The X-Men were a "big part" of what drew artist Russell Dauterman into comic books as a child, and now he's come full circle by drawing February 26's Giant-Size X-Men: Jean Grey and Emma Frost.
Dauterman, who recently drew Marvel's War of the Realms event (with a long Thor run before that), was given relatively free reign on this kick-off to a series of five Giant-Size X-Men specials, choosing to draw his favorite X-Men - Jean Grey and Emma Frost - along with the liberty to draw it 'Marvel style,' with writer Jonathan Hickman coming in later to write the dialogue for the issue.
Just a few days before it's release (and just after Dauterman was announced to be drawing the Storm-centric Giant-Size X-Men finale this May), the artist spoke with Newsarama about transitioning from big events to a one-shot, getting to work with his favorite characters, and the creative latitude he was granted while working with Hickman.
Newsarama: Russell, you’re bringing together two of Marvel’s strongest telepaths in Giant-Size X-Men: Jean Grey and Emma Frost. What’s it like stepping into the X-office for a story featuring two iconic characters?
Russell Dauterman: I'm thrilled about it! Getting to draw the X-Men, and my favorite X-Men in particular, is amazing. The X-Men are largely the reason I became interested in comics, and a big part of why I became a comic book artist.
Nrama: Emma and Jean have an extremely complicated relationship, and this one shot will explore how that has evolved in Krakoa. What principles do you apply as you’re drawing Jean and Emma to convey the weight of their emotional interactions?
Dauterman: I tried to give them each distinct faces, and put a lot of personality into their expressions and body language - hopefully that helps convey their personalities and highlights how they view each other. They have a different dynamic than when they last worked together.
Nrama: This story’s not just about Jean and Emma’s relationship though – they have to rescue Storm. What kind of things did you draw for that mission? Any cool cameos you got to throw in?
Dauterman: The mission Jean and Emma are on takes them to some new locations - designing those was a lot of fun. There aren't many cameos, but I did get some nods to X-Men history in there. Some are meant to be obvious, and others are more like Easter eggs for fans.
Nrama: Emma and Jean have some very distinct outfits on the cover of this one-shot. How much input did you have into those designs, adapted from classic costumes? It seems the X-Men are willing to switch up their fashions these days.
Dauterman: Jonathan and the X-office seemed open to changing up the costumes, so I suggested this look for Jean. The costume is basically her Mahmud Asrar-designed X-Men: Red look - I tweaked it and changed the colors to fit her current color scheme. I love that look from Red, and wanted Jean in something modern.
I designed the Emma costume for the first Marauders cover, based on the direction Gerry [Duggan] and Matteo [Lolli] were taking Emma in that book. I wanted something new that also reflected her iconic looks over the years - so we've got a silhouette that's similar to the [Chris] Bachalo Generation X design, her [Frank] Quitely collar, and fur to echo her Hellfire look.
Nrama: You’re no stranger to drawing mythical kingdoms, having spent so much time in Asgard and the Ten Realms, and now you’re visiting Krakoa. What sets the mutant island apart, visually? What are the key things you kept in mind as you drew this one-shot?
Dauterman: I'll always choose drawing something organic instead of realistic buildings and cities, so I was glad to get some Krakoan settings. Going into this, I was hoping I'd get a chance to draw Krakoa - I love that design work from Pepe [Larraz], RB [Silva] and Marte [Gracia]. The island feels strange and otherworldly, but still beautiful and comforting and somewhere you'd want to be.
Nrama: For characters whose powers primarily take place in their minds, how do you go about making things like telepathy and telekinesis visually distinct and interesting on the page?
Dauterman: I rely a lot on Emma and Jean's power signatures. I've always liked seeing that little flare of energy when a psychic uses their powers. Emma and Jean have had different colors for their powers over the years, but I wanted each of them to have a distinct color for this - I think it helps show what's happening and who's doing what.
Nrama: You’re working with Jonathan Hickman here. What’s it like digging in with him? How strongly did his script put you through your paces?
Dauterman: [Laughs] Well, the issue was done Marvel Style, so there wasn't a full script. Jonathan sent an outline that broke the issue down into sections - some of which were very detailed and others which were more open-ended. I'd never done a full issue like that before.
Beforehand, I was asked what characters I wanted to draw and what sort of story I wanted to tell. I was just happy to be drawing X-Men, and thrilled to be working with Jonathan and Matt Wilson - so having any input on the plot was unexpected and very cool. And Jonathan came up with a story that I love.
Nrama: What’s your favorite thing you drew for Jean Grey and Emma Frost?
Dauterman: My favorite thing is a spoiler, but my second favorite is the first panel on page 1, the X-Men team shot. One of my favorite X-Men images is a team line-up shot by Arthur Adams for an Uncanny X-Men Annual #1. I wanted to include something like that with this book's cast. The opening page is meant to show Krakoa as a mutant paradise: the setting is calm, the X is made of Krakoan vines and flowers, the kids are smiling, and the X-Men are together. Things go downhill from there!
Nrama: Bottom line, what’s in store for fans who pick up Giant-Size X-Men: Jean Grey and Emma Frost?
Dauterman: I tried to fill the issue with things that I would want to see as a fan of these characters. I really hope people enjoy it as much as I do!