Kris Anka is one of Marvel’s most in demand artists, and for several issues now, he’s turned his pencil to relaunching – and visually redefining - Captain Marvel. Working with writers Tara Butters and Michele Fazekas, Anka is taking Carol Danvers to new heights as the head of Alpha Flight, the Marvel Universe’s first line of Earthly defense against cosmic threats.
Anka has springboarded off the design for Captain Marvel that Jamie McKelvie developed when Carol first took on the mantle, streamlining her look and designing an entire world of aliens, spaceships, and cosmic superheroics for Marvel’s top female hero to inhabit.
Newsarama caught up with Anka to pick his brain about his process for designing the unique characters that inhabit Captain Marvel’s world, and what’s to come in his first ongoing work for Marvel Comics - and Captain Marvel moves towards leading one side of the conflict in Civil War II.
We’ve also got your first look at several inked pages from Captain Marvel #4, on shelves April 20.
Newsarama: Kris, thank you for doing this. First question – what’s on your drawing board, so to speak, right now?
Kris Anka: Right now I'm about halfway through inking issue 4 of Captain Marvel. Today's page is particularly fun because we have some cameos showing up and I always have a lot of fun drawing characters from the Marvel Universe I've never really had the chance to draw before.
Nrama: You're currently the artist of Marvel's Captain Marvel series as the character enters a new chapter. With two issues out, you and writers Michele Fazekas and Tara Butters have really pushed the character to the next level. I know you drew her here and there on Ms. Marvel and Uncanny X-Men, so how's it been building on those early takes on the character?
Anka: It's honestly been really crazy. Captain Marvel represents a lot of firsts for me, honestly: this is the first book I've launched myself on art, the first book I've gotten to design myself, really just the first book that I get to make the decisions on. So yeah I've gotten to draw Carol before in small cameo appearances on other books I've been on but this is really the first time I've gotten to find the Carol I like to draw. I've gotten to stretch both my drawing muscles and my creativity ones.
Nrama: The first thing people will notice is that you streamlined Jamie McKelvie's costume design (and haircut) for Carol. You designed it, but now you've drawn 2+ issues of it in action. How do you feel about the design now? I’m a big fan of those shin/boot design parts myself.
Anka: Haha, well I'm still enjoying drawing it. I mean, that was a large part of why I wanted to do the redesign in the first place. While I love Jamie's original design, I wanted a design that lent itself better to my design sensibilities. For example the new "boots" I designed entirely stemmed out of just me putting down a look that naturally felt nice for me to draw. It creates a nice design challenge for me to figure out how it would look at any angle depending on the pose. The haircut was something we (myself, editor Sana Amanat and writers Tara Butters and Michele Fazekas) all agreed on when first signing on to the book, largely because there hadn't been a defined look for it for the past few years. We wanted to nail down the exact look now that we had the chance of this fresh start. We ran a few different options, but going with a short and clean haircut was always the intention.
Nrama: I really enjoyed the design of the Eridani. That's your design, right? If so, can you talk about developing it?
Anka: Yes, that was all me. The Eridani was entirely birthed out of a creative brain-fart I was having, haha. I wanted an alien design that didn't really look like anything else we've seen at Marvel and I just couldn't come up with anything interesting. Luckily there is a statue on a nearby bookshelf in my room of Davy Jones from the Pirates of the Caribbean movies and I just thought "I love drawing that design, let me use that as a jumping off point". From there it was just feeling out what I liked for their clothing (I was trying to make sure it didn't feel too much like just a human wearing weird clothing) and working in a few "bug" elements into the design (females of the species are larger, males are more ornamental).
Nrama: Any chance you could be designing some more alien races while drawing Captain Marvel?
Anka: Definitely a chance! Since the Alpha Flight Space Station is supposed to act as a sort of embassy to earth, I wanted it to feel like all manner of species have gone through it. One way I go about this is I fill in the ranks of the soldiers working on the station with aliens, both new and recognizable. There is a tiny Brood somewhere in there I remember, haha. Because this story is also in space, there is always a chance for more prominent aliens to show up, maybe even in a more villainous role.
Nrama: Re-reading the second issue, I'm struck with a vague Star Trek or Alien vibe with the crew. The idea of uniforms for the Alpha Flight Space Station team furthers that -- but perhaps Deep Space Nine would be more apt. Are you being influenced, inspired, or simply thinking of any other space dramas when you're working on this book?
Anka: Yeah, there is no inspiration that's super specific, but I do keep in mind a lot of it vaguely in the back of my head. Visually, I think a lot about the Abram's Star Trek films, largely just because, aesthetically, I love the look of them.
Nrama: That smoldering relationship between exes Sasquatch and Aurora got some time in issue #2. I know there's people wanting them to get back together, and those who have other ideas, but is there a couple on the book you ‘ship that you want to make known?
Anka: Haha, currently nothing pops out yet. It may change further down the road as I work more and more with the characters, but right now I like seeing them band together as teammates and solve problems.
Nrama: Captain Marvel has several mysteries -- from the origin of this alien ship to the mystery conspirator inside the station. Can you give readers any clues, hints or observations from your side of things?
Anka: Honestly, not really, haha. I'm kind of keeping it on a "need to know" basis myself with them as well largely because I love reading the scripts when they are given to me not knowing anything. I had to ask about one of the conclusions because when it came to drawing something I didn't want to get any details wrong, but I like remaining in the dark on this book. Every time I get a new script from Tara and Michele I'm always so captivated and excited by it, I'd rather not know any spoilers to it beforehand, haha.
Nrama: Last time I spoke with you, you were working on a Mystique-centric issue of Wolverines. This all comes full circle -- or could -- as Mystique is one of Captain Marvel's classic foes from the 1970’s. It's been some time since they've crossed paths, but would you say you're a fan of Raven? And would you appreciate the chance for them to get together -- or get at odds -- in Captain Marvel?
Anka: Oh man, I would absolutely love to draw Mystique again. I've always been a huge fan of her, and getting to draw her in Wolverines and one issue of Uncanny X-Men was such a treat. She has such a cunning and presence to her that she's immensely fun to draw. If we could figure out a way to get her into space, it would honestly be a dream for me.
Nrama: Speaking of Wolverines, that's where you first worked with color artist Matthew Wilson, but this is your first ongoing assignment together. How did it go getting on the same page with him for this, especially with the dynamic color scheme and hand-lettering you're doing?
Anka: I've been such a fan of Matt for years and years that it wasn't too hard, at least on my end. Since I began drawing comics for Marvel I've longed for the day of working with him, so I've already spent a lot of time imagining how our work would look together, haha. When we got to work together again for Captain Marvel, I definitely had a look in mind that I talked through with Matt, but largely other than details here and there I stay out of his way. I love what he does so much I don't want to micromanage what his own creativity brings to the book.
Nrama: Last question, what are your goals going forward with this book?
Anka: I'm really excited to have a whole arc on a book I've drawn myself for the first time, haha. Other than that, my only real goal on this book is to really stick around on it for a while and create a nice little visual consistency to it.