Jason Fabok readily admits his career in comics has been moving along at a Barry Allen-like pace over the past five years, as his hard work has led him to his current status as the regular artist on DC Comics‘ flagship series, “Justice League.”
Announced last month as Geoff Johns‘ new collaborator on the top-selling series, Fabok tells CBR News that another of his career goals has now been fulfilled, as one of his dreams was to share the billing on a comic book cover with the superstar writer.
A self-admitted super-fan of Batman, Fabok is looking forward to drawing Superman, Wonder Woman and Aquaman as well, and he believes Lex Luthor will become a personal favorite. We discussed his first arc on the series — “The Amazo Virus” — and how he may tweak his take on Batman, giving him a different look than how he’s drawn him in “Batman: The Dark Knight,” “Detective Comics” and “Batman Eternal.”
CBR News: What was your first introduction to the Justice League? Was it, like so many fans, the animated “Super Friends,” or maybe the comics?
Jason Fabok: As a child, the only two DC heroes I was ever really exposed to were Superman and Batman. I loved the Superman movies as a child and ate up anything to do with Batman. But it really wasn’t until I started watching the “Justice League” animated series that I really fell in love with the entire DC Universe. I had read some bigger Justice League books before then, but the show really captured the mood and heroism of the books and delivered it in small, 30-minute bursts. I couldn’t help but fall in love with the characters.
You’ve spent a significant amount of time with Batman over the past few years, illustrating “Batman: The Dark Knight,” “Detective Comics” and “Batman Eternal.” Is he your favorite superhero to draw? And if so, what do you love about him?
For me, drawing Batman was the goal of my career. That’s what I set out to do. I expected to linger on other titles for years until I got my shot, so I was very surprised to get the opportunity to draw him so early on in my career. I really have [editors] Mike Marts and Katie Kubert to thank for that.
I’ve always been attracted to the visual element of Batman. He’s got the best costume, in my opinion, the best setting and the best-looking villains. It’s the best single universe to get to draw in comics. You can do it so many different ways and it always works.
On “Justice League,” I’m toying with the idea of changing up the way I draw him, even if it’s just slightly. In the animated series, Batman had much longer ears than he did when he appeared on the “Batman: The Animated Series,” and I always thought that was a cool thing. It’s like Batman has a specific uniform he uses just for the Justice League. I’m not going to divert too much from what I’ve done before, but maybe I’ll give him a new belt, and some different little details here and there. I still want him to look like he would bust your face up pretty badly if you got on his bad side.
You also have experience with the Man of Steel, having illustrated a few issues of “Superman/Batman” at the start of your career. Obviously, the differences between Batman and Superman are numerous, but are there things that truly differentiate them from one another when you are working on them as an artist?
Superman has also been one of my faves since I was a child. It’s funny, but my favorite look for Superman was when he had the darker looking costume in “Superman III,” when he went bad. I remember being fascinated at the deeper blues of that costume.
With Batman, it’s about drawing the most dark, brooding, scary looking dude you can think of, but with Superman, it’s about presenting this powerful, regal, image of good and all that’s right in the world. You want to display power in his pose, but also that sense of comfort. When he’s trying to rescue someone, you want to see an assurance in his eyes, but when he’s about to throw down, you want to show that this isn’t someone you mess with.
I feel that it may take me a little while to really find my version of the character, so don’t be surprised if it changes a little each issue. I do love the modern film versions of the character, and Henry Cavill was amazing as the Man of Steel. I feel I’ll really be pulling a lot of that look into how I draw the character.
Beyond Superman and Batman, is there a superhero you are most excited to explore artistically? Why?
There are two: Wonder Woman and Aquaman.
I’ve really had a desire to draw Wonder Woman for years now. She’s the kind of character that you can draw to look beautiful and yet tough as nails. I’m really hoping to convey that. My favorite version of the character is the Adam Hughes’ version. She’s strong and powerful looking and yet beautiful. My version won’t look like his, but I’m going to draw some inspiration from that.
And Aquaman has always been one of my faves for two reasons. One is because he has an awesome look. Visually, he’s perfect — but I can already tell that I’ll be pulling my hair out with drawing those scales. Second, he’s water-based. My dad is an avid scuba diver and taught me to dive at a young age. I’ve always loved the idea of the world under the water. There aren’t many underwater heroes, but I’ve always felt attracted to those books over the years. Plus, he can throw down with anyone who messes with him.
But I’m also open to being surprised by the other character in the series. I foresee myself really liking Lex Luthor.
