After two years drawing an acrobatic Red Robin, artist Marcus To is excited to show a completely different dimension of his artistic approach to Batman characters.
As DC announced today, To is the new regular artist on Batwing, the African-based comic by writer Judd Winick.
The artist started his comic career with Aspen, then drew Red Robin for two years before landing the Huntress mini in the first wave of mini-series augmenting the New 52. So while he's had plenty of experience with Batman-related characters, To said that Batwing offers him a completely different challenge, because the character has a unique approach to crime-fighting.
To takes over the comic from Ben Oliver, who launched the title in September as part of DC's New 52 initiative. Oliver had needed help keeping up with the schedule, and DC gave pencil chores to Dustin Nguyen for issue #8.
Now that To has finished up his pencils for the DC mini-series Huntress, he will begin his new job with May's Batwing #9. And it will be a high-profile gig because it's part of the "Night of the Owls" crossover event. In it, Batwing will be helping with the one-night battle with the Court of Owls — a battle that will touch several of the Batman books in May.
As Winick told Newsarama last week, "Batwing has his hands full, as do all the heroes of Gotham City."
Newsarama talked to the artist to find out more about why he's so excited for the challenge of Batwing.
Newarama: Marcus, what interested you about Batwing and made you want to get involved with it?
Marcus To: It's a great character, and it's just a step away from Batman. So to me, it's in that family of Nightwing and all these other great Batman characters. It's just thrilling to me to be able to work in that fantastic family of characters again, and also to be part of telling Batwing's story early in his development as a character.
Nrama: I would think every artist knows how they want to draw Batman, and this character has a lot of those same sensibilities, so you probably had your visual ideas about him already, didn't you?
To: Actually, at first, when I was approached to draw the book, it took me a second to think about my approach to this book, because he is a different character from the traditional Batman look. So I had to think, how am I going to do this? Ben Oliver did such a great job on launching the title. So I looked at the art and thought to myself, how can I put my own spin on this?
I think readers are going to see a different aspect of my art. That's the great challenge of this job, figuring out how I want certain angles to look, how I want his armor to look, but how to keep it in the vein of Batman. Just like you said, you can use the silhouettes that Batman has, with the wings and the symbol and the ears and everything, to really pull it together, and associate the Batman look with Batwing.
Nrama: It seems like that imagery is already implied, so from a visual standpoint. Yet this takes place in Africa, in a different setting. Do you have any thought on how you want to approach that?
To: That's another challenge that I'm really excited about. Normally, you know, my style and the things that I usually draw are more superhero, without that kind of grittiness and violence. So this is something I can explore with my style, and I see where I can take it with these different types of stories.
Nrama: Have you done research on Africa at all?
To: Well, we're actually starting my run in Gotham, which is where my attention is concentrated right now. But Batwing will be back in Africa soon, and I've talked to Judd about some ideas we have. He's sending me a movie that has a style that's related to the story he wants to write next. So we're communicating about the direction the book is going and where we want to take it visually.
But once we get back to Africa, and once I know what the location is for the next story, I do intend to use references to do my best to make it accurate and pay respect to what is real.
Nrama: That's right, you're starting in Gotham. You're coming on board with the crossover, right?
To: Yeah. The Batman books are being impacted by the Court of Owls, and Batwing is traveling to Gotham and he gets caught up in it all. So my first story deals with that. A lot of it has ties to Batman and, obviously, Gotham City. I've been reading Batman, and I really like what Greg Capullo is doing.
I'm excited to be a part of the whole thing. And hopefully, I do get to draw Nightwing and Batman and other members of the Bat-family. But who knows? We'll see what happens. But I feel really comfortable drawing Gotham after drawing Red Robin for two years. It'll be fun to go back.
Nrama: It would be great if you could draw Tim again. I know he's part of the Batman crossover when it touches Red Hood and the Outlaws.
To: It would be fun. There's that part of me that always looks at past issues I've done fondly. But at the same time, I really push to show that I can do a lot of different things with my art.
So this Batwing book is a great opportunity for me to do something that I'm completely new at.
Nrama: What are the main differences between Red Robin and Batwing visually?
To: Well, the real basic difference is that it's not spandex anymore. It's mech armor. And he uses more mechanical things than his acrobatics. It's going to be very different. I want to do something more powerful, so that I can portray that difference in the way he moves and even his body language.
When I drew Tim Drake and Huntress, there was a lot of flipping and there was a lot of throwing to their moves. I'm not saying Batwing wouldn't use them, but he's got an arsenal on him, physically.
So I'll be drawing and focusing on a lot of tools he can use out of this suit. He's less acrobatic and he's more of a soldier.
Nrama: Then to finish up, Marcus, is there anything else you want to tell fans about your new gig on Batwing?
To: I just want to let readers know that they are going to see something different from me on this book, something I haven't had a chance to show yet. And I'm excited to work with this character as Judd defines and develops him, and really show what I can do.