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DF Interview: Across several comics universes with artist Brad Walker
By Byron Brewer
From Groot’s odd twiggy smile to Sinestro’s famous scowl, comics fans have been spanning the spaceways with artist Brad Walker for years now. His clean, dynamic (oooh!) style and imaginative aliens and costume designs always guarantee a reader that, whatever the script, a “Walker book” will most likely be the best-looking one on the stands that week.
Dynamic Forces sat down at Starlin’s Bar in the heart of Knowhere to romp down Memory Lane with the artist. Why don’t you pull up a chair? We hear the grok’nic on ice is to die for!
Dynamic Forces: Brad, I first saw your work on Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy and no matter what publisher you have been working for, it has involved heavy science fiction. What is it about this genre you love in comics?
Brad Walker: Well, I’ve done plenty of Earth-bound stuff, and I love the variety. But in terms of the work itself, cosmic/space stuff is really fun to do. There’s very little expectation to keep things grounded in reality, so the fun part for me is taking unreal imagery, and trying to make it feel like the people, places, and things really exist. You want it to feel like there are stakes and consequences for the characters, even in a completely unreal environment. And really, it’s probably easier. When an apartment building in New York doesn’t look real, even the least artistic reader knows. But a spaceship or a landscape doesn’t have to live by the same restraints. So, you can get really creative.
DF: Did you have favorite SF comics growing up? Tell us about some of your influences as far as this material goes.
Brad Walker: Well, I’ve always been a huge Fantastic Four fan. Which, though it crosses genres, I consider it heavily science fiction. And Silver Surfer. Big fan. Green Lantern is always one of my top DC characters. I was heavily into the Infinity stuff at Marvel in the 1990s. I didn’t know anything about it going in, but either the way comics were made, at the time, or the age I was reading them, the stuff you didn’t understand only piqued your interest, rather than steering you away. So, I got really into that whole world.
As far as influences, I really go into a cosmic book with that 60’s/70’s Marvel look in my mind, with a very dense environment. I like for even empty space to look like a vast, living landscape that could be filled with all sorts of wonders and perils, just around that next planet. It drives me nuts to see space backgrounds where they just dropped a stock photo in the backgrounds, in post. Seems like such a missed opportunity for excitement, there. So, my inspiration is those Kirby, Buscema and Starlin backgrounds. But mostly, I pour over the old Al Williamson Star Wars newspaper strips. He was one of my top two or three favorite draftsmen in comics, and I could just stare at those panels for hours.
DF: Any others who had a heavily influence on your style today?
Brad Walker: I’m a Silver Age fan, so all my art probably has bits of Kirby, Buscema, Romita, Neal Adams … and later artists from the Simonson, Art Adams and Alan Davis era. I could go on and on, but lists of names would just get dull. Ha! Ultimately, I’m just influenced by beautiful figure work, expressive faces and dynamic storytelling. I’m less enticed by any one, specific style. I like the chops underneath styles.
DF: How did it feel to help Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning (your writers on Guardians) world-build at BOOM! Studios with Hypernaturals? You designed many of the characters; did you have a favorite and why?
Brad Walker: I designed a handful of characters, and did some flashback scenes in the first couple of issues. That was a frustrating experience, but ultimately, it was my own fault. I really wanted to work on that book, and it seemed like it would be creatively fulfilling, but I was already committed to Action Comics and couldn’t afford to leave it for a semi-creator owned property. So I tried to work in both, which could’ve only worked if everything proceeded as a best case scenario. Which, of course, it never does in comics. Everything was jammed up right from the get-go, and everybody was coming at me from all sides, with the same deadlines. So I bowed out early on, and didn’t end up having much to do with it. The whole time period is a real blur.
DF: Yours was fine work on the book, believe me. Switching universes here (twice!), did working on Marvel Cosmic help when you joined DC’s Green Lantern franchise?
Brad Walker: I think so. In the sense that I had already tried out some visual approaches to similar elements that I knew did and didn’t work. So, Andrew Hennessy (my inker), Wil Quintana (my colorist), and I could adjust things and start fresh with more of a sense of knowing what we were trying to do. It was nice that all three of us worked on GotG, and then again on NG. I think, of all the books I’ve worked on, New Guardians is the one that you see the least of a learning curve on, going along. Which is nice.
DF: Drawing different Guardians (Green Lantern: NEW Guardians this time) for DC Comics, did your DnA-centric experience help or hurt you? Differences between Marvel Cosmic and DC Cosmic, if any?
Brad Walker: I don’t know. Not really, in the way I went about it. I looked at both as an opportunity to draw characters I’d always liked, and to try and make the stories exciting, and real, yet larger than life, at the same time. I don’t draw distinctions between Marvel and DC in how I approach drawing books for either company. If the art gets that deliberate, based on the building you’re getting a check from, I think the business end is creeping too far into the creative end. I’m just trying to do the best work I can, at the breakneck speed it’s needed.
DF: What’s it like to be working on Sinestro as of #9? Is this a character you enjoy?
Brad Walker: It’s been fun! Different, yet a continuation of what we’d done on New Guardians. I really like the way Cullen Bunn writes a script, and we’ve got a great colorist with Jason Wright. So, that’s been exciting. All the characters have been fun to get into. Sinestro himself, obviously, Soranik Natu and Arkillo are a blast. Dez Trevius is really entertaining. It’s a lot to reference, and the Sinestro Corps is made up of all different bizarre-looking aliens. And even though they have essentially the same costume, there are little differences here and there from character to character that you have to get right. So, that’s a little exhausting. But it’s not the worst problem to have! Getting Sinestro’s emotions across is really fun. He narrates with a lot of inner dialogue, so I get to play with how that comes across in each panel. I always enjoy that kind of thing.
Dynamic Forces would like to thank Brad Walker for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions.
Get your copy of Heroes for Hire #1 signed by Brad Walker right here!
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