I’m glad you mentioned him as recently, I saw your tweet of a Luthor concept drawing. What does adding Lex and Captain Cold to the mix mean in terms of team dynamic and how you depict interactions?
Geoff [Johns] knows the ingredients needed for a great team book, and I feel this is something that’s both different and dynamic. I think it’s a great move to mix things up a bit and add some tension. If all the characters get along, then it makes for a very stale team. Personally, I love the thought of Lex Luthor and Captain Cold mixing it up with Superman and Flash. Oh, and they are also awesome to draw.
While “Detective Comics” and “Batman Eternal” both featured large casts, “Justice League” is your first real team book. Do you feel that it will be challenging as an artist to deliver panels and pages effectively, allowing all of the featured characters room to breathe?
I feel very confident right now in my skills and workflow, but it will be something new to tackle. Every time you add an additional character per panel, the time it takes to draw that panel doubles, at least for me. I do feel that Geoff has had some mercy on me with the first script and given me a book that eases me into this new venture. But at the same time, I’ve studied and read team books for years and can go back to those books in order to gain inspiration.
In the announcement, you noted how excited you were to collaborate with Geoff on this series. What is it about him that you think makes him a great storyteller and collaborator and to this point, how much time have you had to discuss future plans for the series?
When I set out, one of my career goals was to get a chance to work with Geoff on a series. The thing about Geoff, in my opinion, is that he never writes a bad story. Every story is entertaining and has a hook that grabs you. I remember reading through his “Green Lantern” series and being drawn in page after page. I wanted more, and couldn’t put down that series. “Blackest Night” was another series that blew me away. Geoff has the ability to take B and C-list heroes and make them come alive in new ways on the page. You become invested in the characters and in turn, are drawn deeper into the story.
As I mentioned in the announcement, Geoff called me to offer me the job late one night and then got into the story and pitched me the arc. It’s as if he knew exactly what my dream Justice League story would be. Since then, we’ve talked a few more times, and every time we talk, I get more excited.
Lastly, before I start sounding like a star-struck fan-boy, Geoff has an enthusiasm that is contagious. You can tell that this guy loves comics, loves these characters and loves his job. And when you can team up with someone like that, it lifts your game to another level.
“Justice League” #36 is currently solicited with Ivan Reis as the artist and teases a storyline titled “The Amazo Virus.” Is this still the plan for the opening arc, and if so, what can you tell us about what the virus means for how you will depict Amazo and this infected?
“The Amazo Virus” is going to be my first arc on the series, and it starts with a bang. I can’t say anything more, but Geoff is giving me an opportunity to show what I can do. It’s going to be fun.
You live around the corner from David Finch, who collaborated with Geoff on “Justice League of America.” Have you had a chance to discuss the new gig with David?
Dave has been a close friend and mentor for the last five years, and any time I can give a shout out to what he’s done for my career, I do. I still go to Dave for advice, both for my career and for my art. I’m very thankful that he took the time to teach me and mentor me and that he still takes that time today.
I talked to him and asked some advice on drawing a team book. Dave has been doing team books ever since he started in the industry with “Cyberforce.” We chatted a bit about it, but he told me that he’s confident that I’ll figure it out quickly. We also talked about working with Geoff, and he mentioned how great it is to work with him. It’s great to have someone to talk to about the job and get a few tips to help you along the way.
In four short years, you have climbed the ranks rapidly at DC Comics, now landing on what is arguably the publisher’s flagship title. To what do you attribute your success?
First, I always give the glory to God. As a Christian, my relationship with God is the most important thing to me, and God has been faithful these years with so many blessing in my life. I simply put my career in his hands and go where he leads.
Secondly, it’s humility and the desire to learn. I know I’m not the best in the biz, but I have the desire and work ethic that pushes me forward. Every day is a new chance to do things better and to achieve something you’ve never done before.
Lastly, I simply look to learn from those who have had success. If you want to have a long marriage, don’t go asking your Uncle Bob who’s been married five times for marriage advice. I look at the artists out there who have had 20-plus years of success and try to emulate them both stylistically and by making the right types of career decisions. I try to talk to them at conventions and listen to their stories.
In the end, I hope that one day I can be an inspiration to young and upcoming artists. If you could see where I was five years ago, you’d never believe a guy like me could make it to where I am today. But if you set goals for yourself and work harder than you could ever imagine, you can get better and accomplish some very mighty things.
“Justice League” #36, by Geoff Johns and featuring art by Jason Fabok, is slated for a November release.
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