Becoming an artist in the world of DC superheroes is intimidating.
But taking over art after J.H. Williams III on Batwoman?
For artist Amy Reeder, it's just another challenge she's using as inspiration.
It's not the first time Reeder has stepped up to a daunting challenge. A few years ago, she decided to enter a manga contest, taking her recently acquired teaching degree and tossing it aside for a chance to draw comics.
After her contest entry won the chance to be published, Reeder was hooked.
She began telling stories in the world of manga, both writing and drawing the acclaimed TokyoPop series Fool's Gold (under her former married name, Amy Hadley). But it was her artwork on the Vertigo series Madame Xanadu that got the attention of DC editors, landing her gigs on two ongoing series beginning this summer.
Reeder will provide interior art for the second arc of the new Batwoman ongoing series that was announced last month, providing pencils for writer J.H. Williams. (Since DC will only confirm the Batwoman series will start "later this year," Reeder's arc would presumably start sometime early next year.)
Then earlier this month, DC announced that Reeder would be providing covers for Supergirl beginning in August.
It looks like the name Amy Reeder is one that DC fans should get used to seeing. Newsarama talked to the artist to find out more about her work and what she thinks of drawing Supergirl and Batwoman.
Newsarama: First, Amy, can you briefly tell us how you were attracted to the idea of being a comic book artist? Were you a fan first? Or an artist first?
Amy Reeder: I had graduated college with a teaching degree, actually, and couldn't get work. In my boredom, I started reading a little manga, when I discovered there was a contest for Americans to produce a 20-page "manga" entry and the top ten would be compiled into a book. For some reason, this lit a fire in me. I decided I wanted to improve my artistry and tell stories with my art. I had this insane amount of drive, something I'm always trying to get back, and it made me improve very quickly. Wouldn't you know it, I made it into the next volume of that contest book!
So I guess I would say I'm an artist first. I became much more interested in it when I decided I wanted to contribute.
Nrama: How did you get the opportunity to work on Madame Xanadu? And how did that experience shape you as an artist?
Reeder: Believe it or not, before there was a title or even a writer, there was just me. Bob Schreck's assistant Brandon Montclare had been wanting to work with me based off my work on Fool's Gold, a series I wrote and drew for Tokyopop. So they were trying to find the right match, with a writer who would be fairly loose and collaborative so I could showcase my storytelling, and a pre-existing character to bump up the profile a little. They somehow convinced Matt Wagner to come on board. It was really smooth sailing after that.
Madame Xanadu was sort of a trial-by-fire experience. I was given a lot of opportunity without necessarily having earned it, and went from drawing blank hallways in a high school drama to coming up with fantasy worlds, recreating history, and drawing some action — even drawing adults was new to me. And yet, I wanted to be sure it was exceptional, that it looked like I'd been drawing these things all my life.
On top of all this, I was learning what most freelancers learn the wrong way first, which is how to keep a deadline. All-in-all, it was an amazing experience, and I'm proud of what I did. And, I'm incredibly thankful that Matt decided to give me a chance.
Nrama: How did you find out about the opportunity to work on Batwoman with J.H. Williams? And what did you think of the offer?
Reeder: I told Dan Didio I was interested in getting an exclusive contract, and it was his idea that I work on Batwoman alongside J.H. I was honestly pretty floored that he would offer something so high profile!
At first, I felt a little wary of it, because I was such a big fan of what J.H. had done with the character, and I just didn't feel like my art could compare. But, seeing as I entered comics through a contest, I love being challenged, and I can't think of anything that could light more of a fire under me than this. At the time, J.H. was to draw Batwoman, Rucka to write. And now J.H. is writing — I think I'm going to learn so much from him.
Nrama: Now that you're getting to work on Batwoman, what do you hope to bring to the character? And what are your thoughts on how you'll approach this comic visually?
Reeder: I think one of my strengths is that I'm good at really capturing a character and what they're all about. Batwoman hasn't been drawn or written by many and here is the perfect opportunity to make her someone specific and undeniably recognizable...untainted by years of straying interpretations. So I hope that when people read my issues, they feel like this IS Batwoman, it looks like her and anything we haven't seen yet is a new, not different, element of her. My goal visually is to find that balance between showing what I have to offer to the book, but still keeping with what J.H. has started. We've already talked over some ways we'd like to keep some visual continuity between our respective issues, for instance keeping the Batwoman pages visually distinct from the Kate pages.
Nrama: Since you're also doing Supergirl covers, what are the main visual differences between the two characters of Supergirl and Batwoman?
Reeder: Haha, they're like day and night! You know, a lot of this is very subconscious for me. The biggest difference would obviously just be the mood they put across, with their expressions, their gestures, level of rendering and lighting. Supergirl can be whimsical, even cartoony to a certain degree. The goal would be to have people identify with her. Batwoman, on the other hand, has to feel real, like you can smell the dirt on her heel. And she needs to be dealt with in a way that takes her very seriously. To a certain degree, she should scare you.
Something else I pay a great deal of attention to is just plain age. Supergirl is supposed to be 16 or 17. That's a tough age to get just right, and you also have to be concerned with not making her too sexy because of that.
Nrama: How difficult is it to switch from being a sequential storyteller to just doing a cover?
Reeder: I think I'm probably better at interiors than covers, so I approach covers in much the same light, like I'm more likely to follow a Norman Rockwell philosophy and try to tell an intricate story with one illustration as opposed to thinking iconically, or with a high design sense. But if I think about it simply, a cover needs to be intriguing, while interiors make you work, and then reward you. Covers should visually sum up an idea or feeling that the book presents as a theme. Because of this, I'm high on visual metaphors. It's the easiest way to present the real conflict without spoiling the story.
Nrama: Do you enjoy the process of doing covers?
Reeder: Most definitely! It's a break from what I normally do and it also gives me a chance to take a little more time on the details, to make it just how I want it. I actually wish I had more time to illustrate solitary pieces. The drawback to covers is just the designs that you loved that don't get used. And if you come up with three designs per cover like you're supposed to, and actually put work into all three like you're supposed to, that's a big graveyard of missed opportunities.
Nrama: I know you haven't started working on Batwoman yet, so can you describe your approach to Supergirl? What qualities of the character are you hoping to portray and how do you convey her character in a cover image?
Reeder: I try to internalize the character; take what artists and writers have done and figure out what that means in reality, and from that, draw it in my own style. To me she is down to earth (no pun intended), very human (again...), full of energy, incapable of hiding her feelings, and very inquisitive. I try to present her in the light of learning and discovery, as she tries to achieve her goal of becoming emotionally strong and autonomous. As I said earlier, I try to approach these covers in such a way that we can empathize with her.
Nrama: Amy, your story is pretty inspiring to other artists out there. But for DC readers who are just looking forward to seeing more of your work, is there anything you'd like to say to finish the interview?
Reeder: To DC fans: Hello and thank you for letting me play in your world! I promise not to leave a mess.