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AMBER LOVE 23-AUG-2014 One of my favorite current ongoing comics is LAZARUS written by GREG RUCKA, art by MICHAEL LARK, colors by SANTI ARCAS and extras by ERIC TRAUTMANN. The book is edited by DAVID BROTHERS and is published under the main Image Comics brand.
Michael Lark and I connected on Twitter not too long ago. It happened because I had seen a tweet where someone, I think Rucka, had faced criticism over the character design of leading female Forever Carlyle. I had tweeted into the conversation because I had read the book and saw Forever “Eve” built like a warrior, and while she could be shown in a sports bra, there is absolutely no cheesecake. Lark chimed in and we’ve been connected ever since.
LAZARUS is Lark’s labor of love today. In the past he’s worked on GOTHAM CENTRAL and Ed Brubaker’s SCENE OF THE CRIME. He sealed his noir cred with the graphic novel adaptation of Chandler’s “LITTLE SISTER.” And certainly, as far as noir comics are concerned, you first think of the titles written by Brubaker and with superheroes, you likely think of Batman and Daredevil – all things Lark has had his brushes on. His career span of 22 years as a full time artist wasn’t birthed from comics. He came from an advertising background which was something to which had no emotional resonance so he dropped out after three years of studies.
There’s a reason that so much of our discussion is about the character Forever. As I mentioned, her physical attributes are one thing. Lark explains the profound connection he has with this character on an emotional level. It was in Issue 5 that the flashback begins from when Forever was 10 years old. She was being trained to be this superior killing machine loyal only to her father. Lark doesn’t credit himself with how well he presents a cast of women who don’t look all the same. He said it’s something he’s not good at but inside the pages of LAZARUS, it shows otherwise. You can’t mix up the characters Forever, Marisol, Cady and Bobbie.
“I get attached to the characters… For me, it becomes a technical exercise more so than it would be for you, as a reader, because your attachment to the character is almost completely – for lack of a better word, voyeuristic; for me, I’ve got the technical job of jerking your chain.”
SEXUAL AND ETHNIC DIVERSITY OBLIGATIONS
Lark shared his memory of being on an LGBT panel where he spoke about his work on the Renee Montoya story where she was outted from the lesbian closet. He was asked how could he, a straight man, could relate and channel the emotions to draw her. He said it boils down to having shameful secrets which all of us have, even if they are not about our sexuality. Incorporating diversity is something of a challenge for Lark who is from Dallas, Texas which he describes as still segregated.
Lark’s experiences with Rucka and Brubaker are his proudest moments in his comics career. You can hear it in his inflection as he talks about them. Happiness to him would be if he got to make 100 issues of LAZARUS. The creator owned work is more rewarding to him than the word he did with DC and Marvel. He said some of the experiences with the big two were things for which he’s grateful but other things he hopes to never repeat. He said his working relationship with Rucka is symbiotic and he loves to work on the kind of stories Rucka writes.
“It’s easy. We almost never have any disagreements about any kind of direction for anything and when we do, all we do is talk about it and we work it right out; there’s never a fight. Greg’s one of those people in that he’s just a really, really good person. I would trust him with my life.”
Lark goes on to give every member of the team credit. He has his own assistants. In particular, he says Trautmann is responsible for all the world building, corporate details of the family businesses in the story, and production details like designing a sign that needs to be in one scene.
“The signs that he [Trautmann] made that no one will ever see for the Hawke family, they’re just hilarious.”
There’s also someone who gets to work in Sketch Up to figure out how things a reader might take for granted, like a motorcycle, would be designed. Rucka and Lark work out the details and someone else gets to build the model of it. Lark constantly expresses his appreciation for every assistant and said how pleased he is to have the letterer he wants now, Jodi Wynne. The research is something Lark could easily get lost in and lose track of time. He shared the process of how long it took them to design a New York sidewalk that appeared in five panels, yet it was something that took collaboration between a few of them.