Cover to June's
OF AMERICA #4 ...
Hmmmm....For readers who have been following David Finch's career, the evolution leading up to his work on last month's Justice League of America #1 has been striking. And it turns out that computer technology has played a big part.
In recent months, Finch has started to sculpt his comic book characters in 3D, utilizing the technology to give more depth and realism to his already detailed artwork. He's still getting to know the technology, but even reviewers have noticed his work on JLA looks drastically different from his last major team book, New Avengers for Marvel.
Last month's debut of Justice League of America also gave readers their first glimpse of characters like Stargirl and Vibe as drawn by Finch in the New 52. Working with writer Geoff Johns, he's introducing new characters and concepts, including a still mysterious villain who will be featured in the upcoming story.
Finch is known for drawing dynamic-looking characters and larger-than-life superheroes, which he did quite a bit as the artist on Batman: The Dark Knight, his last DC ongoing comic. But he's also got a lot of experience with low-key character scenes, as proven in his work with the aforementioned Avengers. His résumé also includes other top-name writers like Grant Morrison and Jeph Loeb.
So what's it like for Finch to work with Geoff Johns? What does his new relationship with technology bring to the characters? And will the computer make things faster for the artist, who's struggled in the past with deadlines? Newsarama talked to Finch and found out more about his approach to Justice League of Americaart from JLA #1 Newsarama: David, it feels like your style on this comic is almost a different artist from, say, what you were doing five years ago. Did you make some changes along the way and particularly for this comic, or is your style evolving?
David Finch: It has evolved a lot. I'm doing so much of my work 3D. I've actually been using 3D brush on the characters. I find with 3D there's so much you can do that other industries are taking advantage of. But I feel like comics aren't enough.
Nrama: Why do you think that is?
Finch: It's a tough balance between making sure that it's still 2D artistic and dynamic, but also taking advantage of the kind of detail that I can get from sculpting my characters and having that kind of consistency. I can even get to the point where I've got wrinkles that really fold with the lighting. It's amazing what you can get from it.
Nrama: Does rendering the characters in 3D make the process quicker, or does it take longer?
Finch: Well, it's been a real learning process for me. I've found it's actually really slowed me down, but that's changing. It's been a whole lot of work trying to find a way to marry the two — the way I was working before and the way I've started working now.
Nrama: When did you start using this technique? When you were doing Dark Knight?
Finch: It's been an ongoing process. Once I got to the point where I was really able to take advantage of it, and get figures that were really fully set up, and creating armor and different things for the characters — that's pretty recent. But I was using 3D backgrounds for awhile. So it hasn't been an overnight thing. It's been the last while.
Nrama: But your style does feel a little less "dark," which I suppose could be the nature of not drawing Batman and his twisted world. Are you trying to tweak your style to fit the JLA book?
Finch: Yeah, I'm really trying to. But it's still my style, and that's been a balancing act. Everybody likes the heavy blacks and dark stuff I do. And I just don't have the ability to draw something that's truly "light" and "airy." It's beyond me. It always has been.art from JLA #1 So for me, it's trying to find a balance, finding a place where I can still do what I do and still feel comfortable, but not have it overpower what the story is supposed to be about and the tone of the story.
Nrama: Yeah, yeah. I don't know how far you are into drawing the series, but I think last time we talked, it was really early in the process and I don't think you had a script yet. So now that you've experienced a couple of his scripts, what's it like working with Geoff's writing?
Finch: It's been incredible working on his scripts, even more than I expected going in. Talking to him, he's so enthusiastic, but also, I've never met a writer that's more able to express his vision in fewer words. He knows exactly what he's doing.
But then when you read the script, he's not only describing what's happening in the panels, but he's also describing what people are thinking, what their motivations are.
He's giving me so much to work with, it's really making the characters so real for me. I've never experienced something quite like that before.
I feel like I've been so lucky. I've gotten to work with Gregg Hurwitz on Batman: [The Dark Knight], which was phenomenal. And now Geoff's scripts are amazing.
Nrama: When I talk to Geoff, I suspect he lives in the DC Universe in his head sometimes, so he probably knows these people very well.
Finch: You know, just reading what he's doing, it's so intricate and layered. I've been reading what fans have been saying online about issue #1, and what they're saying about Justice League, and they are so knowledgeable. These characters are very important to them. So yeah, it takes a writer that really, really lives this stuff, I think, to give the fans what they deserve.
Nrama: You said you've been reading what people are saying. Is there anything in issue #1 that you'd like to point out? Maybe something that people are either misinterpreting, or something we missed that you'd like us to notice?
Finch: Gosh, that's a tough question. I don't know.
Nrama: Maybe something that you're proud of from that issue?
Finch: If there's one thing that I would say I'm proud of, more than anything else, I feel like Martian Manhunter, for me, I'm really, really proud of how that came out.art from JLA #1 He was a character that I didn't feel anything for, to be honest, going in. But the way that Geoff wrote him, it made it so clear to me how I wanted to draw it. I really feel like I was successful on that, and I'm proud of it.
It all comes down to the script.
There was one time in my career where I remember drawing a story where the writer hadn't actually written any dialogue for any of the characters. It was basically described as, you know, these three people are talking. I look back on that — it was only a few pages — but it has to be the worst thing I've ever drawn in my entire career. It was so terrible. Because I really need to believe in the characters.
I know I get accused of not being the most expressive artist in the world, but it definitely makes such a big difference for me when it's real for me.
Nrama: I remember we did a really detailed interview years ago, a profile...
Nrama: And I remember you saying, "My first priority is that the image is 'cool.'" Is that still in the back of your mind, even as your style has evolved and you've developed as a storyteller?
