Rod Reis has worked on top Big Two titles like Justice League and Forever Evil, but that was as a colorist. After ten years as a colorist, Reis transitioned to illustrating with work like C.O.W.L. and Hadrian's Wall, and now he's returning to the Big Two - balancing the 53 U.S.Avengers #1 variants and the upcoming Civil War II coda, The Oath.
Newsrama spoke with Reis about his second climb up the comic book mountain, transitioning from coloring to illustrating, and talking about Civil War II: The Oath without spoiling to much of the current Marvel event.
Newsarama:Rod, what's on your drawing board today?
Rod Reis: I’m still working on those 53 covers for U.S. Avengers#1 and right now I’m working on the Scarlet Witch one.
Nrama: Okay. After that you’re illustrating the upcoming Civil War II: The Oath, which is being framed as an epilogue/coda to the current event. This is your biggest project yet - what do you think of it?
Reis: It’s a huge step for my career! When I started doing my Image books with Kyle Higgins and Alec Siegel, one of my goals was start being noticed by the Big Two, but you never know when it’s going to happen. When Nick asked me to illustrate Civil War II: The Oath, I was caught by surprise. It’s that kind of opportunity you don’t think about, you just say “Yes!”
Nrama: So how did Nick come about to ask you to do this? It seems like something a Marvel editor or talent manager would do.
Reis: One day I got a message from him, via Twitter. He said he was a big fan of my work on C.O.W.L. asked me if I would be interested in work with him on a Marvel book. I said “Yes!” We’ve never met before until this year’s New York Comic Con but I’d been following his work on Superior Foes of Spider-Man and enjoying it a lot.
Nrama: There's been a tight lid on this since Civil War II itself hasn't concluded yet, but we know that Iron Man, Captain Marvel, and Steve Rogers will be in it. What can you say about drawing their characters and these new designs they have by David Marquez, Kris Anka, and Jesus Saiz?
Reis: I’m really looking forward to see how my style will work on these characters. I will bring a lot of what I did on C.O.W.L., this real world feeling, little bit retro.
Nrama: Without spoiling anything, what can people look forward to in the issue?
Reis: Probably a lot of heroes dealing with the Civil War II aftermath in very intense conversations, especially Tony, Carol, and Steve. I will have my take on the fight scenes in flashbacks. Nick loved how I can draw superheroes in regular civilian clothes and make superheroes feel real, so you can expect that as well. Tone-wise I want to draw a very intense story.
Nrama: Most people don't know this, but you've only been drawing comics professionally since 2014 - but spent a decade prior to that as a colorist. I wanted to talk to you about that. First off, what led you to make the transition - and was it something you had been thinking since you entered the business in 2004?
Reis: I always wanted to be an illustrator but I saw the chance to be one of the first digital colorists in Brazil and by that time my coloring skills were better than my drawings so I jumped into this world. Even though the illustrator part of was sleeping all this time I was happy to be part of the industry, working on Justice League, Aquaman, Teen Titans I had the opportunity to meet so many good creators and editors and somehow I made my name in the business.
During my run on Nightwing I met Kyle Higgins who became one of my best friends. He saw some of my commissions and loved the style so much that we decided to do something together. Suddenly I felt the illustrator in me waking up, and the conversations led to C.O.W.L., then Hadrian’s Wall and now to Civil War II: The Oath. It has been an amazing learning process since I started doing interiors and things seemed to work very well for me and I’m so glad I made the transition from coloring to full artist.
Nrama: As you said, you got a good start on C.O.W.L., then doing Arrow: Season 2.5 and now Hadrian’s Wall. What's it been like drawing every day on a deadline?
Reis: As a colorist I’ve learned how to deal with tight deadlines, being at the end of the production chain I had to absorb all delays and still have to deliver the job in time. Now that I’m doing everything including colors I can make my own schedule and have more control of my process even though it’s more work. Also being professional and having some discipline helps a lot!
Nrama: From your time on Arrow Season 2.5 I noticed you're very good at capturing likenesses, and a recent Doctor Who commision you did shows the same. How do you approach that when doing a book not based on actors? What do you base their looks on, for consistency?
Reis: I have a lot of fun working on designing characters and my goal is to make them unique. Having a model, an actor to be based on makes it easier, but you have to study and understand the structure of the face to the point you know how to draw this character without reference. For Hadrian’s Wall I looked to some French actors to help me to bring a European feeling to the book. I think it’s very important for the story and for the writer to show through face expressions what characters are saying and feeling.
Nrama: I've seen that publishers, Marvel especially, prize artists who can ink and color their own work. Is that something you aim to do with all of your work?
Reis: Yes, definitely. After all those years working as colorist I learned to see the page in shapes of colors instead lines. Knowing how to color, how to set the mood, how to improve the line work of other artists made me so much moe confident to work on my own artwork, but, this time, I can make my artwork look good with the coloring.
Nrama: Civil War II: The Oath is only a one-shot, so what do you have planned after that?
Reis: I’m still working on Hadrian’s Wall, which is an eight-issue miniseries, so this will be my absolute priority. In the meantime I want to keep doing covers for Marvel which has been so good to me and very supportive of my artwork. I’m sure something will come up in this front. Also I want to keep working with Kyle Higgins and Alec Siegel for Image Comics, we have some pretty good ideas for our next project. I’m so excited to see what’s next for me after Civil War II: The Oath and very optimistic about the future!