Artist Nicola Scott is very particular about finding the right face for each character she draws, and for Teen Titans, she's casting the look of everyone from Superboy to Raven to Damian Wayne.
Beginning in October, the Australian artist joins new series writer J.T. Krul on Teen Titans. And as she works with the writer to give the Teen Titans an upbeat feel, she's casting each of the characters with a distinct look that she's hoping will make a mark on the long history of the team.
Scott, who first grabbed the attention of DC readers on Birds of Prey, was also the regular artist on Secret Six, working with her frequent collaborator, writer Gail Simone. More recently, she helped finish Simone's run on Wonder Woman, including a special pin-up she drew for the oversized Issue #600.
But with Scott on Teen Titans, DC is hoping her team-up with Krul will give the book an energy boost as it launches a new direction to go with the brand new creative team.
Newsarama talked with Scott to find out what she and Krul are hoping to bring to the Teen Titans and how she's approaching the characters who make up this iconic team.
Newsarama: Nicola, I was trying to remember if you've ever drawn some of these characters, but I don't think you have. Is this the first time you've drawn most of the Teen Titans members?
Nicola Scott: Yeah! I've drawn Cassie for one panel before. And she was dead. [laughs] So this is an opportunity to have a proper go on her and a first go on all the others.
Nrama: And you're working with J.T. Krul? Can you describe the direction you guys are taking? Or at least what you're hoping to do visually with the characters and this comic?
Scott: The vibe we're going for with the whole book is that it's a lot more upbeat than it has been. There's been so much teen angst, which works for Teen Titans, but when it gets weighed down by teen angst is when it stops being fun. We're just trying to find a little more fun in the characters. And even when the stories don't portray that, the visuals can.
I'm just super jazzed about working with J.T. on this book. The whole pitch, as it was pitched to me, all the ingredients were there to make it a no-brainer.
Nrama: You've certainly got experience doing humor, having worked on Secret Six, but that's a dark humor, and I'm assuming this upbeat tone is a little different for you to draw?
Scott: Yeah, it's a completely different approach. Something like Secret Six is a lot of fun, but it's a dark humor and the characters are a lot older. I'd say most of the Secret Six characters are in their 30's. And there's a complete difference to their body language and range of facial characters, and just the energy of them as a group. It's more world-weary in the Secret Six, while the Teen Titans are upbeat.
They're a premier superhero team that are on the front lines, but they're teenagers and they have that teenage energy and those teenage hormones firing all the time. So everything just feels loaded in a different way. I remember being 17 and everything being so heightened and important. And I'm trying to get that bit of cheeky and edgy feeling on the page.
Nrama: What's the biggest challenge to working with those characters?
Scott: Approaching any new characters, for me, the biggest challenge is trying to find my version of them. I don't draw the same faces and the same bodies on everybody. I try to be quite particular with people's faces. That's the thing that I find enjoyable, finding the right character. It's kind of like casting the right face.
It can take a few goes at the characters before I hit a panel where I think, "That's what they look like!" Every panel after that is informed by that knowledge.
It was about the fifth time that I drew Superboy in a panel that I thought, "Yep, that's his face. That's how I want to draw his face." And it's a little different to how he's appeared on the covers that have been released, but only a little. Just the proportions of his face.
People that are distinct looking, like Beast Boy and Bart Allen, I think there's something quite particular about their characters and their powers that translates very easily. It's very easy to take a visual idea of those characters and run with it.
Nrama: What's distinctive about the way you're drawing Beast Boy?
Scott: He's been portrayed a few ways, but I just don't think he should look ordinary. He's too fun to look ordinary. And I love Beast Boy's little tooth that sticks out. Some artists do the tooth but others don't. And the artists that do it sometimes don't do it in every panel. But I'm quite big on consistency. I like to see the same face on the same characters over and over again.
And I was thinking that, if he's got a bottom tooth that sticks out, he's got to be a little buck-jawed, because there's no way you could have a bottom tooth sticking out over your mouth without being a little buck-jawed. And he's turned out looking a little Eddie Munster-ish. But I kind of like it. He looks great.
Nrama: You mention Superboy's face. Did it feel like he's been portrayed looking different over the years? Was it a struggle to find the right face?
Scott: I've had so many artists before say, and I completely agree, that one of the hardest characters to get right, visually, is Superman. It's because he's such an archetype of what a superhero should look like. But he's also quite particular, and while there are a lot of different versions of Superman, with so many different versions by a lot of different artists, it doesn't always look like Superman. Sometimes it just doesn't look like Superman. It just looks like a square-jawed person.
I found the same thing with Superboy. I couldn't just give him dark hair and a straight nose and a big jaw. That's too generic. The more generic a type they are, the harder they are to define, I find.
Nrama: You mentioned your experience with Wonder Girl. Has Wonder Woman's costume changed Cassie's costume at all?
Scott: Well, I actually made the request to take her back to her previous costume. I really liked the tank top that she was wearing in the One Year Later run, paying homage to Donna Troy. I thought that was the best Cassie's outfit has looked. It's paying tribute to the Wonder Woman history, but it's a little retro. I think it's a little fun, and I don't mind the idea of her wearing jeans.
And in the pictures you've seen, most of them don't show below the knee, but Cassie's wearing some really great boots. So far, everyone that's seen the boots has gone, "I want boots like that!" She's got some pretty hot boots.
Nrama: Ravager has such a cool look.
Scott: Oh, she's awesome! I love Rose. There tends to be this bad-girl type in so many teams, but there's something more sophisticated to Rose's concept of history. There's so much loaded material there to play with.
