Nicola Scott talks ‘Earth 2′ 17, Tom Taylor and dedication to comics

Nov. 01, 2013 | 10:53 a.m.
earth2 17 6 Nicola Scott talks Earth 2 17, Tom Taylor and dedication to comics

Hero Complex readers get an exclusive first look at the completed Page 6 from "Earth 2" No. 17 by writer Tom Taylor and artist Nicola Scott. Superman, thought killed in the series' first issue, is back -- and that's bad news. It will be released Wednesday. (DC Entertainment)

earth2 17 10 Nicola Scott talks Earth 2 17, Tom Taylor and dedication to comics

The mysterious "Earth 2" Batman is seen in action in this previously released image showing Nicola Scott's interior art (with inker Trevor Scott -- no relation -- and colorist Pete Pantazis) on the series' No. 17. His identity will be revealed soon. (DC Entertainment)

blnww 1 Nicola Scott talks Earth 2 17, Tom Taylor and dedication to comics

Nicola Scott drew the 2009 miniseries "Blackest Night: Wonder Woman," written by Greg Rucka. (DC Entertainment)

secretsix3coverartnicolascott Nicola Scott talks Earth 2 17, Tom Taylor and dedication to comics

Nicola Scott's playful cover art for "Secret Six" No. 3 (2008), written by Gail Simone, shows down-on-their-luck villains-for-hire Catman, front, Ragdoll, Scandal Savage, Deadshot and Bane. (DC Entertainment)

Amid all the tumult in “Earth 2,” there is one calming, constant presence: Nicola Scott.

The fan-favorite Australian artist and DC Comics fixture has been bringing the peculiar planet to life since the launch of the title, which is set on a world different from the one seen in most New 52 books and is nothing if not unpredictable, penciling 13 of the 16 issues so far.

No. 17 picks up as things are changing in a big way, and not just in the story. The issue marks the arrival of writer Tom Taylor (“Injustice: Gods Among Us”), a fellow Australian and Scott friend, who follows James Robinson’s 16-issue run.

Scott and Taylor will shepherd Earth 2’s embattled heroes (or “wonders”) through some serious trouble set up by No. 16: Superman, seen killed in the series’ debut issue along with Wonder Woman and Batman while fending off an attack by galactic villain Darkseid‘s forces, was revealed to be under the mask of Brutaal, a servant of that evil lord. The former hero killed his superior, Steppenwolf, lately the scourge of Earth 2, and now could finally bring the planet to its knees. Making things worse: Earth 2’s Green Lantern, Alan Scott, looks like a goner, possibly leaving his teammates, including the Flash and Dr. Fate, without a powerful ally.

Oh, and then there’s that new Batman who’s been hanging around the edges of the story but is moving toward center stage.

Scott spoke with Hero Complex in an email interview about Taylor, the future of Earth 2’s heroes (including that mysterious Batman), her past superteams, how she plans and pencils a page, trying her hand at writing, and more.

Hero Complex: “Earth 2” No. 16 was quite the epic-battle, double-splash-page, big-reveal, game-changing issue as writer James Robinson’s tenure ended: Green Lantern apparently dead, Steppenwolf even more dead-looking, Brutaal unmasked as a Darkseid-serving Superman. Before we get to what’s next, would you talk about working on that three-issue war arc? Any particular scenes that you think turned out especially well?

Nicola Scott: James and I had been building to this arc from the beginning. All the good guys realising their strength as a team but just not yet experienced enough to win against the unstoppable force that is Steppenwolf and Brutaal. Only when Brutaal is revealed do we understand why they are so outmatched.

I was really happy with how the pace of that last issue worked and it was pretty fun being able to draw battles on that scale. Steppenwolf against the World Army armada? AWESOME!

The mysterious "Earth 2" Batman is seen in action in this previously released image showing Nicola Scott's interior art (with inker Trevor Scott -- no relation -- and colorist Pete Pantazis) on the series' No. 17. His identity will be revealed soon. (DC Entertainment)

The mysterious “Earth 2″ Batman is seen in action in this previously released image showing Nicola Scott’s interior art (with inker Trevor Scott — no relation — and colorist Pete Pantazis) on the series’ No. 17. His identity will be revealed soon. (DC Entertainment)

HC: And now, your Australian compatriot Tom Taylor is joining you on the book. What can you say about where the two of you are picking up with No. 17 – and about this mysterious new Batman joining the main story?

NS: Tom and I pick up immediately after the end of No. 16. We start with a recap and then get straight to the business of addressing “how do you run from Superman”? Our first three issues are really a bridging arc (wrapping up some lingering threads and prepping for the next direction) and takes place over a pretty short period of time, maybe an hour.

Batman has been popping up here and there over the last few months but it’s in No. 17 that we come to understand what he might be up to. He’s a really interesting character with a slightly different kind of motivation.

HC: In the “Legends of the Dark Knight” story that you and Taylor did, there were sequences that were wordless, where your art did all the talking. He said in a recent interview that the two of you are friends who “get along like a house on fire.” How did you meet Taylor, and how would you characterize your collaboration with him?

NS: Tom and I met at a convention here in Australia about five years ago. We hit it off and pledged that we would work together on Superman one day. We’re pretty similar personality types, peppy, we both talk too much (though I definitely swear more) and we share a fondness for a more romantic view of superheroes. Role models who are bright and at the very best. A heroic Superman, a compassionate Wonder Woman. It’s not quite the fashion at the moment but because we come from the similar headspace we approach our characters in the same way.

