Once or twice a year, events occur in the Marvel Universe which demand the attention of almost all of its defenders. And the scope and scale of these epic stories require an artist capable of illustrating huge casts of characters and epic world changing events with the appropriate level of gravitas.
That’s certainly been the case for the artists involved with “Infinity” a colossal space opera that has plunged the Avengers and their allies deep into a two front intergalactic war. In space, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes held fast against the armada of the mysterious alien race known as the Builders, while on Earth, the remaining Avengers did their best to counter the cosmic tyrant known as Thanos and his legion of followers. Writer Jonathan Hickman and artist Jim Cheung kicked off the war in “Infinity” #1, and they’ll reunite in issue #6 to bring that story to a close. In this bonus edition of THE INFINITE WAR REPORT, Cheung joins us for a chat about his work on “Infinity” and shares an exclusive look at this week’s finale.
CBR News: You’ve drawn a variety of genres throughout your career, and looking at your body of work, there appears to be a lot of science fiction stories. Is that just a coincidence, or do you have an affinity for these stories? Were the cosmic and sci-fi elements part of the draw of “Infinity?”
Jim Cheung: It’s simply been the projects that have been offered to me. I guess, for whatever reason, I was considered suitable for drawing those stories. It definitely wasn’t a conscious decision on my part, as I don’t believe my strong suit is sci-fi, so if things look okay, then it’s more from my successfully faking it than having a true affinity for it. That’s not to say that I hate the genre, necessarily, but its all just part of the wonderful world of comics. Where it takes us is just limitless, only bound by the imagination. I’m just happy that I have the opportunity to draw for an audience.
In “Infinity” #1, you got to tackle three of the main elements of the
crossover, starting with Thanos and his forces. I understand you designed the Black Order member Corvus Glaive — what sort of description were you given of the character? Which elements did you add to him?
I did design Corvus Glaive. At the time, the other members of the Black Order had not been defined yet, so I had no idea how the others would look. I was given a brief outline from which to base the design, so without much more, I pretty much had free rein. Since the storyline revolved around Thanos, I decided to try and tie in the “Avengers” movie alien designs, since there might be a large portion of the audience who were unfamiliar with Thanos. With the movie’s success, I figured it might help to draw them in a little easier and make the connection that way. Corvus was a mishmash of some of those designs as well as some other random ideas I had when I was just scribbling ideas. He probably would have looked more consistent with the rest of The Black Order if I, or Jerome [OpeÃ±a], had designed the entire group.
Thanos himself was only in a few pages of “Infinity” #1, but his presence loomed large. Which of his qualities did you really try to capture and bring forward in your depiction of him?
His big shiny gnashers! After drawing him more frequently in “Infinity” #6, I’ve learned you start with the teeth and draw everything around them! [Laughs]
No, there’s not much else you can say about drawing Thanos, other than trying to make him look as imposing and badass as possible, each time. When the character hangs out with Death on a regular basis, there’s not many other criteria that should be taken into consideration.
The scenes with Thanos and the Black Order, as well as the scenes involving the destruction of Galador, took place on some very different alien vistas. What’s it like for you to design these backgrounds?
If it’s a location that’s been previously established, I always try and stay true to that original look. For Galador, I looked up as much reference as I could online, and then just tried to give it a slightly updated appearance. I figured with it being an advanced society, it should have a slicker, more sophisticated look.
In “Infinity” #1 You depicted one alien world which just so happens to be located right here on Earth — the Inhumans’ city of Attilan. That, of course, gave you the chance to draw Black Bolt, again. What’s it like drawing a character who mainly communicates in a non-verbal manner?
Black Bolt is an interesting character to draw. I always try to give him a regal quality, whilst retaining the undeniable explosive power that he possesses. It can be tricky, depicting his communicating with others since body language is all he can use, but for me, it’s basically just pure comics storytelling. One of my objectives, whenever I tackle a comic page, is to make sure that the story can be understood without having to read the words, and with Black Bolt, it’s all about the silence, since he’s a moody bastard.
Justin Ponsor colored your work on “Infinity” — what does he add to your art?
I’ve worked with Justin fairly consistently since our time together at Crossgen. He’s a trusted and essential collaborator, whose efforts only ever make mine look better. Having worked together for so long, I’ve become very comfortable in knowing that he’ll always turn in a great job with minimal notes. He and I are both dedicated to doing the best we can, and I like to think that his color sensibilities match mine. If I were able to navigate around Photoshop as well as he, I like to think that I would achieve similar results. Sadly, though, I’m lousy at the program, so I avoid the embarrassment of having to show anyone my miserable skills. And besides, I like Justin, so I wouldn’t want to take his job away from him! [Laughs]
You started this story with “Infinity” #1 and are coming back to end it
in #6. What’s it like, leaving the middle part of the series to other artists?
I’ve enjoyed being given the opportunity to open and close the event, and would have enjoyed doing the entire thing had time allowed. However, I think Jerome and Dustin [Weaver] both did an amazing job and really took the book to another level. I was constantly impressed each time their pages came in. Tom Brevoort made sure to loop everyone in as pages arrived so we could all stay coordinated. That’s why, despite the multiple artists across the main book and tie-ins, the art stayed so consistent. I think it ultimately helped to boost the quality a lot, especially since (in my case) it forced me to up my game so I wouldn’t be left in the shade by my peers.
Are there any big battles in the finale that you were particularly excited to draw or where you were especially pleased at the way they turned out?
After the first issue, which was mostly setup, I was just excited to tackle the Avengers in action. After seeing all those great pages from Jerome and Dustin, I was eager to have my turn. I didn’t want to miss out on all the fun, after all, so when I read that the majority of the issue was the showdown between Thanos (and crew) and the Avengers, I knew that it was worth the wait.
The final issue was a challenge, for multiple reasons. Overall, I think it showcases some of my best efforts so far. I’m really grateful that I had the opportunity to work on the project and hope that everyone who reads it will not come away disappointed. Drawing the Avengers is always great fun, but Thanos’ chompers are a highlight of my career! [Laughs]