|The cover to Green Lantern #146 by Eaglesham.
click to enlarge
Working in a wooded hilltop located in the “belle province” of Quebec, Dale Eaglesham has illustrated some of the greatest fictional characters ever, from Superman to Captain America to Batman, but chances are that you may never have heard of him. Even with a diverse resumé that includes work at Dark Horse and Acclaim Comics, Dale only recently stepped into the spotlight with his work on the acclaimed “Batman: Gotham Knights” and his current assignment, the monthly “Green Lantern” series along with MTV’s Real World alumni Judd Winick. The man who says, “I’m not an artist, I’m an escapist” has worked hard to earn the high-profile monthly job and his talents as an artist are matched by his dedication to make it big in the industry.
“As a kid, I had an industrious imagination coupled with a desire for escapism in whatever form I could find it,” Eaglesham told CBR News. “I would draw stories and play with plasticine creations the way a dog gnaws on a bone. From primary school on up through high school I made stories and drawings. The goal was to achieve escapism. I discovered that by drawing it on paper, I could actually go back to whatever scene I dreamed up and experience it all over again. I spent a lot of time at my parent’s coffee table doing just that. I also discovered that I could get on a rocket ship and go to Mars if I wanted to, and I could do it when I got home from school. I just drew comics for my own pleasure right on through college. I never took art courses or studied because the skill level wasn’t so important. The subject was: Escapism. The drawings I did were for me. Period. I did have a natural facility for creating images, though, with a skill level high enough for me to draw what I needed to draw. Late in college someone suggested that I try out superheroes, and maybe even draw for superhero comic book companies. The idea of doing my ‘coffee table’ drawing for a living was too good to be true. From that point on, skill did become a factor. I taught myself. A local comic shop owner put up some of my work in his store. One day, in walked Geoff Isherwood who was working for Marvel at the time. He critiqued my stuff, and then offered to bring some of it with him to New York to show around. From that point on, it was one sample set after another. Not much happened. Then I met Larry Hama at a con here, in Montreal. He was then editor of the ‘Conan’ books. I was already a fan of ‘Conan’ at this time, and had been reading the Robert E. Howard novels. He asked me to begin sending him stuff and that’s where it all started. I don’t think anything has replaced the escapist thrill I achieved on ‘Conan.'”
Among the most influential comic book readings in his life, Eaglesham lists, “As a kid: Charles Schultz’s ‘Peanuts’, ‘Lil Abner,’ Doug Moench and Gene Day on ‘Master of Kung Fu’: Jack Kirby on ‘The Fantastic Four’; Bernie Wrightson and ‘Swamp Thing.’ As an adult I would say Barry Smith on ‘Conan’; Burne Hogarth on ‘Tarzan’; Gil Kane, Gene Colon, John Buscema, Japanese artist and Ichiyusai Kuniyoshi (especially the occult subjects) and George Perez on ‘Avengers.'” As his career has gone along, it’s been a bit harder for Eaglesham to pinpoint which creators specifically influence his current art style. “Hard to say,” says Eaglesham when asked about who is the biggest influence on his art. “Euro art in general. I’m a big admirer of Burne Hogarth, Gil Kane, John Buscema and Berni Wrightson, though I don’t think it shows visually. Ichiyusai Kuniyosh blows me away. I love his occult inspired works. His intricate scaled backgrounds really influence me a lot. Scale drawings in general I like. The two-page asteroid spread in ‘Green Lantern: Our Worlds At War’ is a good example. That little Kyle lost amongst those massive asteroids to me was much more effective and fun to draw than a standard ‘hero flies right at us’ pose. Jim Lee’s art had some effect on me too. I really enjoy his linear approach. That approach seems less popular with DC fans, but I do it anyway.”
The thrills that Eaglesham experienced when reading “Conan” and studying his favorites artists have translated into a very profound and deep love for the comic book medium, a medium which he feels has unlimited potential. “Comics are a fantastic vehicle for experiencing stories,” explains Eaglesham. “They are accessible to any one with a story to tell and you don’t need training to do them for yourself. You’re only limited by your imagination. It’s a true extension of your capacity to daydream. You can have adventures, starring you, or anyone else you want, and see it emerge before your eyes. It’s also tactile. You’re working a piece of paper with graphite lead. You can see the grooves in the paper, feel the lead on your fingertips and palm edge. You’re sculpting grooves on the paper, separating the pure white into segment after segment. There’s a beauty to that separation of the white into pure shapes that’s hard to explain. The joy of seeing a pleasing pattern and proportion of compositional shapes keeps me coming back. I can pull out a pad, draw a square, and continue on sectioning that square for the sheer beauty of the patterns being created (Celtic knot work is like that, and a real joy for me to draw).
