

"If something gets shifted up and down by mistake, or shifted incorrectly, it'll be poor 3D. Sometimes it's down to the pixel."

LeBlanc says it takes an 'extreme attention to detail' to render comics into 3D. (Christian LeBlanc/Submitted)

One late night, LeBlanc realized he could no longer afford to burn the candle at both ends, when he had to pour himself a cup of coffee to come down off an energy drink.

"You can't get away with doing that for very long," LeBlanc said.

"There's better accountants out there than I am. There aren't many 3D conversionists better than I am.

"Honestly, I'm excited to be able to approach this medium with my best and freshest hours, my best self basically."

LeBlanc shared examples of his 3D conversions at the Saint John Fundy Fan Fest in 2017. (Christian Leblanc/Saint John)

Already established on the comic book scene, LeBlanc said he has a six-issue mini-series, a 3D art book, and other projects lined up, and doesn't anticipate any challenges with finding full-time freelance work.

The goal is to match what he's earned in accounting.

"The trick will be to work fast enough to bring in that steady stream of revenue," he said.

LeBlanc's career change also has the support of his wife, Jill Davis LeBlanc, who heads the Fundy Comic Arts Society, and draws comics in her spare time.

She and her partner write a comic called Cat Tails that takes public domain stories such as Frankenstein and rewrites them as "cute cats as the main players instead of people," said LeBlanc.

He hasn't done any 3D conversions of her comics yet.

"We can hammer out a rate," he said.


Sarah Trainor is the morning newsreader at CBC New Brunswick. She has worked for the CBC since 2005.