It's rare that a top artistic team in comics spends much more than a year or two on a specific title these days. Whether it's the comic publisher looking to move a rising star from one book to another to give it a kick in sales, or an artist simply choosing to only spend so much time with a given character or title, artistic teams tend to move around a bit.
Phil Hester and Ande Parks went against the norm with their "Green Arrow" run for DC Comics, hanging around for 40 issues. As we know so well, all good things come to an end, as Hester announced Friday on the DC Comics Message boards that he and Parks would be leaving the title following issue #45.
"The only reason we're moving on is that we're growing tired of drawing the same character after 40 issues," Hester said in his post. "Rather than burn out, we felt it best to step away while we were still on top of our game. If I could keep every other aspect of this book the same (collaborators, editors, fans) and simply switch characters, I would. I'm just tired of drawing that beard every day!"
CBR News has learned that starting with issue #46, which Winick discussed with us in a recent interview, the artistic chores will be handled by penciller Tom Fowler and Inker Rodney Ramos. We caught up with Fowler to learn more about his background and plans for the title.
"Hi. My name's Tom. I live in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada with my lovely wife Monique and loyal dog Zool," Fowler said by way of an introduction. "You may not remember me from such books you didn't pick up as 'The Blair Witch Chronicles,' 'Grendel: Red, White, and Black,' 'Star Wars: Jango Fett' and my latest low selling opus 'Caper.' I stand thirteen feet tall and shoot lasers from my eyes.
"Seriously, I'm a big fan of movement in my work. I like things to jump, bounce, bruise and flop. If there's a cartooning ideal I aspire to it's Jack Davis, Will Elder, Wally Wood, etc. I'm a huge EC junky and I'd like to think it shows through in my work. I just want to keep working and getting better. I'm incredibly lucky that 'Green Arrow' came along when it did so that I can keep going and improving.
"That, and I have a really sweet ass."
Now that you know whom Tom Fowler is it's time to get a bit serious and find out how he ended up with the gig. Fowler's been working with "Green Arrow" writer Judd Winick for a while on the mini-series "Caper." As the series came to a close, DC Editor Bob Schreck simply called Fowler up to see if he'd be interested in taking over the artistic duties on "Green Arrow." Just that simple. Fowler's looking forward to the challenge and talked with us about what he thought makes Green Arrow, AKA Oliver Queen, tick.
"Well, what makes Ollie interesting for me is that I really don't like him very much; he's kind of a self righteous jackass. That's not to dismiss the book, or the character or Judd's handling of the character (or Kevin's, or Denny's), not at all. I just don't think I'd want to be in the same room with him. But as far as I'm concerned that's what makes him tick.
"Whether it was by accident or design, I think the Green Arrow that Kevin [Smith] brought back to life, the Denny O'Neil, hard travellin' hero Green Arrow, was a master stroke. Ollie was never so loud, passionate and vitriolic about wanting to get out there and do some good as he was back then. By the same token, he was never so conflicted, disoriented and confused about how to go about doing it. That's the beauty of the character; he's constantly at war with himself and those inconsistencies in his role. With all that high-minded counter-culture idealism, he's still so often forced to resort to thuggery. Hell, he likes it. He's a good everyman in that respect as he wants to do good, but knows he's going to keep repeating the same mistakes, but plows through anyway. That's what makes it all fun to draw. It's difficult to throw someone you have too much respect for off a roof. Come to think of it, I haven't been terribly sympathetic to most of the characters I've been asked to draw over my career, but that's a good thing! It means you can be more reckless with the characters and Ollie's demeanor just makes it that much easier. I suppose it's probably a good thing they didn't hire me to do Batman, or else he'd be walking in front of a bus on every page. (Now that guy's insufferable!)
Fowler joins the title at an interesting time. As we recently learned, Judd Winick has shaken up Mia Dearden's storyline by revealing she's been infected with the HIV virus. With Fowler joining the series, there are plans to make Mia the new Speedy and much more. Fowler's excited about the story possibilities the title presents to him.
"It's great being involved with something like this, especially with 'Green Arrow's' history for relevance," said Fowler, "but my main concern coming onto the book during the Mia storyline was that it was on its way to becoming a really gooey after-school special. Having now spoken to Judd about it and read the outline for the upcoming issues, I'm happy to say it's not. Far from it, in fact! Judd's whole point with this was to show that people with HIV can and do still live perfectly normal lives. Given that we're in the DC Universe, that includes superheroin'. As a result we're not going to be seeing Ollie sitting by a hospital bed as Mia withers away. In fact, the first 5 to 6 issues of my run are good, old-fashioned, straight-ahead superhero action with Mia's condition slightly colouring things, but not obscuring them. Which again is good, because as much as I think there's place for relevance in superhero books, I think there's been a tendency in the past to do it for the sake of the headline. Ultimately whatever it is gets in the way of the narrative, and that's produced some pretty dull comics. In Mia's case, the opportunity was there, staring everybody in the face and Judd's managing to pull it off without bludgeoning people with it."
While Fowler realizes it'll be a formidable challenge following Hester and Parks on "Green Arrow," he's looking forward to the opportunity.
"Phil and Ande have really created something they should be proud of and the last thing I want to do is stomp in and mess it all up," said Fowler. "That being said, what they've managed to do is so solid that I'm not sure what I could do to put any kind of dent in it. I'm lucky to have both their friendship and blessing on taking over and I know that they both want me to run with it."
And Fowler says he won't be approaching the artistic chores on "Green Arrow" differently than any other assignment he's had before and is looking to making his own mark on the archer.
"I tend to like things to move along pretty quickly, which is as it should be an a superhero book. Following Phil's sense of layout and pacing's a little daunting, but I think I'm muddling through. …I'm really just trying to make him my own, which means folds and wrinkles and stray hairs on wool caps, etc."
As of press time, Fowler has begun working on his second issue, #47, and is joined on the title by his friend inker Rodney Ramos.
"Rodney and I have known each other as friends for a few years now, but this is the first time we've worked together. It's the first time I've been inked by anyone. I'm happy it's Rodney though. He's a quarterback.
Finally, Fowler looks forward to continue working with writer Judd Winick following the conclusion of "Caper" and says the creative process the duo share hasn't changed at all going from "Caper" to "Green Arrow."
"So far it's pretty much the same, angry shouting across the room until he throws a whiskey bottle at me.
"He's a jerk.
"And a commie," joked Fowler.