A Q&A with WONDER WOMAN artist Tony Akins
Tony Akins is best known for his work on FABLES and JACK OF FABLES written by Bill Willingham. Now, he gives Cliff Chiang a breather as he takes over art duties for a two-part WONDER WOMAN story which begins on January 18th. I spoke to Tony about his art and getting the call to work on one of the most iconic superhero characters below.
Tony, you’re drawing Wonder Woman issues #5 and #6. This is your first time drawing a DC Comics superhero comic book. What’s it been like to be given the opportunity to draw such an iconic character?
TA: It’s really amazing. It’s also a little daunting. Amazons, in general, are heavy…and Diana is VERY HEAVY! It’s akin to what an executive officer on a navy ship-of-the-line would feel when given the bridge while the ship is still in port and has to take out to sea. In your mind you know that what you are charged with is awesome, and will be awesome and you’re in the chair because people believe in you. Still there’s that little voice in the back of your head yelling, “Don’t SUCK!”… which is one of my personal maxims, btw. If anyone can translate that to Latin, I’d appreciate it.
Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang have such a strong vision for the comic book. Was it a welcomed challenge to jump in?
TA: Is there another sort of challenge? I was in Seattle over the summer, was there to visit and to pursue a project with a publisher in the area but had extended my stay a week to avoid the miserable weather in the Midwest.
I was walking along Pike St. with my girlfriend when my phone rings…it’s Jill Thompson calling and she wants me to call Brian, which I do. He lays the possibility of my contributing to Wonder Woman in my path and tells me what he has planned to do with the title. I’m interested but I say that I have to really consider the other job I’m after as I’m intending to take the Cascadia Run down to Portland, OR to try and seal the deal with this other series, you know? So as excited as I am about the possibility of working with Brian again, ducks need to be in a row…
So I am literally standing at a crosswalk while having this conversation, waiting for a light to change so I can cross the street when I hang up with Brian. I get the green light to cross… by the time I’ve reached to opposite side of the street the phone is back in my hand and I’m dialing him back because I’ve made up my mind that I’m on board with the Wonder Woman relaunch.
Who could say no?
Cliff and Brian’s vision for the title is very striking, very deliberate, unique and independent. I believe I can compliment what Cliff is delivering to the title. The challenge for me is the genre; Superheroes. So… the challenge, for any artist worth their salt, means engaging the opportunity to grow and expand skill sets. Who would turn such a thing down?
How has your FABLES work influenced your art on Wonder Woman?
TA: It hasn’t. These are two totally different arenas of the comic craft. I don’t think I’d approach Wonder Woman the same way I’d approach Fables or Jack of Fables or Hellblazer. There are different dynamics that need to project from superhero page; the highly emphasized poses, aggressive posturing, you know…the standardized visuals that I will acknowledge but try to break and reset in my own strange way. I never said I was a conformist. Brian told me, directly, “This is a horror story…there’re monsters in this series…this is all You.” That’s all I needed to hear.
Are you a long time reader of superhero comics?
TA: I was never a reader of superhero comics. I’ve read a few here and there over the years, a select few; Watchmen was the first superhero series I had ever followed monthly, and then more recently I followed, again monthly, DC’s New Frontier over it’s run. The New Frontier was iconic and completely electrifying… I remember reading the end of The Losers in the first issue, the very last page with those last two panels where John Clouds’ grenade illuminates the silhouetted grave markers… wow…just, Wow. As I remember it now, I could feel the wave of heat and the shock of the blast. I know the cat remembered it too because I whooped and stood with the issue rolled in one hand smacking it into the other hand laughing and yelling, “This…THIS is a (freaking) comic book!” If I’m fortunate and clever enough, maybe I can bring that to the page and give the reader a similar effect. This is my hope.
Comic books for me, as a young person “under the influence”, were CREEPY and EERIE, MAD and then Heavy Metal. As an adult, comic books became my profession, so I have to spend more time making them than reading them. I hope that would not cheat me of the state of the craft. If there is a series I hear about and that I need to read, I have friends that will lend me the titles. I trust their suggestions.
Are you a fan of Greek mythology? What are your favorite stories?
TA: Orpheus and Eurydice has always been a favorite of mine. The Artemis Mythology is terrific and I am fond of the childhood of Zeus in the cave on Crete and the by-products of that story like Aegis and Cornucopia. The loss of Argos, the watchman and how he was mourned and then celebrated. Then there’s the mountains of paintings and sculpture of the Romantic Period inspired by all of this that I like to pore over…
Which of the Gods has been your favorite to draw? Why?
TA: Of course I’m going to be fondest with the Gods I create… but if there has to be a favorite among those that we’ve seen so far, it has to be “The Wax Child”, or Hades. From “go” he was a little creep. Brian’s initial direction on him was that he had to be a kid, like “Village of the Damned”…pale, mean, powerful. Horace Vernet painted a work called “The Dead Go Fast” and it’s always been a favorite of mine. His other works are dramatic enough, but with this painting… he must have gotten into some bad Absynthe because it’s brilliant. That’s where my Hades comes from. That’s the sepulchral king-child with his deadlights that I want standing in your thoughts at night…and, you’re very welcome!
Wonder Woman finds herself back in London where you introduce a new character named Lennox. Tell us about your creative process. Do you have a sketch or two you can share with us?
TA: Sure. As you know this is a collaborative process between Brian and Cliff and I. For Lennox, Brian described the manner of Lennox, his powers and how he fit into the Wonder Woman scheme in London. Brian has an idea of the look for him, a Jason Statham type, but more of a bulldog, pug-nose tough. We wanted a “superhero” but sans cape, but a look that was still iconic. Lennox got his black top coat to serve as cape, and it’s stylish. In leui of tights, he gets Bruce Lee ‘Game of Death’ trackpants; urban and definitely kick-ass. Beyond this, it’s basically me drawing versions of Lennox and Brian saying “no” until he says “yes” and then I can stop. Lennox was the toughest chase of them all, but he was bang-on when he arrived.