What made you want to be a comic book artist?
I was born in 1518 in the village of Glenfinnan on the shores of Loch Shiel—which as you know is famous for producing comic-books, stretching back to the times of the druids. There I was apprenticed to a dirt farmer when I met the daughter of the local comic-bookist. She had alabaster skin and fiery red hair…I fell in love. I left dirt farming far behind and set about impressing her and her father with my skills. She died of consumption before she was 20 but I have kept on with my skills ever since, swearing to only use them for good. Once a year we all come together at the great Gathering in San Diego and fight it out with sword and pen until there is only one.
Oh, the real reason? Sorry. OK.
Art has been present throughout my life. It was my senior year in high school that I suppose made me want to be a comic-book artist. I hadn’t found a better career possibility, three years of screwing around left my grades in too poor a shape for any hope of a scholarship and not being able to afford college otherwise, things were beginning to collide toward art as my eventuality. For an Honors level art course we were told to pick our semester long project, which would be counted as our final exam. I was stymied. But my friend at the time, Derek Uyesato, had a brilliant idea—A comic book. He dropped Jim Lee’s X-Men #1 on the table. Conveniently released the week that school started. Well that got me hooked on comics—again. Once I found out how much money they were making at the time (I’ve never made that, missed the boom—darn it.) I decided that was the career for me. Encouraged by our art teacher Wayne Muromoto who had done some work for Marvel many years before, we finished our comic for art class, I got my A and I started building a portfolio.
When drawing characters which have already appeared in the show, like Adam, Hiro and Elle, do you find it harder knowing that fans know exactly what they look like?
Heck, I find it hard enough just drawing them. Most of my career has been spent coloring, designing or in management so breaking out the drawing skills again shows some rusty wheels. It is definitely in my mind that you all will judge, perhaps harshly, every line because not only are the characters loved but the nuances of the actors as well. Drawing doesn’t always do an adequate service to a real person’s image. There’s always a balance to find between art style and perfect likeness. A perfect likeness can be too stiff or dead in the eyes, but a lively drawing with style can be unrecognizable to the audience. It’s a high-wire act, especially with Elle. I hope I’ve acquitted myself well, in any case: I promise to do better next time.
You created 10 characters for the huge company arc in the graphic novels, Each of the characters is so unique in personality and in physical appearance. What inspired these characters? Could you tell us a little about each one? Were there any character designs that you ended up just throwing out? What was the direction from NBC?
I was granted quite a free hand in inventing them, though the initial descriptions I had for the characters was very, very basic—a sentence or two at most. I didn’t even know their powers when I was designing them. As part of my creative logic I try to instill all my characters with unique characteristics—different heights, body shapes, facial shapes and features—so I did the same here. As it turned out, some were being simultaneously designed by others already working on stories containing the characters, and in a couple of cases their writers provided those artists with more physical descriptions than I had to go on. In the end, several of the characters became not what I had designed, simply because another artist(s) established them first. So in some sense my designs got ‘thrown out’. But there were adjustments to all the characters before they were finalized. I wish I could show you befores and afters and the other versions but that’s for NBC to release, not me.
I can’t talk about all of them since some haven’t yet shown up in online novels or other places yet but for those that have (I’m going by the HeoresWiki list):
Although my first rendering of her is credited on the Wiki as ‘artist rendering’ she ended up being pretty spot on right away. The only concerns once the initial drawing was made was to be sure her bleach streak didn’t look like Rogue from the X-men and to shorten the hair on her bangs to make both eyes visible. I like her a lot. She worked out pretty fully formed in my head. She had distinct eyebrows and a slim build. I wanted her attractive but not gorgeous. She had to look ‘everyday’ish as if you could know her and not notice her yet not seem out of place once she took her role in the story. I had intended her slim and short, 5’2” or so, but other artists drew her taller and more robustly.
Blake needed to be good looking and dark and he had Teutonic dragons on the sleeves of his leather jacket. It was to be later revealed that he was the son of Mr. Thompson so I sort of based his features on Eric Roberts.