DAVID FINCH: Drawing New JLA & Meeting Deadlines

 

 

 

One of David Finch's highest profile gigs at Marvel was the launch of New Avengers, a team book featuring superstar writer Brian Michael Bendis, who revamped and expand the Avengers franchise with a cast of lesser-known Marvel characters.

Now Finch is at it again, only this time around, the team book is Justice League of America, the superstar writer is Geoff Johns, and the franchise is on the cusp of expanding with a cast of lesser-known DC characters.

Finch is known for drawing dynamic-looking characters and larger-than-life superheroes, but he's also got a lot of experience with low-key character scenes, as proven in his work with the aforementioned Bendis. His résumé also includes other top-name writers like Grant Morrison and Jeph Loeb, and he most recently drew Batman: The Dark Knight with writer Gregg Hurwitz.

In February, he teams with Geoff Johns to introduce some new characters to the relaunched New 52 universe, including a team made up of Katana, Stargirl, Vibe, Martian Manhunter, Green Arrow, Green Lantern, Hawkman, Steve Trevor and Catwoman.

The new series was announced at the Fan Expo in Toronto, in Canada, where Finch lives with his family. The series has since gotten a promotional push from DC as the publisher announced there will be 52 variant covers for Justice League of America #1.

Newsarama talked to Finch to find out more about his approach to this team and why he likes the challenge of meeting deadlines and drawing little-known characters.

Newsarama: David, it's great to see you on a team book in the DCU.

David Finch: I seem to go back and forth from a single character book like Batman or Moon Knight to more of a team book. And it 's nice to have the change.

Nrama: The first thing I thought about, when I tried to imagine your work on Justice League of America, was your run on New Avengers, which really helped establish you as a leading artist over at Marvel. Are the two projects similar, or are they different?

Finch: I feel like there are more similarities than differences. On New Avengers, Bendis made a lot of people angry with what he was doing, but strictly speaking, Avengers wasn't really a high-selling title. So it was kind of cart blanche for him. He really had a lot of power to do whatever he wanted to do with those characters. And he introduced characters and killed some people.

 

And so I think it's comparable because we introduced a new team, and it wasn't necessarily a team of characters that everyone knew well. Like Spider-Woman wasn't really in the forefront before that series.

So with the Justice League of America, it's the same dynamic. There's a Green Lantern, but it's the new Green Lantern, and he's really not as well known. There's Martian Manhunter and Green Arrow, who are the most well-known characters. But there are none of the DC's "marquee," or "top-of-the-bill" characters on the team. And that's similar to what we had on Avengers.

I think it makes it more exciting, because we can do things that we couldn't necessarily do with characters who have so much attached to them, you know? So much baggage.

So I think Geoff is going to go a little more crazy with it. I'm really excited about that.

That said, it's also going to be a book that really matters and it pretty central to the DC Universe. That's exciting for me. And to be able to do a book that has characters that we really can do a lot of crazy stuff with makes it a lot of fun.

Nrama: It's interesting that you bring up Spider-Woman, because when I think of that character, I think of you drawing her. You really seemed to define the way she looked when you introduced her to New Avengers. Is there anyone on this Justice League of America team that you feel like, I'm really getting to define their look in the new DCU? Is there anyone that you feel like you really like the way David Finch draws this character?

Finch: Really, it's early enough right now that it's a little tough for me to say. I think that's kind of a fluid thing, and as we get further into the series, I'll probably start feeling more affinity to a character. More than anything, it has to do with how the characters are written, and how well I feel like I'm portraying that in the story with my art.

But right now, I really like Green Arrow a lot. I think he has a great, great costume. And Stargirl is a character I love to draw because I really have this desire to get her right, you know? I have to admit this, and I apologize to the big Stargirl fans out there, but I honestly hadn't heard of her before. But I'm getting to know her now and I just really like her character, and I like drawing her. She always smiles, and that makes her different, and she's very positive and upbeat.

Nrama: Is that a challenge? Because that's unusual in superheroes, isn't it?

Finch: Yeah, I'm not used to drawing a character like that. I have always had trouble drawing characters that are more happy and smiling, so it's definitely a challenge. But I think that's why I'm enjoying it right now.

Nrama: From what we've heard about Vibe from Geoff and Andrew Kreisberg, he's also a young character. But he seems less upbeat and a little more conflicted about his purpose on the team. How are you portraying him?

Finch: He really doesn't have a lot of confidence in his position. He feels like he doesn't belong with the other members of the team. He really doesn't know why he's there. And he doesn't have the support from his family to give him that confidence. So I wouldn't say that he's an angry character, but he's definitely conflicted.

 

I think it's possible he might have the best story of all the characters in the book. I think he might be the most interesting. He's the sort of character that I think Geoff Johns — I mean, Geoff writes everyone so well, but I think something he does really well, and he proved with Aquaman, is that he can write underdog characters and make them really, really interesting.

