Axel-In-Charge: "Secret Wars" Jam Session Talking "A-Force," "Ultimate End" and More
You can do things in comics you can’t do in any other medium, and U.K. cartoonist Dan McDaid has taken advantage of that in his work on Time Lords, superheroes, gods, monsters and apes — and he’s done it all without sacrificing his style. In fact, it’s only invigorated him further.
McDaid is currently illustrating BOOM! Studios’ Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, taking a novel look at that world while retaining the auteur vibe that made the original movie work. Combining a diverse array of influences, Jack Kirby to John Romita Jr. and Frank Miller to Mike Zeck — even drawing in names like Nic Roeg and Sam Peckinpah — McDaid seems to showcase a different facet of his abilities in each project he tackles.
I became aware of McDaid during his run on Jersey Gods at Image Comics, but it’s Catalyst Comix that made me reconsider my assessment of his work. Since then, with Vandroid and issues of Mind the Gap and Sex, he’s risen in my mind to become a dynamic illustrator whose talent seems to be building to some unknown future project that will make him a marquee name in comics. Will it be Dawn of the Planet of Apes? Will it be the creator-owned book he’s working on? Or perhaps something else?
Many fans were surprised when it was announced last month that former pro wrestler CM Punk will make his Marvel writing debut in February’s Thor Annual #1, but of course the connection between comics and wrestling goes way back: Icons like the Ultimate Warrior, Mick Foley, Raven, Christopher Daniels, Booker T and Tony Atlas have all tried their hands at comics. However, it isn’t a one-way street, as one pro wrestler has used his passion for comics to inform an entire wrestling promotion: Philadelphia’s CHIKARA.
The man behind it, Mike Quackenbush, started wrestling in 1994, and made a name for himself on the independent scene during the Attitude Era and became a promoter in 2002 when he founded CHIKARA. Over the years, he has wrestled around the world against top names like CM Punk, Jushin Thunder Liger, Cesaro and Colt Cabana. But with CHIKARA Quackenbush has expanded into writing complex geek-infused storylines featuring throwbacks to comics and movies, including one memorable entrance involving a DeLorean.
On Saturday, CHIKARA will present Tomorrow Never Dies, live in Philadelphia and on iPPV, so I spoke with Quackenbush about his passion for comics and wrestling.
The best way to learn how to make comics is to simply make comics, and writer Christopher Sebela found his way in by coloring and lettering.
He’s the first to admit he wasn’t the best, but it helped him to learn the industry while he continued to hone his writing skills. After years of work, and a couple of lucky breaks, Sebela is beginning to make a name for himself as a writer of diverse titles like Ghost, Escape From New York, Aliens vs. Predator: Fire & Stone and his own Dead Letters and High Crimes.
I spoke with Sebela about his entrance into comics, his beginnings as a color flatter, and his various projects. Along the way, he told me how the ability to hide a dead body gave him one of his biggest breaks in his career, and about his dueling passion and fear of Mount Everest.
Derf Backderf spent the first 40 years of his life aiming, and ultimately succeeding, to become one of the top cartoonists in alternative newspapers. However, he then realized that niche industry was failing, and he needed something else; that’s when he found graphic novels.
Since switching his focus from newspaper strips to graphic novels in 2000, Backderf has transformed from a virtual unknown to a curiosity to an international star, with books like Punk Rock & Trailer Parks and his most famous work, My Friend Dahmer. He’s now working on on a graphic novel for Abrams about his time working as a garbageman, as well as a pseudo-sequel to Punk Rock & Trailer Parks that explores his time growing up in the Midwest punk scene.
Backderf’s opinion on comics as a fan and as a professional has changed over the years as he’s witness the decline of the once-thriving alternative weeklies, the rise of graphic novels and the changing face of American comics. I spoke with Backderf about his experiences, his acceptance in Europe, and his own opinions on comics.
Ivan Brandon‘s stories may initially appear to be one thing, but when you read them you discover they’re actually something else entirely. The writer’s 2009 series Viking was a crime drama, and his new series Drifter is a story of frontier expansion in the 1800s — despite being set in the far-flung future. Many of Brandon’s stories have a technological bent, however; from his 2003 debut writing Terminator to his indie series NYC Mech to Machine Man in Marvel Comics Presents.
Drifter, with artist Nic Klein, debuted this week, and Brandon is in the middle of a four-city signing tour that finds him at Leed’s Thought Bubble this weekend and London’s Orbital Comics on Wednesday. It’s a familiar territory, launching a series, but he views the landscape of creator-owned comics differently today that he did when he started more than a decade ago.
