Suddenly you're face to face with the scariest looking guy you've ever seen. He looks like he's either one of the Hell's Angels, a vampire, or an assassin with a bad attitude. Maybe you should scream for help, or run for your life? Then you realize that it's just a Timothy Bradstreet cover wrapped around your favorite comic book.
Chances are very good that you've experienced Timothy Bradstreet's arresting artwork. Whether it was on the front of a Shadow Run box or the recent Punisher covers, Timothy Bradstreet is one of the industries most in demand artists, even though he hardly ever draws what's beyond the cover page. His figures are always dark, tough as nails and as realistic as that guy you never want to meet in a dark alley.
What makes this guy tick? How does he consistently create such gorgeous, dark, gritty artwork? What's with his involvement on the Blade 2 film project? Timothy answers all this and more in his interview below.
Keith Giles - Right now you're the king of the "First Impression" providing some very striking covers for various titles across a wide range of publishers, both for comics and beyond. Can you talk about some of your personal favorite covers and what new projects you've got in the fire right now?
Tim Bradstreet - You know, Unknown Soldier is still one of the best projects I ever worked on. It was my first job for Vertigo. The reason I love those covers so much is because that character was always one of my absolute favorites. Joe Kubert is a hero of mine and I really felt him looking over my shoulder when I worked on that book. The first issue is indeed an all time favorite as well as the last issue. I should say, the version of the last issue that was rejected. It features the same shot of the characters used in the published version but the background is completely different. It's a collage of historical figures and events from WW2 to present day. It was rejected because DC couldn't deal with all of the copyrighted shots I used. For example, Lyndon Johnson being sworn in on Air Force One, Martin Luther King, Nixon, and Hitler. Obviously The Punisher is a book I've had some freedom with so those are favorites. The first Crow: City of Angels cover, Gangland #1, Hellblazer's #'s 134, 135, 141, 143, and the "Hard Time" arc. There is an issue of The Spectre I did that I still really like. There are lots of favorites because I take my job seriously and I love what I do for a living.
KG - So, you wanna be in the movies? Looks like you're getting your wish. Can you talk about your work on Blade 2 and the recently announced Hulk film? Are there any other film projects in the works?
TB - First let me say that The Comics Continuum's report that I'm working on the Hulk is a bit hasty. I only said that I've been asked to meet with director Ang Lee concerning the project. That said, it's still up in the air whether or not I'd be working on the film. It's a meeting. He may decide I'm not the right guy to have working on his preproduction team. We'll just have to see what happens. Blade 2 was a complete gas. Guillermo Del Toro is an amazing fella. He's so full of energy and ideas. He knew exactly who he wanted working on the concepts. He had each guy working on the things he was best suited for. Wayne Barlowe did the creature designs, I designed the vampires, Mike Mignola worked on set designs, gadgets and some costumes, and TyRubin Ellingson designed all the weapons and hardware. Creatively speaking, it was a wonderful group of guys to work with, and Del Toro was the ringmaster. At present I'm putting together a package for Donner Productions. They have the Hellblazer project and I would really like to get on board with it. I've heard that they are changing much with the character which is a shame, but maybe I can help to bring some grit and gristle to what they DO have. My ears are always open and I'm building some very good relationships and contacts. I'm learning a lot and that's what's important. I love working in films but I'll always be an illustrator. At some point in the future, I'd like to take my Red Sky Diary project to the screen. We'll just have to wait and see.
KG - Are you looking to leave comics behind forever for the allure of a Hollywood career?
TB - Not at all. Working in films is another dream of mine that I want to pursue more. Right now, I couldn't support myself by just doing filmwork. Nor would I exclusively want to. I love working in the publishing industry. No one ever really sees the work you do on a film. I like to have the work be appreciated for what it is. Concept work is just the first step to creating what will end up being a collaboration between many skilled people. I love to collaborate but I am very particular about my own vision. A guy like me can't really take Hollywood or working in films too seriously. It's fun and it's exciting but ultimately it's Director's medium first and an actor's medium second. I'm way down at around one hundred and fifty on a scale of importance. I'd love to direct, but until that happens I'm just an illustrator.
