Chris Burnham arrived early to the panel and was working on a commissioned Deathstroke which he was inking as I took my seat. As he worked on it fellow artist-panelists Kevin Maguire and David Finch arrived. Unlike the other DC panels I attended, this was very casual and unregulated, with questions from the audience being shouted out informally rather than waiting for Ian Sattler to arrive with a microphone. The panel was moderated by Mark Chiarello who asked some great questions of the creators to elicit educational and entertaining responses.
What They Watch
The first thing Chiarello asked was what the artists watched or listened to as they drew. Chris Burnham watches any crime show, particularly ones involving murders, and the running joke became that Burnham was educating himself on how to get away with murder. Kevin Maguire watched MSNBC and other news programs.
What They Don’t Like
Kevin Maguire hates drawing anything that isn’t people, unsurprising given that he is known for the subtle facial tics of his characters. He said his art has been influenced by a lifetime of doing improv, and that he felt successful “if the reader can feel and understand what the character is feeling.”
Finch admitted a difficulty in drawing things that are bright or clean, being far more comfortable with characters like Batman than Iron Man.
What They Can’t Do
All three artists chuckled when an audience member asked if it was harder for them to draw young or old people; Maguire responded that DC had really screwed up when they got him to do the flashback scenes in World’s Finest, as Helena and Karen are supposed to be around 14 or 15, but they came out looking older. In issue two of Batman Incorporated, Burnham drew the life story of Talia in bursts from birth to around age 30, having scenes with her at ages 4, 8, 12 etc. He laughed as he mentioned one mishap when “all of a sudden there [was] a 14-year old with huge boobs.”
By this time Burnham had finished Deathstroke and David Finch sat down at the drawing station, jumping right into a sketch of Batman with hardly any guides or preparation work.
As the subject turned to writing and drawing, Burnham revealed that he has written an Alfred story that will be a DC Digital First comic. I spoke to him after the panel and he mentioned that though there’s no imminent release date as he is “at the beck and call of Mr. Morrison,” he is excited to draw the story once he has the time.
Finch discussed his work on Batman: The Dark Knight which he wrote and drew the first several issues of. He said it was a very educational experience, as he “wrote Batman and learned how great it was to work with a writer.” He elaborated, saying that he felt “it was a big mistake to write Batman,” as he didn’t really understand the voice or the lore well enough, but that he hoped someday to write again with his own character.
Maguire agreed that writing your own character was ideal, having just finished “My Greatest Adventure” where he wrote and drew his original character Tanga, saying that “the only characters [he] had a hand in creating were Maxwell Lord and G’Nort” so he “wanted Tanga to be [his] contribution to the DC Universe.”
Kevin Maguire was next up to the drawing board, taking more time to set up a Ted Kord Blue Beetle sketch. He discussed how he tried to go over to digital only art creation for World’s Finest, but struggled a bit technologically so only three of the seven pages in the first issue of World’s Finest were created on his computer.
Chris Burnham talked about how he staged shots; all three creators mentioned using Google Sketchup to help them draw cars and other inanimate objects. Burnham gets his girlfriend to take pictures of him in poses for his art–a proposed upcoming cover for Stormwatch penciled by Burnham will have Apollo holding a boulder; the reference art used was Burnham holding up a pillow.
One final tip that any prospective artists may enjoy — after discussing the difficulty of drawing feet, the technique of starting by drawing the sole first and then building the feet upward from that was mentioned.
The Drawing DC panel was a great look into the minds of some of DC’s best artists, and it was nice to have a panel where the creators weren’t constantly preoccupied by what they could or couldn’t say — it was a nice, relaxing chat.