“You’re telling stories, your stories. They can be horror stories, done like a movie. You can place yourself in your favorite movie by drawing scenes from that movie. You’re aware of every line that goes down. Everything you put down on paper guides the viewer from the biggest down to the smallest detail. I like comics as a medium because a page is almost a living thing. There’s unlimited ways you can look at the interplay of all the story components. It’s like conducting a symphony with its wide range of instruments and venues. Because the medium is so sensitive and varied, you’re capable of achieving high states of expression. So many different art disciplines converge in comics. You get to try your hand at all of them, seeing what sorts of story telling value you can squeeze out of them. Comics are an art candy store. In comics, there’s a story happening between the
pictures. That story is how the panel contents relate to each other. One picture sets the stage for the next and so on, right through the comic. The layout of one page can influence the choices made in the layouts for the facing page. It’s a game of how the moving parts relate to one another. The relationships are crucial, and that’s what makes it different from other mediums. In a comic, you get to examine those picture relationships in minute detail. You’re very aware of the ‘in between.’ As a matter of fact, you use it to your advantage to tell the stories. They don’t rush by like in a film.”
As mentioned before, comic book veteran Larry Hama played an instrumental role in bringing Eaglesham into the industry, helping to translate the young man’s passion and talent into the distinctive art style we see today. “My career began in the ‘Conan’ office of editor Larry Hama,” explains Eaglesham. “I worked hard on sample set after sample set, till Larry said, ‘okay, this is this kind of stuff I wanted to see from you.’ Pat Redding the assistant editor was also pushing for my stuff. It began with pin-ups in ‘Savage Sword of Conan.’ I would spend all my time at home dreaming up pin-up ideas, draw and ink them, and send them in. They would usually take some and send the rest back. From there I graduated to doing ‘Kull the Conqueror’ back up features in ‘Savage Sword’ (with Chuck Dixon and John Arcudi). I was still inking my own stuff at that point. After ‘Kull,’ I did a 50-page ‘Savage Sword’ story. I put so many tone lines on Conan that Larry dubbed my Conan the ‘Corduroy Conan’. At this point, Pat Redding was inking my stuff. She did an outstanding job inking my stuff for years. That was basically the beginning. I’ve worked for four different companies doing just about every kind of comic there is. One that I am most proud of is ‘The Creep’ with John Arcudi, for Dark Horse. It’s one of the most satisfying, albeit tiny, projects I’ve done in comics. As a writer, John is just awesome. Around 1996, I took some time off from comics. This was hot on the heels of the first wave of Marvel editorial purges. In 1997, I returned to find the editorial landscape of the company I had spent most of my career at completely changed. All the contacts I had before were gone. The new Manga-inspired styles were taking hold in the industry and I found myself out in the cold. Gone were the days of large inventories and million-copy runs. This was the start of a very long hard road for me. I had to fight tooth and nail for every job. No monthlies were available. Marvel was no longer interested in the style I drew in. I was considered a decent, but mediocre talent by the new standards. I submitted a multitude of samples and made many phone calls to editors at marvel and DC.
“The response was dead silence for months on end. I was scrounging for one-shots for almost two years. I was scraping the bottom of the barrel. There are comics I did that I just don’t list in my credits. They needed a story in a hurry, and I was perpetually almost broke. That’s how much time elapsed between stories. One day I got a call from Darren Vincenzo. He had seen a sample I had submitted eight months earlier. That was the start of my first year at DC on NML [‘Batman: No Man’s Land’]. NML brought me right up to my first monthly at DC, ‘Gotham Knights.’ For various reasons, ‘Gotham Knights’ was not the comic I was expecting. I had spent my entire career doing gritty realistic stories, and at this point I hit a wall. I wanted superheroes, giant robots and outer space adventure. I had been looking for it for some time, but due to my style, no one would offer me that kind of comic. I decided I would hurt the ‘Gotham Knights’ book if I tried to ride it out. If I’m not 100% into something, my work suffers horribly. Devin Grayson is a great writer. At any other time in my career, I would have enjoyed those kinds of Bat stories. I took a chance and left the book to do a ‘JLA’ 80-page one shot. I was hoping for more work, but none came. No one would give me a job at DC. No one returned my calls. This went on for five months. I was almost past the point of no return, financially. I was admitting to myself that this was it. The begging for work was over. I just couldn’t go through another year of scrounging and hoping for a break. One did come though, at that very moment. Frank J. Berrios, who is no longer at DC, had been fighting hard to get me work all along. There was a great reluctance to hire me. Quitting ‘Gotham Knights’ had cursed me. Frank kept plugging away. He finally got a ‘Batgirl’ fill-in for me, written by Chuck Dixon. I always do well on Chuck Dixon stories and this one was no exception. I did the 22-page story in two and a half weeks, and it looked great, with the help of inker Andrew Henessy. From there the stories began to trickle in. Word got out that I did good work quick, and the ‘ole career started up again. I may not be here drawing comics now if it weren’t for Frank Berrios. He saved my career. I was ready to quit for good when this Batgirl story came along. I have a two-page spread from that story with his name on it, if I can ever find him. ‘Green Lantern’ came next. The ride was totally unexpected.”