Aubrey Sitterson made a name for himself as the editor of such Marvel titles as The Irredeemable Ant-Man and Strange Tales, but he that behind for the world of professional wrestling. But after spending the past few years working for WWE and moonlighting for a time as editor of The Walking Dead and Invincible, Sitterson is looking to conquer the comics world as a writer.
Earlier this year Arcana published his graphic novel Worth, produced with the estate of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, and he’s currently merging wrestling, comics, barbarians and aliens in the webcomic King Maul. Sitterson and artist Zak Kinsella just returned from a brief hiatus following the first issue, and promise a new page each Monday.
Colleen Doran loves comics. Although she’s best known for her creator-owned series A Distant Soil, she has no qualms about working on someone else’s projects, from The Sandman to Spider-Man to licensed properties. To Doran, it’s all part of a balanced diet.
On June 4, DC Comics will release The Vampire Diaries #6, a standalone story written and drawn by Doran, who has previously penned issues of the series, based on The CW’s hit supernatural drama. She completed the work months ago, and has a busy schedule ahead of her that includes a graphic novel with Neil Gaiman, a new series with Top Cow’s Matt Hawkins and a resumption of The Book of Lost Souls with J. Michael Straczynski.
In a previous interview, Doran told me she enjoys being busy, defining herself as a “work reveler” as opposed to a workaholic, but I managed to catch up with her to talk about these projects, her process and discussing the business of comics.
Marcos Martin grew up reading American superhero comics imported to his native Spain, and for the first 13 years of his career, he lived, breathed and drew those heroes in titles like Batgirl: Year One, Doctor Strange: The Oath, The Amazing Spider-Man and Daredevil. But now he’s moved on, devoting himself primarily to creator-owned comics with a reach beyond the direct market. The first sign of that is The Private Eye, the digital comic he created with celebrated writer Brian K. Vaughan about the price of privacy in a futuristic world.
Both Martin and Vaughan have talked with CBR about their project, so for this installment of “Conversing on Comics” I reached deeper into the artist’s work, looking for his influences and his choices. The interview, conducted in late April via Skype, pulls back the curtain on Martin, an ambitious but private professional who’s looking to entertain not just the ardent comic book fan but also more mainstream readers interested in fiction and fables.
The past decade has been good one for Cully Hamner. His creator-owned miniseries Red has served as inspiration for two hit feature films, and he’s found himself in the upper echelon of DC Comics’ talent roster as a cover and interior artist, as well as a character designer for the publisher’s New 52. Now the Alabama-born artist, who recently turned 45, is working on an undisclosed “big” project for DC that will allow him to both draw and co-write, something he’s been wanting to do for years. While he has penned stories for anthologies and one-shots, this will mark his first time writing on a larger scale.
I’ve talked with Hamner for years by email and at conventions, discussing trends in comics, his own work and our shared interest in superhero costume design. After several months of back and forth, I finally caught up with him for this conversation.
Svetlana Chmakova has sent demons to school, been on the run with witches and wizards, and braved the world of comics as a fan-turned-professional. If you asked her, she might argue the last one was the toughest of all.
The Russian-Canadian cartoonist made a name for herself as part of a wave of artists working on TOKYOPOP’s OEL Manga line. 2005’s Dramacon and the two follow-up volumes showed Chmakova delving into the world of comics and manga with a story inspired by attending comic conventions and interacting with cosplayers. Chmakova went on to be one of the star players hired for Hachette’s graphic novel imprint Yen Press, first creating her own series Nightschool and then adapting hit novelist James Patterson’s Witch & Wizard series. Chmakova’s work has been prodigious, with 10 graphic novels released in just over nine years, and now here in 2014 she’s beginning a new chapter with a new creator-owned series with Yen, webcomics and a line of video podcasts on drawing. ROBOT 6 caught up with Chmakova to find out about what’s on her plate, as well as what’s on her mind and in her future.
Kazu Kibuishi has found success in comics by charting his own path, one that took him from creating the Eisner-winning Copper to editing the acclaimed Flight anthologies to finding a home for his Amulet graphic novels at mainstream publisher Scholastic.
His work led him to be selected to create covers for the 15th anniversary re-release if J.K. Rowlings’ Harry Potter books. Kibuishi approached this prized assignment with reverence and deep knowledge for what Rowling and original illustrator Mary GrandPré did before, but infused the artwork with his own style to make the new editions stand out. And he took what he learned from that project back to his own books.