KG - Please let readers know about your original graphic novel currently in progress called RED SKY DIARIES. What's it about? How close are you to getting it published? Will it be a series, a mini or a one-shot?
TB - Red Sky is not even close to being published. I've been working on the basic concept and elements for 12 years now. Don't laugh too hard. It's a labor of love and one that I will not rush. When the timing is right, it will see the light of day. It's about a Mudir (vampire or demon) hunter named Gallows. In a nutshell, he is the present day descendant of a clan of Mudir hunters from the 14th century. He has been bred to be the ultimate human. He will wipe the inhuman plague form the face of the Earth, but at a price. I'm slowly working on a script which will determine whether or not I proceed with having it made into a film. I may want to do a book first. It would be an illustrated book, not sequential but heavily illustrated.
KG - Your style is so dark, mythical, gothic and yet very realistic at the same time. How do you achieve this unique style?
TB - Mainly by trying to make the characters real. Using models is the key to getting the photo realistic base. Lighting is very important, that's the second key. I like to use harsh shadows when depicting my subjects. It adds drama to the shots and leaves a lot to the imagination. Coupled with the subject matter I choose to employ, the photo-real style and heavy blacks can create a mood that's hard to deny. I like to make use of iconic elements and graphics to help tell a story on the cover or in the illustration. I think about what motivates the character, who or what the character interacts with, and I cobble it all into that one image. Composition is also an extremely important element. Knowing how to present the subject in the frame and combining it with the other elements can be the difference between ending up with a very powerful image or a mundane shot of a character standing around.
KG - Would you ever (will you ever) go beyond just the front cover in illustrating a monthly comic title? Is this something that interests you at all?
TB - I've done sequential before, Clive Barker's Age of Desire, Gangland #1, Grendel: Black White and Red, Hearthrobs #2, and Hellblazer #141. It's very labor intensive. It takes a lot of time and effort to make it happen. The most I could ever see doing would be a 4 issue miniseries. The story and character would have to be special. I will be doing some sequential art this summer when I take on my next issue of Hellblazer. I don't know what issue it will be yet, but I'm starting it in August/September. After that, Brian Azzarello, Lee Burmejo and I will be doing a creator owned book. A 12 issue bi-monthly series. Lee Burmejo will be penciling and I will ink, BUT, I will also be doing about a third of the penciling. It concerns a single story in three different time periods. I'll be handling one of those time periods. You will see a good deal of the kind of characters that I love to draw. Dark, seedy characters that I've had floating in the backwaters of my imagination.
KG - Your website http://www.timbradstreet.com/ lists several items on your plate right now (Blade 2 film adaptation novel; JLA:Black Baptism; Superman covers; Punisher cover collection; Pilgrim#1 illustration; Batman/Deathblow and a few toy-related bits), can you provide any updates, changes or additions to this list?
TB - Well I'm finished with Superman, JLA: Black Baptism, and the Pilgrim cover. The Blade 2 movie adaptation is either on the backburner or Marvel is just not interested. I've spoken my peace and pitched the idea to several people who could facilitate getting it done. I haven't received any real positive feedback as of yet. That would be their loss because what I proposed to them would be an adapted screenplay that would be heavily illustrated along with concept drawings and preproduction art from the production. It'd be a shame not to show some of the stuff we came up with. Package it all in a hardcover and a trade paperback. It would be slick as hell. The Punisher portfolio is proceeding slowly but will definitely happen. Look for that later this summer. Batman/Deathblow has just begun. Lee Burmejo has the first 22 pages done. I'm a little behind there as I've been trying to clear my plate of covers and other various assignments. I'll catch up to Lee in a few weeks. Lee's work is very detailed and his pace will not be a breakneck one which will allow me to continue working on various things while working on the book. We don't really have an Ironclad deadline so we're just going to take our time and deliver a very special book. I'm also inking the covers. The toy line is something we've been discussing for a few months. It's the Brainchild of Tom Gilliland, a wonderfully talented creator that some people may recognize from his work as a painter of figure models. Anyone who reads Amazing Figure Modeler knows Tom's name and work. The line is called Nightshades and it will introduce a new 12" figure (in the style of the old GI Joes) every few months or so. The characters are based on a Victorian secret society of monster hunters. The line will premiere with three figures and the rest will follow. The idea is to bring a different creator in to design each figure, like Wayne Barlowe doing a demon creature or Bernie Wrightson designing a walking corpse. You get the idea. They are going to be available as a collectors market item, limited to 3000 units. Very, very cool.
