Of APES and AVENGERS: Keeping Busy with Gabriel Hardman

Keeping Busy with Gabriel Hardman

 

Gabriel Hardman is used to having a full schedule, and that's not going to change anytime soon.

The artist has worked extensively in both comic books and film, storyboarding movies including Inception and 2012's far-beyond-anticipated The Dark Knight Rises. His current projects include the four-issue miniseries Betrayal of the Planet of the Apes for BOOM! Studios and Marvel ongoing title Secret Avengers, which he joins as regular artist in February 2012's issue #22.

Secret Avengers launched in May 2010 under the creative team of Ed Brubaker and Mike Deodato. Hardman and Uncanny X-Force writer Rick Remender take the reins of the book following a six-issue stint featuring done-in-one stories written by Warren Ellis and illustrated by a different artist each issue.

The full cast of Remender and Hardman's Avengers team hasn’t yet been revealed (though the image above certainly suggests some team members), aside from the already-diverse pairing of Hawkeye and Captain Britain.

"It's a challenge to tackle characters that I've never had any dealings with before, and trying to figure out a way to make them all work together so they seem like they're in the same world," Hardman tells Newsarama. "Even though they are all pulled from different corners of the universe, they do sort of fit together in a weird way."

And as made clear in promotional images released thus far for various upcoming Avengers comics, Hawkeye's classic purple tunic appears to be gone — for the time, being at least.

"It's basically the movie look," Hardman says of Hawkeye's appearance in Secret Avengers. "When it actually comes down to drawing this costume, it's functional in a way that I find more appealing to draw, and also it means that there will be that much less purple in the book. Which is not a bad thing."

Captain Britain, on the other hand, has never been much for a "functional" outfit. Hardman says that the character will sport a "more espionage-y variant" of the classic Alan Davis costume.

"Captain Britain is kind of the character I know the least about, and have the least connection, but Rick is a huge fan of that character," Hardman says. "It's interesting trying to integrate him with this team, where everybody's wearing black and looking very espionage-y, and he's dressed like a flag. [Laughs.]"

The plans are for Secret Avengers to not only have an evolving cast depending on the mission, but to quite naturally explore exotic corners of the Marvel Universe on their black-ops missions. Hardman shares that this will include not only familiar spots, but some "invented locales."

"It really sort of takes you on a trip through parts of the Marvel Universe we haven't seen before," Hardman says of the series.

Hardman and Remender worked together once before, briefly, on the flashback sequences of Doctor Voodoo: Avenger of the Supernatural.

"Obviously a big part of taking the book was wanting to work with [Remender] again," Hardman says.

For his part, Remender seems equally excited about working further with Hardman.

"Gabe is somebody who services story above and beyond all else," Remender told Newsarama in an interview earlier this month. "That's my kind of comic book artist; somebody who prioritizes telling a clean, dynamic story over big, splashy images."

 

In the much nearer future is Betrayal of the Planet of the Apes, which starts on Nov. 2. Hardman is illustrating the series as well as co-writing it with his wife, Corinna Sara Bechko, whom he collaborated with on Zuda's The Crooked Man and Image Comics graphic novel Heathentown.

The origins of the series are pretty simple — Hardman and Bechko are both major Planet of the Apes fans, and reached out to current license-holders BOOM! about the possibility of doing a comic book set in the fictional world.  

"It's a lot about the rise of Dr. Zaius, and how he comes to be the guy that we know from the movie," Hardman says of the series, which takes place 20 years before the original, Charlton Heston-starred Planet of the Apes. "As well as a sort of conspiracy thriller about a gorilla who's accused of murder."

 

Both Hardman and Bechko come to the series with unique qualifications — Hardman has plenty of experience drawing apes via his time illustrating Gorilla-Man in Marvel's Agents of Atlas, and Bechko has a background in zoology who worked for years at the Los Angeles Zoo.

"I didn't really skip a beat going into this," Hardman says. "Now it's as if I'm 'the guy who draws apes,' which is kind of odd and not intentional, but at the same time, it's fine. I like drawing apes. I'd draw a Gorilla-Man book if the market demanded it."

And no, that's not all Hardman has going on currently — him and Bechko are also contributing to Mike Norton and Tim Seeley's "Double Feature" iPad app, which debuts digital comics along with bonus elements including being able to view the inked and rough layout versions of a page. Hardman and Bechko's contribution is "The Liar," part of Action Double Feature #2, and they intended to do multiple stories with the character.

 

So, yes — Gabriel Hardman is a busy guy, especially during his recent experience of pulling double-duty while balancing both his Dark Knight Rises art department duties and a full comic book workload.

"There's been times where I ended up working all day at the studio, coming home, and staying up until 2 or 3 in the morning drawing a page," Hardman says. "It was the worst on Dark Knight Rises, because I was doing it for nearly four months straight. I didn't get a lot of sleep, and my intention is to not do that again.

"But sometimes things just work out that way. I'm not the guy who's going to blow off a commitment."

[Newsarama note: A portion of this interview originally appeared in the article "NYCC 2011 Exclusive: Rick Remender Joins SECRET AVENGERS."]

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