Color Guard: GL CORPS Artist Shines Light on Lanterns

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<a href=""><img src="" border="0" alt="" align="right" /></a>There's a studio in North Branch, Minn., where Green Lantern artists Doug Mahnke and Patrick Gleason are working hard to meet tight deadlines and draw the scenes that drive this year's premier DC event, Blackest Night.

In the first part of our discussion with the pair of studio-mates, we talked to Mahnke about his work on Green Lantern since taking over as artist on the series in June.

This time, we talk to the other half of the Minnesota studio, Pat Gleason, who has been working on Green Lantern Corps for several years now, guiding the series and characters as the stories have built toward Blackest Night.

Newsarama: Pat, I have to ask you up front. In the beginning of the last issue, when Guy Gardner was eating the doughnuts and reading the comic while he was flying, was that your idea?

Patrick Gleason: Yeah, that was my idea. I figure they're relaxing, and I knew this is the last time you're going to see them relaxing for awhile. So I wanted to show them doing just normal, everyday stuff. We never see anyone eating, so I just figured I'd give Guy some doughnuts.

You know I opened a scene once where Killowog was eating doughnuts, so I just opened the scene with a big, giant doughnut. And my editors were trying to figure out what it was. I think it was right around the new, relaunched series. So, yeah, I like throwing doughnuts in there, I guess.

Nrama: Is Guy someone you feel like you know pretty well?

Gleason: Guy Gardner is one of the more natural characters for me to draw. I think with him, Natu and Kilowog, I have a pretty good feel of how to draw them without thinking too much. Guy is just the perfect guy for an artist to draw, because he has so many expressions. You get tired of drawing people standing around with the same three expressions, but you can do a lot with Guy.

Everyone's slightly exaggerated anyway. You have to take the old silent movie actor's cues and make everyone's movements somewhat exaggerated to get the point across. Or sometimes you can do the opposite. It's an old actors trick.

Nrama: You mention Natu, Guy and Kilowog. Are those your favorite lanterns?

Gleason: I like the corps as a group. It's a really cool ensemble cast. There are some I like to draw more. Kilowog is fun to draw. It's just this big guy, and you can do a lot of fun things with texture and size. Natu is fun to draw, and I'm liking drawing Kyle more and more. I've played around with his looks a little bit. And I feel more natural with Kyle than I have in awhile. But it's a toss-up who I like to draw most between Guy, Kilowog and Natu.

Nrama: How have you played around with Kyle's look?

Gleason: Well, his hair has been in every different style and length. I allow a little for hair growth and cuts every once in awhile. I don't try to do it too abruptly. But mostly, getting the hang of the crab mask is a challenge, trying to make it work in a three-dimensional way. I have it now where I'm more comfortable with it. I've got him with a little longer hair, which I think is appropriate for Kyle. He and Natu have similar hairstyles, though, which always bugs me. [laughs] They look a lot alike, which is kind of weird.

Nrama: You've been on this series for awhile now, haven't you?

Gleason: I haven't actually figured it out. I came on with Green Lantern Corps: Recharge #1.

Nrama: That was 2005, when Green Lantern: Rebirth ended.

Gleason: Yeah, I guess I've been on it a long time. But it's where I want to be for awhile. I like it a lot. It's cool to do stuff now that plays off the past, and things I drew. These things in Blackest Night, I was there for a lot of the past that led up to it. These dead people were drawn by me when they were alive. And that's cool.

Nrama: Is it a challenge to draw aliens and give them personalities and accurate movement and expressions?

Gleason: Oh, yeah. Some characters, I really try to think about all those types of things, even if we'll never see it on the page. Even if we never see where they're from, as I'm drawing it, I try to give little clues about their history.