HC: Your work is particularly notable for taking care to express subtleties in characters’ emotional states throughout – in smaller moments, in ground-shaking battles. You’ve mentioned having trained in acting. Have those experiences had bearing on your comics work? Any techniques you use to get in the heads of the characters you’re drawing?

NS: When I’m thumb-nailing each page I’m blocking the scene, a basic theatre technique. When I’m roughing out all the characters, I act out all the parts to see if there are any interesting ways to play it. Not every argument has to have screamy faces, not every pleasantry is delivered with a smile.

HC: If you don’t mind, could you take readers through your mental and technical process of translating a script description for a page into a fully illustrated page?

NS: Basically I read through the script a couple of times. By the time I sit at my desk to draw I’ve already got a decent understanding of the pace and direction of the issue and maybe some of the themes. With every new scene I draw little thumbnails in the margins, just enough to give me a decent idea of the layout of the page and some basic composition. I then redraw that basic info onto the finished page in blue pencil, just the layout and the composition. Then I flip the page over and turn on my lightpad and do all my roughs, filling everything out and including all kinds of details from expressions, actions, lighting and perspective lines. I’m usually done with this stage by lunch time. Then I flip the page back over to the right side and start the finished art. I can now work really quickly and cleanly as all the info I need is on the back and surface of the front hasn’t been damaged. I used to do roughs on separate paper but I hated the waste.

Nicola Scott's playful cover art for "Secret Six" No. 3 (2008), written by Gail Simone, shows down-on-their-luck villains-for-hire Catman, front, Ragdoll, Scandal Savage, Deadshot and Bane. (DC Comics)

Nicola Scott’s playful cover art for “Secret Six” No. 3 (2008), written by Gail Simone, shows down-on-their-luck villains-for-hire Catman, front, Ragdoll, Scandal Savage, Deadshot and Bane. (DC Comics)

HC: You’ve worked on some very distinct teams of characters – the superheroic, mostly female Birds of Prey, the super-unhinged , gender-balanced-and-bending Secret Six, the more innocent Teen Titans and now the mostly male Wonders of America in “Earth 2.” What did you try to bring to each (and did they bring anything to you)? Any of the old gangs you’d like to revisit?

NS: Even though my drawing style doesn’t really change, I do try to adapt to each new title appropriately.

With Secret Six I was trying to not be too showy with layouts and character actions. I wanted to keep them as natural as possible.

With Teen Titans I wanted the art to be bright and for the characters to seem their age as opposed to in their twenties. I laid off the blacks and the heavy detail.

On Earth 2, I was playing on a much grander scale, a really big boy power book, something I’ve not really done before. For this I wanted to go really heavy with the detail, blacks, textures, everything.

I love all these teams, I’ve been really lucky to work on books that I was a good fit for, and would love to return to all at some point. Though, I gotta admit, Secret Six is the one I miss the most.

HC: You’ve expressed interest in writing, and you’ll be earning your first writing credit in an upcoming issue of “Legends of Red Sonja,” assembled by your old “Birds of Prey” and “Secret Six” collaborator Gail Simone. How’s your experience so far working on the flip side of comics storytelling? Want to do more?

NS: It’s a completely different headspace, even though it’s still storytelling. It took me a while to get there but it really just came down to committing to sitting at the computer desk instead of my drawing desk. As soon as I did that it flowed really easily. I had a lot of fun and I really do want to do more of it.

Nicola Scott drew the 2009 miniseries "Blackest Night: Wonder Woman," written by Greg Rucka. (DC Entertainment)

Nicola Scott drew the 2009 miniseries “Blackest Night: Wonder Woman,” written by Greg Rucka. (DC Entertainment)

HC: In addition to Simone and Robinson, you’ve told stories with such accomplished writers as Peter David and Greg Rucka. Have those collaborations influenced your approach to writing and drawing? If so, what in particular about them?

NS: How lucky have I been! These are some of my favourite writers, so of course their influence plays a part in how I approach storytelling, both writing and drawing.

HC: Certainly there have been and are female artists in superhero comics, but it’s still uncommon. In your roughly 10 years on the scene, have you noticed an increase in interest from women in breaking in, or seen changing attitudes within the industry? Any hopes for the future in either regard?

NS: I wasn’t around the industry long before breaking in, so I’m not sure what it was like previously. There certainly seem to be loads of women around now, particularly in the small/indie press areas. It’s great! When it comes to superheroes though, it does thin out.

Personally, I didn’t face any particular issue from anyone along the way. It might have been there and I just glossed over it, I can be pretty bombastic. But certainly over the many conversations I’ve had on this topic with creators and editors, there seems to be a desire for more female creators.

HC: Any words of wisdom to share with young women who want to make comics?

NS: I’m 40, I work seven days a week and have no kids. I can just manage a monthly book and have a little bit of a life for myself. This is a real commitment. Be sure you really want it.

If you do then you’re really going to have to go for it!

It’s an incredibly competitive business with hundreds of people looking for work. You have to show up to a lot of portfolio reviews and submission openings. Like with acting, there can be a lot of rejection before work starts to happen. Learn from it.

Build up your folio and your body of work. The big companies need to see you can handle it elsewhere first. You don’t want to get your big shot and blow it because you can’t keep up with the deadlines.

Be good, be persistent, be reliable, be pleasant. Then all you need is a little luck. It is do-able. I did it from the other side of the world!

– Blake Hennon | @BlakeHennon | @LATHeroComplex

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