Maybe it's all that sunshine, but many argue that the artists employed by CrossGen all grow by leaps and bounds once joining the Florida based company. In the case of penciler Greg Land, many thought his art couldn't get better after DC Comics' "Birds of Prey" and "Nightwing."
Then they saw his work in the epic fantasy series "Sojourn."
This isn't to say that Land is the sole reason for the series' success, as the rest of the team (inker Jay Leisten and colorist Justin Ponsor, who were both interviewed Monday) are exceptionally talented, but his art has been a big draw to many fans. Taking a break from drawing beautiful women and ferocious monsters, the fan-favorite artist took a moment to talk with CBR News.
"It's a story that focuses on a heroine that's on a quest to gather five pieces of a magical arrow, used centuries ago to defeat an evil dictator," says Land of the series' premise. "Mordath has been brought back to life and gone back to his ways of conquest. This quest has been dropped into Arwyn's lap and it's her duty, if you will, to stop him."
Land was attracted to CrossGen for a number of reasons, but admits that "Sojourn" offered him a unique opportunity. "The thing I like about it is being the designer, the one to come up with the looks for the characters, locations, monsters and weapons. It's the first time that I've been allowed to design the whole look of the book. While it's a bit of a daunting feeling going into each issue, it's a feeling I enjoy."
As one of CrossGen's top books - in both sales and critical acclaim - one would imagine that working on "Sojourn" would come with a certain amount of pressure, but as Land explained to CBR News, there's something especially great about this time on the series. "Right now we got a new writer, Ian Edginton, and we're starting to see his take on things, which is different than what readers have seen before. We're starting to see stories that show that Arwyn is focused, but she's not going directly to spots that contain fragments of the arrow, she's actually getting in some different environments. So right there, seeing all the different creatures and lands on this planet is interesting. She's moving towards the goal, but the side stories along the way are fun."
Changing primary creators on any series can be difficult, but with Edginton joining "Sojourn," there hasn't been a big problem. "The initial difference is that Ian is still in England right now and I haven't had a lot of dialogue with him," explains Land. "We had a little bit when he initially came over and we got to chat with the entire team, so that was good. It'll be nice to have him in house so we can bat around ideas like we did with the initial team."
Land's art has been lauded for it's detail and "realism," and the artist explains the process he goes through when illustrating "Sojourn." It's not like one can find a true photo reference for a dragon, can they? "Whatever it is I'm trying to depict, I try to go about it as if it were a real creature, entity or whatever the case may be. Say for instance with the dragon, I've got some books on dragons and I've referenced some movies, looked at dinosaurs to see how their musculature is and the texture on their skins. I combine all that stuff with my ideas, and by gathering all that info, I try to put on paper what a dragon really would look like. I do the same thing with the castles: hunting for books on castles so I can see how they go together. In your head you'll see something, you know what a castle looks like, but when you go to put it down on paper, it's like 'how does a drawbridge work' to make it look believable, that's what I'm all about. What I'm trying to do is make things look like they can actually function, and that's where I start."
While Land has worked on action series before, this one is more of a fantasy book and he says that regardless of the genre, his approach has been the same. "My initial approach was basically the same. Even with 'Nightwing," you see that it's gradually gained more of a realistic look. When I was on 'Nightwing,' I'd do things like take photo references of downtown streets, alleyways…I'd climb up fire escapes and take 'down' shots, just to have these photos on hand for whatever situations came up. With 'Sojourn,' even though there are these things that haven't existed for a long time, and in the case of dragons they've never existed, I still approach it by looking up things relative to them. I still try to find something I can base in reality and with the 'artist's imagination' if you will, turn it into something that doesn't actually exist." He also notes that he doesn't stay with the same models and photos all the time and has even posed for some characters, from trolls to Gareth, the dashing male lead.
Fans have remarked that Land's art has been consistently improving and the artist attributes that to his work ethic. "I'm consciously trying to push myself to be the best - I guess that's part of never being satisfied with anything, so I've tried to push myself further to what I want my final image to look like. As time goes on, I'll hopefully be doing work that's considered even better than what I'm doing now."
If you jumped onboard "Sojourn" with the 25-cent issue #25, Land says you can expect more excitement in the future. "A whole lot of adventure. We're picking up the pace as they're going along the quest- we'll see a lot of different locations and inhabitants in this world. Expect a whole lot of different situations."
Sojourn #29, which brings Gareth, Arwyn and the thief Cassidy to an island populated by beautiful - but mysterious - women, hits stores on November 19th.