ECCC 2008: Tim Sale Spotlight

Though most of the Emerald City ComiCon’s Saturday afternoon crowd was in the adjacent room for the DC Nation Panel, there was still a sizeable amount of fans present for the Spotlight on artist Tim Sale, moderated by Richard Starkings of “Elephantmen” and Comicraft fame. The variance in attendees reflected the diverse crowd of Seattlites drawn to the yearly ECCC: geeks, hipsters, teenagers, newbies, and apparently, old friends.

At the start of the panel, Sale shouted to a visitor in the back of the room, an old high school classmate. "That's what happens when you come home," said Sale, formerly a longtime Seattle resident. Sale proved his local authenticity by cracking wise about Dick's burgers (the Hulk is seen eating one in a Sale-drawn promotional piece for this year's Con). The artist is a six-year vet of the ECCC.

The crowd burst into applause at Sale's announcement that he will be a part of the third season of “Heroes,” which he said has just begun filming this month. Sale cryptically said his artwork, thus far a key component of the show, would be appearing in a different "context" in upcoming episodes of the hit NBC series.

Sale also talked about working on "the most colorful character [he's] ever done, except Spidey," with his upcoming six-issue miniseries "Captain America: White." The series reunites him with longtime collaborator Jeph Loeb, widely known for writing the Sale-illustrated "Batman: The Long Halloween" and "Superman For All Seasons," among others. "White" is the latest in a series of character-centric "color" books for Marvel, which began with "Daredevil: Yellow" in 2001.

Sale described the series, set in 1941, as a "love letter" to Bucky. A special #0 issue will feature an origin story for Cap's former sidekick, whom fans have welcomed as the new man behind the stars and shield in contemporary Marvel continuity. Sale sounded enthusiastic to be working with Loeb again, and promised the series would have plenty of the "excitement and sentimentality; that is what we do."

Another of Sale's collaborators on "Captain America: White" is colorist Dave Stewart, known for his work on titles such as “Hellboy” and “The Umbrella Academy.” Sale admired Stewart’s coloring on Darwyn Cooke’s "DC: The New Frontier" and wanted to work with him. After reading "New Frontier," Sale wrote the first fan letter of his entire life to Cooke and Stewart, whom he called "The most versatile people working in the [comic book] industry."

Sale had little to say about working with Cooke on a recent arc for DC's "Superman Confidential" -- he took a moment to accept blame for all the delays that the book suffered, and then said that, for himself and Cooke, the series didn’t turn out as what they "hoped it to be." However, when asked by host Richard Starkings if he enjoyed drawing Superman again, Sale enthusiastically said yes. And though he had difficulty executing some of the "cornball," silver-age moments in Cooke's scripts, Sale found "moments that were a lot of fun -- Tim Sale moments."

When asked about his creative process, Sale revealed he's been incorporating charcoal into his art ever since he started using it for some of his “Heroes” work. He'll be using the material to add to the "gritty" World War II sequences in "Captain America: White." Sale also spoke about his fascination with the "Three-Panel Page," a layout Cooke made use of liberally in "The New Frontier."

A fan asked Sale what he has the most fun drawing. "If I had to pick one thing," Sale said, "it's Batman's cape." Like his Grinch-inspired take on the Joker, Sale's dramatic take on Batman’s cape is a signature of his distinctive, exaggerated style.

Returning to his recent TV work, Sale said he had trouble drawing all of the “Heroes” characters except Sylar and Hiro. Sale said he is a big fan of Zachary Quinto, who plays Sylar on the show, and then shared a moment of geekiness with the crowd. "I can't wait for Spock," Sale said to laughter and applause, referring to the upcoming J.J. Abrams Star Trek film adaptation featuring Quinto in the role Leonard Nimoy made famous.

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