Phil Noto on Superman/ Supergirl: Maelstrom

Palmiotti & Gray on Superman /Supergirl

This week a Maelstrom is hitting DC Comics.

And it's a she.

In the miniseries Superman/Supergirl: Maelstorm, a new villian from the New Gods pantheon has arrived on earth to show she's worthy of being Darkseid's bride. And how's she going to do that? Kill Superman.

Coming to Kal-El's aid is Supergirl, who has a unique advantage that not even the Man of Steel can trump. An advantage they'll need to survive this encounter with the Apokoltian suitor.

This bi-weekly shipping miniseries is written by Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti with art by their Jonah Hex collaborator Phil Noto. This is Noto's first big work in superhero comics, who came to comics several years ago after a distinguished career at Disney animation. In comics he's done several miniseries including Beautiful Killer and New West, but this marks his first foray into the capes section of the shelf.

For more, we talked with Noto from his home in Orlando.

Newsarama: Good to talk to you, Phil. Let's get right into it –Superman and Supergirl – are these characters you wanted to tackle or is it a gig that just came along?

Phil Noto: After making a career out of spy girl, film noir, and western comics, I wanted to try something different and do a full on superhero book. Dan Didio suggested Superman and Supergirl and I couldn't be happier. I love the characters. After talking with Jimmy and Justin, this is the miniseries we came up with.

NRAMA:Your style is not like anyone else’s in the business…what’s your art background?

PN: I went to art school for illustration. Back then I never thought of doing any kind of comic art. I was, however, a big fan of Kent Williams and George Pratt, who were definitely comic artists/illustrators. I was also very influenced by the guys who did all the book covers and advertising art in the 50's and 60's, like Robert McGinnis, Bob Peak, and Coby Whitmore.

NRAMA: Wow. Coby Whitmore, I hadn't heard that name in awhile…

Moving on, we know you worked with Jimmy on Beautiful Killer and New West in the past and Jimmy with Justin on Jonah Hex. Their work stands out from a lot of the writers in comics today, why do you think that is? What’s the appeal to you personally? PN: I love working with those guys. I think the great thing about their writing is the combination of action and humor they create within a story. When I first get the script from them , it's like reading a great screenplay. The pacing of the stories are great and they always make even the secondary characters interesting as evidenced in the Jonah Hex books.

Personally it's fun because they trust me to switch up a panel here or there and kind of do my own thing. On the flip side I trust their judgment and Jimmy, in particular, always has great notes that help the art in general, not just stuff thrown in there at the end so the writer can feel like he got to be art director.

NRAMA: In this book Superman/Supergirl: Maelstrom, you're drawing some iconic characters that we’ve seen in countless stories so what’s different about this one?

PN: I think this a great example of the relationship between Superman and Supergirl. Superman , because of the red sun, isn't invincible and I think that makes for an interesting role reversal in which Supergirl has to be the protector, somewhat.

NRAMA: In the script, are there design or story elements that grabbed you right away as something you really wanted to illustrate?

PN: I was excited to come up with a look for them out of the capes. They're essentially a wearing what could be considered Kryptonian survival suits. The aliens that they encounter were a lot of fun to draw also. Certainly the first time I've been able to create something like them in a comic.

NRAMA: How do you feel about double shipping the first four issues of this series?

PN: It's certainly sped me up in terms of the art, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. I think from a fan's perspective, it's cool, because it's a quicker gratification in terms of the story.

NRAMA: I've seen you and your work on display at several conventions, and your sales there have been quite brisk. But let's turn it around – do you collect art?

PN: I collect a little bit of illustration art. I have a Bob Peak painting, a McGinnis Thunderball prelim and assorted other pieces from the 60's.

I don't really collect interiors or anything, but have some nice pinups from some comic guys.

NRAMA: Do you have a favorite artist? Or artists that inspire you?

PN: Like I said before, I've been inspired and influenced by the paperback illustrators of the 50's and 60's. In terms of comic artists , I'm a big fan of Alex Toth, Mike Mignola, Bill Sienkiewicz, Adam Hughes, Darwyn Cooke, Ashley Wood, Walt Simonson, Howard Chaykin, Art Adams, J. Scott Campbell and countless others.

NRAMA: Your linework really betrays your influence by the old school illustrators rather than comic artists at large. What are some common myths about illustrators, about artists?

PN: Hmmmmm. That we sit around all day and play video games and draw for about an hour a night? [laughs]

NRAMA: Well, that rumor has been bandied about. Let's speak positives though - what inspires you to work and how do you keep motivated when things get tough in the studio?

PN: When I'm stuck for inspiration I'll usually grab some art books and look through those. It helps me to look at my stuff in a fresh light.

NRAMA: As a former Disney employee you've stayed in the Orlando area. How has that, opposed to living in the thick of it in New York City changed your career in any way?

PN: No , not so much. These days comic artists live all over the country, the world even. Technology has made it so easy to communicate with editors, inkers, colorists, etc. I also do a lot of conventions. It's a great way to get to talk to editors and publishers in person.

NRAMA: And looking to the future, what’s next after you finish Superman/Supergirl: Maelstrom?

PN: Well, first up, I'm finishing The Infinite Horizon miniseries for Image, which was unfortunately waylaid by the birth of my son and other things. After that, I have a few things in the works that hopefully I'll be able to announce early in the New Year.

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