Talking Comics with Tim: Chris Samnee
This Wednesday will see the release of the third issue of writer Roger Langridge and artist Chris Samnee‘s Thor: The Mighty Avenger. Anyone reading our weekly What Are You Reading column knows how much I’ve praised the first two issues. Samnee and I spoke briefly at this past June’s HeroesCon and from there an email interview came together. In addition to Thor, we discuss some of Samnee’s past work as well as his upcoming collaboration with writer Jim McCann on I Am An Avenger 1. Earlier today, CBR posted a five-page preview to Thor: The Mighty Avenger 3.
O’Shea: What’s the most enjoyable aspect of working from a Roger Langridge script?
Samnee: Roger’s scripts are really funny – I laugh out loud when I read them! I love the humor as well as his ability to tell quiet, emotional moments. Since Roger’s also an artist, he’s really good with pacing and page turns as well. And the scripts have a very silver-age feel, which is right up my alley.
O’Shea: I keep re-reading Thor: The Mighty Avenger 1 trying to figure out what my favorite scene was–and I can ‘t decide if it’s when we first see the Rainbow Bridge on page 2; or the first scene where Thor smiles. Was the smiling Thor a character suggestion from Langridge or was that your idea?
Samnee: The smile was in the script. Roger made clear right from the outline for the book that this Thor smiles and enjoys himself. For me, that was one of the most enjoyable aspects of the book, as an artist and a reader of comics. I’ve worked on a lot of heavy books – it’s a nice change of pace to be on something a bit lighter, a comic where the characters are having fun.
O’Shea: Over at your DeviantArt site, you provide a sketch of the Destroyer , The Warriors Three, Beta Ray Bill and Pluto. Can we look forward to any of them appearing in future issues? And how goes your campaign to make folks aware that “There just aren’t enough characters with mustaches in comics these days.”?
Samnee: Haha! I can definitely tell you that The Warriors Three make an appearance in issue 4, which I’m currently inking. And all of the original Avengers will show up at some point. There are so many characters I’ve been itching to draw that show up in Thor: The Mighty Avenger. As for more characters with mustaches, I would fully support a write-in campaign to Marvel to see more mustaches in comics! And not just on the bad guys, good guys can rock a mustache too!
O’Shea: Was Langridge already onboard when you joined the project? Can you describe how you came to be on Thor?
Samnee: Roger was already onboard when I was offered the project. I had first worked with Thor: TMA editor Nate Cosby on the backups I did for Agents of Atlas vs. X-Men, then again when I did an issue of Marvel Adventures: Spider-Man. I was finishing up Siege: Embedded when I got an email from Nate offering me Thor: TMA, which was an easy decision.
O’Shea: Issue 5 sports Namor on the cover, what can you tell folks about the Thor: TMA version of the Submariner?
Samnee: I’m so happy Namor shows up in Thor: TMA! He was on the short list of characters I sent Roger when he asked me who I wanted to draw. As for our version of Namor, if you’ve seen my design sketches – I’ve given him some slightly longer trunks instead of the ladies panties he typically wears. His ankle wings are slightly larger, but aside from that it’s as close as I can get to Bill Everett’s original design as possible. I love getting to tweak character’s designs bit, but really try to honor their original design as much as possible. As for anything else – I don’t want to spoil it – you’ll just have to read to find out!
O’Shea: I could do an entire interview based on your DeviantArt sketches–please tell me you have an interest in doing a Fantastic Four miniseries at some point?
Samnee: Absolutely! I would love work on a FF book at some point, they’re some of my favorite characters in all of comics. I’ve got a “bucket list” of projects I keep next to my desk and they are most certainly on there!
O’Shea: Care to divulge other characters on that bucket list?
Samnee: I don’t think it would surprise anyone who follows my blog to know that Batman is on that list. Jimmy Olsen is as well. I’d love to write and draw my own Commissioner Gordon/Alfred tale. Supergirl, BPRD/Hellboy, Buffy, Wonder Woman, The Spirit, Iron Man, Lois Lane, Superman. I’d love to write and draw an Ant-Man/Wasp story. I’d love to do more Spider-Man and Daredevil as well. And Thor was on there until very recently! Honestly, the list of characters I wouldn’t want to draw is probably shorter – there are just so many great characters in comics
O’Shea: There was a great deal of anticipation for you an Langridge’s first issue–but were you surprised at how much praise was heaped on you the day or so after the book’s release (on Twitter in particular)?
Samnee: I was incredibly surprised but so incredibly happy that people responded so positively. I’ve felt from the beginning that this book was something special and it’s been such an absolute joy to draw. I just hoped that people would enjoy reading it as much as I’ve enjoyed drawing it. The response on Twitter, on my blog, my devianArt page and through email was just incredible. I was terribly nervous for it to come out though – I was afraid people would pass it up, thinking it was “just a kid’s book”. I’m so happy people are enjoying it and it’s unreal to hear praise from folks like Kurt Busiek, Bryan Hitch and Kevin Nowlan.
