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Ottley Makes A Difference on “Haunt”

by  in Comic News Comment
Ottley Makes A Difference on “Haunt”
“Haunt” #1 on sale October 7

When it comes to “Haunt,” the October-debuting Image Comics series created by Robert Kirkman and Todd McFarlane, one of the words being tossed around is “different.” The title features art from longtime Kirkman collaborator Ryan Ottley, who is most known for his ongoing work in “Invincible.” But that series – while gritty and gruesome in its own right – sports what both Kirkman and McFarlane have touted as a drastically different look than what Ottley is producing for “Haunt.”

“It’s crazy to see how different the two books will look,” Kirkman told CBR News when asked about Ottley’s work on the two titles. “Ryan is an amazing artist. I couldn’t have done all the things I’ve done with ‘Invincible’ without him. He’s constantly elevating my scripts and making that book shine brighter than I ever could have hoped. With ‘Haunt,’ we’re trying something new. He’s working from Greg Capullo’s layouts and he’s got Todd McFarlane inking him, so it’s almost like an entirely different Ryan Ottley on that book.”

Not satisfied with the testimonies of Ottley’s collaborators, CBR News tracked down the artist himself to talk about his work on “Haunt,” how different it really is from “Invincible,” and how his inner child would react to working with Todd McFarlane.

Ottley is the first to admit that there are important differences between “Invincible” and “Haunt,” but he cautioned fans not to assume too much about the new series until it actually comes out. “Everyone makes their own perception of a book until they actually read it,” Ottley told CBR. “Like ‘Invinicible,’ everyone who hasn’t read it thinks they know what it is, but it’s always better than what they imagine once they pick it up and then they’re hooked – and same with this story. I know people are gonna dig it. Art-wise, it’s extremely different from layouts to inks. Even my pencils I’m doing differently. I’m happy with the outcome. And writing-wise, there really is a different tone to each book. Sure, they both have violence but the overall tone of each is much different.”

One such story difference comes in the form of “Invincible” and “Haunt’s” respective lead characters. While Mark Grayson and his kid brother Oliver fight crime together in “Invincible,” the collaborative relationship between the main characters of “Haunt,” also brothers, is fundamentally different. “One brother is a pissed off priest, the other is a badass military type,” Ottley explained. “He’s much more fun to draw. All the knives and guns and smooth action scenes are with that guy. The other dude is a bit of a downer but totally awesome when the two combine to form Haunt. I love drawing [their] ectoplasm barf suit that’s alive and constantly moving – it’s fun stuff!”

“Haunt” teaser penciled by Ryan Ottley

In terms of artistic differences between the books, Ottley pointed to the contributions of layout artist Greg Capullo and inker Todd McFarlane as reasons for the visual change. “I don’t do layouts like Greg at all, nor do I ink like Todd at all, so of course it’s going to be very different,” Ottley said. “With my pencils, I’m doing more quick lines, more spotted blacks, more tic marks and hatching, so the end product looks much more ‘McFarlaney’ than ‘Ottleyish’ for sure. But you should be able to see my style in there if you are familiar with my work.”

“McFarlaney” is hardly an insult for Ottley, who spoke about his own admiration for the acclaimed “Spawn” creator. “I idolized Todd McFarlane when I was a kid,” Ottley said. “I started reading comics in 1989 with his ‘Amazing Spider-Man.’ I would copy his art, sign my name and tape it on my wall. I loved his stuff and having him throw down some inks over my pencils is kind of awesome. Part of me is doing this project for that younger, dorkier version of myself who always copied Todd’s art and would be smiling from ear to ear to hear he’d be working with McFarlane someday.”

McFarlane previously spoke with CBR News about how much he enjoys tinkering with Ottley’s pencils, and Ottley feels similar joy towards working with McFarlane. “We are working together and having a blast messing with each other’s lines,” Ottley said. “It’s definitely less work than ‘Invincible,’ so it’s much quicker and that adds to the enjoyment of it all, seeing it form so quickly, passing pages along to each other.”

But perhaps the best McFarlane-Ottley interaction came in the form of this year’s Comic-Con International, when the two artists finally met in person. “I knew Todd by phone calls only before Comic-Con,” Ottley revealed. “It was great to finally meet him in person and do a signing with him there. Quite a fun experience. Again, if my younger self saw the future, he’d be floored and probably would have worked harder to get into this industry sooner. What a lazy little prick I was.”

As the co-creator and inker of “Haunt,” McFarlane plays an important role in the art process, but Ottley believes that Greg Capullo’s layouts are the biggest reason why “Haunt” looks different than “Invincible.” “The layouts are the most significant difference. Without Greg, the layouts would be a little more similar to my ‘Invincible’ layouts, but I would definitely change things up a bit the best I could. Greg has such a killer unmatched style, it’s just better this way. It’s nice having him in on this project.”

“Haunt” teaser penciled by Ryan Ottley

Kirkman agreed with Ottley’s assessment, offering his own praise for Capullo’s work. “Greg’s layouts are so great, the story-telling tricks he pulls on a page are kind of genius,” Kirkman said. “On top of that, it’s a much different kind of story, so this is a darker, grittier Ryan Ottley than you’re used to.”

“I think the mixture of us three artists will surprise people a lot,” Ottley surmised of the “Haunt” triumvirate of Ottley-McFarlane-Capullo. “‘Haunt’ is, like we’ve said earlier, so different artistically for me that I’m going different places I haven’t been due to Greg and Todd. It’s a welcome change and I hope I can pick up a few good tips along the way in working with these guys.”

But there’s a very important fourth ingredient in the mix: Robert Kirkman himself, who is essentially the reason that Ottley got involved in “Haunt” in the first place. “That’s pretty much how it happened – he called me up, asked if I was interested and if I was even capable of doing two books, because he said he definitely didn’t want me to leave ‘Invincible,'” Ottley recalled. “I was pretty hesitant at first because it just seemed like way too much work, but everything fell into place. Doing two books a month was the biggest concern, but I got Cliff Rathburn inking ‘Invincible,’ and of course Greg speeds things up for me by doing the layouts [on ‘Haunt’] and Todd on inks. So I basically have to try to keep up with nothing but pencils. It’s still a ton of work, but I’m doing my best to handle it.”

Of course, there’s also the perk of Ottley’s two books being written by the same author. “I don’t have to get used to a new writer,” Ottley said. “Robert does his thing and does it well. I’m happy to be on a new project with him.”

For Kirkman, the feeling is mutual. “I’ve been working with Ryan for about six years now and I have to say, the thing that shocks me the most about working with him is that he’s still constantly improving,” Kirkman said. “I don’t even know how it’s possible, but somehow he just keeps getting better. I’m thrilled to be able to work with him on two books.”

“Haunt” #1 hits comic book stores on October 7 from Image Comics.

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