STEVE E. GORDON is yet another example of a participating Wonder Woman Day artist who got his start in his teenage years. Since 1977, Steve’s career has brought him through the ranks The Walt Disney Company, Bakshi Productions, DreamWorks Productions, and MLG Productions. He’s responsible for the edgy streetwise looks of the young mutants in X-Men: Evolution, one of my own personal favorites.
You can place your bid for either of Steve’s sketches via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or by stopping into Comic Fusion in Flemington, New Jersey. Bidding ends October 24, 2010 at the end of Wonder Woman Day!
I presented Steve with a few questions hoping to shed some light on his career and his outlook on comics industry, particularly where female characters’ designs are considered.
Your first job as you were preparing to graduate from high school was working on a project that is ingrained within pop culture. What was it like working as a photo-rotoscoper on the animated version The Lord of the Rings at such a young age with no professional experience?
Up until that point I had always the kid who was the best artist at my school and to be suddenly thrust into a situation where there were so many other artists that were so much more accomplished than I was and had graduated from art schools (schools I had planned to apply to before I was hired) was quite overwhelming for a 17 year-old kid still in High School. Besides so many talented young artists I was also able to meet many professionals like Irv Spence (who animated the Jerry the mouse dance with Gene Kelly) and many others. My previous job as a portrait artist at Magic Mountain had taught me to be fast so I actually fit in quite well with the animation process and was often finished with my work when Ralph came up with something new he wanted to try. It wasn’t long before I moved on from drawing Orc eyes and teeth on Photostats to learning to actually in-between for an established animator. And due to the overwhelming amount of work that LotR had to get thorough, Ralph took a chance on me actually animating – or, in this case, tracing the live-action photographs (roto-scope). The first scene I ‘animated’ was Aragorn and Gandalf galloping their horses while the cameras tracked with them in front of a Background with a huge moon. I hadn’t a clue as to what I was doing, but somehow I muscled my way through it and by the end of production I’d actually done enough “animation” to get myself a credit as Animator on the film. Pretty heady times for a 17 year old kid who had never thought about going into animation.
What’s the purpose of your “Fan Request Friday” blogs?
Fan Request Friday all started when someone suggested, via Twitter, that I draw a Mohawk Storm and because I was only sort of familiar with that version of Storm I thought I’d give it a try – sort of on a whim. The reaction I received was quite surprising and overwhelming. So I thought I’d see if there were other suggestions like that and pretty quickly it all developed into my weekly requests and blog postings. It was the first time in long while that I had drawn something that I wasn’t being paid and directed to draw. Rarely do I have time (or energy) to do anything other than the work that is assigned to me by my employers that this seemed like a good way to trick myself into doing something a little more spontaneous. It also gives me an opportunity to connect with my friends and fans and, hopefully, to make few new ones along the way. Some of the requests have been quite surprising and interesting. I try to make it a point of choosing characters that I may never have thought to draw before – or even knew about – though sometimes I will fall back on some fan favorites from X-Men: Evolution. I’m also toying with the idea of eventually putting them all together and printing another sketchbook.
What projects are in the pipeline for you?
Currently I’m wrapping up directing duties on Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes (season 2) and freelancing several children’s books for HarperCollins and Random House. I also have several other projects I’m working on including a comic with B. Clay Moore, an original comic idea that my son is writing, an original children’s book that I wrote with my wife and a feature film that my partners and I are trying to get funding for. And there’s always my Fan Request Fridays…
What conventions are usually on your schedule?
Currently the only Con I always attend is SDCC whether as a guest or just an attendee – unless I’m invited to others. I probably should attend more of them and if one of my personal projects get further along I probably will.
Where do you find inspiration?
That’s a tough one. In general I find inspiration everywhere. Movies, TV, books, comics, illustrations, the internet, fans, friends, Cosplayers and especially other artists. I’m constantly looking for inspiration and ways to stay fresh.
How do you balance family, a social life and work?
All three tend to intersect to one degree or another. I work at home quite a bit (whenever possible) and I’m also friends with many of the people I work with so I’m not even aware of ‘balancing’ them – it all just seems to happen and work out. I’ve been married 29 years and have three well-adjusted kids so I must be doing something right family-wise – or maybe my wife is.
As an experienced character designer for Marvel, you’ve been responsible for updating the look of popular characters like the X-Men. What was your reaction to the 2010 Jim Lee (DC) redesign of Wonder Woman’s costume?
To be honest I wasn’t too thrilled, though I don’t mean any disrespect to Jim Lee. To me it had the look of something that was already dated and looked like it came from a couple of decades ago. I read the discussion of why they wanted to do the update and I kind of see their point, but I don’t think this was successful – in my opinion. I’m not sure what I would’ve come up with on my own and I considered trying something, but never found the time for it. It strikes me that women these days aren’t as bothered by open displays of femininity as they used to be and a character in a skimpy outfit isn’t considered as immodest as it used to be so I don’t think I would throw the baby out with the bathwater. I personally kind of like the leather and brass Greco-Roman look someone tried awhile back (I think it might have been created for the feature Joss Whedon had been planning) and could see that as a good updating of her costume. More of a going back to her Amazonian roots type of thing.
In an interview with Newsarama, Vocal Director Andrea Romano pointed out that sales of the Wonder Woman animated movie fell so short the movie proves that female characters do not give consumers what they want; yet, news just broke this week that DC is planning on creating a new Wonder Woman television serial. Can you explain the business logic of how marketing a female character in one form of media over another would make her a more appealing commodity? Has it been your experience that female characters are only respected by readers/viewers when they serve on teams rather than solo?
Whenever anyone makes an absolute statement like that in the film business I always refer back to what William Goldman said: “In Hollywood, no one knows anything” and I think it’s pretty clear over the years that he’s right. The only reason why people currently have that opinion is because a film or video with a female character/superhero just hasn’t been successful YET. That doesn’t mean one won’t be a hit at some point – it just means Hollywood hasn’t made the right one yet. When I was young the feeling in Hollywood was that that Sci-Fi or fantasy couldn’t be a hit – then Star Wars changed that. More recently the feeling in Hollywood was anything with a dragon in it couldn’t be a hit – then How to Train Your Dragon changed that. I can go on and on. So far strong females have worked better on TV (i.e.: Xena and Buffy), but I suspect it’s only a matter of time before a female superhero film will be a hit and disprove that popular theory.