Since his run with writer Geoff Johns on “Teen Titans” in the mid 00s, Tony Daniel has become a driving force at DC Comics. Having worked with a majority of DC’s core characters, he’s also been involved in the deaths of Bart Allen and Batman. In 2009, Daniel transitioned to the role of writer/artist on the bestselling “Battle for the Cowl” Batman event, which resulted in Dick Grayson becoming the new Batman.
Now, after a long run drawing and writing the adventures of the caped crusader in “Batman” and “Detective Comics,” Daniel relocates from Gotham to Metropolis in 2013 as the artist for “Action Comics”, working with writer Andy Diggle.
Announced at New York Comic Con, Daniel and Diggle begin their run in March with “Action Comics” #18 but before he started work on his soon-to-be super run with the Man of Steel, Daniel returned to action with Johns, illustrating a two-issue run of the top-selling “Justice League.”
Last month, Cheetah made her New 52 debut in “Justice League” #13, and with the second chapter set to be released next week, CBR News connected with Daniel to see what he could share about the issue, which has been teased as a precursor to the 2013 blockbuster event “Trinity War.”
Daniel also shared his earliest impressions of Superman, how the Man of Steel will be portrayed in “Action Comics,” what he feels the character represents and why teaming up with Andy Diggle is so much fun.
CBR News: You’ve worked with Batman almost exclusively for the past five years, and you’re about to start a run on “Action Comics” with Andy Diggle. I have to ask, which one is your favorite member of the Justice League? Or maybe it’s even someone else?
Tony Daniel: That’s a tough question, because I love all the characters, but I’d say Wonder Woman is probably my favorite to draw. She’s always been a character I’d like to tackle, along with Superman and Green Lantern. She’s strong, beautiful and I like trying to capture all that with my art. Plus, drawing women comes easier for me than men. I don’t tinker as much and things just move faster for me. It makes my day easier when drawing female characters. After Wondy, I’d say Superman, for obvious reasons.
Did you try anything different with Wonder Woman in your two issues of “Justice League?”
I really did enjoy drawing her, every panel she was in. I try not to marry myself to a style, necessarily, so my main concern was capturing her presence, the way she stands, the look on her face. Trying to balance a bit of her letting her guard down without her looking weak was a bit of fun, too. Same goes for Superman — showing his strength and presence, but also trying to get across the emotion the story needs. Trying to make these characters seem real on the page is something that drives my work.
You and Geoff introduced Cheetah to the New 52 in your last issue, and her updated look has been well was received by long-time fans and new readers alike. What were you trying to accomplish with her?
Geoff and I discussed Cheetah before we began work. It’s great when someone like Geoff Johns asks me to update her look to a newer 52 version. There were many directions to choose from, but I really liked the animal version of Cheetah the best. My take was to tinker a bit with her bone structure, so her cheekbones and nose gives us the impression that her skull is shaped a little like a cheetah’s.
It’s been years since you worked with Geoff; what was it like working with him again on these two issues?
It really was like old times. Geoff was my first writer at DC on “Teen Titans,” and we worked together for about two years. Needless to say, I am very comfortable working with Geoff, but it was also a definite change a pace for me after writing my own material for the last few years. Geoff talks over his ideas on the phone and tells me where he’s going and what he’s looking for before he even writes the script, so when he sends the script to me, I’m remembering key points from our conversation regarding any important elements.
With Geoff, capturing the emotional components of his stories is very important, and I like knowing what’s important to him.
I will have to check the history books, but I don’t know how many artists have handled art duties on “Action Comics” and “Detective Comics” but I am sure the list isn’t very long. As a comic creator, is having worked on the two longest running titles in the history of comics — New 52 relaunch aside — something you consider when taking on assignments, or is that sense of nostalgia left for the fanboys to fuss about?
It’s really just coincidence. I’ve done both “Batman” and “Detective Comics,” and now “Action Comics.” Really, it’s basically me discussing the kinds of books I’m interested in drawing with DC and whether or not they think I’m a good fit. I hope that they think I’m a good fit for any of the books in their stable because there’s quite a few more I’d like to tackle. Usually this type of discussion is just casual discussion and it progresses from there if a book opens up. I’ve been pretty fortunate to have worked on the books I have so far.
Judging from the the promo art and our conversation with Andy Diggle, it’s evident that you have a very strong idea of what you want to accomplish with Superman, artistically. Can you put into words what you feel he represents and how you’ll transfer that to your illustrations?
It’s funny, because the promo piece I drew shows Superman wearing his black Krypton outfit from the Superman #0 issue. Lots of people think I changed Superman’s suit, but I really didn’t. That was Ken Rocafort’s design. He’ll be looking a bit more like the Superman we know and love in my first few issues, however, which I’m happy about since I’d like to begin my run with Superman wearing his normal New 52 suit.
Superman, for me, is the embodiment of what a superhero is. Stoic, powerful, larger than life, perfection personified. From an artistic standpoint, I’ll be doing my best to capture his super-ness to the best of my abilities. It’s really going to be fun drawing his face and getting into his eyes, where we can hopefully read his heart in the pictures. I missed being able to get into a Batman’s emotional state when he was under his cowl because so much of that is portrayed through the eyes. I think I enjoy that aspect of my work the best. The part of the job I look forward to the most is Superman’s movements, the grace with which he flies, the majestic, almost regal way he composes himself in front of allies and foes alike. Then, of course, there’s Clark Kent, which is a whole different personification with very different character traits, the ‘human’ side of him that everyone can relate to. My ideas for Clark will be fun to work into the book.
Drawing Clark will be as much fun for me as drawing Superman. The way he stands, his expressions, movements, it all adds up to the total package that really sells how awesome being Superman really is.
From a style standpoint, Andy Diggle and I discussed a few ideas I had. I really want this book to be different from any other I’ve worked on before — more graphics-inspired layouts, more fun with the design of the panels and pages as well as implementing as much of the style of Metropolis as possible throughout. I really want show how unique this city is. I’d love for the city to breath the way Gotham City does, to the point where it’s a supporting character in the book.
Over the years, Superman has been drawn by a wide range of top flight artists, including heavyweights like Curt Swan, Frank Quietly and Gary Frank. Which version do you consider the most iconic take and is there a particular one that you will look to for inspiration?
There are so many who have made an impact on Superman over the years. I get inspiration from many people and places. The most iconic is hard to say, but I think Curt Swan probably deserves a big nod there. I love the big Frank Quietly look as well, and of course, Gary Frank is amongst the best that I’ve seen draw Superman. There are so many, honestly. I can only hope to contribute to the character in a way to draw mention the same way down the road.
Finally, were you familiar with Andy Diggle’s work prior to this project? And while I know its early, what has the collaboration been like thus far?
Andy’s work on “The Losers” really appealed to me. It is such a great book. But actually, I first learned of Andy on “Silent Dragon,” a book he did with Leinil Yu several years ago. If anyone hasn’t read it, you should check it out. It reads like a summer blockbuster. I think Andy has the kind of big ideas that will make for a heck of a ride next year. I’m getting my first script from Andy this week, but judging from the plans in his outline, I’m sure we’re going to have a great time!
“Justice League” #14, written by Geoff Johns and featuring art by Tony Daniel, goes on sale November 21. “Action Comics” #18, written by Andy Diggle and featuring art by Tony Daniel, is slated for release in March 2013.