WW Chicago: Tan, Banning, & Bendis on "New Avengers"

The post-"Secret Invasion" line-up of "The New Avengers" is still unclear but readers have already been given a hint as to how the book will look once the event story wraps. "New Avengers" #41 featured the pencils of artist Billy Tan, who will continue with those duties on a regular basis once "Secret Invasion" comes to a conclusion. He'll be joined by Matt Banning ["Superman/Batman," "The Darkness"] who takes over the book's inking duties in the fall. CBR News spoke with both creators as well as "New Avengers" writer Brian Michael Bendis about the book.

It was Tan's work on "New Avengers" #41 that won him his assignment as the book's regular artist. "Billy did the same thing Leinil Yu did during 'Civil War,'" Brian Bendis told CBR News. "He got a shot at a fill in issue and he blew it out of the water. He did an amazing job. When he handed in the Captain America spread at the end of the issue I believe I said, 'What's he doing?' because I knew Leinil had a couple of projects waiting for him after 'Secret Invasion' and probably wasn't coming back to 'New Avengers' even though there was no problem with him there at all."

Bendis had been a fan of Tan's work with writer Ed Brubaker on "Uncanny X-Men" and knew the artist could both produce quality work and meet deadlines. "So I called Billy up and said, 'Hey you want to take over the book when all of this is over? And it was very sweet, he acted like he had just won a game show," Bendis related. "He was so legitimately genuine and I just knew we were going to get along great. I told him what the plans we're post 'Secret Invasion' and he got all excited."

After accepting the "New Avengers" offer, Tan took his dog for a long walk because he was super hyped up to be given the chance to collaborate with Bendis on a regular basis. "I absolutely love the way he tells a story," the artist said. "The characters in Avengers are very distinct and seem to have a deeper background. There are a lot of characters that are strong enough to hold their own title all in this one single book. It's very hard to top that."

Tan knows he's got some huge shoes to fill following in the footsteps of previous "New Avengers" artists like David Finch and Leinil Yu. "I am extremely honored to be doing the book after them," he said. "They are both amazing artists that could produce incredible works consistently and in a timely manner."

With "New Avengers," Tan hopes to continue to evolve and change the signature style he developed while working at Top Cow Productions. "I've slowly tweaked it since I came to Marvel. I never really picked up too many comics outside of Top Cow back then," Tan explained. "Hopping on board with Marvel has really opened up my mind to various styles, and boy was I missing out. I have been going towards a slight realistic feel yet keeping the comic book looks."

Matt Banning's entrance to "New Avengers" came about because of his desire to work with Tan again, who he had collaborated with during their days at Top Cow Productions. "When I was negotiating my exclusive deal with Marvel, I presented them with a list of pencillers that I felt I could do a good job with, and Billy was very high on the list. Once we had put together the deal, Marvel told me that they also had Billy in mind," Banning explained. "Billy had started taking over 'New Avengers' and he had requested me. So when my commitments to DC were done, I had my first issue of 'New Avengers' to work on."

Bendis feels Banning's work perfectly compliments Tan's. "Matt is an excellent mix with Billy. They're going to be great together," Bendis said. "And with Justin Ponsor our colorist, who's my hero."

In the aftermath of "Civil War," the "New Avengers" refusal to sign the U.S. government's Superhero Registration Act forced the team underground. That same underground feeling will continue to permeate the book once "Secret Invasion" wraps up. "People may think that after the Skrulls it will be like, 'Ah! Okay! Let's have a sandwich.' But no, it's going to get dark," Bendis remarked. "I asked Billy, 'Do you want to draw this? Because this is where it's going' and he said 'Yeah!'"

"You think it's underground now? Wait until you see them in the next arc," Tan added. "It's kind of difficult to capture that feel. Justin Ponsor's colors help out a lot. He really made up for whatever I was missing and tuned up my work."

Banning enjoys the shadowy, underground aspects of "New Avengers." "I think it's something that works for me artistically because I tend to like working with pencillers who use a lot of shadow and a lot of texture," he said. "So if a story lends itself to that, so much the better, because you hate it when you've got an artist and the story is mismatched; someone is drawing daytime scenes and everyone is all in shadow."

Tan and Banning have already been discussing the best way to emphasize all the nuances, textures and shadows in "New Avengers." "Billy indicated to me that he wanted to experiment a little more with a brushier approach," Banning said. "I think my work is known for being fairly tight and definitely on the cleaner side and Billy wanted to go a little more organic on the rendering. He wants it to just take advantage of forms, not to overshadow them or be out of control and all over the place. So you're not going to see much of the crazy rendering like I used to do on Marc Silvestri's work over at Top Cow. It's going to be a little more restrained.

"There will be a little more brush work but I'll still be using a lot of quill and rapidograph," Banning continued, "These days I like to try and mix them up and see what works best. Editorial and Billy seem happy with the direction I'm going in at the moment, and I use that as a baseline."

Banning is very happy to be working with Tan again, and is thrilled at the work his collaborator has been producing for "New Avengers." "He's one of my favorite people both professionally and personally," the inker said. "On a personal side he's really easy to get a long with and I think he'll definitely continue with what Leinil Yu set on the book, keeping the quality of the art up and the book in stores for people to read. Billy has got great dynamics and storytelling skills. So far from what I've worked on, he's doing a really good job on the acting between the characters."

Tan offered equal praise for Banning's work. "Matt is one of the best inkers in the industry," the artist said. "He is the kind of inker that you can pass on the pencils to and your mind would be at ease because you know they are in safe hands."

The artist has also been consistently wowed by Brian Bendis's intricate scripts for "New Avengers." "He is the master of story telling," Tan remarked. "He is like a spider weaving this giant web one thread at a time. I love reading his plots. Sometimes I felt there are things that are left hanging, but before I knew it, he connected all the dots and loose ends. Voila! He has created a master piece spider web. I'm constantly amazed by how far and how much detail that Brian plans ahead in the whole story plot. Being the penciler, I am one of the first to read the plot. He truly got me excited every time I finished reading and can't wait for the next plot to come."

Banning finds Bendis's scripts to be helpful in capturing character's facial expressions. "Sometimes pencillers aren't quite as tight as they need to be when it comes to facial expressions, especially with someone like Brian," the inker explained. He relies heavily on facial expressions and characters talking to one another. So if the facial expressions are off it will look strange."

With its large cast of main and supporting characters "New Avengers" can be a difficult and time consuming book to illustrate, but Tan and Banning are finding the work to be enjoyable and rewarding. "Most rewarding would be working with an amazing creative team," Tan said. "And, of course, seeing my name on the 'New Avengers' book feels pretty good too."

Banning added, "Part of it for me is working with Tom Brevoort ,who is a great editor. I find the most enjoyable work situations are when I'm surrounded by people at the top of their game. I was kind of the final piece in this puzzle, and I'm surrounded by all these people who are doing great work like Brian, Billy and Justin Ponsor. It inspires me to do my best, because right now they're firing on all cylinders and I don't want to be the weak link."

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