Recent issues of Marvel’s Legendary Star-Lord have featured an artist from not just another universe, but another company altogether. Freddie Williams II recently ended his nine year exclusive run at DC and is now on artistic rotation on the Guardians of the Galaxy’s leader’s series, as well as a variety of projects in and around the comic work.
The artist, who penned the recent DC Comics’ Guide to Digitally Drawing Comics, talks with Newsarama about the recent changes in his life, drawing Legendary Star-Lord just as the film hit movie screens, adapting his drawing style for each project, and also the long list of goals he has in comics for himself.
Newsarama: Freddie, what are you working on today? What’s on your drawing board, digitally speaking?
Freddie Williams II: I just wrapped up a Thor all ages licensed book for Marvel, called The World According to Thor, though at this very moment, I'm working on The Legendary Star-Lord #8 for Marvel, an Infinite Crisis cover for DC Comics, and an eight page short story for Dark Horse! Fun getting to work with such awesome companies at the same time!
Nrama: You recently made your Marvel debut, drawing the aforementioned The Legendary Star-Lord’s fourth issue. First off – what led to change out of working just at DC? You’ve practically been exclusive to DC since 2006.
Williams: It's been a long time goal of mine to do work for Marvel, many of my all-time favorite characters are there, so after my long-term exclusive with DC ended, I made a list of intellectual properties and companies I wanted to pursue, and working with Marvel was one of my main priorities!
For clarity: I still regularly do work for DC Comics and DC has been great to me, I'm just enjoying that I'm getting the chance to branch out to a few other publishers, and I'm excited to have fun playing in all these toy boxes!
Nrama: Let’s talk about coming to Marvel. I was surprised to see on your website that you did some test pages featuring the X-Men to get your foot in the door at Marvel. Can you talk about coming to work for Marvel?
Williams: Yeah, I had a great time on those X-Men pages! I'm not sure if it was necessary for me to illustrate those portfolio pages or not, i.e. no one at Marvel asked for them- my reasons for drawing the 7 page portfolio were twofold:
A. I wanted to show Marvel what it'd look like if I were drawing their characters specifically- I've got an eclectic collection of rendering styles I've worked in over the last several years at DC Comics, depending on what project I was involved with, that could make an editor scratch their head, asking what "Freddie" would they get if they were thinking about hiring me, so this was giving them an apples to apples example.
B. To have fun! This was an opportunity for me to draw a bunch of my favorite X-men, and I gladly jumped on that chance!
The biggest challenge was finding the time to work on the pages in between deadline work at DC and Dark Horse! Those X-Men pages were lugged all around the United States with me, to different conventions, so if I had any down time at an airport, or between commissions, and deadlines, I could sneak in a hour or two of work on them here and there!
Nrama: And drawing Star-Lord, what’s that been like considering you’re coming on at a time that he’s one of the biggest breakout stars to comics to film with Guardians of the Galaxy?
Williams: I was in the middle of drawing The Legendary Star-Lord #4 when the Guardians of the Galaxy movie came out. We had just wrapped up Comic-Con International: San Diego, and we were visiting some of my wife Kiki's family in California, and a bunch of us went to see the first showing, bright and early- it was a pretty darn cool feeling after the movie when some of the grand kids were just running around with excitement about Guardians of the Galaxy, especially after Kiki told them I was drawing a Star-Lord issue they were flipping out!
Also I'm having the pleasure of working with Sam Humphries, an incredibly talented writer! And it's great being reunited with Mike Marts, an awesome editor I worked with for years at DC Comics!
Nrama: In that first issue of Legendary Star-Lord you drew, it was almost a full issue brawl between Star-Lord and Thanos. What was it like coming into it and going right into the thick of a full issue action scene like that?
Williams: Oh yeah! I really lucked out with that issue, it's really great fun drawing such a knockdown drag out brawl, and with Star-Lord powered up with that Mandalay Gem, it was like a drawing two god's going at it!
Nrama: Although you didn’t draw #5 or #6, you’re coming back for at least #7 and #8 now. What are your plans past these issues, in regards to comics work?
Williams: From 2005 through to the beginning of 2014, I drew almost exclusively all monthly titles, which has a lot of benefits and challenges involved – one of the challenges is repeatedly drawing the same cast of characters and having such tight deadlines month in and month out. So right now I'm having some fun with "guest appearances" having a walk on roll on various books and covers and short stories, it’s a fun change of pace with different intellectual properties.
I've got some creator-owned projects in the works, that could begin materializing soon if things go as well as they have been, and I've spoken to other editors about other small projects here and there, but I'm keeping things vague because some are secret and anything can fall through.
Nrama: In your time since DC was your primary place of work, I’ve seen you begin to experiment with your art – including that great short in Savage Sword of Conan #9 in which you did pencils, ink wash and colors yourself. Are you working on some changes to your art style?
Williams: Experimentation and growth and testing my artistic limits are (and have been) goals of mine, for years, but I'm trying to place a higher priority on that now that I'm currently not working on a monthly, and have both a little more time to experiment, as well as a variety of subject matters to illustrate, (in between conventions) and when I can carve out more time for myself on the art duties.
On several projects at DC, I made some pretty dramatic changes from project to project, most noticeably would be Captain Atom which was a crazy mashup of inkwash and David Lloyd style abstraction backgrounds, then Green Arrow, which was a much more mainstream super hero pen and ink feel, with hatch lines and feathering… which is different from my work on The Legendary Star-Lord, which is much cleaner with technical inking. My goal is to be diverse and give a new twist to my art for whatever project I'm working on, it keeps me entertained, and hopefully it gives an appropriate mood to that project!
Nrama: That being said, you’re also an early adopter of doing comics digitally. I know you still do some pages and some sketches straight to art boards, so how do you determine which is a digital project and which is something you want on paper?
Williams: Nearly 100% of my published, professional art will start digital, because being ultra-versatile in the layout stage is a huge advantage, but if there's a nice big shot but I'd like to render on paper, something that I think I could sell or that I might want to try some rendering or texture technique that's when I print the structure directly onto my art board and render traditionally over the top of that, I discuss most of this process and my how to book the DC comics guide to digitally drawing comics, it's called the "hybrid method."
Nrama: Getting back to things you want to do in comics, I know you’re a fan of Captain America as well – are there any particular characters or titles that you’d particularly jump at the chance to do at Marvel, DC or elsewhere?
Williams: Captain America is my favorite character over at Marvel! But there's a long list of characters there but I love to draw: the Punisher, Wolverine Longshot, Gambit, Colossus, Thor, the Hulk, and a long list after that… And other companies I'm chomping at the bit to draw a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles miniseries or one shot, as well as He-Man, Thundercats, G.I. Joe, Planet of the Apes - I could go on and on!
Superman is still my favorite character of all time so I'd still love to work on a miniseries or one shot in DC Comics featuring him or an alternate version of him just something in the Superman universe would be amazing to me!