It's official. Artists are taking over the world.
OK, maybe that's a stretch. But one look at DC's March solicitations paints a picture (pun intended) of comic book artists taking more and more story control in a universe they once only drew. From familiar writer/artists like Dan Jurgens and Keith Giffen to newer names like Francis Manapul, Ethan Van Sciver, J.H. Williams, Tony Daniel and more, there's a growing list of artists who are plotting the stories of the New 52 for DC.
The latest addition is superstar artist Rob Liefeld, who is writing Hawk and Dove beginning with issue #6. While it certainly isn't the first time Liefeld has written a comic, it was surprising for readers to find out that that the New 52 comic he once created with writer Sterling Gates is now also being written by Liefeld.
The change comes with the as-yet-unexplained departure of writer Gates, who had indicated to Newsarama that he was looking forward to a "run" with Liefeld on the comic.
To find out more, we talked with Liefeld about the writer change on Hawk and Dove, and we discussed not only the opportunity artists are being given as writers at DC, but also what Liefeld hopes to bring to the comic he's now creating from plot to pencils.
Newsarama: More and more artists at DC are also writing comics, and now you're among them. What do you think of the trend?
Rob Liefeld: I have no idea why artists are getting more writing opportunities at DC. I applaud DC for bucking the "comics by committee" trend that has become the norm of late.
DC has had a long history of success by rolling the dice with writer/artists, from Mike Grell's gazillion issues of Warlord, Keith Giffen's umpteen Justice League and Legion issues, George Perez on Wonder Woman, Byrne's Superman, Dan Jurgens' Booster Gold... wow, there's a ton.
Truth is, they've had a great run giving artists a chance to build out their entire vision. What do we have on the New 52 — there's Tony Daniel, Francis Manapul, Dan Jurgens, Dave Finch, Giffen, Perez... it's a tradition that is still working for them.
Nrama: And now you on Hawk and Dove. Do you hope this opportunity is given to more artists?
Liefeld: Sure, why not? And there should be equal opportunity for writers to draw as well. Either scenario provides the opportunity to see a broader vision from some great creators. I've seen many writers sketch and draw at store signings and conventions. Many writers have more artistic chops than the audience is aware.
Nrama: What's your first issue as writer of Hawk and Dove? And what brought about the change in writer?
Liefeld: Issue #6 is my first issue writing Hawk and Dove. Honestly, I thought I was finished after issue # 5. Sterling Gates and I had told our initial arc. It was my understanding that Sterling was moving on to other projects and I was eager to draw other characters in the DC Universe.
But I was asked if I would stay on the book and write it as well. I gave it a weekend to chew on it and decided to take on the challenge of writing the book as well.
Nrama: What are you hoping to bring to Hawk and Dove as a writer?
Liefeld: I'll be bringing more story to Hawk and Dove, and by that I mean better utilizing the 20 pages that each book provides.
I'm still getting the hang of the 20-page format after drawing 22 pages or more my entire career. So look for more panels, more story. A few less splash pages for sure. With only 20 pages, I need to strike a better balance in order to get more story in between the gutters.
As to what I will bring to the characters: a greater glimpse into their private lives, more conflict, more romantic friction, more tension but hopefully more laughs as well as more fun.
Hank and Dawn have a great dynamic. Dawn gets a little trashed in issue #7 while they are out bar hopping and she really let's Hank have it, on all fronts. The irony is that while she is telling Hank she's tired of being his babysitter, she is in fact being babysat by Hank. They are closer than they care to admit and that plays out in their personal and private lives.
Nrama: What changes will we be seeing now that you'll be writing the series?
Liefeld: More self-contained stories that provide them with a greater variety of conflicts and dilemmas. It's a bit of the menace of the month in the first few issues, pitting them against a variety of nemesis. We have Mr. Hyde and a sorceress in issue 6 and the mystery of The Hunter in issue 7. Issue 8 has a new villain. Each of these menaces provide a unique challenge for our heroes.
Nrama: Is it easier for you to be involved from script through art? How does it change the process of drawing it?
Liefeld: It's more work for certain, just by virtue of adding the extra responsibilities. But it makes the entire job more fun. I'm certainly more engaged from the outset of the issue if I'm also directing every aspect of the story,
Nrama: Does it slow you down at all? Or are you still able to maintain the prolific pace you've been keeping lately?
Liefeld: Still keeping up the pace, but I could use more inking help. So if you are an inker and you can help me out, let me know!!
Nrama: How are Hank and Dawn evolving as you're drawing and now writing them?
Liefeld: As I said before, their relationship is evolving, as friends and as Avatars and partners. Dove has really emerged as the leader in their identities as Hawk and Dove, but in their personal life, she will be dealing with a loss that has sent her spiraling downward. And Hank is an integral part of carrying her through this difficult period. That dynamic is changing.
Hawk and Dove need each other. She keeps him from being consumed by his ferocious nature and that in turn keeps her power balance in check. One without the other spells trouble for everyone.
Nrama: After last week's issue #4, what will we see coming up in the comic in next month's issue #5?
Liefeld: Sterling and I wrap up the Condor/Swan/Deadman storyline. There's a twist or two in there that sets up the changes in the book going forward.
Nrama: Issue #6 has Batman as a guest star. What can you tell us about that issue? And how was it for you to draw Batman?
Liefeld: Well, I've only drawn Batman at conventions and signings, as commissions for fans. I've never drawn him in an actual comic book so I'm pretty excited to be "officially" drawing him for the first time in my career.
I felt that, following the launch of the book back in September, that Hawk and Dove could use a second look and there's nothing better than having the number one comic book character in the world to draw attention to your book.
The story is called "One night in Gotham," and it tells the story of what happens when Hawk and Dove pursue a villain from Washington DC to Gotham City, crossing over onto Batman's turf. It's a fun one-off adventure that provides a great sampling of Hawk and Dove's dynamics as observed by Batman and Robin. It's one dynamic duo interacting with the most famous dynamic duo of all time.
Robin's interactions with Hawk are my favorite scenes in the book. You have three bird characters and a Bat. The jokes were writing themselves.
As I said before, Hawk and Dove could use a facelift, a second look and this issue is the opportunity to attract more eyeballs. Let's be honest, Hawk and Dove are not household names, not by any measure. My buddy and I were at Panera Bread the other day having lunch, laughing at which obscure characters we could stand up and yell out to the crowd and have any chance of anyone recognizing. Hawk and Dove anyone?I've said it before and it bears reminding that DC took some great chances with this 52 revival and giving the lesser-known characters a chance to be sampled. The fact that Hawk and Dove is still charting in the top 100 is a shock to me as well. So Batman is meant to grab some extra attention to the book. And the contrasting dynamic duos provide a nice tether tying them together and examining what works and what could work better.
Nrama: You've revealed a character on the cover for issue #7. Is that the Hunter you mentioned before?
Liefeld: Yes, this is the Hunter. He is familiar to some really keen observers who blew up my mailbox and Twitter on Monday asking if he was related to another character in the DCU that he resembles. I'll say this: He is not a time traveler. But he is every bit a Hunter, and he is hunting a Hawk and a Dove, now the only dilemma is who is he hunting them for and why? Every character has a lineage right.
Nrama: Then to finish up, Rob, is there anything else you want to tell fans about Hawk and Dove?
Liefeld: Thanks for supporting our angry birds so far! I cannot tell you how much we all appreciate the support, and I hope that we can pick up some new readers with our new storylines.