The Unknown's "Unknown" - Artist Minck Oosterveer

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In today's electronic world, artists can work on American comic books from just about anywhere in the world.

When writer Mark Waid's new comic The Unknown debuts in May (preview of #1 here), it will be drawn by Minck Oosterveer, a newcomer to American audiences but a veteran artist in Europe.

Oosterveer calls his artistic style "shaped by different worlds," citing influences as diverse as Milton Canniff, Moebius, Jordi Bernet, and Sean Phillips. "This mix of styles from Europe and the U.S. slowly evolvd into my own style," he said. "We are talking about plus or minus 25 years now. I'm seen as a bit of a comic veteran in my own country."

Oosterveer first worked on American comics with publisher Boom! Studios last year, drawing Zombie Tales #4. But most American readers will get their first dose of Oosterveer's art when Waid debuts his new comic, which tells the story of a modern-day Sherlock Holmes investigating something truly unknown: What happens after death?

"It turned out to be my favorite kind of story," Oosterveer said about getting offered the chance to work on The Unknown. "Mystery and adventure."

The comic centers on Catherine Allingham, the greatest detective of her age, who finds out that she has six months to live. Catherine enlists the aid of her own modern-day "Watson" to discover the answer to the one mystery she hasn't been able to solve, exploring what Waid calls the "supernatural and spiritual" as she investigates death.

"The reader has to start wondering what's real and what's not, has to feel the confusion of a completely rational person who is confronted with things she just can't explain by just logical reasoning, the horror of somebody taken out of the comfort of his own reality," Oosterveer explained. "More and more, the only one she can rely on is the guy she hired to rely on... but can she really?"

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Oosterveer said he struggled with designing Catherine's character because he drew a similar female adventurer for several years in a comic strip by Dutch writer Willem Ritstier. But after talking to Waid, he realized Unknown was a very different concept.

"This was tough," Oosterveer said. "I was a bit uncomfortable, believing that people in Europe would say I was going to do an American remake of my own comic... I absolutely didn't want to portray her the same way I did her newspaper counterpart, so I added some differences, like a short haircut and heavy boots for mountain-walking."

Originally from the Netherlands, Oosterveer first became interested in storytelling when his father, a Dutch sailor, would come home with stories from around the world.

"I'm the son of a sailor, the old fashioned type who started as a common sailer and climbed up to being a captain," Oosterveer said. "When he came home, there were stories and real adventures from all over the globe. Wonders of the world, places you couldn't imagine but also things like modern piracy and wars. This was when there was no internet and TV wasn't a common thing."

Oosterveer said his love of stories inspired him to wait for his father to finish the newspaper each day so he could look at the "dailies," or the comics. His favorites were Flash Gordon, Modesty Blaise, and the Dutch comics Eric the Viking and Aram of the isles.

"My interest in comics grew, and I started drawing them myself as a kid, started reading Dutch translations of Batman, Superman and my favorite, The Flash," he said. "I decided I would become a sailor. But it turned out I wasn't good in math, which is quite essential for a sailor. And I needed glasses, which totally wiped out the possibility for me to be a sailor. Next best thing was buying contact lenses and starting a career as a comic artist."

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Oosterveer said he had heard of Waid before getting the chance to work with him, but it wasn't until he read his script for the Unknown that he really began to appreciate his writing.

"When I read his script, I can feel he has thought about it and took a lot of effort to get the story right," he said. "When reading it, I'm sucked straight into the story. It's well-written, to the point. And I love his twists and dialogue."

The artist said that although there are a lot of miles separating him from the writer, he's been able to talk with Waid a lot about the story and has enjoyed collaborating with him.

"He's not the type of writer who says, 'here is the story, my creation, just draw it!' Not at all. For him, creating a comic is working as a team," Oosterveer said. "We can discuss the story and he's open to the things I have to say about it. In fact, he likes it when I give some input. It's the way I'm used to working with writers, so it all feels comfortable and familiar."

When The Unknown comes out in May, Oosterveer is hoping American comic book fans will give his work a chance. "Buy it, read it! It's good," he said. "Written by one of the major comic-writers in the US. And I tried as hard as I can possibly do to make it visually interesting for readers."

For more information on Minck Oosterveer and his art, visit his website at MinckOosterveer.com.

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