SAN DIEGO, DAY ONE: Mike Hawthorne on 'Queen & Country' with #21

[Queen and Country #21]Greg Rucka's "Queen and Country" has garnered great critical acclaim, including a 2002 Eisner Award for Best New Series. While the writer has always stayed the same, with each story arc Rucka and Oni Press invite a new artist to take over those duties. So far they've included Carla Speed McNeil, Jason Alexander, Leandro Fernandez, Christine Norrie and Steve Rolston. Beginning with issue #21, you can add Mike Hawthorne to that list of artists.

Hawthorne is currently quite busy, working on the "Terminator" comic for Beckett and "Whiskey Dickel" for Image Comics, with previous work at Oni on "Three Days in Europe" with Antony Johnson, but is more than happy to make time for "Queen & Country." CBR News caught up with Hawthorne at Comic-Con International in San Diego.

"I made it clear I loved the book to [James Lucas Jones, Oni Editor] when I started work for Oni," Hawthrone told CBR News. "I've loved the book from the beginning, when my friend Steve Rolston began the series with Greg. I actually checked out the book becasue of Steve, as I didn't know much about Greg at the time. I wasn't reading a lot of comics when Q&C started, and hadn't read the Whiteout books yet.

"While I was still drawing '3 Days in Europe,' James asked if I'd like to eventually do an arc. He warned it might be a while as they were pretty booked up with artists. I told him that for a book like Q&C I'd wait.

"Months roll by and I get a call from James asking if I still wanted to draw Q&C. I think I answered with a composed and professional 'HELL YEAH!'"

Hawthorne was happy to provide us with some details from the story he's working on.

"Well, I haven't read the entire arc, but so far Greg's focusing on how the Minders are dealing with the events of the last arc. He's allowing us to see more of what makes the Minders tick. I think he's also opening the characters up a bit, letting us see their vulnerablities.

"Plus, there's some great surprise stuff that I can't tell anyone about yet. Great stuff, if you're a fan of the series already."

Hawthorne noted working with Rucka has been fantastic and noticed some marked differences working with Rucka compared to other writers.

"Over the last couple of years I've read a lot of scripts. I mean a lot of scripts," said Hawthorne. "But Greg's are unique. First thing I noticed it that it's about two to three times thicker then I'm used to!

"You can see his mind at work, and you can tell he's a novelist. Sometimes it reads like prose. By that I mean that the scripts are intriguing on their own, without the visuals. You could read Q&C just in script form and be happy you picked it up. The art is just gravy.

"The nice thing is that when the scripts are strong I feel like I can go in wide open, and not worry a whole lot about carrying the plot. I can just worry about how best to tell the story he has laid out, and making the pictures as pretty as I can get them."

Artistically Rucka has pushed Hawthorne to explore his artistic abilities in new ways, challenging the artist at every turn.

"Challenges? Well, maybe the main one is that he asked for so much subtle acting. You've got to try and convey these genuine human emotions without over acting or under acting the thing out. It's a fine line. But it's the kind of work I enjoy."

When you look at Hawthorne's art on books like "Terminator" or "Whiskey Dickel," while the signature may be the same, the styles are quite different. Hawthorne tells us that the same will hold true for his work on "Queen & Country."

"I try to come up with a new and appropriate style for each book I do," said Hawthorne. "I feel pretty strongly that an artist should adapt is style to the subject matter, not force the subject to fit his style. This may come back to bite me in the ass later when no one knows what to expect from me, but I gotta stick to this philosophy. It makes sense to me. I mean, if I was a film maker I wouldn't shoot a romantic comedy the same was an action flick or a spy film, right? So why should my approach to comics be different?

"For 'Queen & Country' I tried for a classic adventure strip look. I wanted it to have the feel of the work of guys like Alex Toth, Alex Raymond, Johny Craig, or Frank Robbins. I even toyed with the idea of a cartoony Chester Gould 'Dick Tracy' kind of style, but decided against it. It didn't work with what I wanted to do. I wanted Q&C to look like 'Bravo for Adventure,' with Toth's eye for layouts and spotting blacks. Hopefully people will see it in the pages."

And the work doesn't stop there for Hawthorne. His plate is exceptionally full in the coming months.

[Tara]"Well, I'm pretty doggone busy. I'm literally working on several books at once. I'll be working on a huge 240 plus page book called 'RUULE' that I'm working on for Beckett Comics with writer Ivan Brandon. You should be seeing ads for it in Wizard soon. It's an awesome post-apocolyptic action comic, set in San Fransisco's China town.

"I'm also wrapping up a book I've been working on for seems like forever called 'Umbra' with Mirage Studio's writer Steve Murphy. It actually pre-dates even '3 Days.' It's this great X-Files type mystery set in Iceland. Great, great stuff.

"Eventually I'm going to do a book with my good friend J. Torres for NBM called 'Sparta.' It's this semi-historical comic set during the Roman Empire about Female gladiators.

"There are also a ton of 'Hysteria' shorts that are up at Moderntales.com that I'm hoping to get collected in a trade."

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