Eddy Newell is well-known for his work with Tony Isabella on Black Lightning. Here he talks about his Marvels Comics Daredevil one-shot and his views on the regular series.
Kuljit Mithra: Your issue of Daredevil, with Tony Isabella, has been out for about a month now. What has the fan reaction been so far for this 'Marvels Comics' tale?
Eddy Newell: The fan reaction has been great. I'm definitely feeling the love.
Mithra: What was it like working with Isabella on a mainstream comic again? He often speaks highly of your collaboration on Black Lightning. What is it that he does differently than other writers you've worked with? You've even done a creator-owned book with him too.
Newell: With Tony, it's easy... We just seem to be thinking along the same lines during the course of a story...we just click.
Tony's scripts are always strong on characters that always behave in a manner that's consistent, which is what I like. His stories are always plausible, well researched, and well thought out, and always have a sprinkling of that world famous sense of humor of his.
Also, I'm pretty writer friendly, in that I don't feel the need to draw stuff not called for in the scripts. I trust that Tony knows what he's doing. He trusts that I'm not going to change his story on him. I'm just drawing what the story should look like visually based on the script that I'm given. He's the writer, I'm the artist.
Mithra: What is it about the Black Lightning character that ranks him among the favourite characters you've worked on?
Newell: Jefferson Pierce is a real person. Almost every piece of mail that we've received on BL tells of how much the readers are able to relate to BL as a person. He was a regular guy... he went to work, went to church, bought groceries. I also like the fact that Black Lightning was kept in continuity and actually allowed to age. So, he was essentially the same character as the one I was collecting in 1977. In '77 there just weren't that many ethnic characters running around, so I hold some affection for BL. We just kind of jumped to where he was, or would be by the early 1990's.
Mithra: I've heard (and correct me if I'm wrong) that you weren't the original penciler for the DD one-shot. How did the penciler search finally get to you?
Newell: If there was another penciler for DD #1, that's news to me. As far as I know I was Tony's first choice. But I can see that the editor, Tom Brevoort may have had a list of people in mind... After all I've never worked for Tom or on a Marvel comic before this. But, TB did know of my BL work and knew Tony and I worked well together, so I guess he figured it would be ok.
Mithra: What was your initial reaction to this off-beat DD tale? Had you ever been a DD fan before this?
Newell: I love Daredevil! I find that as far as interpretations of the character go, I'm most influenced by the comics I read as a kid. I came up reading DD as drawn by Gene Colan. Of course, I followed the stuff that Frank Miller did with DD, taking him to the next level. Then there's David Mazzuccelli's work, the Ann Nocenti/JRJR run, Karl Kesel and Cary Nord and I also think what's currently being done with the character under Marvel Knights is terrific, and a hard act to follow. So I would be working on DD, but it would be something completely different. We were basically told to do whatever we wanted (which is always a good thing)-- within the confines of the Marvels premise. Oh yeah, I'm a happy man.
I still would like to do Matt Murdock, though.
Mithra: Can you go over how you designed the costume for DD? Why was the yellow costume used as a base model? What was the demon aspect based on? Ghost Rider?
Newell: I have an affinity for those classical costumes, and a certain fascination for a character's beginnings especially the visual design. I always liked that wonky yellow costume and though it would look different in a good way for Tony's version of DD.
I was also flashing back to the Jason Blood - Demon relationship while reading Tony's script and thought it would be cool to try to translate the yellow elements of DD's old costume to the demon aspect of the character.
Also a nice tip of the hat to Jack Kirby and Bill Everett.
Mithra: How about the Wise Boyz and Warlord? Any particular references for those guys or any of the other characters?
Newell: For the Wise Boyz, I was thinking... those Kirby kid gangs, and the Dead End Kids, The Goonies, etc. I wanted to make sure each kid had a distinct look and personality. That's very important to me.
For the Warlord I was thinking Classical Villain... cape and all...the kind you always saw in those early Marvel Comics, but with a modern twist.
Mithra: Your art is very heavy with inks. Did you develop your style in Art school or in the Fashion illustration job you had before comics?
Newell: That's a tough one... I guess my style comes from drawing pretty much all the time. I can't remember not drawing. It comes from constant practice. My work has always been pretty physical and dark as it were.
Of course, like all artists, my work is influenced by everything I've seen... by anything within my visual environment. The fashion and merchandise illustration was excellent practice for drawing comics. I had to draw regular people and things that they wore or interacted with somehow, everyday.
When I decided to try to work in the comics field, the only thing I can think of that I consciously did was to look at Movies and TV to learn visual storytelling.
Mithra: How do you think the colouring on DD meshed with your art? I'm guessing with your art style, it must be tougher for colourists to get it right.
Newell: My work is so strong in black and white and so rendered that it isn't open enough for the current generation of computer colorists... or at least for what they seem to like to do. I think my work currently requires a more subtle treatment and color palette to read correctly or clearly. It doesn't need a lot of additional modeling by the colorist. It's really dark, busy stuff.
Mithra: Do you prefer to ink your own work?
Newell: Ideally, I would like to work with a good inker. That way I could be more productive. Drawing and inking just takes me too much time to be able to produce comic book art on a regular monthly basis, unless I have a lot of lead time, which is why I haven't really done a ton of stuff aside from covers, pinups and short stories or one shots.
I still don't have the hang of inking, or at least the command of the medium that I would like to have, so my inking is a lot stiffer and labored, I feel, than my original pencils. I need more practice. On the other hand, inking my pencils is a lot of work and takes more time to do faithfully than inkers want to take with it. Or so I've been told. Plus I'm picky.
Mithra: Have you or Isabella tried to pitch the Marvels Comics DD as a series?
Newell: No, but it has been suggested by readers in mail we've received, so it's an idea.
Mithra: Would you be interested in drawing these characters again?
Mithra: You've had your own web site for about 4 years now, you've participated on message boards and the like... what do you think the Internet will do for the comics industry? Is it just going to be a place for 'advertisement' and discussion, or do you think the future of comics is on the Internet? Do web comics interest you?
Newell: I think the biggest immediate impact that the web has on comics is that it gives the small press and self-publishers an avenue to publish their work and reach/develop an audience for their work unfettered by the current lopsided distribution system... and to maintain ownership and control of that work.
I don't think that web comics will supplant print comics, though. Hopefully it will help them reach new readers.
I'm venturing into web comics, myself. The Internet is a great tool for experimentation and the technologies offer new storytelling possibilities for sequential art. With the immediate feedback that's possible, you can tell right away if something's working or not.
My web site has also allowed me to maintain some sort of visibility, and a modest supplement to my income during this lean and treacherous time in the industry.
So, I'm still alive and kicking, and very excited about the web.
Mithra: And finally, what's next for you in terms of projects?
Newell: I have a lot of stuff coming up, but I don't want talk about any of them until I'm further along with the work, but I'll let you know when I can talk.
(c) Kuljit Mithra 2000
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