Interview: Artist J.K. Woodward (@jk_woodward @IDWPublishing @Archaia) #fallenangel #saga
JAN, 26 2011 – J.K. WOODWARD (FALLEN ANGEL, SAGA, STAR TREK) is by far one of the most talented people I’ve met in the comics industry since I entered the nerdy realms in 2006. When you read his insightful answers to my questions and see his work in the images attached, you’ll understand why I’ve been inseparable from him since our first encounter at the Comic Geek Speak Supershow of 2010. My (very hungover) interview with J.K. from that show is on youtube. He’s also been immortalized as a monkey in my short comic story, SLIM & POSH and thank goodness he’s proud of that.
I had heard PETER DAVID speak about FALLEN ANGEL at a discussion panel years ago. He was fascinating as a speaker and his insights for future writers was poignant. I did have a rather embarrassing moment though at that particular juncture: Mr. David was explaining how important he felt it was to create FALLEN ANGEL’s (Liandra) character design and costume by making her a woman that smokes too much, swears and is in a modest outfit not revealing too much skin unlike the prevalent characters who are supposed to be perfect role models but are sexpots in scantily clad attire. He said that while I was dressed at Power Girl in the front row. Liandra’s design is beautiful and J.K. gives full credit to her creator and his artistic predecessors.
FALLEN ANGEL (IDW Publishing):
FA is a book about deeply Judeo-Christian mythology and yet you sound like an atheist most of the time. How do you channel your Muse if it’s not a spiritual process?
I’m not sure atheist is precisely right. It’s very possible there is a God, but since most religion seems to insist that the Bible is to be believed down to the letter, then I have to throw the baby out with the bathwater and say it’s all impossible. Could there be a God creator that started the big bang over 14 billion years ago? Sure. There’s evidence of the big bang, a working theory involving matter vs antimatter, hydrogen gas building stars,supernovas creating all the other elements and the formation of planets all set in motion by the force of gravity, but no theory as to what kicked it all off to begin with. I would consider God to be a reasonable hypothesis, but religion keeps telling me the universe has only been around thousands of years (which has actually been proven not to be the case) and that human race was started from the shallowest of gene pools (two people). So given the choice, I have to take science because it actually asks questions in the search for truth and religion seems to view questions as heresy. But as to whether or not there is an actual sentient creator force that started it all? I can’t simply discount it when there is no evidence one way or the other.
As far as how it effects my work in FA, well, I don’t believe in Asgard, but still very much enjoy Norse mythology. The world as the bible paints it is a fascinating place, particularly the lesser known Old Testament books. (Book of Enoch for example). So it is very easy to get inspired. Most of the themes and lessons in the Bible couldn’t be more relevant and universal, so it is very easy to relate. I mean you don’t have to believe that Jesus was the son of the universe’s creator, to understand the benefit of mankind adopting the philosophy of “turn the other cheeck.” And even the parts of the Bible that aren’t so relevant today (ie: rules of conduct concerning the treatment of your slaves, dietary restrictions due to geographic conditions and lack of technology) are historically fascinating.
Bete Noire is a beautiful city yet with plenty of seedy overtones like New Orleans. Is there a single city or combination of real cities that you look to for reference?
98% New Orleans to be honest. I’ll occasionally bring in elements from other cities I’ve lived in if I think the scene needs it for some reason.
I haven’t seen my temple in Bete Noire establishing shots yet. What’s up with that?
Liandra gets very jealous.
How much input did you have into Liandra’s character design?
None. She was created by Peter David and David Lopez for the DC comics run. After the series moved from DC to IDW, I took over. This was two years after the creation of Liandra. There were characters created after that and I had varying amounts of involvement. Sometimes Peter is very specific and sometimes he’ll just give a height, build, hair colour description.
SAGA (Archaia Comics):
Part I of the SAGA interviews with Brian Gottesman & Ara Katz was published earlier this week.
How were you brought on to this project?
I had been in contact with Archaia for some time. I wanted to work with them and they want to work with me and we were just waiting for what we felt was the right project. That project ended up coming from editor, Paul Morrissey. He contacted me sometime in June, 2010 with what he referred to as a Viking story. He then handed me over to creator Brian Gottesman and writer Marc Andreyko. They then emailed me a script for a ten-page intro.
Before I was 100% committed to the project and before the creators were 100% committed to me as the artist, I suspect, we had a conference call where they explained the project and I talked a little about how I would come at it visually. Then I started some sketches of certain characters and scenes. We talked more, tweaked a few ideas and before I knew it, I was starting the pages. I kept in contact with Brian a lot and he was very helpful with references and answers to my 10th century Nordic questions.
