Catwoman gets a new look in June, as Italian artist David Messina takes over the title when it returns in June with Catwoman #41.
Working with Genevieve Valentine, who's been writing Catwoman since October, Messina hopes to bring a new look to the book after the comic took a two-month break for Convergence.
As the feline character returns in June, she'll be back in the costume, but still acting as a crime boss in Gotham City. Then in July, Stephanie Brown is being introduced to the title as the hero known as Spoiler, after her New 52 debut in Batman Eternal.
After working on titles for publishers like Marvel and Image, Messina just recently started with DC, and his work on Catwoman can be seen in this week's eight page preview for the title.
Newsarama talked to the artist about his approach to Selina and what readers can expect from his work on Catwoman.
Newsarama: David, what's your background? Are you self-trained or schooled in art? And how did you get started as an artist?
David Messina: I started as self-trained. I studied the work of artists like Adam Hughes and Katsuhiro Otomo.
Then I was a student of the Scuola Internazionale di Comics, the most important school of visual arts in Italy. There I worked in order to improve my inking skills and storytelling.
For awhile I worked as an advertising visualizer and as a storyboard artist, and I published for some small publishers here in Italy until I had the chance to work as colorist for Devil's Due Publishing and then (thanks to Jim Lee, who introduced me to Chris Ryall) as artist for IDW's Angel book.
After my debut in IDW, I worked for several publishers in the USA, like Marvel, Image and Valiant.
Nrama: What got you interested in doing comic book art? What started you in this field, and why do you enjoy it and continue doing it now?
Messina: First and foremost my love for the storytelling. I love telling stories and using pictures to do it.
In my opinion. a comic book artist is first a storyteller, along with the writer, then a good artist.
I started in this field because of my love for Jack Kirby's works, like the Fourth World, and for characters like Spider-Man or Superman, and for stories like Batman: Year One, Batman: Killing Joke, Daredevil: Born Again or Watchmen.
During the years, my love for the medium has grown book after book, as both a reader and as an artist. The more good comics I read, the harder I want to work in order to produce good comics for the readers out there, like me!
Nrama: Let's talk about your style. How would describe it?
Messina: I think that I could describe my style as naturalistic. I don't see myself as a realistic artist; I'm more interested in making credible what I'm drawing instead of making it hyper-realistic.
Nrama: You've mentioned some artists that got you interested in the field, but in regards to your style, who would you call your influences?
Messina: My biggest influences are artists like Jack Kirby, Mike Mignola, Adam Hughes and Clemente Sauve for the drawing itself, and I love Frank Quitely, Brian Hitch and Katsuhiro Otomo for the the storytelling.
But also I'm a huge fan of Rockwell, Leyendecker and Mucha's work, always on my desktop when I work.
Nrama: Can you describe techniques you use to create the art for Catwoman?
Messina: My way of working is pretty simple: I do the layouts digitally, in order to fix or modify the layouts quickly until I find the best solution for the storytelling.
Then I do the blueprints on watercolor paper, and I lay the pages down with a blue pencil.
After that, I ink my pencils with pens and Japanese calligraphic brush.
Then I scan the pages and I add textures and effect to improve the storytelling and the details.
Nrama: Do you use references?
Messina: Usually I work with some references — my girlfriend or my friends that I use for the more complex panels or the likeness of the characters.
I try to make every character like a living being, someone the reader could relate with.
Also, specifically for Catwoman, I'm using references of the Chicago of the '50s and of art deco buildings for Gotham. I'm studying a lot of the art deco for the layout of the pages too and for the decorations and the textures in the book.
Nrama: As you've discussed the series with the editor at DC, what look are you hoping to bring to Catwoman as a character — and also to the book?
Messina: Like I said, I'd like to bring a '50s noir flavor in the book. I'm watching all the old gangster movies and I'm doing a research of it. I'm trying to make Gotham City like a living being and not just like a background. I want to render the luxury of the uptown, the dark of the alleys and the rotten madness which I think is deep in the soul of the city.
For Selina, I'm trying to make her as sharp as a razor, and sexy, but without making her like a pin-up doll. Selina is a woman in an extreme and dangerous spot, I see her like a queen walking a dark path. In my idea, Selina is a reflection of Gotham: a dark queen to love and fear at the same time.
Nrama: Anything else you want to tell potential readers about your work on Catwoman?
Messina: I just want to thank all the people who want to give a try at the book for the first time, 'cause Genevieve and me (and all the Catwoman's team) put our hearts in the book. If you haven't read it before, I think that's the right moment to start!