Nrama: Vibe is definitely an underdog. He's not exactly the most beloved among the members on your team.

Finch: I'm really hopeful that will change. I think his solo book — they certainly have an incredible writing team on it. And with Pete Woods drawing it? He's phenomenal.

So I'm really hoping that's going to change.

Nrama: You also have Katana, who has gotten some attention in Birds of Prey. Have you gotten to know her yet?

Finch: It's a little early for me to say too much about Katana, because I only know her visually, not having gotten too deep into her story yet in the comic. She's a physical character, which for me is a lot of fun. I love characters that use a sword. And she's the type of character who — it's a chance for me to research traditional poses for her swordplay. That kind of stuff is fun.

 

She also is a character who has a really good costume. It flows really well with her body. So she's been a lot of fun for me to play around with visually.

Nrama: We've seen Martian Manhunter in Stormwatch. How are you approaching him? I assume he has the stance of a leader with this team?

Finch: Yeah, finding the right body language is really important for all of them. I've been trying to get across who they are through their body language, as much as possible, and Geoff Johns is really helping me a lot with that. He's given me a lot to go on.

For me, Martian Manhunter is the majestic, powerful member of the team. I think he's a bit of a wild card too, but just visually, he's such a big, powerful character. And that's what I try to get across.

Nrama: I don't know if you're drawing Hawkman yet, but it seems like the type of character that you'd do well, because he has a violent, gritty edge to the way he looks.

Finch: Yeah, I think so. I love his new costume. I love the new facemask. But I haven't had much of a chance to draw him yet. But from what I've done in sketches, he does really work for my style. I feel very comfortable drawing him. But I definitely need to get more into his character before I can say much about the way I'm going to be drawing him.

Nrama: You seem to have an affinity with drawing shapely women. But Catwoman's got a distinct way of moving, doesn't she?

Finch: Yeah, absolutely. It doesn't sound very artful to say it this way, but I've drawn Catwoman on covers and I love that she crouches very low because she works on covers well in the foreground. [Laughs.] But I know that's not a very good answer. It's an honest one though.

She's always graceful and confident, and that very different from, say, Stargirl. Stargirl is a character who I imagine standing in more of a modest or closed posture, whereas Catwoman is just really, really confident and maybe overly sexual. So she'll have a different stance.

Nrama: We already talked about how you're liking Green Arrow. What is it about that character that you enjoy?

Finch: You know, most of the characters I gravitate toward have a place in the world. And Green Arrow is one of those guys. He feels like he's in the real world. If I can picture someone on the couch hanging out, it helps me visualize who they are. And Green Arrow is definitely one of those people.

Plus, as I mentioned, I love his costume.

Nrama: You also mentioned Green Lantern, but he's the new Green Lantern, Simon Baz. We've seen him interact a little with the Justice League and the Corps, but what's his interaction like on this team? And how are you approaching his character?

Finch: I really enjoy drawing him, and he's got a look that's pretty well established, like you said. As far as his place on the team, I really can't say too much about it. But I think it's safe to say that the way he was treated in Green Lantern is different from how he fits with this team.

Nrama: I know that you struggled with your schedule when you first came to DC, but once you stopped writing, you've really been on a roll. It makes you a lot quicker artist when you don't have to worry about writing the story?

Finch: Oh yeah. It's totally different working from someone else's script and not having to write.

But you know, when it comes down to it, drawing in a timely way is all about discipline. With kids and a lot of stuff going on at home, it's easy to let yourself get distracted, and even get lazy sometimes. You really have to be pretty on-the-ball to keep this job going.

I feel like I'm really back on track with the monthly schedule, and like you said, I have been for awhile.

I think the approach right now is what needed to happen with the business. None of the books are able to ship late anymore. And so retailers can tell people when a book is advertised to come out, and it's really going to come out then.

The industry seems to be a lot healthier this year than it was last year, and I honestly think that's part of it, or at least it's helped.

I feel like I'm good about working to expectations. If I feel like I can get away with being late, it's really difficult for me to avoid being late. But if I feel like it's absolutely important that I get it done on time, I'm going to be able to get it done on time.

Nrama: You've worked with a lot of great writers, from Brian Bendis to Grant Morrison. What's it like working with Geoff, and what are his scripts like, compared to others?

Finch: He's a very visual writer, although I've certainly worked with some great visual writers before, especially Bendis, who is an artist too, so he's great that way. But I feel like Geoff Johns' scripts are very tight. Every beat has real reason for being there. Everything that comes out of a character's mouth is very planned, and it serves a purpose in the story. I feel like they're very, very polished.

Right now, it's feeling like a big responsibility to not lose anything from the script. I know that, as I go along, I'll get a comfort zone and things will get easier. But yeah, with Geoff's stuff right now, I'm just trying not to lose any nuances. I'm just thrilled to be working on something that matters so much to the DCU, and I'm working hard to get it right for readers and give them something I can be really proud of.

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