Terry Dodson is a veteran to the Marvel Universe, and how he's finally taking on some of his self-professed favorite characters - the Richards family - in X-Men/Fantastic Four alongside writer Chip Zdarsky (whom we spoke with earlier).
Teaming with his wife Rachel to make X-Men/Fantastic Four a true family affair, Dodson aims to depict the big widescreen moments of two iconic superteams butting heads in equal measure with the emotional impact of Franklin Richards having to choose between his family and his mutant heritage.
Newsarama spoke with Dodson ahead of X-Men/Fantastic Four #1's February 5 release about packing in a veritable who's who of the Marvel Universe, working with Zdarsky, and finally getting to draw the FF.
Newsarama: Terry, you’re no stranger to the Marvel Universe, and definitely not the X-Men. What’s it like mashing them up against the Fantastic Four in this crossover? There must be some big opportunities for wild visuals.
Terry Dodson: Fantastic Four is one of my favorite comic books, so it’s a blast to be able to finally draw them in a series. Of course, I’ve always been a big fan of the X-Men and right now with the "Dawn of X" relaunch, it’s such a great time to work on those characters.
I’ve been working with Matt Fraction on Adventureman (our creator-owned book, that will be launching from Image in April) for the last couple of years and was looking for a mainstream project to work on. So when the phone call came in to work on this project, it was a no brainer for me to say yes.
Nrama: Without being too spoiler-y, what’s on your drawing board right now?
Dodson: Franklin and Val Richards, palm trees, castle tower and Dr. Doom!
Nrama: Is there a particular character in this story that you’ve really connected with? Who are you drawing that has most surprised you?
Dodson: Kitty Pryde is a character that I’ve worked on since my very first project at Marvel, so to have her be one of the main characters made it really simple for me to get into the project. And, as I was saying I was such a fan of the FF that drawing them after being in my head for so long is just a real pleasure.
Drawing the helmeted Xavier has been the most surprising fun I’ve had on the project.
Nrama: You work with your wife Rachel on almost everything – so it’s kinda fitting you’re taking on Reed and Sue Richards and their family. On a book like this that is all about family dynamics, how do you channel that sensibility to the page? How does that kind of theme affect the way you construct your pages and the visual language you use?
Dodson: Something to keep in mind for drawing a family book (and it’s fairly obvious) is that you want to be able to show all the characters at the same time - to show the dynamics and reactions, what one character says and how that affects the others. When Susan says something, it’s really important to be able to see Franklin‘s reaction to that, etc. So balancing the pages out, doing more shots that show the entire scene at once, as opposed to just close-ups.
In other words, a lot more work than a typical project, but this book really needs that to pay off the scenes and emotions properly. As a creator for as many years as I have been doing this now, I realize that putting that extra work into the page really makes it pay off for the reader.
Nrama: When you’re working on a story like X-Men/Fantastic Four with this much scope and this many characters with ramifications across the Marvel line, how do you approach that differently versus something more intimate or smaller scale?
Dodson: A really good way to tell this kind of story is to do large panels that pull back very wide on scenes, so the main characters are actually very tiny in the compositions you get the sense of scale of the book itself, the enormity of how big everything can feel to those characters - that’s a good trick that the artist can use to convey the importance of those scenes in that story.
Nrama: Chip Zdarsky is writing X-Men/Fantastic Four. He’s an artist himself – do you find that comes across in his scripts? How has it been developing a working relationship with him?
Dodson: Well one of the reasons I said yes to this project was that Chip was writing it. Chip is an entertaining person outside of comics, but he’s also written some excellent stories.
Of course, with Chip being an artist he knows exactly the right amount of information that needs to be put upon a page in order to tell the story and yet not overwhelm the artist or the reader. This story in particular has so many characters and so many scenes that I have to use my judgment as the storyteller to pick and choose the best things to show - sometimes you just simply can’t show everything and you really need to focus on what is the most important thing in that scene.
Nrama: What’s your favorite thing Chip’s put in a script for you to draw so far?
Dodson: In the first issue, Chip wrote a couple of really nice scenes with Kitty and Franklin that were cool to draw. I think the fans will enjoy them as much as I had fun drawing them.
Nrama: What sets X-Men/Fantastic Four apart from other Marvel stories you’ve told? How far reaching will this story actually be once the dust clears?
Dodson: It’s really funny, but I’ve thought this many times now while drawing this book - this book feels like the very first time I have really drawn a “Marvel" comic book story. This story feels like the kind of stories I remember reading from Marvel growing up – a very Marvel superhero story.
Honestly, I only try to read the issue page by page so that there are a lot of surprises for me as I draw the story. I do skim the whole issue to understand any points I need to make sure are correct and won’t interfere on something later in the issue. So, I don’t know how the story ends but I have a feeling that the things that are going on are going to be far reaching - but I’m waiting to find out along with you.