With “The New Age of DC Heroes” well underway and the unofficial new age of Superman with both Action Comics #1000 and the arrival of writer Brian Michael Bendis (on both Action and Superman) hovering just a couple of months out, things at DC feel like they’re rolling forward at a breakneck pace — and by the sound of it, they have no intention of slowing down.
At this year’s Emerald City Comic Con, CBR sat down with artist Evan “Doc” Shaner, who has his hands in both of the proverbial cookie jars at the moment. Drawing an issue of Bendis’s highly anticipated Man of Steel six-issue weekly limited series and picking up on the “New Age” book The Terrifics alongside fellow artist Ivan Reis and writer Jeff Lemire, Shanner has his eyes on DC’s horizons.
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CBR got some insights on both the creative processes that go on behind the scenes with both of his upcoming projects, as well as insight on just what readers might be seeing on the page, whether it’s in the offices of the Daily Planet or following a ragtag group in the Dark Multiverse.
CBR: So we obviously had to start with the pressing matters at hand here: Man of Steel. What can you tell me about your issue?
Doc Shanner: I don’t think it’s too much to say that my issue focuses a lot on Clark, you know, as Clark — what his Clark Kent life is like. I have a lot at the Daily Planet, and I think Brian [Bendis] said something about Green Lantern showing up? He’s in my issue. So I get to draw Green Lantern again! Hopefully that’s all OK to say, right? [Laughs] I hope so at least.
So if you’re working with Clark Kent as just a normal guy, can you speak to how develop him on the page as, you know, just a regular guy? How do you represent who Clark is in the story visually?
We find Clark in kind of a weird spot that I’m not sure he’s entirely comfortable with — he’s not really in the “normal” Clark Kent space. It’s certainly the Daily Planet just as it is — it’s normal — but Clark’s in a weird place in this issue so it’s hard to say without overstepping what I’m allowed to share.
Well, maybe in a less broad sense, what sort of things would you find on your Clark Kent’s desk?
Oh man, that’s a good question. Pictures of the family, of course. Lots of Smallville stuff, lots of little knick-knacks. He’s a little corny, definitely. [Laughs]
When I think of your art style, the first word that comes to mind is “classic.” You’ve got a style that immediately evokes that sort of square-jawed, Golden Age hero — is there something in these heroes or in your process that draws you to that brand of character?
For me specifically, I’m always looking at artists like Curt Swan and José Luis [García-López], that classic build for Superman and Clark both, that strong chin, broad shoulders, always kind of posing — I’m really drawn to that look of every shot being a little iconic. That’s part of the fun of drawing Superman, or really any of these characters — figuring out how to do that.
On top of Man of Steel and actually a little bit the opposite, you’re working with Jeff Lemire on The Terrifics, yeah?
Jeff is so — I can’t believe how fast he writes. It’s so quick. He’s into the tens of Terrifics to my knowledge, he’s very far ahead — but it’s very cut-and-dry in the script. He leaves so much up to me to interpret. He’s trying all these new things with pacing and how we tell our stories — they’re all very interesting, stuff I haven’t been able to do in a while. Especially with these four characters — they’re so much fun. Guys like Metamorpho and Plastic Man where you have so many choices — so much fun. Getting to play with them in these stories that are so experimental, it’s really interesting.
On the flip side of that, with Bendis — he’s not writing like “the artist has to do this,” but he’s very descriptive in his script, they’re easily three times as long as Jeff’s. He’s so descriptive and evocative, he’ll add notes like, “this is the sort of thing I was thinking about when I was writing this.” He’ll leave it up to the artist whether or not to use it, but it’s still there. But he likes to include where he’s coming from. The dialogue, too, obviously — It’s a totally different style you recognize right away.
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Speaking of The Terrifics team — Plastic Man is another character I very much associate with your style, but he’s definitely not like others…
Oh man, yeah. When I first came to DC and Dan [DiDio] asked what I wanted to do, I named four characters, and Plas was one of them. The other three were Superman, Captain Marvel and The Flash — so I’m doing alright there so far.
But on The Terrifics Ivan [Reis] has been so generous about collaborating with me and making our issues flow together — I know a lot of people when the book was announced were like “I don’t know, that doesn’t seem like it’ll go together, it feels like art whiplash.” But when Ivan’s pages started coming in, I was shocked, I think our work is really going to go together here.
He was so cool with running with my designs and sticking with the aesthetic cohesion those designs have, so his Plastic Man is very much in my mold too. He’s very wide eyed and fun, smiley, he’s always doing something — even if he’s not the focus of the panel, or even speaking, he’s in the background doing his own thing. It’s great. He’s really one of the originals in terms of that early generations of characters that really took off, he’s so iconic.
Is there something you can tease about either of your upcoming projects that you want fans to look forward to?
My first issue of Terrifics is number #4, and that really gets into Phantom Girl’s story — without giving too much away, it really introduces us to where she comes from, and I think people are going to be surprised.
The Terrifics #4, illustrated by Evan Shaner and written by Jeff Lemire, is scheduled for release on May 23. Man of Steel #2, illustrated by Shaner and written by Brian Micahel Bendis, is scheduled for release on June 6.