Now that my debut on Justice League is out and on store shelves, I'm finally free to talk about the book and share some of my thoughts on it's designs.
First, I'm very happy with the final result. This book was one of the most stressful and yet exciting experiences in my career so far. I was excited to dig in and draw the book, but at the same time, this was the tightest deadline and turn around I've ever had in my career. The first 4 issues are all going to be fast turn-arounds with very little time to make big changes. This means that if I mess up a page or are unhappy with something, it's less time to actually do anything about it. For issues 36 and 37, I worked for 2 months straight with maybe 2 or 3 days off total (and only because I had a mini stress breakdown and my wife demanded I take a day off to rest).
Once we get the initial arc finishes, I'll have more lead time for Darkseid War because of the 2 month break when DC moves their offices to LA.
Cover to Justice League 39
Working with Geoff Johns has also been an amazing experience. I've worked with some really great writers in my short career, but Geoff takes it to another level. When I get one of his scripts, it's so easy to visualize and then draw the issue. There aren't any changes that need to be made with pacing. It's spot on, right on the money. He's also great at communication. We chat once every few weeks on the phone and he goes through the scripts,tells me his thoughts and asks what I'd like to do. Things like this make you more invested in the script and the project altogether.
Cover to Justice League 37
Geoff and I talked early on about designing some cool new takes on the character we see, and this sort of thing really gets me excited. I love playing around and tweaking the designs of these characters.
For the first issue, I got to design some new character designs, which is always a fun task. Batman was first on the docket with his Hazmat suit, or Bats-mat or Haz-bat suit as we ended up calling it. Geoff had described it more as a big, bulky Frank Miller style armor suit, but I wanted to draw something that was more form fitting so batman could move around nice and easy around the world. I had drawn a Hazmat suit once before on Detective Comics issue 15 when Batman battled Clayface, but I wanted to go with something different here.
Geoff had described the suit to be black instead of the normal grey, and I then added the orange because that's my favourite colour. He also described a bio-hazard logo around the Bat-symbol so I played around with a few different designs until I came up with the logo we see on the suit in the book.
Doing a new Wonder Woman design for this book was a lot of fun but also a bit frightening. I know how fickle Wonder Woman fans can be about things especially after I had posted some of my face studies and added a beauty mark to her face. I had read some forums and comment sections after the sketches made their way around the net, and read a lot of nasty comments about adding that. So I took it out, mostly because I didn't want to add something to her face that fans would constantly bring up and make a big deal about. You want the general reading public to like what you are doing and not distracted by some little thing.
I feel that there is a real divide between the fans who like the classic American flag, bathing suit design and the side that likes the more realistic roman armor version. I personally like both designs, but have always thought the character should dress in a way that reflects her Greek warrior heritage. I've always liked how Thor was a fish out of water when it came to his design. He looks like a Viking warrior when everyone around him is in a super hero costume. That's how I feel Diana should look.
Now, when I got the script, Geoff had described her in a new outfit and included an attachment of this Wonder Woman design I had done about 5 years ago for my DC submissions portfolio. I had taken a few cool design elements from some different Wonder Woman cosplay designs I had seen online and spliced them all together. But I didn't want to draw exactly what I had drawn in that old design, because I didn't want those cosplayers coming back at me and claiming I stole their designs. So I took the basic idea I had drawn up a few years back, and mixed that with the awesome design for Wonder Woman in the new Batman v Superman movie. I still wanted it to be separate from that design and make it it's own thing so I didn't try to directly use elements from the movie design, but instead do something that was half new 52 and half movie version.
I also want my Wonder Woman to look strong, square and big. I want her to be a presence. To be honest, drawing many of the comic book female characters make me uncomfortable because most of them are portrayed as sexual eye candy. I don't believe that being sexy or beautiful is a bad thing, but I never like having to always portray characters like that.
With Wonder Woman, I can draw her to be big, strong and confident without over sexualizing her pose or appearance. It's a tough thing, because she wears very little when it comes to her costume. It is always easier to draw a female with her hip out and looking curvy, but I really want to take a different direction as I draw her in this book. I want the reader to see that this woman can go toe to toe with anyone and come out in top. She doesn't need to flaunt her beauty to get somewhere. She can just be herself and kick some butt. I hope that fans will get what I'm trying to do and will like my approach.
So for the design, I created some new armoured-bracelet glove sort of things which come right from my old design. I added a half glove for her hands as well which I feel is an original take. I kept the eagle on her breastplate the same as the new 52 version, but added a few little tweaks like an extra little zig-zag along the wing and the plumed tail below.
