With a cameo in one of Marvel’s biggest films and his own ongoing series, Howard the Duck is an unlikely rising star at Marvel Comics. Now, he’s crossing over with another Marvel property that’s seen an increased profile thanks to TV and movies – S.H.I.E.L.D.
Set for release September 23, Howard joins Agent Fitz in S.H.I.E.L.D. #10 on a top secret mission. And joining series writer Mark Waid is artist Evan “Doc” Shaner, a fan-favorite artist whose classic sensibilities have been garnering him high-profile work at DC and Marvel of late.
Shaner spoke with Newsarama about the perils of balancing a cartoon duck with espionage action, what brought him to this project, and what it’s like to work with Mark Waid.
Newsarama: Evan, without being too spoiler-y, can you tell us what’s on your drawing board right now?
Evan “Doc” Shaner: Without being spoiler-y, Howard the Duck and Fitz, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., and they're cornered. There are some other ducks present that I won't get into just in case there's anybody who hasn't seen the preview pages online yet. I'd hate to ruin the fun of who shows up.
Nrama: You’ve got a pretty unique assignment right now – bringing Howard the Duck into the world of Marvel's premiere espionage organization. Is working with Howard the Duck, or with S.H.I.E.L.D., a dream project for you?
Shaner: I'm not sure I could say either were necessarily dream projects, not because they aren't great, but I only have a very small handful of dream books. I've always known about Howard in a generic sense but I've only become familiar with him as a character pretty recently. I've loved Chip Zdarsky and Joe Quinones's book since it started so it was an awful lot of fun finding out that Howard would be the major player in the book I was doing.
Nrama: With S.H.I.E.L.D. playing a major role in Marvel's movies and TV, are you taking a more cinematic approach to framing S.H.I.E.L.D. #10?
Shaner: No more so than I would any other book. I've watched the show and I'm certainly trying to keep in line with the aesthetic of it while also going along with what's been established in the book so far. There's definitely stuff in this one that could only be done in a comic book though, so there's a little give and take.
Nrama: You’re known for your classic artistic sensibilities. With S.H.I.E.L.D.’s roots as a Cold War-era super-spy agency, are you able to play with any of your silver-age influences in this story?
Shaner: Well, without giving too much away, Howard's definitely the star of this issue. S.H.I.E.L.D. is certainly present, and Fitz is Howard's "partner" on this mission, but I'd say it's largely Howard's story. So we don't see a whole lot of the classic Jack Kirby or Jim Steranko-type spy agency.
Nrama: You’ve done a few assignments for Marvel in recent memory. How did you land this particular gig?
Shaner: I'd been talking to Mark about finding something we could work on together, and I think he must have been saying something to Executive Editor Tom Brevoort because Tom got in touch with me not too long after about doing an issue. I didn't know who would be in it at that point but I'm very glad I happened to luck out and get the Howard issue.
Nrama: What’s it like working off a Mark Waid script?
Shaner: Great! I've long been a fan of Mark's, so right off the bat that was exciting to get to do anything with him. He really seems to enjoy writing Howard, and I think it shows in the story, so I gave it my all to bring that enthusiasm to the pages. The job is that much easier when you're working with somebody who's clearly having fun with the story.
Nrama: What’s your approach to balancing the inherent visual silliness of Howard the Duck with the serious nature of human secret agents?
Shaner: Playing it dead straight. That's how I approach pretty much any humor that comes up but I think it's especially true here. I'd read something where Steve Gerber said that, to him, Howard was a flesh and blood duck who just happens to look like a cartoon duck. So while I'll exaggerate his body language here and there for impact, I'm mostly underplaying it. My own sense of humor is very dry and I think thesame goes for Howard, so I tried to play him that way.
Also, just to give Joe Quinones his due, Howard is one of the hardest things I've had to draw in recent memory. If it weren't for Joe's recent take on him it would have been an uphill battle, so thankfully I had that to look to as a model.
Nrama: After S.H.I.E.L.D. #10, what’s coming up for you? Where can fans expect to see your artwork next?
Shaner: I'm moving right on to Justice League: Gods And Men – Green Lantern #1. Hal Jordan and John Stewart and a whole slew of Green Lanterns, with writer Tom King. It's a strong story and something a little different from what I'm usually asked for, so I think it'll be exciting.