DC Comics has an auspicious history with weekly series featuring the number “52” in the title. The original, simply titled “52,” was a major success for the publisher during its run from 2006 to 2007. Over the course of its, yes, 52-issue run, it told the story of what happened during the interim 52 weeks after the DCU’s ambitious “One Year Later” jump forward in all of its titles.
In May, DC returns to somewhat similar territory with “The New 52: Futures End,” the second weekly series of the New 52 era, launching a few months after Batman Eternal. This time, the weekly series makes the time-jump, spinning ahead “Five Years Later,” with the narrative — from writers Jeff Lemire, Brian Azzarello, Dan Jurgens and Keith Giffen — spanning the DC Universe of the past, present and half-decade-from-now future, in a story promising major repercussions throughout the company’s superhero line.
The original “52” also has an artistic legacy, starting with the acclaimed covers by J.G. Jones. For “The New 52: Futures End,” artist Ryan Sook — a prominent, award-winning cover artist who recently returned to interior work on the relaunched “Ghost” at Dark Horse Comics is stepping into that role, providing covers for the title, along with redesigns of key characters. CBR News spoke with Sook about why the “Futures End” covers are different from any of his other comics gigs, how he thought the “crazy” story would never see the light of day and his excitement over drawing “universe-altering” moments.
CBR News: Ryan, the “New 52: Futures End” cover gig is certainly a high-profile role for an artist, as evidenced by J.G. Jones’ run on the original “52” weekly series, which DC subsequently collected in a book by themselves. As someone who does a lot of cover work, what has you specifically excited about “New 52: Futures End”?
Ryan Sook: It is a really exciting commission as an artist for any title of this caliber. What’s exciting about “Futures End” specifically is that I will get the opportunity to create not only cover images but character designs as well, that will reveal characters that we know and love and hate, in a whole new light!Â
As a prominent cover artist, at DC and beyond, how would you describe your approach to the “New 52: Futures End” covers? How does the storyline and pace of the series affect your artistic choices?
Because “Futures End” is so expansive, crossing time and dimensions in the DCU, the covers likewise need to convey more than, say, a dramatic image from the interior. Creating covers for a series like this allows me to approach these images from a more thematic, even symbolic direction than your average comic cover. The schedule also gives me the opportunity to play on the more visceral and evocative elements of the work than getting bogged by story-specific details that can draw the life out of an image.Â
How much does adding four covers a month to your schedule change your workload for the foreseeable future? You’ve been solicited for interior art for first three issues of Dark Horse’s new “Ghost” series — are you sticking with that book? And do you have any other artistic projects coming up that people should know about?Â ? I have aimed to complete my contracts with Dark Horse, but beyond that, this series will be my main focus over the course of the next year or more. Let’s discuss the first cover that was revealed last week with the title’s announcement. It’s certainly an intriguing image, and one that opens up plenty of speculation. What were you looking to convey with the image?
Well, it is definitely designed to inspire speculation. My hope is that a cover like this does that, while simultaneously giving you enough insight into a DCU that you don’t know and have never seen before, that you will be as excited as I am to see how it unfolds.
Not much has been revealed about the “Futures End” storyline, but we do know three of the main characters — Frankenstein, Firestorm and Batman Beyond (the latter very prominent in the cover that’s been released). Presumably, that means you’ll be illustrating all three quite a fair amount — what are you looking forward to in drawing those characters? And how much are you able to add your own interpretation to them?Â
I’m definitely looking forward to drawing these characters as they pertain to this storyline in particular, because I am as eager as anyone to see them come to life in ways you wont expect. I get to draw character-altering, even universe-altering moments, that will either define these guys, or in some cases, redefine them!
My interpretation will be felt for sure as I am involved in the redesign of many characters, in cooperation with the writers. Love it or hate it, DC is giving this group of creators the chance to do something different and even groundbreaking with some of its most beloved characters. If nothing else, it is that chance to do something different that makes this project appealing to me and, hopefully, to the audience.Â
Though it’s still early, what’s the dynamic like for you, illustrating covers on a book that’s not only weekly, but also has four different writers? Are you in the loop for storyline discussions more than you normally are for cover gigs?
Yes, it’s very different. I’ve been involved since early on with the writers in discussion of the storyline. And I’ll be honest, 30 minutes into my first meeting I thought, “No worries about what to draw, this meeting is crazy — there’s no way this thing will ever happen!” [Laughs] By the end of the same day I thought, “No worries about what to draw, this thing could be so good that there’s no way it will ever happen!”
Here we are, discussing what’s been announced and many scripts in and beautiful artwork coming in and now — now, I gotta worry. How am I going to do covers as good as this story?