With Eaglesham’s career back on track and his art style finally finding an audience, he received a call from an editor who he’d soon get to know quite well. “Bob Schreck gave me a call and offered me ‘Green Lantern #136,’ my first GL as a fill-in artist. When I was done, I called him back to thank him for giving me the job. It was a real treat to work on GL. It was a case of being at the right place at the right time. He informed me that Darryl [Banks] may be leaving and to stick around. So I did for a few months, produced ‘Green Lantern #138’, and ‘Green Lantern: Our Worlds At War’, and then was handed the reigns at ‘Green Lantern #141.’ That was one of the best days of my life. ‘Green Lantern’ is the best, coolest gig at DC and Bob Schreck gave it to me. I couldn’t believe my luck. I worked my hands to the bone, did a lot of crummy stories, took humiliating pay cuts at various companies, and worked many weekends to be there. My bus finally showed up in the rain, and I got on.” Besides the opportunity to get a fairly high profile and steady gig at DC Comics, Eaglesham admits to finding the Green Lantern concept to be inherently appealing to him. “At the time it was a lucky fill in assignment,” says Eaglesham of the initial attraction to the series. “I have some old Gil Kane ‘Green Lantern’ comics that I bought as a child. The magic creations of that Lantern entranced me then, and they still do now. There’s s an esoteric feel to Green Lantern and his powers that makes him special. It gives GL a fantasy edge on top of being a potent superhero. I’m a big disciple of fantasy and the occult. This is the best of all possible worlds. I couldn’t be happier with any other DC character. Getting to draw this book is a fabulous gift from Bob. I hope to be able to express my sense of wonder with the fans through the art.”
But, as Eaglesham is quick to admit, not everything about the job has been as easy as developing a love for the series and characters. “One of the hardest parts was stepping into Darryl [Bank]’s shoes,” Eaglesham candidly admits. “He had been on the book for eight or so years. There was and is a lot of fan loyalty to Darryl. Some refused to accept the change and were brutal and insulting on the Internet Message Boards, but that’s the biz. I can’t change that. I can’t change them. I’m here to take their favorite book as high as I can take it, to give it everything I’ve got as an artist. If they won’t even give me the chance to win them over, well then, that’s unfortunate. I’m not here to wreck ‘Green Lantern,’ I’m here to glorify it. This may very well be my last superhero book, so I want to leave a solid body of work behind. Another hard thing was realizing the amount of history this character has. The task is enormous and daunting, but I’ll get to it eventually. I can read the back history as a fan and enjoy it as I learn. It was also hard exchanging with fans directly through the Internet. Having your words dissected takes a little getting used to. I’m more at ease with it now. Most of the [DC GL Message Board] posters have been great to talk to! The easiest part is getting up in the morning and
reporting to my art table. ‘Green Lantern’ is fun to work on. That won’t ever change.” And for Eaglesham, most things haven’t changed since he took the job, though he concedes that, “The only change thus far has been an increased facility with the characters. I’m getting to know them and Kyle’s world. Other than that, I still consider myself a GL neophyte.”
