In perhaps the most stunning departure since Hellboy left the Bureau, Dark Horse announced today at Emerald City Comicon that artist Guy Davis would be departing “B.P.R.D.” to devote more time to his creator-owned series “The Marquis” and to pursue other projects. Joining creator Mike Mignola and writer John Arcudi on the series will be newcomer Tyler Crook, who takes over as the regular ongoing artist after Davis completes his run. Crook had been set to make his major-label debut in August with “Petrograd,” an original graphic novel from Oni Press written by Philip Gelatt, but with the new monthly gig sliding him into a very rapid schedule, Crook’s first “B.P.R.D.” issue might jump the queue and introduce his work to the world a little early. CBR News spoke with Crook about joining the series, and also spoke with Mignola, Arcudi and editor Scott Allie about choosing Crook to bring the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense to life.
“I met Tyler at a convention in Long Beach last year and seeing his work was, for me, the highlight of that show. I knew right away I wanted to work with him on something,” Mignola told CBR. “The day after the show I told John Arcudi (the real ‘B.P.R.D.’ writer) to look Tyler’s work up online. John loved his work right away and we started talking about what upcoming project we could use him for. When the regular artist spot on ‘B.P.R.D.’ opened, Tyler was the first artist we all (including editor Scott Allie) thought of. I don’t even think we had a real second choice — so we were all thrilled (and gigantically relieved) when he said yes.”
Mignola said that, while Crook’s work is a stylistic departure from Davis,’ the new artist would ably carry the spirit of “B.P.R.D.” “While Tyler and Guy don’t really draw alike, there is a certain similarity in that their work has great energy without looking anything like a superhero comic. I’ve never wanted ‘B.P.R.D.’ to look like a superhero comic, even though some of the subject matter comes pretty close to superhero stuff,” Mignola said. “Both Tyler and Guy are great a drawing people — people with character. Both are grounded in reality, but not too realistic — they aren’t slaves to realism. They are both great cartoonists, though not the super-stylized, overly self-conscious cartooning you see so much of these days. They are both very direct, ‘from the gut’ kind of artists. They are both pretty much exactly what I am not and I envy the hell out of both of them.
“As to what I expect from Tyler’s run–I expect it to be great. How will it differ from Guy’s? It’s too early to tell. Guy made the book his own and I look forward to Tyler making it his — I can’t wait to see it.”
“It will be strange not working with Guy on the ‘B.P.R.D.’ core title, I won’t lie, and that alone will be very different.” said John Arcudi, who has written “B.P.R.D.” for nearly as long as Guy Davis had been drawing it. “Tyler can draw anything. I was a fan of his work long before we ever started talking to him about working in the ‘B.P.R.D.’ universe and his work on Oni Press’ ‘Petrograd’ is so beautiful. [There is] a whole lot that’s appealing there.”
“He’s a very strong character artist, so we think he’ll deliver on the humanity of our group of weirdos,” said series editor Scott Allie. “He’s got real smart, solid drawing, makes things very real, and those things are important with what goes on in our stories. Then there’s an incredible energy in his inks that brings it to life tremendously. He uses big chunks of black the way most of our guys do, but in his own distinctive way.”
Though Mignola, Arcudi, and Allie were agreed that Crook should be working for them, Davis’ departure upgraded the profile of Crook’s first Dark Horse assignment. “We were thinking we’d try him on a two-issue thing, the sort of stuff we toss in to loosen up Guy’s schedule a little. As soon as Guy’s schedule stopped being an issue… as soon as Guy let us know he needed to do some other stuff, Tyler was the first artist we considered to take his spot,” Allie told CBR. “The schedule required us to move sort of fast, and after having been in some spots like this, I was real pleased with how swiftly Mike and John and I came up with a plan and worked it all out.”
Allie also noted that Crook was not chosen for stylistic continuity with Davis. “I can find the similarities if I want to, but that was not the intention in picking Tyler. It’d be easier to talk about the contrast,” Allie said. “The similarity is simply in how quickly we responded to his work, the fact that there’s amazing drawing going on there, the sort of drawing Mike responds to. The things that draw us to Guy, to Duncan [Fegredo], Tyler, Fabio [Moon] and Gabriel [Ba], Richard Corben… it’s never the similarities in style that get us interested, it’s the individual strength, the solid storytelling, the wonderful, real drawing. All these artists really draw, none of them copy a look they saw somewhere.”
