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There goes the neighborhood! That’s what the residents of a small Alaskan town are thinking when an alien spaceship crash-lands in their town and the prisoners aboard take over their hamlet. The town’s fate rests in the hands of a brain-damaged alien and an angry young girl. This is the premise of Keith Giffen’s latest mini-series for Marvel Comics, “Drax the Destroyer,” a four issue series that began yesterday. Bringing Giffen’s dark tale of cosmic powered carnage to life is artist Mitch Breitweiser, who recently signed an exclusive deal with Marvel. CBR News spoke to Breitweiser about how he broke into Marvel, his work on “Drax,” and his upcoming project for the House of Ideas.
Breitweiser first came to Marvel’s attention as the artist of “Phantom Jack,” a series originally slated to be part of Marvel’s Epic line before it moved to Image. “My art, at the time, was still pretty lacking, and there was a huge learning curve for me on ‘Phantom Jack,'” Breitweiser told CBR News. “After I was done with that book, I was able to look back and analyze my art, as well as ask pros, fans, and editors for advice. I spent a few months drawing my butt off everyday in order to work all the bugs out of my art, and take it to the next level. I began heading down to Marvel’s offices about every second Friday and bugged them until they caved and gave me a project. Ever since, it’s been great! They have been very accommodating and supportive.”
Breitweiser’s work caught the attention of Marvel Editor Tom Brevoort’s assistant, Andy Schmidt. “I started catering my portfolio toward the characters that were in Tom and Andy’s office, and as luck would have it Andy took the bait! He called me up and asked if I had any interest in working on ‘Drax.’ They had me do a pinup of Drax as a sort of tryout because they were considering a couple of other artists for the project as well. Andy showed my pic to Keith Giffen and they both liked what they saw, and the rest is history. I owe Andy and Keith big time for believing in me and giving my career a huge jump start.”
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Working with Giffen on “Drax the Destroyer” was a pleasure for Breitweiser. “It’s like being under the command of a comic book four star general,” Breitweiser explained. “The guy has done it all, and I didn’t hesitate to call and ask for art or storytelling advice. The ‘Drax’ mini-series is going to be a great read, so even if you hate my art, Keith still weaves a fantastic tale.”
When CBR News spoke to Giffen about “Drax the Destroyer” the writer offered high praise for his artistic collaborator. Giffen was especially pleased with the way Breitweiser brought the book’s setting, the isolated Alaskan town, to life. “Nature can be a tricky thing to illustrate, especially in black and white. The trick is to keep your artwork as loose and random as nature is itself. I just sketched out the backgrounds really loosely and started barreling into the pages with my brushes. I experimented with masking fluid a lot, and I used the splatter technique as well. Anything I could do to give the artwork more vitality and depth.”
The mundane elements of “Drax” weren’t especially difficult for Breitweiser; it was the books cast of alien characters that were a bit strenuous. “The aliens like Paibok, the Blood Brothers, and Lunatik were a bit of a chore for me,” Breitweiser said. “I love drawing people and real world type stuff. But, I think that working on them took me out of my comfort zone a bit, but that’s a good place to be if you want to grow as an artist.”
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The tone of “Drax” is very dark. To capture that tone in his art Breitweiser used his knowledge of Chiaroscuro, which is basically the use of dramatic contrast and lighting. And in addition to doing the interior work on “Drax,” Breitweiser was also charged with handling cover duties for the series. “I had a blast doing my own covers, and I can’t wait to see them on the shelves,” Breitweiser said. “I also loved redesigning Drax. I am excited to see how the fan’s respond to his new direction and look.”
Breitweiser described his artistic style as brushy, moody, gritty and realistic. ” I ink my own work, so I like to experiment with brush techniques like dry brush, splatter, inkwash, and masking. These are all things that an artist could not convey with a pencil alone, so I would like to feel like I am bringing something new and fresh to comic book readers.
“My influences consist of Mike Lark, Jae Lee, John Cassaday, Greg Land, Steve Epting, J.G. Jones, Alex Ross, and Sean Phillips among others,” Breitweiser stated. “I have just recently started to look into comics rich history to discover artists like Alex Toth, and Wally Wood.”
As for what’s next for the newly exclusive artist, Marvel’s already assigned Breitweiser his next book, but can’t say anything quite yet. “But it’s going to be big. I am getting a crack at one of my favorite characters and the story is going to complement my art even better than ‘Drax’ has. I am very excited and I will be pouring everything I have into it, so watch out!”