While writer Judd Winick is taking the character of Kyle Rayner, AKA the Green Lantern, in some new directions, Eaglesham also gives the series its own unique art style even though he isn’t quite sure how to say it is different from past work. “I can’t say with authority what is different exactly. I don’t have a huge catalogue of past GL stuff. What I think I bring that may be different is a love for going deep into the backgrounds. That’s a big design area for me. I think if the backgrounds are strong, it sets the tone for the characters. It lends a sense of credibility, or incredibility if it happens to be a dead alien city. Architecturally, I enjoy depicting a steaming busy New York City in the background. Where my love of backgrounds will really come in handy is on the occasions that we take off into outer space and visit alien planets. I plan on fleshing out those alien landscapes with as much surreal detail as possible. Another thing I like to bring to my art is dramatic and comedic mannerisms. I love to make those characters act. I love the challenge of subtle expression.”
The alien cities and landscapes are also part and parcel of Eaglesham’s favorite kind of GL stories to illustrate. “I am terrible at referencing real stuff. I remember in drawing class, instead of drawing the nudes in front of me, I was basically getting the gist of the pose and then filling in all the detail on my own. Drawing from photo’s I can’t do either. I can’t look back and forth from the picture to the paper. It destroys my concentration. I prefer to make it up. To draw an alien city is the ultimate creative experience for me. I get to travel to a far off planet and explore what buildings that have no known blueprints, looks like. It’s all made up, so that is my favorite type of issue.” But being able to depict the Green Lantern ring and its power also rank high on Eaglesham’s list of favorite things to draw. “The ring is very esoteric in nature. The constructs are magical and potentially a vehicle for mad mechanical creations. I would like to push the constructs more into unusual creations. Constructs aside, this book is also sci-fi fantasy. The potential for going off to visit dead alien cities makes my head spin. I would love for the book to go there.”
But even if Eaglesham doesn’t know how to quite describe his style when directly compared to his predecessors who depicted the Green Lantern, he sure does know what he wants to achieve with his work on the current “Green Lantern” series. “I try to bring an air of realism to GL,” explains Eaglesham regarding the “feel” of his work. “Where that realism appears is the key. That realism I apply to backgrounds the most. If a car is lifted and thrown, that in itself is not realistic (nor is the monster or super villain doing the throwing). However, I try to portray the weight and the dynamic feel of a ton of steel impacting as real as I can. Doing that really assists the superhero fantasy aspect of the art. The closer to reality we bring certain elements, the more we perceive it as escapist, because it brushes oh so close to our own recognizable reality. It gives us a recognizable jumping off point. That is the fun part. I try to convey the realism of the consequences of superhero/super villain activity. The realistic backgrounds and portrayal of the repercussions of superpower use are the link between fantasy and being able to appreciate what the superheroes are doing in real terms that we can understand. I also like to take the emphasis off of the humans often and let the backgrounds star in the panels. Backgrounds really anchor us and orient us to the mood and feel of the scene/panel. In a double page spread in ‘GL: OWAW’, the asteroids starred in the panel, not GL. You could argue that it’s a GL book, and people want to see GL, but I would argue they have many times and continue to do so, and this variety is a vital component of my approach. There are thousands of different panel approaches, and so many interesting things to look at and explore. I want to highlight those other things. In a typical city setting, I will be less inclined to do that. But if you’re flying through an asteroid belt, or visiting a dead alien
city with towering spires, it would be a terrible waste to focus on cool super hero poses when all that majestic, alien haunted beauty is all around you. There’s beauty in those landscapes that possess the power to enthrall much more than those little humans in spandex.”
“I maintain the fantastic and the realistic by getting them together as much as possible. When the characters fly, I do my best to imply the height. In issue #141, I had Kyle and Jade meet high up in the air at the corner of the building. Kyle is standing five or six stories up in the air as if he were waiting for the bus. I chose a down shot so we could see the perspective sweep of the building down. It’s a place a person could never stand so it gives us a unique, unusual view of the building. That view, due to its strangeness, suspends reality a fraction. That fraction is important. Too much and it slips too far into fantasy and ‘comic book.’ Just enough, and it gives us a feeling of what it could really be like to stand there. I look for those places and try to pick the angles that give the fractions of reality and fantasy required to make you sense the moment as if you were there. What’s it like to stand right in front of the statue of liberties nose? By getting in the trees way down below, we get the sense of height but also a sense of intimacy with the characters way up there. That intimacy allows us to feel we’re with them. That connection to us, due to the camera proximity, is a vital tool for providing escapism. We’re there, and it’s real enough for us to understand what it could really be like to stand way up there. I also try to avoid motion lines as much as possible. Kyle is usually portrayed, when flying, with the attendant green energy band trailing behind him. I like to do away with that so we just see the character floating free, with no visible propulsion. Visual propulsion has its place. In certain scenes you want the dynamic lines those GL energy streams provide. At times however, I want to push GL to a more potent kind of fantasy. This kind of fantasy isn’t way out there. The most potent fantasy is the kind that has a fair measure of familiarity to us. In #141, I drew Jade in a few shots flying, but in real visual terms.”