Is Norse myth new territory for you?
Not really. I’ve been a fan of it since I was a child. My intoduction of course, was Marvel’s Thor, but it didn’t stop there. I read evrything I could get my hands on as an early teen. Not sure what the fascination was. Perhaps having a Nordic ancenstery gave me some kind of perceived cultural connection. Maybe it was because everyone else seemed to be preoccupied with the Greco/Roman pantheon (or “pantheon of pussies” as I called them), that being a fan of Nordic mythology gave me something of my own. Whatever the case, I loved it! But until now, I’ve never really played in this particular sandbox as a professional illustrator.
After this sort of exposure to such a pantheon, to what Norse god or goddess do you most relate?
Well, I should point out first that this story doesn’t seem to be focused on the gods and goddesses as much as the political intrigue set in this time, geography and culture. It reminds me in a lot ways of Shakespeare’s MACBETH more than CLASH OF THE TITANS.
But I’ll answer your question anyway. It’s a toss up between Skadi and Loki. Skadi because I tend to be drawn to the whole justice/righteous anger thing, but since she’s a woman and I don’t want to be referred to as “Ice Princess”, then I’ll go with Loki. Though villainised in both the lore and Marvel Comics, it should be noted that he is a necessary evil, if he’s even evil at all.
He challenges the accepted order of things and brings about change. I’m constantly doing this in my life and it seems to piss everyone off, so yeah, without a doubt, I’m Loki.
As an artist for other people’s creations, how do you put any of yourself into the work while maintaining the integrity of their intentions?
Writers aren’t always all that specific. Certainly not for every panel. For every panel description, no matter how detailed, there are several questions left behind: camera angle, lighting, blocking, panel size, panel layout, [and] wardrobe. A writer may address one or two of these things (if any) in a panel description, but in my experience never more than that. It’s simply not their job. I suppose illustrating from a comic script is a lot like directing from a screenplay; you can’t help but express it in your own way. When a comic is done right, it should have all creators involved, expressing the same idea, each in their own distinct ways, with all those distinct ways complementing each other and working in unison.
Between STAR TREK, FALLEN ANGEL and SAGA, you’re dealing with worlds that have a lot of non-human beings. Do you have a favorite god, monster, alien or immortal that you like to paint?
Cthulhu if I’m forced to be specific. I love tentacles. But any type of H.P.Lovecraft style, creature from the deep type monster will do. I love designing my own creations based on obscure see creatures.
Since you’re on a rigorous production schedule, at what point do you decide to evolve your techniques?
I’m always evolving them, looking for a better way to tell a story and a more efficient (faster) way of doing it. There’s a compromise between painting and sequential art that I’m still trying to perfect. I’m getting closer with every issue, but I don’t think I’ll ever find it to my satisfaction. I don’t think it’s possible. I think there’s always a way it could be better. I don’t believe in perfection. It doesn’t exist in nature and I doubt very much it can be man (or machine-, sorry Borg-) made.
Which character or series in the mainstream comics that you have found frustrating, perhaps derailed or stagnant, that deserves better attention from the publishers and creators?
I don’t religiously follow any mainstream titles for long anymore so its hard to say. I remember that a little less than a year ago I was having a beer with Chris Kipniak (writer: Nightcrawler, Marvel Adventures) and we were talking about NightShift and how we would bring it back and sort of reinvigorate it. We even put together a pitch that has yet to get into the right hands. I have some images on my blog showing how I see the characters.
Some characters change their costume design without a stir but when Wonder Woman was reimagined in 2010 by Jim Lee, there was commotion amongst the fanbase. How do you feel about the costume? Is there a point where a character’s image is too ingrained to allow for an acceptable change?
In a lot of ways the new costume makes more sense, but here’s the problem; the chracter is one the “great trinity.” One thing we should have learned over the years is that the fans will never let you alter these costumes too much. Oh the bat symbol can change a bit, the “S” can get bigger and maybe even throw a little yellow in it, but not much more than that. These characters have stood the test of time and I think fans want to preserve that. I personally was a bit turned off by the new costume because, while the design was just fine, it reminded me a little of the late 60′s Denny O’Neil depowered Wonder Woman for some reason.
Personally I think the best way to go is to use the traditional costume and make it more practical and base it more on Greek battle wear. I’ve seen it all over the interwebs and loved it.