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SHIELD OF FREEDOM Part 3: The Art of Captain America

by  in Comic News Comment
SHIELD OF FREEDOM Part 3: The Art of Captain America
“Captain America” #34 on sale now

In Parts One and Two of SHIELD OF FREEDOM, CBR News spoke with Marvel Comics editor Tom Brevoort and writer Brian Michael Bendis about Captain America’s relationship with the Marvel Universe and the Avengers. Today, in Part Three, we speak with “Captain America” series artist Steve Epting about his work on the book.

Epting began his run on “Captain America” with issue #1 of the current series. He’s periodically shared artistic duties with Mike Perkins, but thirty-three issues later Epting remains attached to the title and still finds it a compelling book to draw; the chief reason being Ed Brubaker’s scripts. “As a reader, I would be buying this book every month even if I wasn’t involved with it. I’m just as excited reading the scripts each month as the fans are reading the books,” Steve Epting told CBR News. “There’s always a good mix of action and quiet scenes, neither of which goes on too long (Ed’s pacing is great). I enjoy the quiet stuff too, because there is usually a good emotional context in those scenes and your characters get to ‘act.’ Also, there is almost always a good variety of locations in each issue, which is something I appreciate. It can get quite boring drawing the same backgrounds page after page.”

While “Captain America” still features a costumed protagonist and fantastic elements, under Brubaker and Epting the series has become more of a techno spy thriller than a traditional superhero book. “When Ed and I talked before starting the book, we discovered that both of us liked Cap involved with S.H.I.E.L.D., Agent 13, flying cars, Hydra and AIM’ basically all the stuff from the Steranko era with a healthy dose of Kirby added in,” Epting explained. “Early on I heard it described as ‘”24″ with Superheroes.’ I think that kind of fits.”

Former sidekick Bucky Barnes debuts as the new Captain America in issue #34

Action and mood are two crucial elements in “Captain America” and to convey them Epting employs a dynamic but realistic style. “It’s something that has just evolved, especially since I’ve been lucky enough to ink my own work for a good bit of the series,” Epting said. “Due to the nature of the stories, I want to ground them in realism, but without losing the dynamics that superhero comics demand. Sometimes that’s a fine line to walk.”

In addition to creating the interior artwork for “Captain America,” Epting has also produced many of the series’ stellar covers, which often evoke the senses of classic paperback pulp novels of the ’70s. “It sort of just feels like the right fit for the series to me,” Epting remarked. “I’m sort of just going with my gut when designing the covers, and some work out better than others, but if you’re getting the feeling of ’70s pulp paperbacks, I can certainly understand that. I’m hoping to experiment a bit more with different styles for some upcoming covers so we’ll see what happens.”

When Epting learned he would be depicting the assassination of Steve Rogers in “Captain America” #25, he thought he would just be drawing an interesting and dramatic scene, not one of worldwide fame. “I had no idea it would be front page news all over the world,” he confessed. “I’m still amazed when I think of the coverage it received, especially since Cap has been ‘killed’ a couple of times before.”

Panels from “Captain America” #34

Following Steve Rogers’s murder, “Captain America” became a book without a title character.  The series focused on Cap’s importance to his supporting cast while slowly paving the way for Rogers’s former partner, Bucky Barnes, to step up and take the mantle of his fallen friend and mentor.  Barnes may be taking over for Rogers but he wants to make it clear to the world he’s not out to be Rogers. In order to convey the difference between the two characters, Epting assisted artist Alex Ross in designing the new Captain America’s costume; an outfit that mixes practicality and symbolism. “Alex was very aware while designing it that this costume was for Bucky, not Steve, and wanted it to reflect him in an aesthetic sense as well as a utilitarian one,” Epting said. “At the same time, it had to immediately say ‘Captain America’ when you see it. I think Alex did a fantastic job, and I really enjoyed drawing the new Cap in action in issue #34.”

Epting wanted the first time readers saw Bucky in costume as the new Captain America to be a breathtaking moment. “I juggled a few panels so that it would be a full page,” he explained. “Ed uses splashes and double page spreads very rarely, but I felt this called for a full-page shot and it seems to have worked out.”

“Captain America” #35-36

Now that Bucky has taken on his new role and donned his new costume, Epting feels it’s more important than ever for his art to convey Barnes’s unique qualities. “Besides having a different physical build and body language, Bucky has a different outlook and attitude than Steve Rogers,” the artist said. “The challenge will be to make him distinct from the previous version of Cap, yet still have the presence of ‘Captain America.'”

With Barnes now Captain America and the Red Skull’s master plan coming to a head, it seems like the story that began way back in 2004’s “Captain America” #1 is rocketing towards a conclusion, and Epting is happy to have been part of the grand tale. “It’s gratifying to me that so many people seem to have responded positively to this story,” he said. “I think it’s more of a traditional plotting structure – where you have individual arcs, and the subplots build to the forefront as new subplots are introduced, all the while telling one sweeping epic story.  Ed’s really doing a masterful job with it and I’m happy to be along for the ride.”

Stay strong, soldiers! SHIELD OF FREEDOM continues tomorrow as we chat with “Captain America” writer Ed Brubaker.

Now discuss this story in CBR’s Avengers forum.

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