This weekend at Wizard World Chicago, Marvel Comics announced the addition of artist, Billy Tan (Uncanny X-Men) and inker Matt Banning (Death of the New Gods) to the New Avengers as the regular art team for the popular Marvel series. Tan, who joins the book with issue #41, will be replacing regular series artist Leinil Yu. Banning, who is now officially exclusive to Marvel Comics, joins the book with issue #44.
Even in the midst of a violent Skrull Invasion, Tan and Banning were able to join up with New Avengers editor, Tom Brevoort, to talk to Newsarama about this new creative roster change for the title.
Newsarama: Tom, there are big changes in store for New Avengers fans--with the addition of Billy Tan and Matt Banning to the fold--will this change take place after Secret Invasion finishes up?
Tom Brevoort: No. Billy’s first issue as penciller was #41, and Matt comes on with #44, Billy’s third. So they’ll be in place during the Secret Invasion tie-in sequence. But we’re looking at the run itself as commencing with #48 post-Invasion.
NRAMA: Billy, you've been on a fairly iconic run of Marvel's toy box so far--Spider-Man, the X-Men, and now the Avengers. How does it feel to be taking the reigns of another high profile project like this?
Billy Tan: I feel like the luckiest penciller in the world. Seriously, I think there are lot more artists that are more qualified than me to be on this book. That being said, I shall try my very best not to let fans down.
NRAMA: Matt—you're exclusive to Marvel now; how personally rewarding is that?
Matt Banning: The exclusive is rewarding for me because it's an acknowledgement that all of the time I've spent at the drawing table has not gone without notice; it allows me to continue producing work at a level I enjoy working at and that the fans expect from me.
NRAMA: Does exclusivity change things for an inker drastically?
MB: The way it's changed things for me is that it gives a sense of continuity to my work which allows me to focus on spending time at the drawing table rather than on the phone trying to line up my next job. It just allows me to relax and keep my mind on the work.
NRAMA: Will the New Avengers line-up be changing drastically after all the tumult of Secret Invasion? Will the effects of Civil War continue in light of the obvious need for the heroes during this Skrull invasion?
TB: These are all wait-and-see questions, unfortunately, so there’s very little I can tell you here, other than that, just as the end of Civil War changed the landscape of the Marvel Universe for months and years to come, so too will the climax of Secret Invasion—and New Avengers, as you might expect, will be at the forefront of exploring and reacting to these changes in the months ahead.
NRAMA: Billy, who is your favorite Avenger to draw? Do any of the characters prove to be challenging for you? If so--who? And why?
BT: Captain America is by far my favorite character to draw. To me, he represents patriotism, honor and integrity, all the values I believe in. The challenging part is to get through thousands of chains on his armor.
NRAMA: Is there a difference in perception of the artwork as the two of you approach a team book like New Avengers? For example, Billy's work on Uncanny has a certain distinctive quality; does your work bare a different tone with a different set of characters?
BT: Not really. I'm staying with same style but hopefully better and more polished.
MB: As I've come on to the book, Billy and I talked about some of the new things he was trying to do with his work which I'm currently incorporating into my own approach. I will always adjust slightly to the book, you can't do the Punisher the same way you'd do Uncanny X-Men. It's always important too try new things so your work doesn't stagnate and become too boring or predictable.
NRAMA: Matt, what made you decide to become an inker? What kinds of artistic traits make young artists decide to take that route?
MB: I decided to become an inker while I was in art school. While there, I was trained as an artist but I had an affinity for inking from the start. I had always inked my own stuff while in Junior High and High school; but once I was introduced to the proper tools, my inking prowess was evident to my peers very quickly.
Between my first and second year of art school, I showed my portfolio to Sam Kieth; after looking at it, he looked up at me and asked, “Why aren't you working? You need to show this to someone who'll give you a job.” I have to admit I was stunned by his response yet happily surprised; so, once I got back to New York, I decided to become an inker.
I went up to DC that fall and had my first appointment with Mike Carlin; he gave me my first job as assistant inker on Superman which further convinced me that I was on the right track. It was around that time I also started using my art school nickname "BATT" as my pen name which many fans are familiar with. I’ve always felt like I'd be an okay penciller; but I quickly realized that there weren't really a lot of great inkers out there—based on the complaints I had already heard from a number of pro pencillers. I felt like inking was an area where I could fill a void because there didn't appear to be enough good inkers to go around and my full art training could give me a little bit of an edge in getting across the true intent of the penciller.
NRAMA: Tom, how were Billy and Matt chosen for New Avengers? Did they have to "try out" for the book? Was Brian involved in the selection process?
TB: Brian was completely a part of the selection process. We’re always very particular about who we put on our biggest assignments, and there hasn’t been a bigger ongoing book than New Avengers for the past four years or so. In the case of Billy, we initially assigned him one issue, #41, as a sort of “road test.” But by the time his initial pages for the issue came in, Brian and I were pretty well convinced that he’d be the guy to take over the title. And in the case of Matt, that was all about finding a strong artistic partner for Billy, and somebody that Billy himself suggested to us.
NRAMA: Where does that leave Leinil Yu after this changing of the guard?
TB: Having worked on a number of these big event books over the years, I can say with some confidence that, in all likelihood, once Secret Invasion is completed, Leinil is probably going to want to sleep, and chill out some. And then, he’s got a stockpile of Damon Lindeloff scripts for Ultimate Wolverine/Hulk waiting for him.
NRAMA: Billy and Matt, without giving anything away, give something for readers to chew on regarding the cast of New Avengers during your run on the book.
MB: Since I'm working on one of the Secret invasion tie-in issues right now; I'd have to say: SKRULLS GONE WILD! SKRULLS, SKRULLS, SKRULLS!
BT: Well, let me tell you this: our heroes are going to be in a whole lot of bad predicaments. I think fans going to be pissed off at what the New Avengers will be going through. But when all is said and done, you won’t be able to help but embrace the genius of Mr. Bendis’ storytelling ability.