Being a bodyguard can be tough - but being the bodyguard for one of the world's ruling gods of a pantheon while he's on the run? Even tougher. Previously spelled out in Neil Gaiman's prose novel American Gods, now P. Craig Russell and Scott Hampton are bringing it to life as a comic book title in American Gods: Shadows.
Hampton, one of the pioneers of sequential painted art, returns to the page in this long-form adaptation just as Starz's own live-action version is coming to TV.
With American Gods: Shadows #1 debuting this Wednesday, Newsarama talked with the one-time student of Will Eisner about his work on the series with Russell, as well as the murderer's row of other artists he is bringing to the book.
Newsarama: Scott, what made American Gods: Shadows a project you wanted to do?
Scott Hampton: What’s not to like? I get to work with P. Craig Russell who is bringing it to this project. Rick Parker is doing a great job with the lettering. And it’s a great and beautiful book by Neil Gaiman.
Nrama: This isn’t the first time you and Craig have adapted Neil’s prose works.
Hampton: Actually, this is the third project Craig and I have collaborated on. I was part of the crew that did Neil’s The Graveyard Book and Craig and I did a twenty-some page adaptation of Neil’s short story October in the Chair which will come out in due course. So Craig, Rick, and I have become something of a Gaiman-to-Comics cottage industry. I love what we’re doing. Craig agrees that the hardest work we do as comics artists is telling the story. Unlike me, he enjoys the challenge and is energized for layouts. I have to take bottles of Ibuprofen to deal with the headaches I give myself when facing what Claude Debussy called “the sweet sickness of possibility.”
Nrama: For this you're doing fully painted comic pages, continuing as one of the pioneers of it with SilverHeels. How has the process changed over the years?
Hampton: I think it’s about 20% traditional painting and 80% wash ink work and digital coloring so it’s a mix.
Nrama: This is based on Neil's prose novel but there's a TV show looming in the periphery of this. Did that show, and its castings, affect your art at all?
Hampton: No, not at all. In fact, I put my fingers in my ears and leave the room going “lalalalalala” if anyone mentions the show. I don’t want to be affected by anyone else’s choices. Just fusing Neil’s, Craig’s, Daniel’s and my takes is a bear.
Nrama: You have the opportunity to draw things more fantastical than any live-action TV budget could. Are there any particular moments in the book that you think would be unadaptable from your pages to TV?
Hampton: In the digital age I’m convinced that TV has almost nothing it can’t manage. Someone who grinds away in that field will have more insight. What they can’t do, for good or ill, is create any artist’s look.
Nrama: How'd you go about figuring out the design of Shadow Moon, Mr. Wednesday, and the others?
Hampton: Everyone involved had input. Craig and I worked together with models to find the characters. Of course, I have to adapt the actor to the role in drawings.
Nrama: Are there any of the gods that have been your favorite to illustrate?
Hampton: At this point I have a real thing for Czernobog. He just makes me laugh every time I draw him.
Nrama: The book has come to collect a murderer's row of art talent - you, P. Craig, Glenn Fabry, Walt Simonson, David Mack. You're used to having art all around you with Bo, but what’s it like to be part of thisAmerican Gods art crew?
Hampton: What a pleasure! Mark Buckingham will be doing a story too! Everyone is doing beautiful work. When I’m working on pages I’m in my own head for weeks and it can become a bit oppressive. Then I get an email from Craig or Daniel showing what another artist is doing and I’m blown away. It’s really energizing.
Nrama: Big picture, what are your goals with American Gods: Shadows?
Hampton: American Gods is a mammoth undertaking so I’m working in chunks and focusing on each story beat as it comes. The beauty of having the work come out serially is I get to see the story evolve and create it in real time. The fans of Neil’s work and particularly this book are incredibly passionate and my hope is to give them something that will please and beguile them.