Those “little humans in spandex” are important to the story, as Eaglesham readily acknowledges and in order to truly capture their essences visually, he has his own specific views of each character.
“Kyle I see as a playful sprite. His energy is different from other heroes. He’s the one more likely to make jokes during a fight. I see a devil may-care daring in him that I liken to an imp or a sprite in mythology. He has an indomitable energy and youth of action in the face of extreme danger. He plays the game of combat by changing the rules to suit him, and he laughs about it.
“Jade is a sexy, tempestuous firebrand. At the same time she is very vulnerable and caring. She has a style all her own. She’s really courageous. She doesn’t have Kyle’s skill with the ring, but she will stand by Kyle’s side facing the same foes without backing down.
“John Stewart is a brooding giant. He is pensive, in control, and a great tactical thinker. He isn’t a GL now, but I would have seen him as a smart GL. At the same time, I sense a smoldering anger in him that also contributes to his effectiveness as a GL, but could also result in regretful action born of anger.
“Alan Scott. He’s the elder statesman, the one with the extensive knowledge and experience of what it means to be a Lantern. He’s a force and can pose as a formidable rearguard. Kyle and Jade would feel naked without his guiding hand. I try to capture his proud carriage and noble presence when I draw him. There’s a royalty to Alan that shines whenever he’s around.”
Speaking of Jade and Kyle, the romantic leads of Green Lantern, many eyes were raised when their intimacy was depicted in detail within the pages of the ‘Green Lantern: Our Worlds At War’ special. Some were furious that it appeared in all ages comic book while others applauded the tasteful maturity they perceived permeating the aforementioned scenes. But Eaglesham isn’t about to let people criticize either his or Judd’s work in that comic without knowing his perspective on the situation. “It was written that way, but neither Judd nor I could have done it without editorial approval,” explains Eaglesham. “The fact that we got editorial approval means it was done tastefully. I would not have done it if I didn’t feel it was tasteful. I think it’s hypocritical for people to criticize implied nudity. Superheroes wear skin-tight clothes. Those suits are virtually tattooed onto their body and they are highly revealing. A shot of a character’s costumed rear end is every bit as revealing as a nude one. As a matter of fact, butt cracks are clearly visible in costume. They’re not skin toned but they are clearly there for all to see. When we present any nudity, you will never see butt crack. If anything, people should complain about the costumes. They are completely uncensored compared to our covered up nudes. You get more anatomical nudity from the characters in costume than you do from nude scenes, because the nude scenes are censored. Kids are seeing that too. If implied nudity should go, then so should skin tight costumes. Aside form saying “kids shouldn’t see skin”, I don’t feel anything negative was being projected from this scene. We certainly weren’t objectifying Jade, because Kyle was lacking in just as much clothing. Nudity isn’t for kids, but it is okay for adults and they read the book too. We do our best to walk a very thin line.”
Lest it be thought that Eaglesham only deals with criticism, he says that he is overwhelmingly happy with the response that is work on ‘Green Lantern’ is getting from fans. “My personal highlight has been issue 141 in general. It was the first issue of ‘my run on GL’. I worked very hard on it, and it was well received from the legions of GL fans. I had come so far, and worked so hard to be on ‘Green Lantern.’ It was a huge relief that it wasn’t panned. Quite a few critics panned it, but they don’t mean anything to me. The fans do. I work for them and no one else. I was at a con in Toronto and I was very surprised at how many giggling girls came to the table to tell me what huge fans of Kyle they were. Almost 70% of the fans that came to the table were female. I was pretty surprised by that. Most of the fan interaction has been online at the DC GL Message Board. As I mentioned, the reactions to my first official issue (#141) were totally unexpected. People who had been complaining about the book for some time, were liking it all of the sudden. Many ‘posters’ with opposing points of view were agreeing it was a good issue. It was a good story by Judd. It was also my debut. It created a mini-convergence of GL pride amongst the fans and it felt good to see that. There were a couple of venomous reactions, of course, but it was mostly all good. I was expecting a rough ride from the fans that I knew were accustomed to the Banks’ approach from the previous eight years. The show of support for the art was great for me. I’ve paid my dues again and again for the last 16 years and this acceptance was pure vindication for all of it. I can’t remember all of the positive comments, but I got a lot of ‘Dale rocks’, and ‘Great replacement choice DC’, comments. Lord Malvolio [a DC Message board user] was one of the first to welcome me to the book via the MB’s. It was a nice, positive beginning. There’s a Dale club on the GL MB. I’d like to say hello to the Dale club members: Trommite, Lord Malvolio, Fox420 (G’Nort rules!), Spectre31, Wolfgangsta, Palinore, Stilletto, Clintaro, GDL, Jade78, Moose, aeneas, James Schee, Starks, Drkknight001, Crickett, Daryl, Brutus, Blackzero1, Erik Merk, One True Guy Gardener Fan, The4thpip, Doxmyth, Kcekada, ringslinger230pro, Psychoengine, Lwag, and Green Who. I hope I didn’t miss anyone.”