As to how soon Crook’s run would start, the answer is “very.” “He’s picking up ‘Monsters,’ the sequel to ‘Gods,’ [the] first issue of which comes out in July. So ‘B.P.R.D: Hell on Earth’ vol. 2 will have two artists in it,” Allie told CBR. “He’s hittin’ the ground running. Guy had done layouts for ‘Monsters,’ and Guy will still be doing designs for the next series, ‘Russia.'” “Gods” #3 is in stores this Wednesday March 9 and the next “B.P.R.D.” series, “The Dead Remembered,” written by Allie with art by Karl Moline, starts in April and takes place in the past.
Tyler Crook may be a newcomer, but he has several projects lined up for the summer including “Petrograd” and a fill-in issue of “The Sixth Gun,” both due in August from Oni Press. “That’s going to be a big month for me!” Crook said. Prior to his fairytale comics success story, Crook honed his craft as a video game artist, work that he enjoyed more for the journey than the destination. “I’ve been working in the video game industry for about 12 years now. The first game I ever worked on was called ‘Beavis and Butthead Do Hollywood in 3-DUH.’ Luckily for everyone involved it was cancelled before it was finished. Since then I’ve worked mostly on sports games. I’m not much of a sports fan so I’m really looking forward to stepping away from that. I like making video games; I like working as a part of a team with other artists — challenging each other, trying to outdo each other. That stuff is fun. There is also something amazing about making a 3D model of a character and seeing that character run around and do stuff. It’s like making little Pinocchios!” Crook said. “I get a lot of the same feeling from comics. You can just do a bunch of pictures and if you put them all together right they come alive and do their own thing. The difference, I think, is that comics are much better at telling stories than video games are, and a good story is a lot more compelling for me than a great game.”
In addition to “Petrograd,” some of the portfolio pieces that so impressed the Dark Horse crew can be found on Crook’s web site, including a fourteen-page sample titled “Mr. Elephant,” which begins with a man lamenting his utter inability to draw a horse. “I have some really vague plans for ‘Mr. Elephant,'” Crook said. “I started working on it because I needed to start building a portfolio. I came up with some characters that I liked and started to build some little vignettes around them and their lives. I have a lot of ideas for where it can go but it’ll be a while before I get around to working on it again.”
Despite his talent and the vote of confidence from Mignola, Allie and Arcudi, Crook admits to being stunned by his sudden good fortune. Asked about his initial portfolio reviews, Crook told CBR, “I saw Mike Mignola at a comic book convention and asked if he was in the mood to check out my portfolio. He was and his reaction to my work was really positive. The next time I saw him at a convention I asked if he wanted to see more of my stuff. Again his reaction was positive.
“A few months later I got a call from Scott Allie asking me if I could do a monthly book. I’m a little embarrassed to say that I almost chickened out because it would mean ditching my video game job. Which was something I planned on doing eventually but I figured it would be a few years out. I was not expecting to get an opportunity like this so soon in my comics career.”
He added that joining a series so closely associated with one artist for such a long time was intimidating. “Guy is one of my favorite comics artists. His work has an amazing energy and his story telling is super strong. His monsters are just beautiful! He’s really put his stamp on the ‘B.P.R.D.’ world. So yeah, I’m a little intimidated.”
As to what he looks forward to in the series itself, Crook said, “One of my favorite things about ‘B.P.R.D.’ is how the characters can be eating food from the break room refrigerator one moment and shooting monsters in the mouth on the next page. The combination of the mundane and the fantastic is really fun to me. I think I might be good at doing that sort of thing.”
Though work has only just begun on Crook’s first miniseries, the artist told CBR he will be “all-‘B.P.R.D.-all-the-time” very soon. “So far working with these guys is awesome. It’s really neat to be on a team where everyone is obviously invested in the quality of the material. Mike is one of my favorite artists/writers, John is one of my favorite writers, and Dave [Stewart] is hands-down my favorite colorist. It’s crazy, I can’t believe I get to work with these guys.”