BY JENNIFER M. CONTINO
Although he's known to most people for the funny comics he's done, there's a lot more to Kyle Baker
than his semi-autobiographical works and his fan-favorite Plastic Man
series. One of his upcoming projects includes a realistic Hawkman
adventure, that begins with a plane hijacking and, as Baker told THE PULSE, "... leads to a mystery involving an alien invasion from space." Baker, whose busy working on Special Forces
, a Barack Obama
project, and the animated The Bakers
series, took time away from his drawing table to give us a few teasers about the high-flying Hawkman. THE PULSE: Most people know you for your amazing work with Plastic Man -- at least DC wise -- and the rest of us know you for your fantastic comics about life, love and your family! You've added a lot of humor to the world of comics, but Hawkman is anything BUT the funny man. What made you want to take on a character like this?
In the five years since I finished Plastic Man
, Most of my work has been very realistic and violent. SPECIAL FORCES and NAT TURNER were both very dark unhappy stories with lots of bloodshed. Iíve also done numerous serious superhero stories for DC
for 25 years, including Spider-Man
and the Avengers
. You may be right that my humor workís more popular, but the majority of my comic book output for the last 25 years has been serious.
For this job, DC
editor Mark Chiarello
invited me to be part of an exciting project, and said I could do any character I wanted, so I picked Hawkman
, because heís great. Heís one of the top members of the JLA. THE PULSE: When you think Hawkman, what ideas immediately came to your mind about what a story featuring this hero HAD to be about?
In most of his adventures, Hawkman usually defends Earth from space alien invasion, so thatís what my storyís about. Thereís also action on Dinosaur Island, because dinosaurs are always cool. Hawkman carries a mace, so itís important for a writer to create dilemmas which can be resolved with a mace. A guy with a mace fighting a T-Rex is a good fight to watch.THE PULSE: Your artwork is so highly detailed and fluid, it felt like you captured so much on those preview pages you posted on your blog. How long has it typically taken you to illustrate each page?
Not long. Iíve already finished the job. I have a lot of jobs right now, so I need to keep the traffic flowing. I try not to spend more than four hours on a page. Photo-realism is much easier than humor. THE PULSE: How did you decide your art style?
The terrific response Iíve gotten to Nat Turner
and Special Forces
led me to the decision to continue doing realistic-style art. Also, Mark Chiarello
was very specific about the art style he wanted. He sent me detailed e-mails describing how much linework he wanted and how it should be rendered.THE PULSE: What factors influenced your art the most as you brought these pages to life? I see a tiny bit Joe Kubert in there and a little Walter Simonson as well ...
Iíve been trying to make the art look like photographs, while using the line art technique the editor requested. Iíve been using Murphy Anderson Hawkman
art for reference. Mostly, Iím just using the same techniques I used inking Spider-Man
comics back in the eighties. High-contrast art with lots of tiny lines. Lots of photo reference. THE PULSE: I'm sure you probably could have asked about working on just about any DC character, so why Hawkman come about? What's your story about?
Hawkmanís a great character, and I hadnít done a Hawkman story before. I e-mailed Mark a story outline. The story begins with a plane hijacking, because there arenít very many other crimes committed in the sky, and Hawkman has to fight crime in the sky. The hijacking leads to a mystery involving an alien invasion from space.THE PULSE: It sounds quite intriguing. Who, if anyone, is working on this story with you and where is this tale going to appear?
I did the story alone as usual. Itís for a book called ďWednesday Comics
Ē, I think. I finished it a month early, so I donít really know when itíll be released, exactly. There are other features in the book, and Iím not sure whoís on schedule. THE PULSE: How is working on subject matter like this different than comedy or slice-of-life?
BAKER: Kurt Vonnegut
said the big difference between comedy and drama is that a good comedy needs lots of story ideas while a drama can basically stretch a single idea out over hundreds of pages. Plastic Man
typically had about twelve jokes and about two plot twists on each page. A page of Hawkman
has no jokes and advances the story forward one step per page. Also, drawing funny is a lot harder than drawing realistically, because realistic drawing requires less creative thought. Realistic drawing depends on faithful copying of reference material, while cartoony style drawings have to be created out of my imagination.
Also, since Iím using a decades-old inking technique, I donít have to come up with any new design concepts. I figured everything out back in the eighties, when I used to do a book in four days. The whole Hawkman
job was done very fast in about two weeks, including colors. Itís always easier to move backward than forward.
When dealing with established properties like DC superheroes
, most of the creative work has already been done in advance. DC superheroes already have a successful format, and plenty of characters and locales to choose from. Itís important to stay true to what makes DC so popular. Hawkman
fans want to see high-flying action-adventure with science-fiction elements like space aliens and rocketships. My goal was to maintain the high standards of an already successful property by sticking with what works. THE PULSE: Who do you think are the writers and artists who defined this character?
BAKER: Gardner Fox
and Murphy Anderson
did a lot of wonderful Hawkman
comics. Dick Dillin
is a favorite, too. THE PULSE: What have you enjoyed the most about working on Hawkman?
Itís always fun to work on DCís
terrific characters, and itís a great excuse to read some classic Hawkman stories for research. Everybody loves the Justice League
, right? THE PULSE: What other projects are you working on?
Iím producing, directing, and starring in an animated version of THE BAKERS for Fox
. I recently finished the first SPECIAL FORCES arc, and itís at the printer, due to ship in a couple of weeks. Iím doing a biography of President Obama
for . Also, Iím creating two new series this year for Image. I also need to do a new BAKERS book to capitalize on the Fox release.
See why I canít spend too much time on a page?
THE PULSE will reveal more details about this project when we have them. PULSE readers can learn more about Kyle Baker and order some of his amazing books here: http://www.kylebaker.com