DALE EAGLESHAM Heads Home for New Marvel ALPHA FLIGHT Series

In an era where an Australian is playing Canadian Wolverine, and Brits are playing Batman and Superman, it's nice to know that at least the artist drawing the upcoming Alpha Flight mini-series will be a Canadian.

Dale Eaglesham, a Canadian artist who's celebrating 25 years in the comic book business this year, will draw an eight-issue Alpha Flight mini-series by writers Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente. Alpha Flight will spin out of Marvel's event, "Fear Itself," and will launch in June with a "Point 1" issue designed as a jumping-on point for new readers.

Alpha Flight is one of the few Canadian superhero teams in popular comics. Its members were recently resurrected and reunited during Van Lente and Pak's Chaos War.

Eaglesham is getting to draw the Canadian superhero team as the latest project in his Marvel exclusive contract, which most recently had him drawing Pak's Incredible Hulks in a storyline that starts this week. Eaglesham has also worked on high-profile Marvel comics like Steve Rogers: Super Soldier and Fantastic Four. Before that, the artist worked for DC on series like Justice Society of America and Villains United.

In the second installment of our two-part interview with the artist, Newsarama talked with Eaglesham about his 25 years in the comics business and what he's expecting from his work on Alpha Flight.

Nrama: You've been back as a Marvel exclusive for a couple years now. What's been your favorite project so far? Or have they all had their highlights?

Eaglesham: Like I said earlier, there have been several highlights, but I’d say my two favorites have been Hulk and What If – Hulk because it’s so much fun drawing that character, and What If because I got to work with Stan Lee.

Nrama: You recently launched a website and a Facebook page. Is that because you want to keep in touch with the people who love your art? What role does the fandom play in your career?

Eaglesham: The website has actually been around since 2006, but my wife and our friend Sylvain redesigned it, modernized it and relaunched it in October at www.daleeaglesham.com. They added a bunch of great new features, including Facebook compatibility, so that’s why I decided to also launch a Facebook page. And then I figured I might as well go all the way and do the Twitter thing too.

I have to admit that this stuff – the promo – doesn’t come naturally to me, though. A lot of folks in the biz seem to embrace it and have fun with it, and for sure it’s a great way to promote your work. Maybe I’m too reserved, or just not used to it yet, but every time I post, I feel like I’m saying “hey, look at me!” and I find that really awkward.

So you’re right, for me it’s more about staying in touch with fans. They’re the reason I’m in this line of work – when I draw a page, it’s for them. And when I meet them at a con or they contact me on my website, and they tell me they love my stuff, that’s my reward for the 14-hour days. Knowing that I managed to help them escape and took them on an adventure, that makes it all worth it for me.

Nrama: You also recently celebrated 25 years in the comic book business. Looking back, what were a few of the highlights for you?

Eaglesham: I don’t remember the exact date when my first piece was published, but it was sometime in 1986, so that makes 2011 my 25th year in the biz. A quarter century… It blows my mind when I think of it that way.

Highlights… I’ll try to be selective here. Well, I have to include my first published story, a Chuck Dixon story entitled "Traitor's Gold." I think any creator would have to include his or her first publication, because so often it’s the culmination of years spent trying to get a gig. I actually did the inks too for that Kull story.

I’ll also include my Conan swan song, a 50-pager called “Masque of the Demon.” Conan was the reason I got into comics: That’s all I ever dreamed of drawing at the time. I never got to draw him again after that, so it remains special to me.

Then I’d include a Punisher story called “Hurt So Good,” because I had the honor of being inked by comic book legend Al Williamson for it. I loved Al’s Flash Gordon work, so having him ink my work was a great career highlight. In that same vein, I’d add the What If #200 back-up I recently did, because it allowed me to work with Stan Lee, which was also a huge honor.

Then I would include a mini-series I did with John Arcudi. It was a detective series called The Creep, and it was such a unique experience. I’ve rarely had the opportunity to do non-superhero work, and this was with my friend John, a tremendous writer and one of the sharpest minds I know. I’m proud to have done that work.

I would also say getting my first monthly book was a highlight. It was Green Lantern, and I did 18 issues of that book during my two-year run. I remember how excited I was to get that job!

As far as recognition goes, I’d include two things: The first is the fact that I was one of the artists personally selected by James Cameron to draw the comic book version of the Spider-Man movie he was going to make (and ultimately never did). I was such a huge fan of Cameron’s at the time, too, so I was blown away by the fact that I was one of the pencilers he selected. And the second was winning the Shuster award for Outstanding Comic Book Penciller of the Year in 2008.

Nrama: In what areas of your artwork do you think you've grown the most over those years?

Eaglesham: Maybe the readers would be better placed to say how they feel I’ve grown. For my part, I always strive to improve with every single issue. I still study art and art history on an almost-daily basis. I sometimes hear comments saying that I get better with every book, and that’s hugely gratifying for me to hear. I don’t want to get jaded or lazy, so I always push harder.

I also always put the story first – the storytelling has to be clear. I’ll never let style take precedence over clear storytelling. If that means I don’t have a flashy style that wins critical accolades, so be it. What matters to me is that readers will never feel they were cheated out of their hard-earned money. I always aim to give them more than their money’s worth, and based on their comments in e-mails and at shows, I think a lot of them really appreciate that. To that end, I try and build depth into the pages, going deeper into background details, composition, panel and scene transitions, dialogue placement, expanding my grasp of character affectation — in other words, all of the invisible arts.

Nrama: Assuming you know what you're doing after these three issues of Incredible Hulks, can you give us a vague hint about what it will be?

Eaglesham: I’ve known for a while now what my next project would be, but I was sworn to secrecy and couldn’t talk about it, which was hard. But now the comic book community knows it too, as it was finally announced yesterday: Alpha Flight!

The excitement at Marvel about this book is just a joy to behold, and the fans have been so passionate about the book and bringing it back.

On my end, I’ve been thinking about creating a Canadian superhero team for years now, putzing around with ideas that I could propose, but I always came back to Alpha Flight. I thought that was such a great team, but didn’t think the book would be revived.

Meanwhile, the "powers-that-be" were concocting a plan behind the scenes. They picked their writers and then had a meeting about who would be the artist, and then apparently my name came up and everyone got super excited at the suggestion.

Nrama: Do you think that's because you're Canadian?

Eaglesham: I don’t know if the fact that I’m Canadian had anything to do with it! Maybe! I think a strong contingent of my fan-base is right here in Canada. They’re a passionate, dedicated group; they’re really awesome.

Nrama: You've already worked with Greg on Hulk. What are you expecting from the rest of the creative team?

Eaglesham: I already love working with Greg, and everything I’ve seen, read and heard about the Pak/Van Lente team is utterly, glowingly positive.

I’ve already been interacting with Fred and we’re having a blast. The guy cracks me up.

I get to keep Drew Hennessy, who just inked my three-issue Hulk arc, so that’s excellent news. I’m thrilled to have him on board for this next project as well.

And since we last chatted for part one of this interview, my colorist has been confirmed: It’s going to be Morry Hollowell, one of the best colorists in the biz. He just colored a Fear Itself piece of mine, and he seriously knocked my socks off. This is going to be a killer team, I feel honored and so excited to be part of it. I’m giddy over here.

I’m all about Alpha Flight right now!! I’ve been doing sketches for it in my free time, and doing research to get ready. Can’t wait to get started on it, which should be in early March.

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