Finch: Yeah, it is. It's always, always going to be my first priority. I feel like it's almost a "bad word" to say that... like.... K-E-W-L. But the fact is, this is entertainment. You know? I want this to be something that's going to pull out some emotion in the reader.
You know, there are great artists that do incredibly subtle things. I think that they get that emotion. And while that's not what I do, even what I do... that's my goal. I want it to have that visual impact, as much as I can possibly do it. I want to tell a story, and I want it to be a great experience all the way around, but more than anything, I want it to have... I want it to be cool!
Nrama: You mentioned how proud you are of Martian Manhunter. Are there any other characters that have started to really emerge for you? Has your perception of any of them changed as you've gotten to know them better?
Finch: My perception of Stargirl has really changed from what it was. I feel like she's maybe the most important character.art from JLA #1 My favorite character overall is probably Steve Trevor, which is a huge surprise to me, because he doesn't even have superpowers. He's just a regular guy. She is clearly idealistic, and completely positive. She's such a contrast to the other characters. And she's being put, I think for the first time for her, in an environment where that's really going to be tested. She's really going to be used and abused, and I think a lot of her illusions are going to be shattered. And we'll see if she can stay as positive as she starts out.
What makes him so interesting to me is that, he's basically a powerless guy, not only in terms of superpowers, but also in terms of his position. He's beholden to the government, he has to be very careful what he does, and he also has to try not to get killed in these ridiculously over-superpowered fights between members of his own team and whoever they're fighting — and to try to keep them from not killing each other. So that makes him very interesting.
Nrama: I think the last time we talked, you hadn't drawn Hawkman. What's your perception of him as you're drawing him?
Finch: When I got to DC, I didn't know much about Hawkman at all. I had Eddie Berganza trying to push me in a different direction than I was originally trying to go with him, because Eddie really knows what he's about. I feel like, with this story, and especially with his introduction — he's got a segment in issue #2 that I feel like is more descriptive of who he is than anything I've ever seen.art from JLA #1 But he's still a mystery too. We don't know who he is yet. We're not sure if he's a protagonist or antagonist.
Nrama: You had told me last time we talked that you really liked Green Arrow. But you didn't really get to draw him as Green Arrow — at least not in the costume — in the first issue.
Finch: Yeah, when I said that I really liked him originally, it was entirely based on drawing him in the costume. He was visually a cool character to draw. But now that I've gotten to know him a little bit, he's a little difficult for me to like right now.
Nrama: Yeah, in an interview I recently did with Jeff Lemire, who's writing Green Arrow, he specifically called Ollie "unlikeable." And he said Geoff was going to reflect that portrayal in his book. I think the plan is for him to evolve, though.
Finch: Yeah, I'm sure that that will change. But for now... well, he's like almost all the other characters on this team where, you know, they all have their own agenda and they're pretty forceful and merciless about pursuing it.
Nrama: So he was your favorite until you got to know him.
Finch: Yeah, I'm kind of in flux with him right now.
Nrama: Just a word of advice: Make sure you're accurate with the archery stuff on Green Arrow, because I've had more than one Ollie fan obsess over an artist drawing the wrong type of bow. Of course, you probably had experience drawing Hawkeye in New Avengers, although he wasn't in that comic long when you were drawing it, was he?
Finch: I killed him.
Nrama: That's right!
Finch: It doesn't get too much worse than that.
Nrama: Oh, let's not talk about that or we'll get Green Arrow fans worried. Let's switch to Katana and Catwoman, since you've always been pretty well known for your portrayal of female characters, thanks to that now famous entrance you did for Spider-Woman at Marvel. Looking at your women in this issue — on Catwoman in particular — I can see where your 3D sculpting helped define all those curves. But that's extra important on this character, because she leads with her sexuality.
Finch: She really does. Catwoman is very visually sexual. To me, she's a very, very powerful character. Her body is kind of a weapon for her, and she uses it very, very well. She's very manipulative.art from JLA #1 There's actually a point in issue #2 where everybody's back turns on her after she does something that's pretty manipulative. And I gave her an expression that... it was partly in the script and partly not... I don't want to reveal it, but I feel like I'm kind of getting into her head a little bit.
But I don't think a character like that can be very happy. Manipulative people tend to be, I think, pretty unhappy. This is my own interpretation, but to me, she seems like a very strong character, maybe more so than any other character on the team, but she also seems like a bit of a tragic character.
Nrama: I think the only character we haven't discussed is Vibe. How do you visually portray that he's an outsider? Is he just wide-eyed all the time around these experienced superheroes?
Finch: Yeah, I feel like he's this character that just, like, has his mouth open half the time, just soaking everything in and shocked by everything that he's seeing.
But he's not idealistic like Stargirl.
Right now, he does feel like an outsider. He doesn't know why he's there, and he can't believe that he's around these larger-than-life characters. But he's also horrified by them a lot of the time, so drawing his expressions is a lot of fun.
Nrama: Where are you hoping to take your art in coming issues of Justice League of America? Anything you can tease that's coming up visually?
Finch: There's a lot of action coming up. I know people love action, and I always love drawing it. There are some big visuals. But it's also a really character-driven book, more so than any book I've done since I worked with [Brian Michael] Bendis, who's such a character-driven writer. So this book is a great mix of those two things.And Geoff Johns understands how to give me visually what I want, easily as much as any writer I've ever worked with, and maybe more. It feels like such a natural fit. I open the script and, you know, that's the shot that I would have wanted to make big and I would have wanted to accentuate, and there it is in the script! There's no fighting. There's no negotiating. It's right there.
I feel like this is the book where I don't need or want any input in the writing, because I just get the script and it's great. And I love it. And I feel like I can do my best work on it.
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