KG - Are there any comic book characters or series that you'd love to "Bradstreet-ize" with either a cover or a one-shot graphic novel? I mean, have you ever wondered what your art style could do for Daredevil or Spider-man?
TB - That door is opening further all the time. If not for a recent move, 2000 miles to San Diego, I'd be moving ahead and doing more sequential work. Now that I'm here I'm trying to enlist a new pool of models. Where I'm from, I had built a large wealth of talent to draw on. I had resources and many options. Here I'm stuck, I have to make all new connections. Nobody knows me here so it's tough. But I'm getting away from the question. There are many characters I would like to try to be sure. Nick Fury, Deathlok, Morbius, Batman, more Unknown Soldier, Blade, Wolverine. My editor Axel Alonso has been tossing ideas around with me and Brian Azzarello. One that I'm particularly fond of is doing a Captain America book. Here's the catch. He wouldn't be the costumed version we've all known for so long. He'd be an older version based on the "Super Soldier" concept. He'd be more of a secret agent character. I'd love to throw a trenchcoat on him. The concept would be more like, "Steve Rogers: Super Soldier". There are a lot of characters I'd like to do. I'm finally breaking the idea that I only can do dark subject matter. Hell, it's still going to be dark, but you could apply my style to almost any character. I can't see me doing Power Puff Girls, but I could see me doing Spider-man for sure.
KG - Recently there's been some speculation that sexual content will become the next envelope that the Comic Book companies start to push, now that ultra-violence has been grandly exploited in titles like Punisher, The Authority, 100 Bullets, etc. Do you agree with this and what's your position on the subject? Does Sex have a place in mainstream comic books?
TB - I think yes, it has a place. Hmm, mainstream comics? I'm not sure about that. I think that it should be established if the character is dealing with personal subjects in his or her life. If the character is dealing with a relationship, it definitely warrants touching on the subject. In mainstream books the approach should be taken carefully and tastefully. In a book like Hellblazer, you should be able to stretch the boundaries. It's a mature readers book so you can get away with more. I find it kind of odd though, one of the stipulations of writing for a mature readers book, at least at Vertigo is that you can use the word F*ck but it cannot refer to sex or a sexual act.You can say F*uck all day as long as you don't MEAN it. Heh, I think that's funny. Let me put it this way. If I were doing a story in a mature readers book, and in the story two characters (or three, Or...) take a break from the action and decide to have some consensual sex, I should be able to draw that. Maybe it's a scene that requires me to push the envelope a bit. I'd like to have the option. It's all about the forum your using. If I want to do hard-core, then I have to find the right forum for it. It would not be right to have a hard-core scene in Superman. Everything has its place.
KG - If you could clone yourself and your clone could just draw and paint like mad all day long, what would you do with all your free time?
TB - I'd work on writing Red Sky Diary and a few other concepts that I would love to spend a ton of time on but can't afford to. I would spend some time and effort and go to film school. I'd learn more about the craft of filmmaking and writing. If my clone had no need for the money he was making I'd take six months and be in Australia. Then I'd get back to work and have my clone run all of my errands. Get me some art supplies, pick up my film, go to the store, I need some reference books, here are the titles go get'em. I could answer this question all day.