Clayton Henry on The Incredible Hercules
Art from Incredible Hercules #121 by new series artist Clayton Henry
Next month, in The Incredible Hercules #121, Marvel’s favorite Greek God gets a new artist. Clayton Henry—known for his work on Alpha Flight, Exiles, and various X-related projects—joins Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente as the new regular artist on The Incredible Hercules.As for the storyline, apparently, Hercules can’t catch a break! Seeking some relief after the tumultuous “Sacred War” storyline—Hercules and his new friend, Princess Namora find themselves face to face with a new threat in the form of Amazons—and they’ve declared war on Atlantis. From the looks of things, these Amazons have their eyes on more than just Atlantis as a conquest—they’ve kidnapped Hercules’ sidekick, Amadeus Cho, for some extracurricular activities as well. Newsarama contacted Henry to discuss his upcoming stint with Hercules and friends as well as to talk about his experience in the comic industry to date.
Newsarama: How did you get involved with Incredible Hercules? Are you a fan of the character? Clayton Henry: I really don’t know anything about the character, to be honest. As I understand it, Fred asked [Editor] Nate Cosby if I could do some issues of Incredible Herc after he and I had worked together on an issue of Wolverine First Class. Coincidentally, Greg Pak and I had talked a year before about possibly working together on something. So, here we are… NRAMA: For those who aren't familiar with your work, tell readers a little bit about yourself and your artistic background. CH: I guess I’ll start from the beginning. I started drawing when I was 4 years old. When I was about 9, I started taking advanced art classes. That was cool because I’d go to regular school 4 days a week and I’d go to another school for art 1 day a week. I then moved up to magnet schools and eventually graduated from Design and Architecture Senior High in ‘94. I wasn’t really interested in college though. I took a number of classes just to kill time. Over the course of about 5 years, I still had no degree to show for it. All I wanted to do was draw comics. My first professional comic job was drawing The Nine Rings of Wu-Tang with Brian Haberlin. Then Area 52. Work dried up after a couple of years and I had to get an unbelievably crappy part-time job at Home Depot. I pretty much hated life for those seven months. But I was working on a portfolio the entire time. I finally decided to book a trip to Wizard World Chicago. I ran into Brian Haberlin there and he set me up with a portfolio review with Marvel and I’ve been working for them ever since. Now I only enter Home Depot as a customer. NRAMA: In your upcoming arc, where does the story pick up? Will there be some familiar faces appearing in the story? Any new characters? CH: Ares appears in the first issue, but I’m not sure what his role will be just yet. I’m willing to bet it has something to do with godly war since he’s…ya know… NRAMA: How much input did you have with Fred Van Lente and Greg Pak? CH: There’s been a lot of input in both directions. They’ve given me lots of suggestions with character designs and story elements. And I’ve made changes in the storytelling where I thought changes were necessary. NRAMA: Having worked on titles like Alpha Flight and various X-projects, how is the Incredible Hercules a different experience? CH: This is definitely the best blend of humor, drama, and action in a book I’ve worked on. There have been quite a few times when I’ve laughed out loud, but it’s by no means silly. NRAMA: Stylistically, do you try to update your work to service an individual book or do you prefer that your style remain consistent in its look from project to project? CH: My style seems to progress with every new project, and I’m pleased with my artistic growth. It seems like I’m still learning new things everyday. I see no reason to change my style because I’m not done mastering it yet. NRAMA: There are several new female characters being introduced in this arc--how much of a hand did you have in the designs of these new characters? CH: Greg and Fred gave hints and suggestions and I took it from there. For example, Fred wanted the Gorgon to have shorter snakes on her head. I declined because I didn’t want to have to draw 20 little snakes on her head every time. So I gave her much longer thicker snakes. That way they can be hidden most of the time. When designing a character I always take my own laziness into account. NRAMA: What do you think are the most important visual aspects of a character like Hercules? Nothing out of the ordinary. CH: Most male superheroes are built like Greek gods anyway. Herc just has more facial expressions: Angry, happy-- and of course-- dumb. NRAMA: Are there any characters in the Marvel U. that you haven't had the opportunity to work with yet? CH: I reeeeally want to draw Hulk. Green Hulk. NRAMA: Are there any other projects beyond Incredible Hercules that you can tell us about? CH: Nope. I’ve still got a ways to go before I’m done with Herc. NRAMA: Do you have any advice for younger artists seeking to break into the industry? CH: Practice, persistence, and prayer worked for me; equally large amounts of each. Seriously though, draw everyday, even if you don’t have time to do more than a sketch on a paper napkin. And figure drawing classes are a must. If you’re building a portfolio, only show your strongest work. Try to get your work in front of industry pros (writers, pencilers, editors, etc.) and when they’re critiquing, don’t say a thing unless they ask you a question. Just listen. Then go home and draw some more.