Best known for her work as an artist on such comics as Mara, The Kitchen and Young Avengers, Ming Doyle has a handful of writing credits on her resume. However, none is as high-profile, or as large-scale, as her latest collaboration, co-writing DC Comics’ new Constantine: The Hellblazer with James Tynion IV.
Drawn by Riley Rossmo, the series launched just last month, with the goal of taking the occult investigator “back to what he was at the start — a young, sexy, dangerous, bad dude.”
Ahead of the release of the second issue, we caught up with Doyle to talk about Constantine, working with collaborators Tynion and Rossmo, storytelling and more.
ROBOT 6: Can you chat about the decision to make the leap into co-writing?
Ming Doyle: I’ve always wanted to write more, and when James informally asked me if I had any interest in writing Constantine, I knew I did. But I also knew I’d want him to co-write it with me. Previously, the longest comic stories I’ve written have all topped out at eight pages. Working with James, who has much more experience under his belt, has been an awesome opportunity. And it’s only made me want to write more.
How much has your approach to writing been influenced by past collaborators such as Brian Wood, Ollie Masters and others?
Greatly. Both Brian and Ollie are very spare writers, and they know how to hang words on the bones of a story to the best effect, and I admire the hell out of that. My own inclination is to go pretty purple on the prose (I’ll blame my pre-teen fling with Anne Rice for that one), but in a visual medium like comics, I know a lot of times less is best when it comes to the words department. Our John does have narration captions, but I try not to lean on them too much.
Now that you are writing for an artist like Riley Rossmo, in what ways do you play to his strengths?
Riley’s style is so simultaneously loose and angular, not to mention absolutely kinetic, that I’ve just been trying to give him fun things to draw. We can throw out some loose direction like “Go heavy on the Dutch angles, if you want,” and he’ll come back with a gorgeous jigsaw of panels and deep blacks that are just a delight. He kills it on demons, and he makes John suave, goofy, and scary. Riley has said that John’s one of his dream characters to work with, and I think it really shows.
What qualities about the DC supernatural dynamics appeal to your creative sensibilities?
Since we’re writing in an almost preordained world, where so much has happened already and things have a way of resetting to zero, I like the challenge of thinking up new ways to look at tropes. John’s always been a troubled guy, that’s obvious, but James and I have our own different take on his deal.
And no matter what we put him through, it does make me laugh to think that somewhere on that world, at that very moment, Clark Kent may be eating falafel from a food truck and totally ignoring demon shenanigans.
As the child of a sailor and a librarian, which of your parents influenced your love of storytelling?
Both did to varying degrees, of course, but I probably inherited most of my love of fiction, sci-fi and fantasy stories from my mom. Not only is she a librarian, but she used to take me on weekly pilgrimages to our town’s very well-stocked public library, and we’d both take several volumes home. We’d rush out to see any movie that captured our imagination together. I was an only child, and I learned so much from her, including how to hide away for entire days in the pages of a pulpy paperback, and how to be a truly awesome nerd.
My dad, on the other hand, isn’t that much of an ardent media fan. He does, however, have the Irish “gift of the gab,” and he and I used to set out on summer sailing trips up and down the coast of Massachusetts. Before cell phones and wi-fi, we’d drop anchor or clip up to a mooring, light a kerosene lamp, and sit on the deck under the night sky, talking about anything. I think I learned how to view real life as a story from him, just by telling it.
Back when we spoke in 2013, we discussed your use of photo-referencing in your art . As you have evolved as an artist over your career, how much do you photo reference these days?
Ming Doyle: Unfortunately, I still haven’t learned to make a habit of photo reference. I’ve also been meaning to learn other commonly used tools like Google SketchUp for years now (it looks downright befuddling). Once in a while a particularly tricky pose or angle will occur to me, and I’ll ask a friend to snap my picture, and something very close to that will end up in a panel. Usually only in one or two panels per issue, if that.
I still think that using reference is one of the smartest things an artist can do, so I’m honestly a bit at a loss as to why I can’t seem to incorporate it in my own work as much. Obviously I observe everything in the world around me with a very keen eye and strive to commit it to my mental repertoire, and I’ve leaned heavily on Google when it comes to capturing specific models of cars or guns. But when I first start drawing as a kid, it was just me and my sketchbook outside or in front of a TV. Now that I draw on my tablet, in my very own studio, I still find it difficult to break away from that “Just me and the page” approach.
Any chance I can talk to an artist about working with colorists, I will. Can you talk about how much you enjoy being colored by Jordie Bellaire (The Kitchen), for example?
Can’t ever say enough about the brilliance of those Bellaire hues. We first worked on IDW’s Womanthology together when we were both baby artists, and she just gets my art. She’s a great counterbalance to it, almost. I go heavy on the details, and she knows how to enhance my lines with her palettes and light rendering. My art looks awful in that super-rendered 3D style, and Jordie has a very restrained, almost European approach that I appreciate beyond words.
Constantine: The Hellblazer #2 goes on sale Wednesday.
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