Writer Vs. Artist: Jeff Parker Vs. Gabriel Hardman

by Jeff Parker

If you read my last Writer Vs. Artist column with Tom Fowler, you'll know that the point of this is to have a dialogue between collaborators, ie; me and whoever I work with. I think that many readers are as I am, interested in process talk rather than simply what characters and books will be doing in the future. It also reminds you that we really do work together, constantly emailing and phoning to make sure we're telling the same story. This week my partner in crime/mystery/horror/sci-fi/adventure is Gabriel Hardman, who can currently be seen bringing the "Agents of Atlas" to life. At the moment, Gabe and I are working on a storyline with the team that takes place in 1958.

JP: Gabe you and I worked together on "Monster Size Hulk" before this "Atlas" storyline, so that was a nice warm up. You went from doing old-school Frankenstein, to a "Skaar" story, and then jumped right into the 50's with "Atlas." Have enough of your Retro buttons been pushed yet?

GH: I have more retro buttons than...I don't know, a retro button console. I'd love it if everything was a period piece! Are we going to get more 1958 in upcoming "Agents of Atlas?"

JP: Yes, and possibly some other time periods as well. Scratch that- probably. Definitely.

You obviously hate Alex Toth's work. No really, I wish he were around to see what you're doing on "Agents" with classic cars, MiG fighters, beatniks- it just all really comes together in an evocative way. What are films and comics that influence you on this material?

GH: I worship Toth. And I wouldn't have shown him my stuff if I could. He would have torn me apart. And he'd have had every right to. He was the best!

I re-watched "Sweet Smell of Success" with Tony Curtis and Burt Lancaster right before I started on "Atlas." It has a cool fifties jazzy feel to it that kept creeping into my head as drew those pages. It was also directed by Alexander Mackendrick who started out as a storyboard artist - good career path. I've also been looking at a lot of Frank Frazetta's romance comics from the fifties. I like his pen and ink stuff far more than his fantasy paintings.

JP: I agree on Frazetta- I love his EC stuff and Johnny Comet- or Ace McCoy, whichever name you use. But I never cared for the van art - Molly Hatchet cover type stuff. The comics stuff though is bursting with energy. I mean look at this - the Flash or Quicksilver can't move like this fat guy!

By the way, I don't know how you get these pages in while you're also storyboarding film. What are we supposed to do when you eventually start directing full time? Argh.

GH: I can foresee small director's fees and long development periods. I'm sure I'll still be able to get some comics drawn.

What are you looking at fifties-wise?

JP: A lot of the Atlas comics stories of the 50's, to keep that primal inspiration. So one minute we're in a sci-fi story, the next minute it turns to horror or mystery. Anything Hitchcock with stylish clothes (though we haven't gone full on Edith Head yet)- North By Northwest, Rear Window, To Catch a Thief. And plenty of non-fiction that deals with the early days of the space program like The Right Stuff. Since we've got test pilots and commies everywhere, not to mention alluring women and robots.

Speaking of machines, I really like the way you draw Venus and M-11, the Human Robot. He especially looks heavy and stiff, and boy can he annihilate some bad guys.

GH: Killer Robot: Money in the bank.

JP: Going back to the movies, it may just be you drawing the robot that makes me think of "Day The Earth Stood Still" (the real one from 1951), but some of your blocking and lighting choices make me think of Director Robert Wise - particularly how you'll use shadow in an imposing way. This reminds me of that still I included a while back when we were planning the Dragon's Corridor story, which I grabbed online because it seemed to evoke our lead Jimmy Woo and his love interest Suwan so well...

But I can't remember what movie it's from! Can any film buffs out there comment and let me know so I can find it?

GH: I love that image too! I believe it's from Wong Kar-Wai's "In The Mood For Love."

Robert Wise got his start as a director with producer Val Lewton at RKO. Lewton's low budget horror movies like "Cat People" and "I Walked With A Zombie" practically defined the stark lighting/big shadows style that people mostly associate with Film Noir. That look has been a big influence on me in movies and comics. Apologies if I've just gone too deep into movie nerd land.

JP: Hey, I'm just glad I mentioned Wise now! Are there any locals you'd like to draw that we haven't gotten into yet?

GH: That's easy. 3-D Man. Frankly, I'm disappointed that he has yet to be re-integrated into the the team. What a missed opportunity!

Otherwise, I'd like to draw Namor. The Thing is a character I've always enjoyed and enjoyed drawing. I'd love to work on some more Marvel horror characters. I've also always wanted to draw Doctor Strange. Maybe even a more gritty, down to earth take on him. What do you think?

JP: You sir, are a great wit. And I'm a sloppy typist because I meant LOCALES. But if you would like to draw Namor, then we're in business, because we've got him coming up in issue 6. Which also nails down the locales question I flubbed- we will clearly be exploring the fantastic world under the seas then. Man, don't taunt me with Strange! I'm going to get hold of him one day, mark my words!

GH: Locals, Locales...I just want to know what happened to 3-D Man! He's got the strength of THREE men. How can yo go wrong with that?

JP: Yeah, he can play Xbox THREE times as long as an average guy. On to actual team members- you get a lot of personality with the Gorilla-Man, Ken Hale. So much so that I notice your image of him has turned up in his TWITTER persona...

What do you think about to get in that ape frame of mind?

GH: Mostly old character actors. I love drawing Ken. He's got such a clear personality. It's easy to visualize his performance and that makes him easy to draw.

JP: Here's an example of my minimal art input- a rushed out rough of one of the Communist agents from AOA, and then the fully realized version by Hardman. Look at Jimmy Woo kicking major buttock.

I've seen readers online clamoring for you to make the jump into some of the modern-day "Atlas," and that's what we're doing. Are you going to do anything different for that in the art, or do you think the change of settings and clothes will be the main thing.

GH: I'm going with a little more contemporary style. Every story demands something a little different. We'll see how it comes out!

JP: You haven't let us down yet! Thanks for risking your deadline and sharing some thoughts with us. I'd like to end by showing readers some of your roughs vs. the finished inks, so they can get a bit more of a peek into your process. As you'll see, Gabriel stays pretty close to what he runs by Mark Paniccia, Lauren Sankovitch and me initially. Mainly because we never seem to want changes!

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