After nearly a decade working at Marvel, and a celebrated run on “Shadowman” for Valiant, Artist Patrick Zircher signed an exclusive contract with DC Comics in 2013. And though he penciled a 10-issue run on “Suicide Squad,” two issues on “Forever Evil: Rogues Rebellion,” and most recently, a three-issue run on “The Flash,” Zircher has been gearing up since last fall to play a major role in the publisher’s latest weekly series, “Futures End.”
Illustrating an issue a month beginning with this Wednesday’s #1, Zircher told CBR News his work on the jamfest with heavyweights like Keith Giffen, Dan Jurgens, Brian Azarrello, Jeff Lemire, Ryan Sook and Ethan Van Sciver has been a blast, one unlike any collaboration he’s ever experienced in his 20-plus years in the industry.
With “Futures End” finally here, Zircher shared his thoughts about drawing Batman Beyond, who is making his in-continuity DCU debut in the weekly series, the immensity of “Futures End” in terms of workload and physical demands, and his own personal tools of the trade.
CBR News: First off, how did you land on “Futures End” as I would guess that you didn’t have a lot of Wonder-Woman-as-a-robot-megaspider pages in your sketchbook? Did you have to audition for this assignment with some concept art, or did you come back to DC Comics knowing this series was on the horizon?
Patrick Zircher: All the stars aligned for this one. DC said they’d like to involve me in something special about a year ago, when “Futures End” was just a glint in everyone’s eye — the red Cyborg one. [Laughs] Editor Joey Cavalieri and I had touched base — on and off — through the years and this was a project where we could finally get together, so I was penciled in to be a part of the series early in the fall of 2013.
You have a long history in comics and have worked on most of the major superheroes at DC and Marvel. Growing up in Ohio and Arizona, who were some of your favorite characters?
I started reading comics very young. Some characters with titles from the 1970s that made a big impression on me were Mister Miracle, Swamp Thing, the New Gods, the Forever People, Aquaman, Ragman, the revamped Legion of Superheroes, Doom Patrol, Challengers of the Unknown, Demon, Phantom Stranger, the Justice League, Justice Society, the Freedom Fighters and, of course, Superman and Batman. The same kind of list can be made with Marvel titles from the seventies. There were a lot of unusual characters that appeared in that era.
Understandably, since he didn’t make his first appearance on television until 1999, you didn’t say Batman Beyond but he’s a major player in “Futures End,” making his DCU continuity debut. Are you enjoying drawing Terry McGinnis? And what do you like most about his look and feel?
Batman Beyond has a clean, sharp design and an acrobat’s build and movement. He’s confident in his physical ability but not as much about in his intellectual side. He’s a very human Batman and a great character to draw.
Speaking of your issues, to date, you’re listed as the artist on “Futures End” #1, #6, #9 and #13. Is that the way this series is breaking down, with you drawing one issue per month?
Yes, one a month. There are a lot of factors in a story of this scale. And I have to remember to sleep. [Laughs]
The writers assembled are a veritable dream team in terms of talent when you consider Keith Giffen, Dan Jurgens, Brian Azarrello and Jeff Lemire. Are you enjoying the collaboration?
Absolutely. These are among the best writers in comics. I asked around if I could work with them, but I had no idea it would be all at the same time. Each of the writers works on a section of each issue, discussing it among them. Drawing those sections as a whole issue is one of the most interesting assignments I’ve ever had.
Getting back to the actual story, we know from the solicitations and previews that, five years from now, the DC Universe is reeling from a war with another Earth, leaving the world unprepared for an approaching evil that threatens to destroy the future. Why do you think apocalyptic stories of a menacing, if not horrific, future work so well for storytelling? Are we that unhappy with the present or just resigned to our ultimate fate?
Writing about an apocalypse goes back centuries, to Ragnarok and the Book of Revelations. The movies love them. War, epidemics, rapid technological change, ecological unbalance, social extremism — all make such a time seem conceivable. We can imagine the fear, the possibilities and the conflicts, and conflicts make good stories.
Is there a character/panel/sequence that has yet to be discussed that you can’t wait for readers to see? What about the most horrific hybrid beast you’ve designed?
As the stories progress, readers will discover there are dozens of characters involved in “Futures End,” so it’s hard to pick one scene. Maybe the Grifter scene in #1 — that came together really well. But there’s a lot of bang and a lot of surprises. I’m going to have fun reading reader’s speculations.
And as far as designs go, many of them are being done by Ryan Sook. It’s allowing the interior artists to work more smoothly, working from the same design while drawing issues simultaneously.
Grifter, Ray Palmer, Frankenstein, Amethyst, Barda and Emiko, aren’t exactly the Golden (or Silver) Age of the World’s Greatest Heroes that was originally assembled by Gardner Fox in “The Brave and the Bold” #28. Beyond Batman Beyond, is there a superhero that you think is going to be the breakout character of “Futures End” or at least that you have enjoyed exploring most?
I’ll never be able to predict which characters fans respond to the best. Some of the ones that I’ve enjoyed drawing are Hawkman, Batman Beyond, Deathstroke, Lois Lane, Stormwatch, Frankenstein, Firestorm — and someone I can’t mention, whose name starts with an ‘R.’
I spoke with Daniel Wilson a few weeks about one of DC’s other new weekly series, “Earth 2: World’s End,” and he spoke about bringing real-life science to the New 52. Have you researched robotics and cybernetics to infuse these infected superheroes and villains with a futuristic sense of reality?
I haven’t been working on the cyborg designs, though I’ve seen that many of them are monstrous, purposefully dehumanized. “Futures End” is huge, essentially a four-year run in the space of a year, and I’m drawing scenes and going places in story the reader won’t expect.
Finally, just in terms of process for the young artists out there reading this interview, what are your tools of the trade and how do you manage your time when collaborating on such a massive project?
I draw on a medium-size Wacom tablet, sketch on an under-layer and digitally ink over those. Time management? Joey and Kyle [Andrukiewicz] are doing a great job of organizing this, making sure scripts are coming together. It’s a lot of drawing but free time only makes me feel guilty about not getting work done anyway.
“Futures End” #0 arrived on Saturday as part of Free Comic Book Day. “Futures End” #1 lands in stores Wednesday, May 7.