Kryb was a challenge because I was asked to "Pat Gleason" Kryb up, whatever that means. Make her worse looking, I guess. With her, I was originally just playing around with her balance. I think Ethan [Van Sciver] drew her first, and it was just such a great design. But I was trying to come up with a way to make her a little more disturbing. And I think the top-heaviness of her was kind of freaking me out. So I was thinking maybe she didn't have a spine like we have. It's really extended up over the "crib" of her. So her body is almost snake-like. It's just this body hanging on the bottom of it.

But yeah, I do these designs and try to take cues from nature. If I see things that gross me out or seem scary, I try to figure out a way to put it in a comic and share.

Cryb was, literally, the first drawing I ever did where I had a nightmare the night after I drew it. Kryb was stealing babies from my house. I have kids. I've got two small kids. My wife wasn't too thrilled when I showed her the drawing. I was working on it at home, and I think we were all settling in for bed, and I was like, "Hey look at this."

Kryb is a great villain. She's going to be playing a major part here soon, so keep an eye on her.

Nrama: You drew Green Lantern Iolande lounging as well. Is that how you say her name?

Gleason: I have no idea. We always wonder how to pronounce that. But her lounging wasn't really in the script either. I just try to give her a little personality. She's a princess, you know? So I think it makes sense for her to be lounging in a chair. Originally, I considered having ring-generated people carrying her in a chair like Cleopatra, but then I thought that was a little too much.

And the cupid in that scene, that was in the script, but it's another example of something visual telling a story. There are so many little Easter eggs in these issues. Doug and I have said we should have a little DVD commentary to point out all the little things we've drawn in the background.

One of the things we've always done to each other is, usually, if you leave your page unguarded, it's fair game. And you might have a little doodle on there when you come back that you didn't know about. Something that should probably never show up in print. Maybe an adjustment on a character or an accessory or some sort of zaniness to get through the day. Occasionally, it doesn't get caught, and then sometimes the inker doesn't realize what it is and it gets inked and ends up in the comic. You wouldn't know what it is unless we pointed it out. So there are things you wouldn't notice and know about unless we pointed them out. Maybe one day we'll point it out.

Nrama: Is there something like that in Issue #39?

Gleason: Yeah, there is. [laughs] You won't know what you're seeing.

Nrama: I think we talked about this during Sinestro Corps War, but you have probably drawn more characters in one issue of Green Lantern Corps than most artists draw in years. Is that just something you're good at? Or have you developed that because you were forced to? What's the trick?

Gleason: I don't know! It suits me just fine for the most part. Granted, their costumes are fairly similar, so that helps. If I was drawing a huge group of people with really different costumes, that would be tougher. But I'm drawing more characters now than I did during Sinestro Corps War. There's just a lot of people.

When I was doing Aquaman, I just had one or two characters at a time, which was great because you could just concentrate on them. You draw it so differently than you do when you have a cast of people.

<a href=""><img src="" border="0" alt="" align="left" /></a>It's just a lot of drawing. I like it though. But a lot of characters can be hard sometimes, but when they're aliens, you could make them look less normal, you know? It has saved me so many times that an alien's anatomy can be fudged. That's how I came up with the box character. I don't think we ever named him. There was this two-page spread in Recharge where all the Green Lanterns were fighting the Spider Guild, and I was drawing it left to right. By the time I got to the right side of the page, I was running out of steam. I think there's this Elvis Green Lantern in there, and I just drew this box character. I hope they actually do something with him one day. I think they named him Cube. And there's a blob too that flies around. [laughs]

Nrama: Doug mentioned that sometimes he turns to you for advice on how he's laying something out. Do you ever do that with him?

Gleason: Sure! Doug was my mentor. I was his assistant for a long time, so that's part of the fun of working together, is being able to pick someone else's brain and have them come at it from a different way. And when it's Doug Mahnke, he's not going to be giving me anything boring. Usually he says what I'm doing looks great. And he gets mad at me because I erased it. But it's good to have someone check ideas too. Sometimes you get carried away and think something will look cool, but it might be too stupid. Although, Doug's usually the guy egging me on.

