Mike Norton Reinvents Himself on Green Arrow/ Black Canary

Artist Mike Norton Reinvents Himself

Art from Green Arrow/Black Canary #15
Art from Green Arrow/Black Canary #15
from issue #15

Readers might have noticed the art on Green Arrow/Black Canary has changed, even though the artist has not.

Mike Norton, who's been doing pencils on the title since Issue #7, tweaked his style beginning with last week's Issue #15 as a new writer, Andrew Kreisberg, came on board the title.

Known by DC fans for his work on Trinity's back-up stories and a run on the All-New Atom, Norton developed his clean yet emotive style on comics like Gravity, Queen & Country, and The Waiting Place. But now, as he heads into a new creative partnership with Kreisberg, the DC-exclusive artist is trying something a little different.

We spoke to Norton about Green Arrow/Black Canary, what's changed about the artwork he's doing, and why he finally feels like he's not just imitating someone else.  

Newsarama: Mike, how is it working with Andrew Kreisberg? Are you liking his stuff?

Mike Norton: I really like it, actually. I didn't know what to expect. I wasn't familiar with him, per se. I hadn't seen Eli Stone, because they'd said he'd written Eli Stone and The Simpsons. So I watched Eli Stone, and it's actually really good. It's a unique kind of show, which is probably why it got canceled. But I wondered what his comics would be like.

Art from Green Arrow/Black Canary #15
Art from Green Arrow/Black Canary #15
from issue #15

I didn't know he'd written the Helen Killer series for Arcana. When I heard that title, I thought, "Oh no! What is that??!" Then he sent me all the issues and I couldn't believe it, because it was actually pretty good! Tim Seely had been telling me for months that the book was good, but I just couldn't get past the name because it sounded like a parody or something like that. But wow, he actually made it work. So I had high hopes after that.

And when I read the first issue of Green Arrow/Black Canary, he's obviously got episodic storytelling down. He knows how to write a tight story. So he's got that down. And I think his wanting to bring Green Arrow back to essentially basics was something I was personally looking forward to, and I think fans will like too.

NRAMA: How many issues are you into it? Are you getting a good feel for the story?

MN: I'm nearing the end of my third issue. And when I got the first script, I was telling people it reminded me of Brad Meltzer's run. But that's kind of a misnomer. It's only that it's darker in tone than Judd's stuff. It's back to a stripped down Green Arrow/Black Canary. And the tone is darker. Things aren't as funny. Even though they make jokes, it's not a fun, globe-trotting superhero kind of book. It's much more of a street-level, long bow-hunters playing field.

Art from Green Arrow/Black Canary #15
Art from Green Arrow/Black Canary #15
from issue #15

I like that about it. I like street-level characters, and this is exactly what I wanted to do.

NRAMA: I was looking over some of the art. You've got a different feel to this with the new storyline, don't you?

MN: I'm playing around with the art a lot more now. When they brought Andrew on board, [editor Mike] Carlin told me, "Alright. You don't have to be Cliff Chiang anymore. You can do whatever you want. Let's try to make this gritty and dark." And that's something I don't usually get to do a lot. I'm usually trying to fit with someone else's art and make my stuff look like theirs, or I've never had a chance to balance things out.

In the past, I've draw really open kind of stuff that people want to color all cartoony. Now I'm getting to play a lot more with shadows. And I'm really liking it. We brought Joe Rubenstein on and he's really kicking that up a notch. He's got that kind of rough Giordano/Klaus Janson kind of edge to it that I really, really like.

NRAMA: So he's inking your stuff with that style in mind?

MN: Yeah. His inking is exactly what I picture in my head when I'm drawing it. It's hard to explain to people who don't draw comics that when you're drawing these things, you have a picture in your head of how it's going to end up, but it's going to another completely different person who's going to add their little flavor to it, so it never ends up looking exactly like you pictured in your head. Now, I send those off to Joe and it does come out looking like what I was thinking. It may not be as slick as it has been in the past, but that's what we're going for.

Art from Green Arrow/Black Canary #15
Art from Green Arrow/Black Canary #15
from issue #15

NRAMA: You described it as darker, but how would you describe the different in your art?

MN: Darker is a good general description for it, but it has an edge to it where before, it was just a kind of slick, kind of cartoony thing going on with the artwork. I think the artwork now is much more balanced and has a rough edge to it. That's something I've always been afraid to let happen, but now that I've done it, I can only see myself doing more of it.

NRAMA: So you like the way it's turned out quite a bit, huh?

MN: Yeah. I'm really happy. And that's not to say I haven't worked with really good people in the past. It's just that now, personally, I'm really happy with the way the artwork is turning out. Usually, there's always a tinge of disappointment with stuff when I see finished. All I see is mistakes I made. And while that's not completely gone now, I feel like it's much closer to what I pictured in my head.

NRAMA: Does it help to have a new writer to give you that starting point as you try something different?

MN: Yeah! That was the whole motivation behind it. And I give credit to Mike Carlin for that because he said, "We're starting at ground zero here. Do whatever you want." So I'm running with it. And seeing if anybody says yea or nay.

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