Cully Hamner has worked on many titles, including Firearm, Green Lantern Mosaic, and Captain America: SOL. Here he talks about his DD arc 'Flying Blind' that was written by Scott Lobdell, and his upcoming work.
Kuljit Mithra: Can you briefly describe how comics became a career for you? What got you interested?
Cully Hamner: I honestly don't remember anything specific about what got me interested in comics. Actually, I don't remember ever *not* reading comics as a kid. I know from my parents that I started reading pretty early (around three or so). I like to say that, while I don't think that I learned to read from comics, I learned to *love* reading from comics. That, and the normal children wouldn't play with me.
Mithra: How did the DD work come about for you? Were you already assigned to DD before Scott Lobdell came aboard, or was it the other way around?
Hamner: It happened like this: I had been promised by Marvel editor Mark Powers an X-Men-related mini-series to draw. So, I waited around for it. And waited, and waited. When that just didn't seem to materialize, Mark (whom I suspect was feeling a little guilty for keeping me on hold for so long) told me that DD editor Jaye Gardner had a four-issue story I could do if I wanted it. Now, being a DD fan from way back (and, of course, needing the work), I grabbed it. I found out a little later that Scott Lobdell was the writer.
Mithra: At first the Flying Blind arc was solicited as 4 issues, then changed to 3, then back to 4. Was there any reason for this? It was planned that you would do all the parts of the story, but in the end, Tom Morgan did the middle 2 issues. Was there a problem keeping up with the deadlines for you? I know in past interviews you've said your style of art takes longer to do.
Hamner: I did have a real problem keeping up, because the
project was already behind schedule when I was brought aboard (although I
didn't know it yet). Combine that with the fact that I wasn't that enamored
of the story to begin with, and you get something that wasn't a whole lot of
fun to draw. Now, before anybody gets upset, I don't mean any disrespect towards Scott. He's a good writer,
and I've enjoyed a lot of his work, but I
felt this particular story was not one of his good ones. I could go on for
an hour about what didn't make sense to me about this story, but it's a moot
point now. So, I won't.
Also, in the middle of the job, I got a new editor. Jaye was gone (this was in the midst of all the layoffs at Marvel), and Tim Tuohy came aboard. I liked Tim immediately, and we got along real well, but he'll be the first to tell you that the "musical artists" bit on that arc was not my fault. I had to wait for plots quite a bit, as they were being written and rewritten. We all did what we could, but it just wasn't enough.
Mithra: How would you describe your art style, and how do you think you have changed since your days on Firearm, or other past work?
Hamner: I would describe what style I have as solid, I guess. That's what I always try for, solid craftsmanship. Tell the story, and don't get caught up in unwarranted, excessive "style." The stuff I do has always been clean and graphic, but I think that I used to be a little too enamored of perfect line quality. Frankly, I think a lot of what I did on FIREARM looks... well, dead. There isn't a whole lot of life to it. The stuff I do now feels a lot more spontaneous to me. I've also learned to go with my instincts a bit more, and to not overthink the page. Don't do anything too fancy unless it fits what you're trying to say within the story. My mantra is "Just tell the story."
Mithra: Did you design the SHIELD costume for DD? And if so, what elements did you think you absolutely needed for the costume?
Hamner: Yes, I did, with input from Michael Golden, who was Marvel's art director at the time. That was pretty cool, I must admit. As far as the elements needed: I thought that since there were no horns and no "DD" on his chest, the red color scheme needed to stay, even though it was a SHIELD uniform. I also kept the boots and gloves, as well as the the billy-club, because you have to have some sort of visual cues that this *might* be DD. Strangely enough, the colorist on the first three issues apparently didn't get my color guide for the outfit, 'cause it wasn't red! Actually, the costume *was* right on the covers, 'cause we colored and separated them in house right here at Gaijin Studios.
Mithra: How about the way 'Laurent' looked? Were you given free reign on how to portray him?
Hamner: Pretty much. I remember having to go back on the first issue and redraw all the noses on Laurent, which was a bit of a pain in my ass, but not much. I was kind of going for a bit of a George Clooney look for him, Scott's idea being that he had undergone some sort of plastic surgery. I even drew a model sheet pointing out the facial differences between Laurent and Matt Murdock.
Mithra: Were you disappointed that you couldn't draw a traditional DD story, with his red costume? You had mentioned that you were a DD fan before this.
Hamner: Yes, I was extremely disappointed, but I was already committed by the time I found that out, and as I said before, I needed the job. And, yes I was a HUGE DD fan, from Miller's first run all the way through Nocenti & Romita, Jr.. BORN AGAIN is one of the four or five best comic book stories I've ever read in my life.
Mithra: Did you also design the Concierge? Fans noticed how he bears a remarkable resemblance to the Tarantula.
Hamner: I didn't design him at all. I'm assuming Tom Morgan did.
Mithra: Did you have any input into how the storyline progressed, or was this just a 'writer-writes, artist-draws' collaboration. Do you prefer to work closely with the writer and have a say in the plot?
Hamner: I had no input, and actually very little contact with Scott, which is unusual for me. I really like to work closely with a writer. I don't need to be in charge or anything, but I like to be involved, or to have a vote, at least.
Mithra: Overall, what did you think of the Flying Blind story?
Hamner: I'm gonna catch hell for this, but I didn't think much of it, I'm afraid. Sorry.
Mithra: How important was it to have Jason Martin inking your work?
Hamner: Very. He is so good, it hurts.
Mithra: Whose idea was it to do the 4 covers interlocking and how challenging was that to draw?
Hamner: That actually was suggested by one of my studiomates, Brian Stelfreeze. I did one big sketch of all four covers. Tuohy and Golden suggested revisions, and I went to work.
Mithra: I know you've worked on many titles for many companies. I was wondering whatever happened to 'Brave' the comic you were going to do for the Blanc Noir imprint at Dark Horse?
Hamner: Brave is partially finished, and in a drawer in my office. It'll probably stay there for a while. As far as what happened... I don't mean to be coy, but it's a complicated tale. I really don't want to air any laundry about it; it's done and over with. Suffice it to say that the situation between the Studio and Dark Horse made it financially impossible for most of us to finish those books. No ill will is intended them toward them at all; that's just the way it was. I'd love to get BRAVE out there someday, but don't hold your breath.
Mithra: How valuable is being a part of Gaijin Studios for you professionally and personally?
Hamner: Extremely valuable. Words actually can't express how valuable it is. The guys that have been here in the past, and that are here now, are all literally among the best in the entire industry. It's been my privilege to be able to learn something from all of them, every last one. Personally, the people that have stuck it out through thick and thin are virtually family to me. It's hard for people outside to understand the bond, I think. We have been through a lot together, wonderful times and hardship, and we have stayed together for the most part. The core of this group has remained constant. We realize the strength we give each other, and we cherish it. I'm not a religious person at all, but this must be what a blessing feels like.
Mithra: What comic work is upcoming for you and when can we read it? Is there a certain type of project that you are always on the look out for?
Hamner: Well, I just wrote and drew a Colossus/Wolverine called "Tempered Steel" for X-MEN UNLIMITED. That was very satisfying. Also, I'm going to be doing a Prestige-format mini-series with Joe Casey called TENSES. That'll be two 64-page books! Yow! I'm always on the lookout for a good yarn. The better the story is, the better storyteller I am.
(c) Kuljit Mithra 2000
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