After working at Marvel and Image on books like Uncanny X-Men and Spawn, Tan was first tapped by DC in 2008 for a Final Crisis tie-in, then followed with stints on high profile books like Green Lantern and Batman and Robin.
Now he's working with writer/artist Tony Daniel to revamp Hawkman for a new audience. With that come some visual changes to the character that have fans both excited and worried, but Tan's response is a resounding enthusiasm for what's coming in Hawkman #1.
Probably the biggest change, as readers have noticed, is that Hawkman's wings and costume elements appear to be organic. As Tan told us (below), that's all part of the story, so it's likely that Carter Hall will have a situation similar to Iron Man's new status, with the ability to put on the costume without running home to get it. Or maybe there's another explanation, but the clear message is that Hawkman's new look will be explained -- and it will also be updated for a new audience. Daniel and Lee have worked with editors and DC Co-Publisher Jim Lee to make sure the design for Hawkman looks modern.
Tan also addressed concerns about whether his art will be consistent on the title, and he credited Lee for giving him guidance as he further crafted his style.
Newsarama talked with Tan to find out more about his new approach and what he's bringing to Hawkman.
Newsarama: Phil, you're well known for your dynamic work on capes. How different has it been working on wings?
Philip Tan: It's quite different. The only time I've actually drawn wings and organic armors for characters was way back when I was on Uncanny X-Men. That was a long time ago, so it was really fun to return to that.
Nrama: What's it like for you to do pencils for another artist like Tony Daniel?
Tan: It's really exciting to work with Tony, actually. What he's bringing to the script and the story are very visually geared. I just think this is such a blessing for me. I like having a writer whose stories and ideas are informed by the way everything is going to look visually.
Nrama: We know this Hawkman is Carter Hall, and we've heard a little about him, but how would you describe the character you're drawing?
Tan: He's someone that readers can identify with, because you'll see him as a normal person. He's not someone who's going to run around with his costume on all the time. He has a normal life, although it's an adventurous life. And of course, we get to see him become Hawkman and figure out what that means, which is also exciting.
Nrama: Some readers have guessed that, because you and Tony have experience on books like Batman and Spawn, this will be a dark book. Would you describe Hawkman that way?
Tan: No, not at all. Tony and I keep telling ourselves that this has to be lively and action-packed in a way that makes it feel like Indiana Jones. It is fast-moving and exciting and more upbeat.
There are dark elements that come in and out, like villains and real-life situations, which will add color and contrast into the story. But I would definitely not categorize it as a dark book in the way that you think of Batman or Spawn. It's nothing like that.
It's a combination of what we love about action and adventure movies. That's what we're trying to bring to Hawkman.
Nrama: Have you and Tony been working together on how the visuals echo that idea?
Tan: Yes! We want this book to be exciting. Tony is bringing the action-packed story, and I am bringing the exciting visuals. We're trying to make it all work together.
We've also worked a lot on how to make the elements of Hawkman's story look more modern and updated. Tony and I came up with a lot of ideas about how to update Hawkman. We dug through a lot of Hawkman's past and want to use all the things that make Hawkman so cool, but a lot of the designs from back then might not work for modern times. And we're going to make it work this time. There are so many cool things about Hawkman and I really can't wait for people to see what we're doing.
Nrama: The details of Hawkman's costume and weapon look very different, almost organic. Are there story reasons behind them?
Tan: Yes, absolutely. There are reasons for the changes that will become clear. It's not just myself and Tony who are going through it. All the editors and Jim Lee and everyone have given input about how this is being executed visually and how it's affecting the story.
It's all going to be something that is very cool not only for me to draw, but it really works in the story. It's very exciting.
Nrama: Are you also keeping new readers in mind?
Tan: Yes. Some of the time, I get too excited and suggest things from Hawkman's history, forgetting that readers would have to know about that, and Tony has to come in and remind me that this will be the first time a lot of readers will even read a Hawkman comic. We want it to be a complete experience for them. We want readers to enjoy Hawkman as if it's their first comic book, and we always have to approach things as if the reader is a new fan.
That's not to say there isn't plenty there for long time fans of Hawkman. But our goal is to bring all those things that people love about Hawkman to a new audience. We want to hook them and keep them excited about the character. So it's absolutely is a big consideration for us.
Nrama: One of your earliest projects at DC was Green Lantern, where you got to design so many new characters and aliens. Are you getting to design new characters and settings for this?
Tan: Absolutely. I'm very excited about what Tony and I are co-designing for this book. It's as much fun or might even be a little bit more fun than what I was doing by designing the Orange Lanterns. I will be designing new characters and settings. There will be new characters and a new environment that will be crucial to our Hawkman story.
Nrama: Are you using a different style on this comic at all?
Tan: Yes, absolutely. For a long time, I had a lot of criticism from fans and readers about how inconsistent my artwork is. Quite frankly, I had to go through a lot of searching for a look that I'm comfortable with and happy with. It has been a learning process for me since I started my career. You saw me experimenting in the work I did on Green Lantern and Outsiders and Batman and Robin. They were all stages of learning and growth for me as I experimented to find that look I wanted.
People have heard that Jim Lee has helped out with designs, but he was also a help for me as an artist as I tried to come up with my own unique style. I felt like he kind of pushed me and finally gave me a goal for where I want my art to be.
Right now, I feel like I've found what I want my work to look like. And in Hawkman, I'm starting that look. I've gotten to that point of finding that happy balance of all my influences.
I think this is where I'm going to be able to prove to people that this is the result of my growth. This is the result of what you've seen before -- this is the look I was hoping to achieve and finally have.Got a comment? There's lots of Newsarama conversation on FACEBOOK and TWITTER. More on DCnU:
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