Leonard Kirk Takes On "New Mutants"

Marvel Comics announced today that artist Leonard Kirk, recently seen on the publisher's "Dark X-Men" mini, would be joining writer Zeb Wells as penciler on the monthly "New Mutants" title. Over the course of the past year, that younger generation of heroes from Charles Xavier's now demolished School For Gifted Youngsters has met its share of threats from Xavier's rogue son Legion to Sauron an his Savage Land mutates. But as Kirk arrives for an arc starting with July's "New Mutants" #15, things take a breath before getting even harrier as the team deals with the fallout of the just-begun "Second Coming" event.

"The focus, at least for the first issue of the arc, will indeed be emotional fallout and recovery," the artist told CBR News. "The arc opens with the group taking a little downtime to relax, drink beer, share feelings, vent and heal. Needless to say that things may not go as planned. And then we turn up the volume in the next issue."

Like Well, who's been shepherding the adventures of Cannonball, Dani Moonstar and company since the classic mutant title was revived last year, Kirk said that he came up reading the adventures of the book's cast in their original "New Mutants" run. "I remember the original graphic novel by [Chris] Claremont and [Bob] McLeod and I have mentioned in other interviews that I always considered it to be the introduction of an X-Men team for a group of readers too young to remember the ground breaking intro of the original team by Lee and Kirby. Sort of 'X-Men: The Next Generation.'

"As much as I enjoyed the original series, it really took off for me with the introduction of [artist Bill] Sienkiewicz," Kirk continued. "I followed a number of his projects that were released at around the same time and one of the biggest to stand out for me was his adaptation of the Dino DeLaurentis movie production of 'Dune.' He carried over his wonderful blend of realism and surrealism into the New Mutants. And, while he leaned further towards the surreal in later issues and projects, there was still enough realism present to keep his work far more interesting than if he chose to represent one style or the other exclusively.

"I tried to emulate his style when I was younger, long before I got into comics professionally. Thankfully, I had abandoned that aspiration by the time I turned "pro". I sucked at it and learned that I needed to be myself. As for working with Zeb, I can't say that I've really made any conscious effort to match my style to his writing but I certainly am careful not to clash with it."

Throughout his career at Marvel and before, the artist has often found fan favorite runs with up and coming writers on team books, a prospect which he hopes to capitalize on with "New Mutants." "The biggest challenge with illustrating any team book is maintaining the individuality of each team member," Kirk explained. "That's my second priority when drawing a team book. My first priority is the same as it is when drawing a solo series, just trying to tell a clear story with my pictures. I can't really think of anything else that makes me more adept than other artists at juggling so many characters, aside from practice. In addition to 'Agents of Atlas' and 'Captain Britain,' other team books I've tackled include 'The Avengers,' 'Heroes for Hire,' 'Fantastic Four,' 'Dark X-Men,' 'Freshmen,' 'Legion of Superheroes' and, of course, 'JSA.'"

With a resume like that, it shouldn't be hard for Kirk to juggle the sometimes competing designs that run throughout the "New Mutants" cast, starting with the hero often viewed as the team's defacto leader. "As much fun as it is to draw Sam going 'ka-blooie!', I was more interested in bringing him back to his roots, visually. So I've trimmed both his hair and his muscles. Sam has grown older and people do change over time but there is something that I have always found appealing about his lanky, country boy look. It added a certain innocence to his character. That's not to say that I've taken him back to when he was sixteen. I just wanted to return to him a little something that I always considered charming and unique."

Kirk also expressed excitement in tackling the two visual cornerstones of the team: the psuedo-Kirby dotted Sunspot and the always wild Warlock. "With Sunspot, again, I suppose I lean a little towards the way that Mcleod drew him in the original series," he said. "Warlock is just plain fun. I'm grateful that I'm inking myself on this run because it allows me to play with his finished look. On the downside, Warlock can be a very time consuming character to draw. All of those teeny tiny technical details can be a little frustrating. However, on the upside, that crazy face with the googly eyes and giant grin can brighten up almost any day."

And of course, the women of the New Mutants make up the core of the team in more ways than one, and on the whole Kirk explained he has more subtle changes in store for some of them than the men. "I have tweaked Magma a bit to help make her more "magma-ish" and Dani is a fun one to draw. Illyana is always a favorite, especially when she's all demony and armored up. However, the character with the biggest story potential related to her visuals is Shan (Karma). Unfortunately, I can't say any more about that because it would spoil a significant event in 'Second Coming' as well as a good chunk of my first issue. Sorry folks. Guess you're all going to have to agonize over this one for a few months...God, I love doing that!"

And in between the scenes of the tight-knit group of characters instantly recognized as the New Mutants, Kirk teased that he may be getting to draw a few of the classic X-Men as his run goes along as well. "The only one to show up so far has been Cyclops although I did manage to squeeze in a few other recognizable figures in one panel. I look forward to the opportunity to draw any of these guys when I can," he said, adding "At this time, I'm only on board for the single arc which will likely last seven or eight issues. That could always change and I may end up on the book for a long time. Who knows? The real hook for me is working with a bunch of characters to whom I was introduced over 25 years ago. The idea of taking a series from my childhood, with such a sense of nostalgia, and bringing it into the 21st century is very appealing. And a helluva lot of fun."

"New Mutants" #15 will go on sale in July from Marvel Comics.

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