Eisner-nominated artist J. Bone knows he’s got a good thing going as cover artist on “Super Friends.” He gets to draw DC Comics’ ‘Big 6’ [that’s the ‘Big 7’ minus Martian Manhunter] on a monthly basis with no worry of what’s going in the latest publisher-wide crossover because the title exists outside regular DCU continuity.
Probably best known as the inker on Darwyn Cooke’s Eisner-nominated run on “The Spirit,” Bone was also nominated for an Eisner in 2001 as a ‘Talent Deserving of Wider Recognition’ for his work on “Allison Dare” and “Solar Stella” for Oni Press.
Inspired by the Mattel toy line of the same name, “Super Friends” marks its two-year anniversary in February, and Bone is celebrating the occasion by contributing interiors, as well as the cover. The story features all of DCU’s mad scientists – and there are a lot of them – and Bone recently teased sketches of the supervillains on his blog that had the forums and message boards buzzing.
CBR checked in with the artist from his own Hall of Justice in Toronto, Ontario to see what drives the self-professed Pollyanna, and found an artist so pure of heart, you’d want no one else introducing today’s youth to Superman, Batman and the rest of the World’s Greatest Heroes.
CBR News: You’ve been doing covers for “Super Friends” since the book launched, but you haven’t done interiors since #18. Are you happy to be back “inside” for #24?
J. Bone: I got the script for #18 in order to do the cover, read that it was a Bizarro issue and e-mailed Rachel [Gluckstern], my “Super Friends” editor, mightily pleading to be allowed to draw the interiors. [Series writer] Sholly [Fisch] wrote such an incredibly fun story – as he does for every issue – that I could practically see the whole thing drawn before I even set pencil to paper.
As to #24, I am, indeed, thrilled to be doing the interiors. This issue marks two years of doing covers for “Super Friends.” I’ve had so much fun drawing the covers for this book each and every month that I barely noticed the passing of time.
Is this the start of a run as interior artist on the book or do we need to wait six issues for your next interior work?
Right now I’m really happy to get the occasional interior and keep doing the covers every month. Dario [Brizuela] and Stewart [McKenny], the regular interior guys, do such a great job. Because I know the stories, having read Sholly’s script in order to draw the cover, I like seeing how those guys approach the page and handle the characters. Doing covers also leaves me free to pursue my other illustration work.
From the solicitations and your blog, we see that #24 features all of DCU’s mad scientists gathering together on Oolong Island. Did Sholly give you certain villains to use or did he let you go searching?
Sholly definitely supplied a list of villains, and pretty much every one of them has a villain spotlight moment in the story. I’m not exactly well versed in the extensive list of characters in the DC universe, so there were plenty villains I’d never even heard of. Many of them are incredibly alike in appearance. I tried my best to give each of them at least one unique physical characteristic in order to differentiate among the many bald dudes in lab coats. I like that Sholly pulls from old DC “Justice League of America” stories to populate the kid-friendly world of “Super Friends.”
Who was your favorite to draw, and what do you like most about him or her?
On any given day I loved drawing Mr. Mind, Professor Hugo, The Ultra-Humanite, and the Terrible Trio – Fox, Shark and Vulture. I treat the trio as anthropomorphic, which I don’t think is actually how they are in the original story. Hey, there’s a talking worm, I don’t think kids are going to have a problem with a talking shark.
But if you were holding a transmogriphier ray-gun to my head I’d have to pick…The Fox? No, Ultra-Humanite. Yeah… definitely Mr. Mind.
Do you have a favorite Super Friend?
Hmm… another possible toss-up. But I’ve got to go with Wonder Woman. I just genuinely love her as a character. I wish to heck Mattel would hurry up and make an action figure of her for the “Super Friends” toy line. We’ve got enough Supermans and Batmans already.
When I’m drawing Wonder Woman, there is always, in the back of my mind, her importance as a feminine icon. I always try to draw her as physically imposing as the bulgy guys – they do have to look like the toys after all. Her arms may not be as loaded with muscle like the guys, but you should have no doubt that she can lift a bus or punch a hole in a wall just as well as Superman could.
Which Super Friend is the most difficult to draw?
Truly the most difficult to draw is Superman. The very first interior story I drew for the book was #9, the Superman birthday issue. He’s so darned iconic that it’s hard to imagine him being anything but a stoic hero, and yet he should look as though he’s really enjoying himself. Fortunately, because the book is kid-friendly, I’ve got a bit of freedom/leeway with the character. I tried to imagine him as Christopher Reeve in the first two Superman movies. Even though he’s never in his secret identity, I gave him the Kansas farm boy blushing, “aw shucks,” attitude that made him so real in those 1980s’ films.
As you stated earlier, you’ve been committed to “Super Friends” now for more than two years. What freedoms does working on an all-ages book allow? Any restrictions?
I think the freedom the book has is that it’s not part of DC continuity. The book is free from crossovers – could you imagine “Blackest Night,” which I’m thoroughly enjoying in the “Green Lantern” books, taking place in “Super Friends?” You’d have to ask Sholly when it comes to writing, but it does seem to me that he’s free to use any number of older DC villains… and the more bizarre the costume, the better they fit into a kid-friendly universe.
What’s your relationship like with Sholly?
I would say it’s a very mutual flattering respect. Ha! Seriously, when I e-mail Sholly to thank him for writing another fantastic issue, I’m not just blowing smoke. I really and truly think he does an incredible job pulling from the older, nutty DC adventures from the fifties and sixties, updating them, keeping them kid-friendly but never talking down to kids in the telling.
I’ll tell you, a difficulty I’ve got with drawing the covers is that, a lot of the time I want to draw the key moment or big villain reveal on the cover. But I can’t. That would spoil what Sholly and the interior artist are going to do on the inside.
Do you have kids of your own, and if so, do they read “Super Friends”?
I don’t have kids of my own, but I’ve got a few nieces and nephews. A lot of my friends have kids now, as well. I was a guest at a recent convention here in Toronto, and what I liked best was the number of kids stopping by my table. DC sends me a nice little box of comps for each issue I draw, and I happily give them to any kid willing to take a free comic book.
When are we going to see you on a book within DCU proper?
Honest answer here, probably not anytime soon. And I say that with a smile, because I’m already drawing the Big 6 every month, in a kid-friendly, cartoony style. Something I wouldn’t get to do if I were drawing a book in the actual DC Universe. I’m quite happy where I am.
However, I will say this, I’m a huge fan of Warren Ellis’ original “Authority” run, and I’d give my eye-teeth to draw an Authority, or Authority-type story to tell in my style. I want it down and dirty like the “Outer Dark” storyline. [Bryan] Hitch and Ellis’ last run on the book, where the Authority flew into God’s ear and zapped him from the inside. I think a story along those lines, with a little of Ellis’ dark humor, would be such a blast to draw.
Is there a certain character you’d love to work on in regular continuity?
Ever and always, the Doom Patrol. Drawing them in “Batman: The Brave and The Bold” only made me yearn for more. I like the Metal Men, and I wouldn’t mind drawing a Hawkman story some day.
Are you working on anything else these days?
As I mentioned, I do regular illustration work for a few Canadian publications like “Owl,” “Chirp” and “ChickaDee,” as well as for children’s text books. I draw pretty much every day, and have managed to find that happy balance of drawing for work and drawing for fun. It helps a lot that most of my work is also fun. I probably sound like a Pollyanna – younger readers might have to Google that one – but how could I ever be grumpy making a living drawing cartoons?
“Super Friends” #24 is on sale February, 2010.