Chuck Dixon might be best known for his hard-charging stories of Batman, the Punisher and G.I. Joe, but he’s more than a work-for-hire writer — even though he’s good at it. Dixon got his start in creator-owned comics with 1984’s Evangline at Comico (and later First), and now after three decades as primarily a hired gun, he’s returning to his roots with a renewed vigor and years of experience under his belt.
The co-creator of DC stalwarts like Bane and Birds of Prey tells ROBOT 6 his future looks to be predominately focused on creator-owned comics, and he has no less than three creator-owned projects in the works — including one with his former collaborator Graham Nolan. That’s in addition to his recent foray into prose military fiction; after the success of the SEAL Team Six novels with Dynamite Entertainment, Dixon has gone into business for himself with a new series titled Bad Times, featuring a group of scientists and Special Forces solders who are transported 100,000 years into the past. With his time on G.I. Joe coming to an end with April’s G.I. Joe: Special Missions, Dixon’s next tour of duty may end up being his greatest yet.
Dan Brereton entered the industry in the late 1980s and, alongside Alex Ross and a select few others, ushered in what he playfully calls the Golden Age of Painted Comics, one in which not only covers but interior pages were fully painted. If we were to compare that era to classic Hollywood, Alex Ross would be Cary Grant while Brereton would be Vincent Price. And he wouldn’t have it any other way.
Brereton’s lush, horror-tinged art led him to quickly jump from the independents to major work at Marvel and DC, where he made a name for himself with series like The Psycho and Legends of the World’s Finest, earning him the Russ Manning Award. In 1997, he teamed with Howard Chaykin for a romping Elseworlds story titled Thrillkiller, which prompted a sequel, and then put him on his way to his own creations — the Nocturnals.
In the years since, he’s balanced between creator-owned and work-for-hire, both in the United States and in Europe. I reached out to Brereton to talk about the 20th anniversary of his creator-owned Nocturnals, as well as his dalliances with work at DC, Marvel and elsewhere, and what his plans are for 2014 and beyond. He fills us in on two exciting new creator-owned projects, as well as a return to Nocturnals and a story for DC’s digital-first comics.
Marko Djurdjević arrived on the comics scene in 2007 from video games, quickly becoming one of the most in-demand cover artists and character designers. Marvel signed the German artist to an exclusive agreement despite his lack of comics experience, but over the next four years he created covers for virtually every major franchise and tapped to design and redesign characters like the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, Lady Bullseye, Quasar and the rogue’s gallery for the 2011 event series Fear Itself. But after four years producing three to five coversa month and interior work on a select basis, Djurdjević decided to take a break from comics and return to gaming.
Fast-forward three years, and Djurdjević is the founder of a highly sought-after creative services studio called SIXMOREVODKA, which provides character design, concept art, illustrations and more for high-end video games like Batman: Arkham Origins and Killzone as well as RPGs, movies and art books. With a staff of 11 working side by side with 11 other artists in their Berlin offices, SIXMOREVODKA is firmly established and thriving enough for Djurdjević to begin plotting a return to comics on his own terms, working on his own creations.
I spoke with Djurdjević by phone about his comics work, his decision to leave the exclusive deal he had with Marvel. Although Djurdjević remains tight-lipped about the exact nature of his creator-owned comics venture, this interview provides an inside look at an artist you may only know by his covers.
It’s been a good week for Ryan Stegman, one marked by the premiere of the highest-profile series of his entire career: Wolverine. The Michigan artist, who’s been working steadily for Marvel since 2011, has been primed to become one of comics’ breakout stars, only waiting for the right project, the right writer and the right positioning. Wolverine just may be it.
Stegman’s squat and square-jawed Wolverine shows an artist who pays attention to characters beyond just their most recent depictions. He wears his fan credentials with pride, citing influences as far-ranging as Katsuhiro Otomo, Bill Sienkiewicz and Joe Madureira, but chief among them is Todd McFarlane. Stegman has done much to establish his own trademark style, but his ability to comprehend and be inspired by McFarlane’s fluid linework has added new facets to a nuanced style.
For this edition of “Conversing on Comics,” I spoke with Stegman about Wolverine, his artistic influences both for Logan and in general, and the long road that brought him here. In the interview, conducted just after Christmas, Stegman was open about his enthusiasm for Wolverine as well as his long-term goals for himself and his career.