Readers of Image Comics’ “Dynamo 5” are already well acquainted with the work of artist Mahmud Asrar. On February 13, Marvel Comics fans will get their chance to see the artist’s work as he and two other illustrators, Wellinton Alves and Klebs Demoura, employ their unique styles to bring “Nova Annual” #1 to life. CBR News spoke with Asrar about the book.
It was Asrar’s membership in the internet social networking Web site Facebook that landed him the “Nova Annual” gig. “I was looking out for fellow creators when I found [co-writer] Andy Lanning,” Mahmud Asrar told CBR News. “Apparently Andy was very recently introduced to my work over the internet at the time so our acquaintance was a nice coincidence. He asked right away if I’d be interested in doing some work for the ‘Nova Annual’ and I accepted without hesitation as the timing was quite suitable. So I was introduced to editor Bill Rosemann and we got the ball rolling from there right away.”
Working with Andy Lanning and his co-writer Dan Abnett was too good an opportunity to pass up. “Naturally, I knew about him but I hadn’t read any of the ‘Nova’ series before,” Asrar explained. “It’s funny because despite not having read his books I’ve always had this positive opinion about Nova since, to me; he represents everything that a superhero comic should be about. As soon as I was assigned to this job a friend gave me his copy of ‘The Essential Nova’ as a gift which was very cool since it helped as reference, but most importantly I’ve had the opportunity to finally read ‘Nova” comics. I really feel Marv Wolfman’s concept of Nova is a great example of a true Marvel character.”
The other big draw of “Nova Annual” #1 for Asrar was the chance to bring to life his first Marvel comic. “This is my first sequential Marvel work,” he said. “However, I’ve also done a few hundred sketch cards for the ‘Complete Avengers’ and the upcoming
‘Women of Marvel’ card sets. It’s always huge fun to draw Marvel characters since I’ve always been a fan of their characters growing up. Marvel characters played an important part in me wanting to become a comic book artist. Working on the ‘Nova Annual’ was heaps of fun.”
“Nova Annual#1″presented Asrar with the opportunity of working with an inker. “I normally ink my own work which allows for some conveniences and complications in its own way,” Asrar remarked. “I always draw loose pencil roughs and complete the images with inks so there’s a lot of room for improvisation and coincidences. Penciling on the other hand allows me to be more precise and focus on some things that I maybe normally wouldn’t. I’ve had to take into consideration a lot of things since somebody else was going to be involved in producing the line art for the book. In the end it was all very fun and a great learning experience as well. I’ve had the chance to work with inker Juan Vlasco who is not only very talented but also a great chap. I think his clean work worked great over my stuff.”
With the exception of working with an inker, Asrar employed his usual artistic style for “Nova Annual” #1. “I like to draw realistic figures with believable acting. I like to play along with some shadows and lights too. But in the end what’s most important to me is the storytelling,” Asrar stated. “I just tried to do my best and come up with something solid. What I wanted to achieve was to do justice to the script while staying true to the character and his world as best as I could.”
For Asrar, staying true to the character of Nova actually meant downplaying the characters uniqueness. “What makes him special is actually that he’s not a ‘special’ person at all,” Asrar explained. “He’s very much like you or somebody you know very closely. In essence that’s something I tried to capture with my work. A normal college kid who’s experiencing something out of this world in his life, when he’s also forced to face the goodness and hero within him. So when trying to convey these attributes I really didn’t have too much trouble since I could consider my youth similar in some senses. I was never the popular kid nor was I the discarded outcast.”
Working closely with Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning to bring to life his portion of their script proved to be as enjoyable an experience as Asrar predicted. “First off, I have to say they’re both very nice guys. They’ve been very kind and obliging all the way,” Asrar stated. “The script I was given was a great piece of work. It’s obvious these guys know what they’re doing and what they’re doing is all around fun, creative and enjoyable comics. I’m not sure if I’m being unbiased here but I think my script sequences were the best parts in the annual, hence, the most fun to work on too. Overall, very cinematic and enjoyable.”
“Nova Annual #1” proved to be rewarding for Asrar in a number of ways; he got to work with a number of great collaborators and by drawing Nova he got the chance to depict a classic Marvel character, but he also took the opportunity to tip his hat to an artistic great. Asrar said, “I’ve also had the chance to humbly pay homage to John Buscema, one of my oldest and greatest influences, which was without doubt the most rewarding aspect.”
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