I think she looks great. I've really warmed to Rose. I think she's very cool.
Nrama: It seems like, out of all these characters, Raven has the most indistinct look, at least out of costume, because she's been portrayed so many different ways. Did you have a problem finding the right look for her?
Scott: Yeah, trying to find her face was really tricky. Some versions of her, she looks quite old. Some versions of her, she looks ethnic, and I say that in a really broad way, because depending on the artist or the direction, the ethnicity or direction she looks to be leaning toward can change. I tried to find the right kind of face to have under that hood.
I see her as a very potentially emotional character. There are a lot of layers there. Trying to find the right face is important with a character like that. And what I did for Raven is something I don't usually do: Picking an actual actor and using their face. How I came to that was, I picked an actress named Amy Acker, who was in the Angel TV series a while ago. She had this sweet, innocent face, but it's not a generic face. It's quite interesting. She's got a really distinct nose and big eyes and little delicate lips. But there's a sharpness to her face. She can be very soft and vulnerable, but there's a sharpness to her face. And her character in Angel ended up becoming a very powerful, sort of demi-god kind of character. I've drawn her face before in a one-shot for IDW, and she just seemed to fit the bill.
So I thought she'd be the right kind of face. Not necessarily the same coloring. But I thought that was the type of face, because she can be quite emotive and fragile, but can also be incredibly strong and intimidating. So that was how I approached Raven.
Nrama: You mentioned drawing Bart Allen. He's your first experience drawing a speedster, isn't he?
Scott: He is! I've drawn The Flash once, in one panel. I think it was Barry when he was the Blue Lantern, in one panel at the end of Blackest Night: Wonder Woman. It was one panel where all of the lanterns are there. And there's tiny Barry in the corner. And he was my first speedster.
Nrama: So you're figuring out how to draw speed. How are you approaching it?
Scott: It's really weird doing it! I love what a lot of the different artists have done when they're approaching the speed special effects. Sometimes I think it works really well, and other times I don't think it works as well. What the colorist does after you can really make it work or really break it from working. So I've been in contact with my colorist, Jason Wright, just talking him through my visual idea of how I want Bart's speed to look. I've asked him to send me jpegs when he's done a few panels of speed action.
There's one page in particular where there's all speed power and very little of actually seeing Bart on the page, despite the fact it's all him whizzing around. My idea of it is, I'm not a huge fan of speed lines. Primarily because it's putting black on the page where I don't think it should be black. The more speed lines you put in, the more black you're putting in there. There's something a little more translucent about speed. I think it should be a color rather than a black speed line.
So I've put in a few speed lines, but I've told Jason I'm not a huge fan of them, so to use them as an indication of where he's been, what his trail is, but I want it to look more like a slow-release camera shutter on tail lights, with that drag of flight.
Nrama: Kind of a blur?
Scott: Yeah, but not too blurry. A streak of light. Like in Akira from the '80s with that great drag of the taillights. That's the kind of thing I think looks very vibrant and electric, especially when it's got that lightning and electricity crackling around it.
Nrama: And it was easy to get Bart's face right?
Scott: Well, I sort of wanted him to look a little cheeky. I went back to the original designs from the Mike McKone era, at the beginning of the new run. While Bart was younger there, he was cute and he was a little cheeky and sweet. And I wanted to get his cheeky expression back on his face.
Nrama: You don't have a Robin, but we've just heard that Damian might be showing up. Is he going to be the Robin for the Teen Titans now?
Scott: Damian is hovering around the team, which will be interesting to see how the rest of the team copes, how Damian copes, what Tim's reaction will eventually be.... so we'll see how this plays out.
Nrama: The way you're drawing Damian, in the sketches we've seen, is almost pixie-looking.
Scott: Yeah. I absolutely love the way Frank Quitely was drawing him. He looks like a gnarly little 10-year-old. And I think there are few others that have really managed to captured how little and angry he is. I just thought Frank nailed it, so I decided to just do Frank's version.
Nrama: Are you getting to draw some new villains?
Scott: Yeah. We're designing some new villains. One particular villain is in the process of creating and manipulating a few more.
Nrama: Are you a long-time Titans fan, or are you trying to get to know the characters brand new?
Scott: A bit of both. I don't read nearly as many comics as I wish I could, because I just don't get the time. But Teen Titans has always been one of the teams that I've loved, and it's always had characters in it that have interested me.
And from this next generation group, these are the guys who interest me the most. So I'm pretty chuffed about being able to draw them. There have been some other characters that have come and gone that I don't get to draw right now, like Kid Devil I thought was great, and I quite like Blue Beetle and Aquagirl. And Miss Martian. I thought they were a lot of fun. But some of them aren't available for us at the moment.
So we pared it down to who would make the strongest team. There's a reason for why it is this particular line-up that I think makes perfect sense.
Nrama: Then to finish up, Nicola, are you planning to stay on Teen Titans for a while?
Scott: Yes! I'm hoping to be on the title for a long time. It's a very cool team to work on. And it's a lot of fun getting to draw teenagers. They're very different physically to people in their 20's and their 30's. It makes for intriguing drama, and I'm at that age where I can be quite nostalgic about being a teen. I'm getting to apply a bit of that nostalgia into drawing these kids, who are so sweet and are trying to do the best thing, but still have these little dramas going on in their own lives.
And once I've picked on a distinct version of a character, I draw it over and over and over again. So hopefully, by the time I've completed a long run on Teen Titans, I will have left a mark on who I think these characters are, and I hope everyone else likes them.