O’Shea: Anytime I encounter an artist like yourself clearly influenced by Alex Toth, the fanboy in me comes out in my questions. Can you single out your favorite Toth story?
Samnee: Oh geez, it changes every week! I would say it’s probably the Batman story “Death Flies the Haunted Sky”. I also love his Black Canary work, “The Land Unknown”, his few Torpedo pages. Really, I love all of it. He’s an incredible inspiration to me.
O’Shea: You’re collaborating with Jim McCann on an upcoming Avengers tale, what can you tell folks about that?
Samnee: I actually just wrapped that up a few days ago! It’s an 11 page story for “I am an Avenger” #1. Our story focuses on the Young Avengers. I’m not sure how much I’m allowed to say, so I’ll quote from Jim’s blog. It’s “a story of the teen-aged heroes as they face their final challenge before truly becoming Avengers”. I haven’t done much in the way of team books, so it was a fun challenge for sure.
O’Shea: As a person who clearly relishes the contrast of black and white in your art, how much fun did you have doing that noir/pulp style Area 10 for Vertigo Crime with Chris Gage?
Samnee: Well, the book was actually drawn in 2006, before I had really been published in color anywhere. The noir/pulp style is very much in line with my other projects from that time period, like Capote In Kansas and Queen & Country. I love working in black and white, as you can see from my daily blog sketches. I love playing with light, shadow and contrast, which is much easier to do in black and white. I think working in black and white for most of my early career really helped my skills progress since there was no colorist to cover up my mistakes. I’d love for DC to bring back Batman Black & White at some point – and I’d love for the opportunity to work on a story for it! That’s said, I love having my work colored too – especially when it’s by amazing colorists like Matt Wilson and Dave Stewart.
O’Shea: Speaking of Wilson, he clearly is relishing the opportunity to work with you. Can you single out a favorite scene for you that he has colored?
Samnee: I really love everything that Matt colors, he’s such a talent and I feel very lucky to be working with him. For Thor: The Mighty Avenger, I love page 1 in issue 1, since that was the first page I saw of him trying out the “flat” colors we were going for. My jaw just dropped when I saw it. In issue 2, there’s a sunrise scene colored mainly in gold followed by a thunderstorm that’s just breathtaking. I’m so delighted that editor Nate Cosby is letting us go flat with the colors – and Matt is just nailing it. He adds so much to the storytelling and visual look of the book.
O’Shea: You clearly love your work, as well as studying your craft. What prompted you to recently write “…In between working on pages I’ve been flipping through a bunch of old Steve Ditko issues of Spider-Man lately.”?
Samnee: Why wouldn’t you want to flip through old Steve Ditko issues of Spider-Man? They’re amazing! I love working in comics and I love reading comics too. Sometimes I’ll hit a slump, and that’s when I pull out books that inspire me, like those issues of Spider-Man.
O’Shea: While Marvel’s got you busy at present, you also are making sometime for Dark Horse with Serenity: The Shephard’s Tale. Judging from this CBR interview a few months back, you were enthused about the project (You said then: “I love that it’s sort of a mish-mash of sci-fi, western, and Asian influences, populated by all of these wonderfully well-rounded characters. It’s like Sergio Leone meets ‘Blade Runner’ with Joss Whedon’s voice. There’s nothing in that formula that doesn’t appeal to me!”) Now that you have the whole issue drawn, can you talk a little bit more about what made the project click for you.
Samnee: I think I might have summed it up best back then! I’m such a fan of Joss Whedon and the worlds he creates. It was just such a privilege to get to work in one of those worlds for a little bit. Being a fan of the character and a fan of the creators made that a really easy project to say “yes” to!
O’Shea: Any interest in working with Peter J. Tomasi again, after working with him on DC’s The Mighty?
Samnee: Absolutely! I loved working on The Mighty and I loved working with Peter. I did two Blackest Night: Tales of the Corps stories with Peter while working on The Mighty. I really enjoy his writing and would happily work with him again!
Samnee: I do! I absolutely love doing character designs – I wish I had more time for it, actually. It makes me feel like a little kid again, drawing my own versions of characters.
O’Shea: I had not realized until reading some of your recent Tweets (in the wake of Harvey Pekar’s passing) that you had worked with him on a few American Splendor stories. Can you briefly talk about working with Pekar and what you learned from the exprience?
Samnee: Sure, I illustrated two American Splendor stories in 2006 and 2008. I actually didn’t have any contact with Harvey, everything came through Vertigo editor Jon Vankin. Harvey had such a unique style of writing, which I’m sure many people know. Instead of scripting, he drew everything out in stick figures. He also didn’t break anything up into pages, so it was up to me to determine pacing, page breaks, etc. It was a great (and challenging) exercise in storytelling early in my career.