Dale Eaglesham considers Alex Ross's Kingdom Come Superman the quintessential Man of Steel. So obviously, the fan favorite artist of DC Comics' "Justice Society of America" has been a fan of the source material since the epic Mark Waid-penned graphic novel's original release in 1996. Surely?
"Believe it or not, I had never read 'Kingdom Come,'" Eaglesham told CBR News last weekend at Toronto Fan Expo. "When I did read it, I was definitely a fan of that [book]. I absolutely loved it. I thought it was a wicked piece of fantasy art by Alex and I told him his Superman is the ultimate portrayal of Superman in art. I had never seen one better. To be honest, I've never seen anything like it. So it was a real challenge for me to try and replicate that version graphically in ['Justice Society of America']. And it was really important that I pulled it off. It has to be the same guy. So it's been a work in progress ever since."
Kingdom Come Superman joined the JSA roll call in last year's "Justice Society of America" #9, in the "Thy Kingdom Come" storyline, a de facto conclusion to Alex Ross and Mark Waid's 1990s opus that is currently playing out in the pages of Eaglesham's bestselling title, written by DCU leading light Geoff Johns.
Ross has openly praised Eaglesham's treatment of Kingdom Come Superman, and Eaglesham sends the kudos right back when discussing the character's creator. "Every time I finish a page, I scan it and send it to everybody. It goes to the editors, it goes to Geoff and it goes to Alex, as well," explained Eaglesham. "Everybody has a chance to look at it. That way we avoid mistakes. And Alex is so sharp at picking out things that may be wrong. He caught a couple of really cool things that I didn't notice. I just want his feedback, especially on Kingdom Come Superman because I want to get it right. I have learned so much since I have been on this project working with these guys. It's been a great experience."
Eaglesham said when he and Johns re-launched "Justice Society of America" in 2007, the two did not expect it to be such a critical and commercial hit. The title has consistently sold around 90,000 copies a month, becoming DC Comics' second-best selling title behind "Justice League of America." "We had absolutely no idea [it would sell so well]," said Eaglesham, the 2008 winner of the Joe Shuster Award for Outstanding Canadian Comic Book Artist. "It completely caught me by surprise. I never expected the success of the book. And I am really happy that it did turn out that way because we knew from beginning we were going to make the kind of book that we wanted to do.
"We kind of got a carte blanche to do what we wanted. So for it to be a book crafted lovingly the way we wanted to do it and have it succeed as a result, that was just totally unexpected and definitely amazing. We throw a lot of different elements in the book like humor and serious drama, not just comic book drama. We try to be very dramatic. Geoff and Alex and I, we all share the same vision for the book. It's kind of seamless. The whole team really works as one to create the characters. We each riff a bit off each other and it snowballed into one of my favorite projects of all time."
Eaglesham illustrated the acclaimed "Infinite Crisis" tie-in "Villains United," which was written by Gail Simone. He is also known for his work on "Batman: Gotham Knights," as well as his two-year run on "Green Lantern," which included the landmark "Hate Crimes" story arc.
As the artist indicated, one thing separating "Justice Society of America" from many of the other titles on the shelves is that month in and month out, it brings the funny. "I love the comedy in comics, specifically in the context of drawing realistically but also drawing funny," explained Eaglesham. "I don't think there is enough of that. You don't see that a lot. You saw it in the '70s. But you don't see it a lot today, especially in superheroes."
As he penciled Alan Scott for a lucky fan, Eaglesham enumerated some of his favorite characters to draw. "I love drawing Jay, The Flash, he's one of my favorites. Alan Scott, Wildcat, and I love drawing Starman," said Eaglesham. "He's always unpredictable. When I draw my thumbnails for my pages, I always leave his figure out. And I add him in when I actually draw it. I don't know what he is going to do.
"Cyclone, we've given her a witch hat now. She is flying around with a flying monkey. She is so much fun to draw because she is somebody we can laugh at but in a way we feel bad for her too. She's a very interesting character. But really, I love all of the old guard. It's a thrill to draw Alan Scott and Jay and Mr. Terrific too. You're like a kid in a candy shop. You have every conceivable type of character in this book.
"Ma Hunkel is one of my favorites too. I'd love to see her suit up and join the team in missions. Because I don't really think she should be baking cookies all of the time. I think she is still pretty dangerous. Or she could be if she wanted to."
Geoff Johns revealed months ago that he next "Justice Society of America" arc will feature Black Adam. Eaglesham said he hasn't started in on that character yet, but that he is really excited about drawing the story. "I sort of drew him in one issue of '52.' said Eaglesham. "It's only been a panel here or a panel there. I have never really had the chance to work with him. I am really looking forward to it. Black Adam is such a powerful, menacing character. But I don't know what his current incarnation is going to be like."
Eaglesham and Johns both often describe "Justice Society of America" as a Norman Rockwell take on comics. But Eaglesham delved further into where he feels the book fits in. "I honestly think this book bridged the gap between the DCU mainstream and Vertigo," said Eaglesham. "We found a way to do superheroes that is pleasing to people, that's acceptable to people. And I think that's been the difference. It's not just macho, hypercool superheroes. Everybody's got little different quirks. Their costumes have wrinkles. They do the wrong thing. They bump into walls and stuff and that's the appeal of the book."
Eaglesham is unabashed when professing his love for "JSA" but that doesn't mean the love affair will necessarily last forever. Asked his long-term plans for keeping with "Justice Society of America," Eaglesham revealed, "It has crossed my mind [to leave]. I have been on the book for two years. It's a lot of work. But I love these characters and I love the book. It has crossed my mind [to leave] but there are no definite plans. But yes, I have thought about it. Maybe it's time to move on. Maybe it's time to let someone else have a crack at the JSA. Whoever it is, I am sure they are going to have a lot of fun with what we leave behind, at least what I leave behind."
For more updates on Dale Eaglesham and his artwork, visit the illustrator's official website.
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