Tommy Lee Edwards, the artist of the recent Moon Knight limited series, talks about DD and his stint on the title that never came to be because of the Event deal.
Kuljit Mithra: What got you interested in comics as a career?
Tommy Lee Edwards: I read comics in junior high and high school. I enjoyed J.R. Jr's X-Men and Daredevil, The Shadow, and a few others. My favorite works were by Howard Chaykin, including the Shadow, Blackhawk, Time Squared, and American Flagg!. I did not plan on doing comics as a career, however. I studied illustration at the Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles. I was doing other forms of illustration, and going to school for film (also at the Art Center) when I met Howard Chaykin at a convention. He really responded to my work, as it was heavily influenced by traditional illustrators of the past. He really encouraged me to try my hand at comics, and he put me in touch with the right people to show my portfolio and get my first job in comics. Howard and I have been friends ever since, and I've been working (luckily) in comics ever since. I still dabble in illustration and film, though, and possibly I'll do more with that in the future when i have more time.
Mithra: Who or what has influenced you artistically?
Edwards: As I said before, Howard's work was my favorite in comics. He was an influence on my work as a kid, and still is a strong influence today. Part of this is because he truly understands my work, and is able to give me really great critiques and valuable suggestions. Life is by far the biggest influence on me artistically, though, as I learned to draw from life, and continue to do so. Some movies that inspire me are: Raiders of the Lost Ark, Once Upon A Time In the West (or anything by Sergio Leone), Danger:Diabolik (or anything by Mario Bava), and Touch of Evil. Artists that have influenced me include Chaykin, Austin Briggs, Harry Carmean (a drawing instructor from the Art Center), Alex Toth, Milt Caniff, Attilio Micheluzzi, Jorge Zaffino, and Jorge Zentner.
I am also inspired by being able to work with great people such as my wife, Melissa, John Workman, Bob Fingerman, and my best friend John Paul Leon. I think that he and I both inspire and influence each other's work.
Mithra: What titles have you worked on?
Edwards: Some stuff at Milestone and Valiant, along with Shadow of the Bat, Detective Comics, Batman Chronicles, The Invisibles, Gemini Blood, Man of Steel Annual, DHP (including Aliens and Starship Troopers), Starman, Moon Knight, and Zombie World: Winter's Dregs.
Mithra: Last year you were offered the chance to be the regular artist on DD. Have you always been a fan of Daredevil?
Edwards: I've always liked the Daredevil character, but I became a true fan when it was being done by Ann Nocenti and John Romita, Jr. I also loved the Born Again story arc by [Frank] Miller and [David] Mazzucchelli.
Mithra: Why didn't the DD gig happen?
Edwards: DD didn't happen for me as the regular penciller. I was disappointed because [he] is my favorite Marvel character. The decision to farm out a group of books to [Joe] Quesada and [Jimmy] Palmiotti caused this.
Mithra: You had mentioned to me at that time that you wanted to be sure that you could have certain people in place as inker, colorist etc. before you accepted the job. Who were they, and why is it important to you to have this team on your projects?
Edwards: My choice team is John Workman as letterer, Melissa Edwards as colorist and separator, and my inks or my choice of inks, often including Robert Campanella and J.P. Leon. It's important to have communication between all aspects of a project to make it a more pure and unified vision. It's good to have everyone's best ideas out in the open. That's one of the reasons that I prefer a full script rather than a plot. This allows me to know exactly where the writer is coming from and to help me in the design and layout of a page as I can place all of the lettering. The lettering should also be done on the boards. It saves time, hassle, and the work becomes, again, more unified.
Mithra: To make up for that lost DD job, you were offered a DD One-Shot. What was that going to be about? Because of the Event Deal, even that project has been delayed.
Edwards: Yes, I'll be doing a DD One-Shot, in bookshelf format. Warren Ellis and I haven't been able to lock down on a definite story plan yet. I'm not sure when I'll be starting it, because we have to wait until after Event is through handling DD.
Mithra: Do you think Marvel is wrong to be involved in this kind of deal with Event?
Edwards: It's hard to be objective because I personally am bummed about it. However, I hope it helps as sales on the book have been lacklustre, and people seem to like artwork by Quesada and Palmiotti. Beyond that, I don't know anything about the deal, so I can't really comment.
Mithra: Turning to some of your most recent work, you've done the Moon Knight limited series. What I liked most about your art was the contrast in your inked pencils, and the colour. It made it stand out. Overall, how do you think this project turned out?
Edwards: Moon Knight was worth doing because it was the first real thing I had done for Marvel and it opened some doors and widened my audience. I'm overall satisfied with the finished product. The story was not my cup of tea, however. I greatly disliked the lettering (not by John Workman), and the glossy paper didn't help much, either. I prefer the newsstand edition, as i think that it is truer to Melissa's color. It was a stressful book, as it was supposed to be only 3 issues that turned into 4, and then #4 became 30 pages. I had to get help from J.P. Leon on issue 4, with him pencilling over my layouts on 5 pages. The whole ordeal made me insanely late on starting the already-solicited Zombie World arc.
Mithra: Did anyone ask you to be involved with any of the (canceled) Strange Tales line? I think your art would have been perfect there.
Edwards: No. I'm not even sure what that is. They wanted to make Moon Knight a monthly book, however, it didn't sell well enough.
Mithra: You are currently doing Zombie World:Winter's Dregs at Dark Horse. You've worked with most of the major comic companies. Have you noticed any difference in the way they approach the production of comics?
Edwards: Both Melissa and I have noticed big differences between each of the major comics publishers. There are trade-offs with each project. Dark Horse has given me the most artistic freedom and creative control, therefore helping me to create the work of which I am most proud (Zombie World: Winter's Dregs). But, the rates and exposure are better at Marvel and DC. DC's process is the most organized, and closest to mine. Marvel always seems to be harried and late. I hate 90% of the colors and separations at Marvel, along with the garish computer lettering that litters the artwork. But, um, I've had good and bad experiences at all 3.
Mithra: What would you do to 'fix' the industry?
Edwards: I would make comics more accessible, especially to kids. The publishers need to get the books out of the comic shops and onto ther street by abandoning the direct sales distribution approach. They also need to find new ways to market and advertise. I also think we could use more variety, and better stories.
Mithra: What are some of your upcoming projects?
Edwards: Next up is a Time Slip 48 page One-Shot for Marvel called Siege Heil. After that is an X-Men Mini-Series written by Bob Fingerman. basically, I may be staying at Marvel for a while. Look for the Zombie World: Winter's Dregs trade paperback sometime early next year.
(c) Kuljit Mithra 1998
Daredevil:The Man Without Fear
Jose Guns Alves
Black and White
Roberto De La Torre
Carmine Di Giandomenico
Tommy Lee Edwards
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