While the fans most assuredly make Eaglesham’s job a blast, he also finds that “Green Lantern” writer Judd Winick makes working on the series quite exciting as well. “He has a solid grasp on character and character interplay,” says Eaglesham of his work partner. “The relationship between Kyle and Jade is sexy, affectionate and fun to draw. There’s always snappy dialogue crossing the air between them. Judd takes a mature look at the comic, but at the same time I sense a kids playfulness and imagination at work as well. He’s very creative and at times unorthodox with his choices of constructs. He’s always surprising me. The thing I like the most is the variety he brings. He can be really funny in one scene, and brutally dramatic the next. As an artist, I’m getting the full palette of emotions in this series. I get to challenge every skill I’ve built up over the years in dealing with all this variety. I also get to watch Judd grow as a writer. Each story that crosses my table is better than the previous one.” As an added bonus for Eaglesham, he also finds that he is also able to help out with the stories, though most of it is still done by Winick. “I have input in the sense of staging. The actual structure of the story and the dialogue are all Judd. I make it happen. Occasionally, I change a panel, alter the panel subject, or approach a panel from a different angle than it was described. That’s normal operating procedure when navigating and interpreting dramatic terrain. One day I hope to write an issue. I’m a budding writer myself, with several projects, including novels, in the works. Writing an issue of GL would be a great treat for me.”
Writer, artist or both, Eaglesham sees his future on “Green Lantern” as a bright one even if he isn’t sure how his art style could evolve. “It’s hard to say,” explains Eaglesham of what he has in store for the series aesthetically. “My approaches vary with the material. There’s no telling where I’ll go next. I’m in the process of ‘cleaning’ the art up a bit, looking for a slicker approach. At the same time, I love old ‘Flash Gordon’ art and things like that. I may push the art in that direction. It’s a question of choosing a vision for the book. I do that for whatever book I work on. The vision for Green Lantern is a work in progress.” But no matter how long his tenure is on the series or the fan reaction, Eaglesham really wants to explore new territory. “As I stated elsewhere, this might be my last superhero comic. I have a very strong desire to move into fantasy genres in writing and in comics. Superheroes are fun, but there is so much more out there. I will always be connected to comics. However, I see myself extending at some point into writing and/or film work. I would love to get behind the camera some day and make a movie. Right now I’m practicing with a video camera and I am having a ball with it. I am trying my hand at novel writing as well. It’s not a polished project at all, but it’s me sampling another medium. It’s a lot of fun sculpting with words. Writing and film may pan out, or they may not. I do know that I fully intend to see my personal comic projects through at some point.”
“My dream projects are more in the fantasy realm,” admits Eaglesham. “The escapist in me demands fantasy or sci-fi fantasy. If I can travel to places never before seen or pass through mystical portals into strange realms, then I’m happy. A lot of artists would choose fantasy if given the opportunity. You feel like a kid again, and that is a very important motivation for me. The stories I covet are stories that juxtapose an often-dreary reality with secret realms of wonder. As corny as it sounds, it’s wonderful to explore a fantasy set-up like that. My dream projects generally range along fantasy or sci-fi fantasy themes, with sporadic forays into all out comedy. I’m working on these self-publish dream projects now, but they are a few years of research away yet.” But for those who worry that Eaglesham may already be preparing to leave everyone’s favorite Emerald Knight, he assures fans that, “I’ll be sticking with ‘Green Lantern’ for some time. That alone will take most of time. Time left over will be spent on my own personal projects. When those will be ready is uncertain.”
