At New York Comic Con I met up with artist Wes Craig to discuss his work on Deadly Class. The story, set in the 1980’s, follows Marcus Lopez, the new kid in a school for assassins who has a crush on the deadliest girl in the class.
Tito W. James: How long have you been drawing Deadly Class?
Wes Craig: I was thinking about that earlier today. We started in 2014 maybe, so I’ve been working on it for over four years now.
TWJ: Deadly Class is not only “graphic” in its use of violence but also in its design. It’s a book that stands out on the shelf even as the years go by. What do you do to ensure that Deadly Class has its own unique visual language?
WC: One of my favorite things to do is break down the panels in our own unique way. That’s what helps it stand out, I think. You know, not make the comic look like a movie. Comic books are not movies, and they’re not novels, they have their own language. There’s a certain way you read a comic book with the interplay with words and pictures. I like experimenting with this language.
All that combined limited color palette that Jordan Boyd uses that Lee Loughridge help set up at the beginning, is what helps the book stand out.
TWJ: With the upcoming Deadly Class live action TV show have you been encouraged to make the comic differently to contrast or complement the show?
WC: I like everything I’ve seen so far. I’ve seen the pilot, I love the pilot! But I do try to pretend that there isn’t a TV show. Because at the end of the day I want the comic book to be the comic book. The TV show can play off of what we set up in the comic and then go in their own direction.
That way they’re two separate products. I love, for example, the Sin City film adaption of the comic. It was so go one time to see a straight shot for shot adaptation of a comic. But I wouldn’t want to see that with every adaptation that I know of and I wouldn’t want to see that with Deadly Class either. Do what works best for the comic and what works best for TV. The show-runners should play to their strengths and we’ll play to ours.
TWJ: What artists were you influenced by when creating Deadly Class’ style?
WC: There’s a million different artists. I’m influenced by different people in each issue. The most pertinent influences of Deadly Class were the types of comics I grew up reading during the 1980’s. There’s a lot of Frank Miller… I learned about Jaime Hernandez and Love and Rockets later on but I incorporated some of that. Because they’re from the “California Punk” world of the 1980’s. David Mazzucchelli, Katsuhiro Otomo, Howard Chaykin were all big influences. That and a lot of graphic design principles.
TWJ: Can you speak a little more about the graphic design principles? What advice would you give to creating a bold comic that stands out on the shelves?
WC: I think when you put too many characters, colors, or elements on the cover it becomes muddy. If you look at the cover individually it might look badass or whatever. But when you put that on a comic shelf it gets lost. It’s kind of like being at a comic convention.
[He gestures to the various costumes to emphasis how they blend in to each other despite being detailed and colorful]
Too many things on the cover makes it fade into the background. I think the best way to go in mainstream comics now is to use bold simple colors with fluid and simple graphics. Contrast is really the major thing. Color contrast like black and white is really what makes an image pop.
I like to thank Wes Craig for taking time to do this interview. Look for the Deadly Class comic at your local comic shop and stay tuned for the TV show when it premieres on SYFY.