For her belt, I went with the classic WW design we've seen in the past as a bit of a nod to her classic look. I've always loved the WW logo they used for years and wanted to add that to the costume.
For her waist, I wanted to do the pleated, Greco-Roman leather skirt look but instead of a classic straight , triangular ribbon (hopefully you know what I'm describing) I wanted to do a layered look. This was the element I borrowed from the new movie costume. I didn't want to copy what they had 100%, but it's such a great design. So I changed up some of the angles on the bottoms of each strip so they all point in one direction.
Lastly, her boots, which we really don't see in this issue, are designed to mirror her arm gauntlets to create some balance. We will see them in the next issue.
Overall, I feel strong about this design and hope to use it as we go forward, but really, it's a design made just for this arc. Maybe if there is a strong fan reaction, we will see it after this arc, but that's up to you to tweet @geoffjohns and let him know!
Geoff described this character as a big hulk like monster guy. As of right now I can't share much about him so not to spoil the story, but it really wanted to base his look on some of the classic Bernie Wrightson monsters from the past and present. That's about all I can say about the character right now, but once issue 37 hits, I can chat a bit more about him
The first few pages open with shots to set the tone. Geoff wrote a great intro to really get things off on a great foot, as we see a deserted Metropolis and money floating through the air. The money was fun to draw. I really only drew a few different bills from different angles and then copied and pasted those bills on different layers on each page. This is when digital art really comes in handy!
The three sick dudes were fun to work on as well. I really wanted them to look like three normal everyday guys but sick with pale skin, black eyes and veins growing up their neck. This is where our heroes appear and try to get these guys to safety before they end up going into a stage three death rage, like we see happen in the book.
The most stressful page to draw was the big Superman, Batman reveal. I ended up redrawing this page 3 times and still don't really feel happy with the final outcome. But I had to move on for my own sanity. I wanted Batman to look tough and foreboding. As he should always be, but Superman to look a bit more reassuring. Geoff wrote in the script that superman is to look heroic but kind and calm. This was the first time I had drawn the character in years, and was sorta stumbling through the dark a bit. I wanted to keep the new 52 look for the character, which is young and a little less bulky, but since issue 36, I've gone back to my gut feeling of drawing him to look big, bulky and more classic. I also cleaned up his haircut a bit more, instead of it being really messy, to be something that's in between the new 52 look and Henry Cavill's movie portrayal.
The big spread halfway through the book showing the justice league laid up in bed sick, was actually one of the harder pages to draw. I wanted an angle up high so we could see everything looking down, but that also adds an element of difficulty for the shot. At the end, I added the Wonder Woman shadow on the ground to help lead the eye to the next page.
The Argus base camp was also difficult to draw, just because of its simplicity and repetitiveness. Drawing a bunch of Red Cross tents is harder than it looks. This is where we meet Lex Luthor, in his armoured suit with a classic dome face shield over his head, Steve Trevor and his argus agents in their hazmat suits and captain cold as well.
For the hazmat suits, I based them off of the modern suit designs, but tried to add a special sci-fi touch, with a helmet more like a classic 70s Sci-fi space suit.
As for Captain Cold, I had a little fun with his design. Part of me has always wanted to design everything in the DC universe to look cinematic, and believable. But at the same time, DC has a quaint cheesiness to its universe, and sometimes it's fun to explore these ideas. I thought it would be funny to have captain cold in a hazmat suit of his own (designed by LexCorp of course) but have him still wear his furry-parka hat over top his gas mask. This made me laugh as I went through this page and drew it. But it's the sort of thing that works and doesn't distract or detract from the story. Geoff and I had talked about creating a balance of a serious tone with some light comedy sprinkled in between to take some of the edge off.
Lastly on the last two pages we have 2 new characters. One is Bullet, which we will see in future issues so I can't talk much about his design, except for the fact that I didn't have a design at the point I was drawing this page, so I blacked him out and just showed his hands.
The other character we meet is Patient Zero whom our heroes have been trying to locate. He's a great big lumbering, mutant zombie monster guy that we will learn more about in the next issue or two.
In the end, I feel that my first outing on Justice League went well. A special shout out goes to colorist Brad Anderson who totally blew my mind with his colors. He sets the mood so perfect with his tones. This is the most happy I've ever been with the colors for a book I've drawn. I believe that it will take me a few issues to really find my footing, but after this first arc, I'll be ready to really hit the ground running and put my stamp on the DC universe. Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed the issue!
Bonus: Batman Eternal 32 and 33 came out this past month as well! Here are some inks from that!
Batman Eternal 33