While working on “Green Lantern,” Eaglesham also finds a lot of other mediums influence his comic book work. “Mostly music as I work. Arvo Part’s ‘Tabula Rasa’ fueled my entire effort on ‘Punisher Year One.’ The bleak alien landscapes evoked by the music were suitably depressing for the tone of the series. I also play the theme to Star Wars every day before beginning work. Hearing the song gets my blood racing. The song just sums up the juggernaut that was and is Star Wars: its success, and the power of its pure escapist nature. I like the work of action director John woo and James Cameron. Cameron is an awesome visual storyteller. My favorite shot from the movie ‘Titanic’ was during a scene when the passengers were ordered to the lifeboats. Flares were fired of into the frigid night sky. Cameron summed up the movie in one shot. One shot just illustrated the whole horrifying ordeal. He pulled his camera way back, miles away form the ship. In the middle of this huge, black expanse of sea you saw this tiny, tiny speck of light that is the mighty Titanic. A small flare burst, the report muffled by the distance, goes off. It depicted the enormous futility of the situation. A ship, considered to be a symbol of mans mastery over the sea (unsinkable), is suddenly rendered insignificant, and overwhelmed in this vast, heartless, dark ocean. We are vain and arrogant regarding our place in nature. Ultimately we are powerlessness before her. This one shot depicts the price that was paid for that folly of arrogance. Shots like that, I look for in a comic.”
If one were to put a lot of stock in the ravings of fans on most Internet Message Boards, one might think that the days of the comic book industry, even with the potentials for the imagery that Eaglesham speaks of, are numbered and having fought so hard to get his current job, Eaglesham has an interesting perspective on the situation. “The industry has shrunk enormously since my career began,” explains Eaglesham. “When you don’t have a monthly, you realize the paucity of work out there. It feels like a depression era in comics. In the months prior to ‘Green Lantern,’ I faced extinction several times. The constant calls to editors yielded silence. Nothing. The scraps I did get were hardly inspiring. I faced the prospect of quitting several times, and not as a choice. There just wasn’t any work. I would love to see a summit of the comic books, where all the companies get together and talk about expansion, and not engage in border wars and one-up-man-ship. I would also like to see companies spend the money to break into new markets with more topical variety. There’s too much of the same. There are so many different kinds of stories to tell that would appeal to so many different kinds of people. We need expansion, and we need it fast. Maybe a fresh look at different genres will attract more people of all ages in. It will cost lots of money to expand into new markets, but it’s a good investment if your goal is for comics to thrive. I feel like our industry is applying old sales solutions to new problems and it’s not achieving anything. I feel like we’re all fighting for the same group of fans that have dwindling budgets and dwindling interest in a one trick industry. It’s only superheroes. This medium is capable of so much more than that.”
“I hear a lot of fatalistic utterances from people in the industry that the sacred cow of prosperity came, left, and isn’t coming back. I just don’t buy that. This isn’t a permanent state of being. It’s not as if prosperity in comics is like a comet that comes by once every two hundred years. The drop in sales is not an external event. I think we did this. It’s not about packaging, or a clash of mediums. It’s about ideas and taking people for an entertaining story ride. This industry has lost sight of why kids and adults read comics: to escape and to experience wonder. People need these things desperately (see ‘Harry Potter’) and I feel we’ve pushed these things out of comics. For the most part, companies seem content to go on competing to the death with the same product agenda’s, over the same shrinking fan base. Here and there you do see comics that are different, breaking the mold and boldly blazing new ground (‘League of Extraordinary Gentlemen’). It’s a start. We need more of that. I believe we can still sell mountains of comics if we re-examine what we’re putting out there.”
But as the industry has struggled to find a new audience, it seems that the non-superhero work is what draws the most mainstream attention and praise. “Undeniably, superheroes are selling less then they did ten years ago,” says Eaglesham. “Is it a symptom of a general, industry wide malaise, or is it that people are finding superhero’s less relevant to there escapist needs? It’ s both to varying degrees. I personally would love to see a shift away from superheroes. I wish the industry was more accommodating to different
types of comics now. Genre expansion in comics isn’t a panacea for all the problems, but I think it’s a way to attract new readers. Westerns, mysteries, adventure, historical comics, and fantasy, are all ripe and fun artistic material. We do get these types of stories now, but they are always wrapped in superhero guise. I feel as though we are missing out on the huge potential of this industry to entertain. So many talented artists are not getting work in this industry or have left it altogether. I can’t shake the feeling that we’re doing it wrong. Comics could be so much more, with plenty of fun, artistically satisfying comics of all kinds on the stands.”
