PIECE MAKER: Artist Patrick Zircher Talks "Terror, Inc."

In Part I of our spotlight on "Terror, Inc.," the five-issue Marvel MAX miniseries shipping this August, CBR News spoke with writer David Lapham. In this second part of our feature, we speak with Lapham's collaborator on all the creative carnage and comedy, "Terror, Inc." artist Patrick Zircher.

It was good timing, a desire to do something different and a little bit of stubbornness that landed Patrick Zircher the "Terror, Inc." assignment. "I needed a bit of a break from straight-up superheroes and wanted to ink my own work," Zircher told CBR News. "Editor Warren Simons, talent coordinator Chris Allo, and I went over a few ideas and it was David Lapham's 'Terror, Inc.' pitch that really grabbed me.

"I'd never heard of the character before, but I loved the concept-the concept being Terror is a 1500 year old barbarian turned modern assassin with a body that doesn't die but still decays," Zircher continued.   "So he constantly has to replace rotting limbs with fresh ones.   I was intrigued that this was a MAX book and there would be more artistic freedom.   And, certainly, I was interested in working with David Lapham, whose work embodies the maxim 'character is plot, plot is character.'"

Zircher had never heard of Terror before this project, but while working on the book he did draw some inspiration from the old "Terror, Inc." comics. "The art by the late Jorge Zaffino is an inspiration, though indirectly," Zircher said. "It's wonderful and so personal.   My style's different but it's a reminder to do this right -- to be an artist, or at least to try. "

The "Terror, Inc." assignment afforded Zircher the chance to employ some new stylistic and artistic techniques in his work. "This technique can be pretty much summed up as drawing a little more carefully, inking my own stuff, and adding digital shades and grays," Zircher explained.   "My editor, Warren Simons, has been very pleased with and supportive of the new work and, fortunately, the feedback around the Marvel offices has been terrific.   It's kept me enthusiastic through long hours at the drawing table."

Zircher spent many of those hours at the drawing table designing the cast of characters for "Terror, Inc." "In the first issue there's an extensive flashback with a lot of sword and sorcery elements and Terror as a barbarian.   There's also a demon, a mystic knight, and a pale queen. The barbarian Terror came easy.   He's the bastard son of Mel Gibson's

William Wallace and Toshiro Mifune's wandering ronin.   Don't ask me how those two had a son together, I just draw pictures. The knight and queen were harder because there's an otherwordly quality to them that still had to fit the style of the book.

"Terror, in the modern world, has his own new look, cast of characters, and props-- some of that's design work and some of it is picking out real life toys to draw," Zircher continued. "Designing the modern Terror was challenging in that it needed to reflect the barbarian, the ghoul, and the elite assassin all at once."   

Zircher also wanted his art to convey more than just Terror's lethal and grisly aspects. "Underneath that brutish, ghoulish exterior is, well, a brute and a ghoul.   Okay, there's actually a medieval romantic in there, too," Zircher said. "With his personal loyalties and weird code of honor, Terror shares some of Dracula's character traits-just without the aristocratic airs and with a better sense of humor. I hope the art breathes life into Terror, pulls the reader into his world, and portrays both his exterior and subtle interior."

It was because of David Lapham's script that Zircher got to draw such a well-rounded character like Terror, and for that the artist is very grateful. "David writes full-script.

He's emphasizes character, you can see that in his work on 'Stray Bullets,' and I love that," Zircher stated. "Things are happening because this is Terror, as opposed to it being a story into which Terror has been shoehorned."

"Terror Inc." has proved to be a fun and rewarding assignment for Zircher, but it's been an incredibly challenging one as well. For the most difficult aspects of the assignment, the artist cited doing pencils and inks and his digital work with grays, shadings and textures. "The first week I finished just one page," Zircher explained. "My wife kept popping her head in the door, and, seeing that I was always on the same page, would make that worried Marge Simpson sound.   Kind of a 'hhurrrrmmmm.'   That's sharper than any editor's lash."

While Zircher's wife was an unofficial taskmaster on "Terror, Inc.," another woman was one of his official collaborators on the series, colorist June Chung. "Her work is amazing and I hope this is the beginning of a long collaboration between us," Zircher said.

Zircher of course loves illustrating comics like "Terror, Inc.," but there is something else in his life that he loves more. "I have two wonderful children who miss spending time with their daddy," he said. "So if issue #5 is late, cut me some slack."

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