Mike Lily: Black Terror, Exclusivity and More

Mike Lily on the Black Terror

As we discussed with Dynamite Entertainment President Nick Barrucci a little over a week ago, the publisher’s Project Superpowers universe is expanding, and one of those first new titles to spin off of the main series will star the Black Terror.

The four issue Black Terror miniseries will be written by Jim Krueger with art by Mike Lily, who’s also Dynamite’s newest exclusive artist.

We spoke with Barrucci and Lily about the forthcoming miniseries, his art, and more. First off, nick Barrucci.

Newsarama: Nick, Dynamite's not really in the habit of signing creators to exclusives - I think there was Mel Rubi and Leah Moore and John Reppion... and that's about it. What made you pull out the contract for Mike?

Nick Barrucci: Actually, quite a bit of our talent is under exclusive. We’ve played around with the idea of announcing our exclusives, but it was in the early days of Dynamite, and it didn’t seem like it would be much more than our trying to gather attention. It was more important to establish our books than to say “Look at us, look at who we’ve got today”, which seems to be placing the energy in the wrong place. Yes, there is the intangible of showing that you’re shoring up the creators that the fans do like on their respective books. We feel that all of the creators we work with are great, and are honored that they work with us. Mike is a great talent, and we are quite pleased to have signed him up. It was luck, and he literally was the last artist I was able to visit in artist alley at New York Comic Con. I stopped by, let him know how big of a fan I had become watching him grow over the years, and we traded numbers and started talking. I got to know a bit of what he liked, he got to know what we were about, and we were able to sign an exclusive contract.

NRAMA: What do you see in Mike as an artist?

NB: I see a professional whose already learned that he has a lot to learn. On a personal level, to me, that’s appealing. It’s a great trait, in that he doesn’t assume that he knows everything and that there’s nothing he can learn. In addition to that, it’s his ability to execute “dynamite” art.

NRAMA: Black Terror is a pretty high profile project for you. Why does Mike fit the bill, artistically?

NB: It is very high profile. Project Superpowers has been phenomenal for us, and we wanted to bring the best creators we could do the plate for fans to enjoy the new series. Mike just fits the bill. I can tell you, that from what I’ve seen of Mike, and the questions he’s asking and the approach that he’s taking on the series, is that he’s treating this as the most important project he’s ever worked on. He’s an artist, it’s what he does. He does great work, and he will fit the bill. Of that, I’m pretty confident.

NRAMA: What else do you see Mike working on while he's with Dynamite?

NB: I really want to say as little as possible. Right now, the focus is on Mike and the Black Terror. It’s his turn to enjoy the limelight. So, let’s focus the attention on him. Take it away Mike.

NRAMA: Sure – Mike, what have you been up to recently?

Mike Lily: Well besides gaining a couple pounds (I just joined a gym to correct this per my wife's request...ahem...) and spendin' more time with the family....the last mainstream book I did was the Annihilation Conquest Quasar mini series which brought back Adam Warlock to the Marvel Universe. Right after that I started working for Simon & Schuster on a graphic novel about the childhood of Albert Einstein with writer Vito Delsante. I really enjoyed working on that and got my own five year old son to pose for me for the early years of Einstein. This was also a chance to show off some of my inking over myself which I rarely get to do as well as lettering. I had fun doing inkwash techniques and bringing them into the computer to digitally enhance here and there. I was ably assisted with the inks by Warren Martineck and on the lettering and post work by Wilson Ramos.

I also got to do a comic book for GlaxoSmithKline about AIDS awareness/prevention. It's an adventure comic a la' Fantastic Voyage and Osmosis Jones. I designed the characters and universe for this book as well as pencil and art direct the production staff. Lots of work but loads of fun. In between all that I did some original art sketch cards for the DC Legacy set from DC Comics/Rittenhouse, worked on a horror film project, did various covers for independent publishers and even some more interior design work.

NRAMA: What got you talking to Dynamite in the first place?

ML: As he said, I was fortunate to have the man himself, Nick Barrucci, stop by my table at New York Comic Con this past April. We got to talkin' and he mentioned he liked my pencils from Nightwing and Vampirella and wanted me to work on Red Sonja in the past but we never got a chance to hook up. At the show seemed liked a good opportunity to lay some groundwork and then we took it from there after the con.

NRAMA: When did exclusivity come into the discussion?

ML: I believe we first started talking about Alex Ross' Project Superpowers, the Black Terror and how this universe was shaping up...the inspirations from the pulp/golden age era, which I am a huge fan of...my art approach and storytelling/layouts which Nick loved from Vampirella and Quasar.....pencil to inks, pencils to color philosophy, we even got to talk a bit about my creator owned book, The Mercury Chronicles which has that distinctive pulp feel, etc....we talked about doing a 4 issue Black Terror mini as an exclusive which then turned into a 2-year exclusive with the possibility of me working on more Dynamite titles.

NRAMA: For you, what does an exclusive contract mean?

ML: For me, it gives me a home to showcase what I can do on a consistent basis. I don't have to worry about juggling projects. I can concentrate and put all my efforts into one title, one company. Also, with Nick's roster of pulp era titles, the opportunity to draw Red Sonja, Zorro, Lone Ranger, etc was too good to pass up...and of course being able to work with industry greats Alex Ross and Jim Krueger. I hope to learn from the masters as well.

NRAMA: Your project coming up - Black Terror. What is it about that series that has your creative juices going?

ML: First off, the nods and homages from the golden age of heroes and pulp era characters always get me going creatively. That WWII era...the greatest generation...which gives you a sense of pride. But now we have grey areas, morally, politically...corrupt avenues have sprung up and that's where the Black Terror steps in. The mix of pulp action and political foes from the left, right and center...makes for an interesting read. Artistically, with this mix of high flying action and heavy drama and politics, I need to reproduce the emotions of the characters accurately to help stimulate the emotions of the reader. That is my priority as an artist.

NRAMA: Who is the Black Terror, to you - visually? Alex has redesigned him somewhat, but what ingredients make him up, physically?

ML: With his stark black costume and menacing skull, the Black Terror visually has all the ingredients of a formidable, threatening avenger. Even the sharp angles to his mask adds to this. To me he's all these things as well as the 'jolly-roger' design evoking the swashbuckling pirate. He doesn't follow in step with the system. When Ben Franklin said..."Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both. "...the Black Terror would step in to give you back that liberty with a kick in the belly and an upper cut to the chops.

NRAMA: Finally Mike, big-picture - career-wise, what are you hoping to achieve during the length of this relationship with Dynamite?

ML: Like I mentioned before, a home to showcase my talents on a regular basis, develop a wider/stronger fan base and working with industry greats I hope to improve my art as well as my storytelling. Also, I don't want it to sound like a one way street for me...I want to help Dynamite and make the whole organization proud.

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