“The next big trend will see comics moving away from superheroes and expanding its view of what a comic can be,” surmises Eaglesham. “There’s no limit to what a comic can be, because it’s a story vehicle with a unique range of expression. It’s sequential art and it’s tailored to individual techniques of expression. In short, it’s a powerful storytelling tool that is suitable for much more than superheroes. Superheroes only scratch the surface. Pick up any Will Eisner graphic novel and you will see comics beyond superheroes that have a lot to say. That’s where comics will go. They have to, to survive. I see a general trend away from superheroes to all different kinds of comics. Sonic the Hedgehog sells an awful lot of comics every month. Comics were born with superheroes in mind, but comic books are a storytelling vehicle first. Comics in no way should be exclusive to superheroes. The people who would read non-superhero comics aren’t automatically going to flock to comics at the sight of non-superhero stuff. They need to be reached. The effort it will require is worth it!”
But Eaglesham also finds that some superhero comics in the market today do meet the standards of the kind of comic he is looking to read. “I’m reading ‘Wonder Woman.’ I love that style of adventure and I really enjoy the energy and storytelling Jimenez brings to the comic. Other than that, I read old comics, like the George Perez ‘Avengers’ stuff.”
While he will no doubt continue to pontificate about the future of the industry and what must be done, Eaglesham also plans to keep up the schedule he is working with right now. “I’ll be sticking with GL for some time. That alone will take most of time. Time left over will be spent on my own personal projects. When those will be ready is uncertain.”
Eaglesham also has some parting words for comic books readers, whether or not they be fans of his work. “Always have a dream for yourself. In your pursuit of it, you’ll discover the best in yourself. If the dream is powerful enough, it will move you beyond fear, discomfort, fatigue and doubt. To quote a line from a Moody Blues song, ‘It’s easier to try, than to prove it can’t be done.’ In closing, I’d like to thank a few people. I would begin with Larry Hama who gave me my start in comics. I’ll never forget those Conan days. Pat Redding: She helped me to get hired at Marvel, and then went on to become my inker for many years. Pat did outstanding work on my stuff. My proudest comic moment is a Punisher story she inked entitled, ‘The Cold Land,’ by Chuck Dixon. I don’t believe I’ve topped that one yet. The inks were phenomenal, and if I didn’t say it then, I will say it now: Thanks for the outstanding work Pat! Don Daley: He hired me when I was desperate for work. He already had too much inventory, but he found something for me anyway. He mentored me. He displayed enormous patience with deadlines as he stayed with me, teaching me how to draw faster. Without these lessons, I wouldn’t be in comics now. I’d like to thank John Floyd, who inked some stories I did at Acclaim and continued to do excellent work over my stuff on ‘Gotham Knights’. John did a heroic job inking over all those tone lines on those ‘GK’ pages. Thanks John! A million thanks to Frank Berrios: he saved my career at DC, and maybe in general. I was on the verge of giving it up. I wouldn’t be penciling today if he hadn’t found that Batgirl story for me. Thanks to Nachie Castro for being really cool, knowledgeable and extremely helpful with reference and story advice. Thanks to Moose Bauman for giving me the absolute best color I’ve ever had in comics. Thanks to Rodney Ramos for all his hard work in making me look good with his inks. Big thanks to Judd for agreeing to have me come on the book. It’s been a real joy to work on Judd’s stories, and the future looks mighty exciting. I’m proud to be entering this phase of ‘Green Lantern’ penciling for Judd. Mega thanks to Bob Schreck who gave me this ‘Green Lantern’ job: I consider it a gift and I plan to repay this gift with one of my own: the glorification of ‘Green Lantern.’ Thanks Bob, you won’t regret it! A very big thank you to Stephen Spielberg: your movies have always been an inspiration to me. He took topics that were considered for kids and approached them with warmth, drama and the fine hand of an expert director. He taught me that you don’t have to give up your youthful sense of wonder and fascination. You can keep it with you till the day you die. You can use it to make your dreams happen. Finally, the biggest thanks of all to my soul mate, Louise: she’s kept me sane, on track, and at my table for over a decade and a half now. Without her patience and calm art advice, I would have been swept up into the maelstrom long ago. I’m here because she keeps me on the path.
“And that’s all he wrote.”