Tim Sale, artist of “Batman: Dark Victory” and ghost-painter for the Isaac Mendez character on “Heroes,” hosted a discussion of his work at the Big Apple Con last Saturday afternoon. Sale talked about the reasoning and thought that went into his numerous collaborations with writer Jeph Loeb, the process of working for television, why Hiro is his favorite “Heroes” character to draw and other topics.
“We met in the late ’80s,” Sale said when asked about the origins of his collaboration with Loeb. “I had done very little comic book work. Jeph had done none. But Jeph, who already had a career in TV and film, was approached by [former DC Comics President] Jeanette Kahn.” Sale said he and Loeb were first put together on “Challengers of the Unknown” and became great frineds.
Sale indicated that he does not co-plot with Loeb, but that they do make sure they share a vision prior to beginning a project. “We talk about what we’re drawn to in this particular character, and the mood of things,” said Sale. “What’s the point of doing this, and what makes these characters successful…we love these characters for a reason.”
The artist went on to say that he and Loeb revisit significant moments in the characters’ lives — such as in “Superman: For All Seasons” and “Daredevil: Yellow” — to see what more there is to say about transformative emotional events. “Jeph writes sentiment spectacularly,” Sale said.
Sale and Loeb’s work on Batman, which began in the “Legends of the Dark Knight” Halloween specials, was inspired by a desire to do mystery stories. “That ended up being a springboard to show a different one of [Loeb’s] great villains every month,” Sale said, referring to the “Long Halloween” series that followed. Sale also discussed changing Scarecrow’s look from his Disney-inspired original costume into something much scarier. “DC looked at what I did there, and nobody told me I couldn’t do it. After that, every chance I could take liberties with one of the villain’s costumes, I did.”
Moving on to a discussion of his work on “Heroes,” Sale said that once again Jeph Loeb brought him on to the project. “Jeph knew [‘Heroes’ creator] Tim Kring from their work together on ‘Teen Wolf 2.’ I’d never heard of Kring before, I hadn’t seen ‘Crossing Jordan,’ which was what he was known for before ‘Heroes.’ Anyway, it started that they wanted some script illustrations for the pilot, illustrations to try to get the pilot made. From there, they decided they wanted to work [my artwork] into the story.”
The illustrations, Sale said, are created in consultation with the directors rather than the writers. “Television scripts are not like comic scripts,” Sale explained, “the script tells me almost nothing of what I need to know.” Instead, he will meet with directors to find out what the characters are doing and what they need to be wearing in each of Isaac Mendez’s paintings.
“The real challenge is the likenesses,” Sale revealed. “Masi Oka, who plays Hiro, I remember saying one time I thought he would be the only one I could draw, because his face was so perfectly round. I hope he didn’t take offense to that. I got lucky when they cast Zachary Quinto as Sylar, though–he looks like someone I would draw, with the long head and big eyebrows.”
If Sale has trouble getting the actors’ appearances just right, though, he’s in good company. “When we were doing the comics, the other guys–Jim Lee, Phil Jimenez, myself–were on a conference call, and we all thought we sucked.”
Not everyone is so concerned. “The actors love being illustrated,” Sale said. “I just saw Hayden [Panetierre] in the hall, and she was like, ‘When you gonna draw me a picture?'”
When asked whether there was a particular character or creator he would like to work with, Sale said that he enjoyed his stint on “Superman Confidential” with Darwyn Cooke but, “to be honest, I’m still sort of in Loeb withdrawal.” Sale holds an exclusive contract with DC Comics, while Loeb is similarly attached to Marvel.
The final few fan questions revolved around “Heroes.” Asked when he would appear on the show, Sale answered that he wouldn’t, but that his similarities to Isaac Mendez went beyond the vocational. “Nobody on that show knew me when I had long hair,” Sale said, “but when I had long hair I looked very similar to Santiago Cabrerra.” The fan insisted Sale should go on “Heroes” to continue the Mendez character’s “Ninth Wonder” comic, then asked if that comic was “canceled.” “Beats me,” Sale replied. “You’d have to ask Jeph and those guys, but they wouldn’t tell you.”
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