|JLA illustrated by Andrew Runion|
Andrew Runion is a member of our Facebook group and has recently gotten our attention after posting a few of his own DC fan art submissions to our page. We decided to catch up with Andrew and chat with him about his favorite DC memories.
DC80s: How long have you been illustrating for?
Andrew Runion: I work for an ad agency, so, while I draw a lot for my profession, it clearly isn't comic book art. Comic book art is always something I do in my wind-down time. I've never been practiced at the sequential part of making comics, so my comic book art is pretty much limited to just the characters.
DC80s: Which DC books were you reading in the 1980s?
Andrew: I didn't grow up on comic books. My interest is something that developed over time, led by the Donner Superman movie and the Tim Burton Batman movie. It wasn't until the 90s that my interest kicked into high gear. I didn't have a lot of cash in high school, so I used to go to the convenience store near my school and flip through issues of Green Lantern. It was about the time they were doing Emerald Dawn II. I'd go home and try to imitate M. D. Bright's art. Then, when Death of Superman came out, I got roped in by Dan Jurgens' stuff. I bought the whole series for Death of Superman, and Return of Superman. Those books also gave me a more accurate and faithful look at Batman and Superman. They had some goofy elements, but not nearly the whimsy portrayed in the 80s films. When I flipped through back issues of Action Comics and Detective Comics from the 80s at the library, I found that Superman and Batman had been treated fairly consistently throughout the 80s. They were more appealing than their stylized movie counterparts. By the time I saw David Mazzuccelli's work in Batman Year One, I was in artist heaven. This is a 'DC in the 80s' zine, so it's a good thing so many of the artists whose work impacted me were working during the 80s: John Byrne, Dan Jurgens, and David Mazzuccelli. After that, there were Graham Nolan, Scott McDaniel and Tony Harris.
DC80s: So what drew you to 90's DC characters rather than, say, Marvel or Image?
Andrew: Honestly? Superfriends, initially. Then it was Death of Superman/Return of Superman. After that, I caught a glimpse of Batman Year One, read it, and it remains my favorite book to this day. The contrast between who DC characters were when they were different from Marvel or Image/Wildstorm, is that, while Marvel and Image/Wildstorm explored character through the lens of the modern world, DC explored the modern world through the lens of character. One presumes the characters should change to be more like the modern world, while the other suggests the modern world should be more like their characters. And from an aesthetic perspective DC was more heroic and iconic, less overwrought with detail and gear. The aesthetic matched the characters.
DC80s: I see you've illustrated quite a few characters from that Death and Return of Superman era. What was it that pulled you in to the Death of Superman stuff? Was it the hype? Or did you just have an affinity for Superman?
Andrew: It was both, really. I had been exposed to the Superman movies, and the usual stickers, birthday cards, tee-shirts and halloween costumes of childhood. Superman was an icon, the leader of the Justice League. More powerful than a locomotive and all that. He was an ideal. Naturally the hype surrounding the death of Superman was a draw, but it was the art of Dan Jurgens and Tom Grummett that hooked me for real. The frames were dynamic and easy to follow. They told the story, much more so than the words.
DC80s: I've noticed that as of late you've been giving more attention to the Teen Titans. Do you want to tell us a bit about that? Are you a big Titans fan?
Andrew: I'm a Nightwing fan, definitely. I have been since the Dixon/McDaniel run. The decision to draw the Titans is primarily due to some close friends who adore the characters and have convinced me to as well. There's something inherently cool about a group comprised of sidekicks instead of the primary heroes. I see more of a family dynamic with Titans than I see in, say, the Justice League.
DC80s: So, I'm guessing that you missed out on the whole early 1980s Wolfman/Perez New Teen Titans material?
Andrew: Yes and no. I have a friend who has sent me pages and pages of Perez Titans to give me a better sense of the characters. Perez makes up in posing, framing and composition, what he lacks in costume design. I have a feeling there will be many Perez back issues in my future.
DC80s: Justice Society of America is another theme I'm noticing...
Andrew: Yeah, the JSA... That was the most fun I've had in a long time. The JSA being an Earth 2 thing to account for decades of continuity changes never sat well with me. I think of the JSA as the grandparents of the modern superhero team. They were the first, and they were the product of a different era and mindset. While I don't shy away from the bright palette, there's a different aesthetic born out of the WWII generation that I was able to explore. There wasn't the pressure to shy away from tights, gloves, hoods and capes, or even the oft maligned undies on the outside.
DC80s: Your art is very sleek and clean - probably because it's digital, but also because I suspect you create animation for computers or children cartoons? Or more specifically, your rough pencils are massively cleaned up by your editing software when you add color. I'm looking at your Mist sketch as reference...
Andrew: So yeah, you're totally wrong here. I'm a professional artist, a graphic designer, but not a trained comic book artist, cartoonist or animator. Basically I do these drawings the only way I know how to. I draw them by pencil first, then I do the inks in Adobe Illustrator, trying to mimic the smooth, tapered lines I see from inkers who have a steady hand. Color is done in Photoshop.
DC80s: I've also noticed your super-contemporary versions of Batman Villains. Tell us about those...
Andrew: The Batman villains I've done are from a lot of influences, not the least of which is The Animated Series. The exceptions are Catwoman and Riddler. The former because I love love love the goggles, and the latter because I absolutely despise the Riddler's costume, so I re-imagined him more like Simon from Die Hard With a Vengeance... because of the riddles. The Animated Series (Batman AND Superman) were benchmarks for art, storytelling and creativity. [Paul] Dini and [Bruce] Timm are geniuses.
DC80s: So what are your future plans with your DC work? Commissions? Looking to illustrate for books? Just want to 'share the love'?
Andrew: I have several villain pencils begging to be inked, and then it's on to my greatest challenge yet, the Legion of Superheroes. I'm not really interested in doing commissions or doing this for a living, I just love sharing this stuff with people who enjoy comic book art as much as I do. You can find more of Andrew's art at http://arunion.deviantart.com/.