Superstar artist Phil Jimenez returns to the DCU next week, illustrating a co-feature in “Legion of Super-Heroes” #6, written by industry legend Paul Levitz.
With little fanfare, Levitz revealed the news this weekend at New York Comic Con during the DC Universe panel. Jimenez, arguably one of the biggest names in comics, signed an exclusive deal with Marvel Comics in 2007 after creating a name for himself at DC Comics working on such titles as “Wonder Woman,” “New Titans” and “Team Titans.”
The co-feature Jimenez illustrated for “Legion of Super-Heroes” #6 will re-introduce the Legion Academy to the DCU, with Levitz teasing during the NYCC panel that the Academy would be headlining “Adventure Comics” in the near future. While Jimenez is believed to be taking on art duties on the title, all the artist could say for the moment was that he hoped that would be the case.
Legion Academy, which first appeared in “Adventure Comics” #371 in August, 1968, an issue that featured a script by Jim Shooter, art by Shooter and Curt Swan and a cover by Neal Adams, is the Legion of Super-Heroes training quarters for recruits, located on Montauk Point. Wildfire, Karate Kid, Bouncing Boy and Duo Damsel have been instructors and/or co-directors of the Academy. During the infamous “Five Years Later” storyline, the Legion Academy closed and became the United Planets Militia Academy.
CBR News: While we were expecting big news out of NYCC, your illustrating a co-feature for “Legion of Super-Heroes” #6 slipped somewhat under the radar, especially when you consider that the issue will be released next week. How long has this been in the works?
Phil Jimenez: Is it big news? I never can tell what’s big and what’s not in this business. I was just offered a wonderful opportunity and took it. The project itself wasn’t long in the making; just a few months, if that. I took the job for the opportunity to work with Paul Levitz, one of my writing heroes and a longtime friend, and to play in the 31st century. Paul asked if I’d help him out on his latest Legion run, and of course I said, “Yes.”
Is it an eight-page co-feature?
I think it’s a 15 page back-up.
Paul Levitz explained at NYCC that the story will introduce the Legion Academy to his current continuity. What can you tell us about that team? Is it a team of established Legionnaires or are these new characters?
The Legion Academy is not an entirely new concept; it was actually introduced in “Adventure Comics” back in 1968, so the Academy has been a background element in the Legion for decades. Before the “Zero Hour” reboot, the Academy had a pretty consistent cast of students in training to be Legionnaires who, for one reason or another, were not quite ready for membership. You’ll see a few of those characters around – Power Boy, Lamprey, Nightwind, Crystal Kid and even some obscure ones like Mandalla and Westerner in the background of our issue – but this story focuses on the new class of Academy students and one long time Academy fan-favorite, as well as their teacher, Duplicate Girl, and Cosmic Boy.
Can you share some details about your design work on the characters?
Paul had created a roster of students with some vivid descriptions of their powers, planets of origin and even ethnicities, but left the look of the characters and some of their background specifics to me. I started creating fairly elaborate histories and personalities in my head for each of the characters, which is a common practice for me with any character, new or old; I like to know who it is I’m drawing, from the inside out – it’s a weird sort of method acting with me. I then based the costumes and looks for the new Academy members on the features that came with those histories and personalities.
I approached the design from a couple of different directions. I used the pre-established world and clothing aesthetic designed by famous Legion artists like Mike Grell, Dave Cockrum and most notably Keith Giffen to inspire some costumes, as well as fashion magazines and high-end couture designers for forward thinking clothing trends. I also let the characters speak to me, and designed their looks on their personalities and backgrounds, hoping to marry the established look of the characters with the 31st century that’s been established.
I’m hoping to do more with the color and texture of their costumes in subsequent issues, now that I’ve seen them in print, and really establish each as a unique presence on the team.
It sounds like you’ll be sticking with the Legion Academy when they move over to “Adventure Comics.”
I hope so. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the new kids and the senior class of Academy members and have lots of ideas for them. I hope readers and fans respond to the idea so we can tell stories with these characters for a while. Each has a really interesting background and history to me. And they’re young. I love the idea of writing and drawing stories featuring young people, about students, who can still learn and change and grow; who aren’t old enough to have perspective and can still make big mistakes but who, at the end of the day, really want just want to be heroes and do right by the Legion and the universe. I mean, who wouldn’t, right?
You mentioned this was a great opportunity to work with Paul. Are you a fan of his runs on the Legion in the 1980s and 1990s in addition to the overall concept of the Legion?
Paul’s Legion run is probably my favorite run of comics of all time, for its overall consistent vision, its incredibly elaborate world and for the way he handled a cast of dozens so consistently and so beautifully. The stuff he did with Giffen on that book particularly resonates with me, because it’s such a lovely assemblage of writing and art. To this day, I haven’t seen a more futuristic vision of the future in a comic book than what those two created back in the ’80s. Expect to see my take on that in the Legion work I do. I think it’s so beautifully designed and I simply love drawing it.
The Legion is also my favorite super-team, primarily because of milieu, roster of characters, scope of adventure and its strong female cast. Specifically, the pre-reboot Dream Girl, Shadow Lass and Sensor Girl are probably my favorite comic book characters, after Wonder Woman, Donna Troy and maybe the 1980s’ Storm.
What is it about the Legion that you think resonates with fans so strongly, because while they don’t have the largest base, those that consider themselves fans are rabid?
Your guess is as good as mine. I know why the book, at least, the periods of the book that I love, resonates for me. It’s the take on the future itself, a world that isn’t bleak, or dystopian, or grim and dark or full of despair. Instead, it provides an amazing alternative, a world of gleaming hope, of cosmic-level adventure, a world where young people aspire to be heroes in the truest sense of the world. For me, it’s a world I want to live on, a team of characters I want to know, and a team I want to succeed. Plus, the Legion has a really fun, dangerous roster of villains, and I sure hope I get to play with some of them along the way.
What do you say, fans? Why do you love the Legion so much?
After a long run at DC Comics, you signed an exclusive deal with Marvel Comics in 2007. Does this work on “Legion of Super-Heroes” mean you’re back at DC exclusively?
I’m currently floating around and freelancing, and rather loving it, I must say. It’s a really nice way to play with a lot of different toys and to dabble in both universes. It makes me wish more artists could do this. I know why the companies, and maybe fans, don’t want this, but I think it’s a wonderful way for artists and writers to stretch their imaginations and really partake in the best of both worlds. I’m sure this can’t last forever, but I’m going to enjoy it while it does, that’s for sure.
Are there other titles that will you be illustrating at DC in the months ahead? And will you be doing any writing?
There’s certainly one project I hope I get to write and draw at DC one day. It’ll be an uphill battle, but I think it would be good. Is there another reason to do work, if you don’t think it’ll be good? Not for me there isn’t.
As for other stuff, who knows? I’m rather enjoying the 31st century right now, so we’ll see what comes up.
Finally, now that you’ve worked in both the DCU and Marvel U, have you noticed any major differences or similarities between the two universes?
There are copious differences and similarities between the universes, ranging from character types, tonality, milieus, in-universe aesthetics, editorial style and even the creatives who work at each company. Regardless of those differences, both have been very good to me over the years, and I’m always happy to hear that either would like to work with me and that fans seem to appreciate that work. That always means a lot to me, especially in this crazy day and age of corporate restructuring, the death of traditional publishing, and the surge of digital media.
“Legion of Super-Heroes” #6 is due in stores October 20.