Nrama: We also heard that you guys are on pretty tight deadlines? It's late at night as we do this interview. Are you still at the studio?

Gleason: I'm on my way back in there. I just stopped to get some coffee. We have two gas stations that are right next to each other, and two sisters who work there, and they're both comic book fans. So it's nice to go in to talk to them even if it's 3 in the morning. It's close to the studio, literally three blocks away. I've walked over here in the middle of the night a couple of times.

But yeah, the deadlines are tight. I've just been working like crazy. Last year, I just wanted to make sure I got everything done on time. It's been really important for me to get everything out on time. Doug and I, we're not perfect, but we both work really hard. And we push each other to make sure we get it done.

Did he tell you about the tornado we had up here?

Nrama: No!

Gleason: Yeah. I came up to the studio, and a tornado touched down in Minneapolis and worked its way up north to where we were. About 15 minutes before the storm got here, we were working, and the wind started to howl, and we're up in a building with windows all around us. And it got really bad, and I was like, I think we should maybe go seek shelter? And he's like, no. He said something to the effect of, if I'm going to die, I'll die with a pencil in my hand.

I finally did go home. But we actually did have a small tornado touch down near our studio. So it came that close to having the Green Lantern/Green Lantern Corps team taken out. But Doug was determined! He sat there, and I came back later and he was still working.

Nrama: What do you think of the story so far in Blackest Night?

Gleason:  I really like the story because it's so basic good and evil, but at the same time it's not so cut and dry that you know exactly what good and evil is. It raises a lot of questions, and people aren't sure where it's going. That always makes a good story. You never know what's going to happen from issue to issue. It's hard because I'm not the writer. I know the writers and I know a lot of stuff that's coming up, but I don't know how we're getting there. I'm just along for the ride like everyone else. It's dark right now, but I trust Geoff and Pete will bring us out into the light somehow.

Pete will send me the next script, and he'll call me a couple weeks later and say, what did you think? And I'll say, I haven't finished this script yet, so I haven't read it! I don't want to spoil it before I finish this one. But at the same time I want to know how to play certain scenes, and sometimes I ask Pete. We talk all the time, and he's really helpful directing me in those types of things.

Nrama: Doug mentioned that he loves the way you draw women. Do you have a certain approach to women?

Gleason: Oh, now you're going to make me nervous.

Nrama: [laughs] Sorry!

Gleason: No, it's good. I have a lot of women tell me they like the way I draw female characters, and I think that's good. I guess I just try to draw them realistically, or at least there's some degree of reality, even though everyone's slightly caricatured. There are just things you do differently with women. I spent lots of years drawing really bad, really, really frightening looking women. Now I think they come more naturally to me than guys. But they're the most judged characters. That's the other thing. You can draw Guy Gardner and his left leg is way too big or he's kind of ugly looking and people don't really expect him to be too pretty looking. But if it's a girl, you have to spend a little extra time on them. I don't know what it is, but there's an expectation of realism or beauty. So I spend a little extra time and I try to make them different looking from each other. I try not to have them all look exactly the same. Although I do think Natu and Arisia are kind of getting close to looking similar. But you've got a bunch of women with short hair running around, so that makes it tough. But I think I'm more of the school that less is more when it comes to girls. For me, the characters are attractive if they're well-written, which they are in Corps, I think.

<a href=""><img src="" border="0" alt="" align="right" /></a>Miri is one character I designed that I think came out as looking very real. When we first met her, she was going on her honeymoon, and when her husband was killed, it ruined her life. I started thinking of people I know, and what that would be like. So I tried to make her a little more relatable, and make her costume the way she would actually be, which is a little more modest and realistic.

Nrama: Are you sticking to Green Lantern Corps for the long term?

Gleason: Yeah. I mean, there are always things that are mentioned and tossed around. But right now, I'm totally focused on Corps. And there are things that come up after Blackest Night that we're talking about.

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