Tony Daniel likes to draw big things that destroy everything in their path, so his next two DC Comics gigs are just about perfect.
Soon, Daniel will help launch DC’s Dark Matter imprint, teaming with writer Robert Venditti on “Damage,” where he’ll channel the aspect of his creativity that created “The Tenth” into a DCU-based story. But that’s all in the future — this week, the superstar artist teams with writer Rob Williams on the publisher’s hit “Suicide Squad” for an arc of chaotic destruction that takes Harley Quinn’s team of psychos headlong into the world of Superman.
With his drawing board full of the things he loves to make a mess with, CBR caught up with Daniel to explore how the Man of Steel’s world complicates the Squad’s goals, and why crazy is as crazy does for his art style.
CBR: With you coming onto “Suicide Squad” for a new arc, it definitely reminded me of some of your past work focusing on characters with psychological issues – your “Detective Comics” run in particular. Do you just like drawing crazy people?
Tony Daniel: [Laughs] You know, I think I just like fun character. The more life they have whether it’s crazy or angry or whatever, I get a kick out of rendering them and drawing their emotions. They’re not just cardboard characters anymore to me. They can really jump off the page. So if I can get a character like Harley Quinn, I can get loose with her and have fun. There are all sorts of postures and funny faces you can make with her. Whatever panel she’s in, it brings her to life. There are so many times where if it was a different character, they’d just be standing there bored in a room. But Harley’s the type of character who’s always going to have fun – standing in a weird position or blowing bubbles or making rabbit ears. It’s just who she is. I really love to draw anything that’s a bit more out of the ordinary.
Sometimes I know you get brought on to draw an arc and you have some input beforehand, and other times you’re just as surprised by what happens in the story as the reader. What’s been your experience working with “Squad” writer Rob Williams in that sense?
With this, I just let him surprise me with the story. We talked prior to beginning this arc, and I knew what he wanted to do. It just sounded like a lot of fun, and I didn’t want to impede his creativity because everything that he was telling me I’d be drawing sounded right up my alley.
But what I do when I’m drawing something like working on a specific page, if there’s a cool way I see to approach it I’ll go in that direction. I go with my instincts, with my guts. And it usually pays off. Rob is cool with that, and so I’ve been able to tweak things so long as I don’t veer too far from where he was going with it. I can have fun, and the epitome of “Suicide Squad” is that feeling of adventure and excitement. It’s the tone of the book. I think if I can have fun with each page I draw, it’s going to come off in the printed version, and fans will get into that.
A new aspect to this arc is that, if “Suicide Squad” is tied to a major DC franchise, it’s been Batman, with characters like Deadshot and now Harley Quinn… but this story really pulls in pieces of the Superman world. You’ve drawn those characters before, but what this setting for characters like Zod a different feel for you?
I like the mash-up. It’s totally different than what you’d expect in “Suicide Squad” because you have those Superman characters in there. We’ve got Lex Luthor in my first issue and these weird Bizarro creatures. And like you said, General Zod is coming in, but we’re doing it in a dark and twisted way. Though I’m very comfortably with that because I love Zod and have drawn him before. It’s fun to get back to him, but the difference today is that I’m making him bigger and crazier and meaner. That’s what he looks like after coming out of the Phantom Zone. He’s off the rails! So I get to have extra fun with him this time. But I like being able to introduce characters you don’t normally associate with “Suicide Squad.”
Part of the feel with the characters too has to be the variety of the cast physically. Katana plays different than Harley who plays different from Croc and down the line.
Yeah. It makes it different, and it makes the day go by fast. Katana I get to draw a bunch of cool stuff with her sword. And of course, I love drawing Killer Croc because I love drawing giant monsters. Everyone knows that. Deadshot is hard, I’m not going to lie. That guys is so hard for me to work on because he has all these gadgets and belts and pouches and gauntlets. But at the end of the day when I’m done drawing him, it’s worth it. He looks so cool when I’m done. So it may be hard to get to that point when it’s finished, but I’m proud when I’m done.
But all the characters in this book are so cool. I think that’s why fans respond to “Suicide Squad.” All these guys are bad asses, and they’re all flawed and interesting in their own way. That really helps the chemistry of the book.
I don’t want to get too far into spoiler territory, but with Suicide Squad there’s always the threat that this will be the arc where someone dies. Do you get excited that you may be asked to take a character off the field, or would you rather be brining more people into the book new?
Well, if I see a Flash character, I know you may as well start playing the church bells, because he’s going to die. [Laughs] I don’t think I’ve drawn a Flash story where a Flash hasn’t died.
I can’t say exactly what, but something definitely interesting happens in my first “Suicide Squad” issue with one of the characters. I can’t say what it is, but it’s pretty hilarious. I don’t know. One of them could drop at any moment, but I have faith that DC will keep the popular ones around. Harley’s not going anywhere.
“Suicide Squad” #16, by Rob Williams and Tony Daniel, is in stores now.