Promoting May's Image Comics release of a new, expanded edition of "Tim Sale: Black and White," the artist himself along with famed letterer and comics creator Richard Starkings sat down with fans Sunday afternoon for an hour-long panel at WonderCon in San Francisco, CA.
Sale spent much of the time discussing his work for the hit NBC series, "Heroes," and his working relationships with fellow creators Jeph Loeb, Darwyn Cooke, Brian Azzarello and Dave Stewart. "It feels much more like work-for-hire than comics do," Sale said of his work on "Heroes." He said NBC had made sure to legally establish ownership of all his original work for the series, which is why he hasn't sold any to fans.
Describing his creative process with long-time collaborator and "Heroes" producer Jeph Loeb – with whom he's worked on "Superman: For All Seasons," "Batman: The Long Halloween" and "Daredevil: Yellow," among others-- Sale emphasized how often they speak when working on a project together, talking almost every day and giving feedback. "I prefer to work that way," Sale said. "But at NBC, I only really talk to the prop master. It's isolating, but not frustrating; it shows we have confidence in each other to do good work."
A fan in the audience asked if Sale's work on the show had hurt his interest in comics. "I've had a more challenging time working the last few years," Sale said. "I'm working through some stuff in my relationship with comics."
Asked if he would collaborate with Loeb again, Sale recalled the proposed "Captain America: White" series that would have capped off the "Color" series they've created at Marvel Comics ("Daredevil: Yellow," "Spider-Man: Blue," "Hulk: Grey") saying that since the character is now dead, he doubts they'll be able to do it.
Sale described a project he'd like to work on when Loeb, who is under exclusive contract to Marvel, is free to do work for DC Comics again. "I'd like to see a big, 200-page coffee table book about Superman and Batman," Sale said. "I don't mean a team-up; I'd like to do a bunch of 11-page chapters based on iconic words or themes, like 'sleep.' We could see Superman coming home to the Kent farm after a long day, resting in his bed. Then we'd move to Batman, up all night, because he never sleeps. He'd run around thinking, 'I'm so cool.'"
Sale also said, with a sly grin, that he'd like to create a series all about Ma Kent, with Superman or Clark Kent dropping by now and then.
The artist discussed his working relationship with Darwyn Cooke, saying he'd first contacted the writer-artist after reading Cooke's "DC: The New Frontier." "I picked it up, and as I was reading it I got excited and I got pissed. He was doing so much of what I wanted to do," Sale said. After reading it, he wrote his first and only fan letter to Cooke and colorist Dave Stewart, which lead to collaborations with both of them. "Working with Dave Stewart is amazingly easy," Sale said, praising the colorist's ability to blend colors and invoke subtle moods. "I'm color blind, but I'm still always impressed."
Sale cited his issue of DC's artist-spotlight series "Solo" as one of the best experiences in his comics career, praising the piece Cooke wrote for him and describing Brian Azzarello as "a fertile mind" who came up with two possible stories in one day.
Near the end of the panel, Sale said he'd like to develop a creator-owned project. He spoke with great enthusiasm of the European album-style format, saying he'd like to do something in that style with a private eye story. "I just have to figure out how the writing will work," Sale said. "But I'd love to do it."
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