With this week's release of The Multiversity: Thunderworld #1, the fifth chapter in Grant Morrison's mind-bending trip through DC's multiverse, readers were introduced to the Earth-5 version of Captain Marvel while also being treated to a reunion of Morrison and his frequent collaborator, artist Cameron Stewart.
Stewart's best known for his work with Morrison on Batman and Robin, Seaguy and Seven Soldiers, but more recently, the artist has been winning acclaim for his writing and artwork on other titles, including DC's newly revamped Batgirl and the Eisner and Shuster award-winning webcomic Sin Titulo.
But the successful writer/artist was more than happy to work with Morrison again for this week's Thunderworld, which takes readers to the alternate Earth of the Marvel family — characters who were hugely popular during the Golden Age of comics. For Multiversity, Morrison and Stewart went back to the character's roots, even though more modern takes on the hero have since been introduced in comics — and will soon be showing up in the announced Shazam film.
In the latest installment of our ongoing interviews with the artists of Multiversity, Newsarama talked with Stewart about collaborating with Morrison and creating Thunderworld.
Newsarama: Cameron, you've worked with Grant Morrison quite a bit. Why do you particularly enjoy working with him, and why do you think your art fits his stories so well?
Cameron Stewart: Grant has always been one of my favorite writers ever since I was a kid. I often tell the story of how at 13, I once lined up to get his autograph. He's continued to be the writer that's unfailingly excited, inspired, and illuminated my mind.
I'm always pushing myself to make sure that I bring out the best in his stories. I think, having grown up with a mix of North American and British culture — I'm Canadian born to British parents and grew up partly in England — I understand a lot of the cultural influence that informs his work.
Nrama: When you first heard that Grant was doing a story called Multiversity, what did you think of the project?
Stewart: I first heard about it from a fan at a signing session with Grant at San Diego Comic Con in 2009 or so. Grant had announced his plans for Multiversity during a spotlight panel and publicly assigned me to one of the books before approaching me (which was fine, I'm always flattered to be considered one of his favored collaborators).
When the broad strokes of the concept were explained to me, I had the same reaction I always do when hearing about his story ideas — initial bafflement at how it could even be accomplished, and then excitement for the possibilities.
Nrama: Why do you think Grant wanted you drawing the Marvel family and the Thunderworld issue in particular?
Stewart: I think that I'm still known as a "cartoony" artist to a lot of people, and since this was described as a kind of Pixar-style interpretation of the Marvel Family, it made me an appropriate choice.
Nrama: What were your initial thoughts about the idea behind "Thunderworld" and its new take on the Captain Marvel characters?
Stewart: I was actually relieved that, aside from some smart modernization of minor elements, it's more of a classic, "alpha" version of the characters rather than a radical revamp — there's a simplicity and sweetness to the original comics that is very charming, which I think doesn't mesh well with the more contemporary "dark" approach so many take.
Nrama: It sounds like you were familiar with these characters. Any past stories that you think influenced your take on them?
Stewart: While I was aware of Captain Marvel since I was a young child, I hadn't really read a lot of the original comics, and most of my understanding of the concept came from Alan Moore's "Miracleman," which was of course a revamp of Mick Anglo's Marvelman comics, itself a thinly-disguised rip-off of Captain Marvel.
Nrama: Once you understood the type of comic Grant wanted to create for this issue — and the world he was creating — what was the thought process like for you as you developed the general look of the comic and the settings?
Stewart: I mainly tried to synthesize my own style (which, when doing superhero comics, tends to be on the lighter, cartoony side anyway) with what I felt were certain "iconic" elements of C.C. Beck's style and rendering of the characters.
Nrama: Can you describe what part of the issue was the biggest challenge for you to accomplish visually, and how you met that challenge?
Stewart: The trickiest panel, as I recall, was the one in which Black Sivana hurls himself at Billy Batson, who says the magic word and transforms into Captain Marvel a split second before impact.
I had to include Batson, the transformative thunderbolt, and Black Sivana striking the newly appeared Captain Marvel, in one panel. That took a lot of experimentation before I came up with a composition that I think effectively communicated the action taking place.
I made sure to compose the action occurring left-to-right in natural reading order and used the trailing smoke and the gesture of the Captain's body to provide suggestion of one continuous notion.
Nrama: Which page is your favorite in the issue, or one that you thought really turned out particularly well?
Stewart: It's one of the less-complicated pages, but the double-page spread of Captain Marvel floating, surrounded by the shoals of trains swimming through space like eels, turned out rather well.
It's a striking image. It's helped considerably by the simple yet effective graphic pattern added by Nathan Fairbairn.
Nrama: Any of your designs that really stood out to you as you drew them in the pages — something particular that you designed that you either liked how it turned out or were surprised by the way it fit the book?
Stewart: I was very happy with the Moebius-like Rock of Eternity and Sivana's technological replica. They took a lot of work to render but I think the final result was worth it.
The techno-Rock was inspired by looking at oil rigs and factories, industrial architecture run amok.
Nrama: Did you utilize any different technique for this issue of Multiversity?
Stewart: I tried to keep it fairly standard, and not use any particularly complex page layouts, to keep with the spirit and tone of the book.
Nrama: Then to finish up, is there anything you want to tell readers about where else they can find your work?
Stewart: Currently I'm writing and drawing Batgirl every month with my partners Brenden Fletcher and Babs Tarr, and illustrating Fight Club 2 with Chuck Palahniuk for Dark Horse. I also frequently post work in progress on my Instagram feed: @cameronMstewart .