With this September's launch of Swamp Thing in the DCnU, artist Yanick Paquette is pushing himself even harder than usual to make sure writer Scott Snyder's stories are distinctive and innovative.
Why all the self-induced pressure? It's the same reason fans are excited to see the new title. Paquette is not only a fan of the character, but he has a huge respect for the creators who have worked on Swamp Thing in the past.
"Yanick has just been incredible," Snyder told Newsarama last month. "I can't wait for people to see the pages for real. They're blowing everybody away behind the scenes."
Paquette will set the stage for Snyder's run on Swamp Thing, but he'll get a break for the next story arc by Francesco Francavilla, who worked with the writer on his recent Detective Comics run. "One of the reasons I went after Yanick Paquette and Francesco Francavilla really hard is because both of them have that exact approach to their work, where there's a real investment in creating something page-to-page that mirrors the feel and the project of each story," Snyder said.In many ways, Paquette's path to this point has prepared him for the task of visually setting Swamp Thing apart. Working with writers whose styles are as different as Robert Kirkman, Grant Morrison, Jason Aaron and Mark Millar, the French Canadian artist is known as a highly illustrative penciller who can tailor his creations to the stories he tells. From his "pirate Batman" in The Return of Bruce Wayne to his horror-filled images in Wolverine: Weapon X, Paquette's recent work points toward the ability to create a dark yet diverse world like the one in which Swamp Thing thrives.
"[Yanick is] capable of doing really clean, heroic superhero stuff, as seen in Batman Inc. and stuff like that," Snyder said. "But he can also do some of the scariest, creepiest, disturbing images out there, and really darkly shadowed. And that's the tone of the book."
To follow-up on Snyder's praise, we got some exclusive art from DC to show Newsarama readers and talked with Paquette to find out more about his approach.
Newsarama: Yanick, I know you've been a huge fan of Swamp Thing over the years. How does that influence your approach to this comic?
Yanick Paquette: Maybe for the first time on a comic I'm doing, I feel the tradition, or rather the masters, that came before me for Swamp Thing. I think it's more tangible on Swamp Thing because there haven't been as many people working on the comic as there have been on, for example, Batman or something like that.I've been evolving my art for a while now. But an early influence for me was Bernie Wrightson. You can still see the influence in there, although it's diluted with other stuff. But I discovered Bernie before Frankenstein and other things. I discovered him through Swamp Thing. I was finding it in reprint; I'm not that old. But I was discovering it in French. Growing up in Québec, I was mostly limited to comics I could find in French. So I was exposed to a lot of illustrators, because in French you could find comics like the EC stuff and Hal Foster and those things. And when I discovered Bernie, to me, Swamp Thing was that same type of very well illustrated comic book because of Bernie's involved in it. It was more artsy and illustrative in nature.
And then it was also a favorite comic of mine because it was the first time I had a deep love for what a writer was doing, with Alan Moore on Swamp Thing. I suppose it's not very original Alan Moore is one of my favorite writers of all time in comics.
Somehow, both my first love in graphics and my first love in writer storytelling spun out of Swamp Thing.
Nrama: Knowing the way Scott writes, are you doing anything distinctive with the layout or artwork to communicate this story?
Paquette: In terms of storytelling, I'm trying to give it a distinctive look. I want to do something from the start that will feel like Swamp Thing on every page, but will also feel like this run is unique. Like, I'm doing unique borders for panels, because there's an entity of death, and an entity of Swamp Thing, which is life. So I'm trying to incorporate that into the narrative by using the panel borders themselves.And for a few years now, I'm really leaning toward a more illustrative feel in my art. I've been using light sources to make things dramatic. I've been working in a more illustrative way. So with Swamp Thing, I'm continuing to evolve that in my art and I'm trying to do things differently from what might have been seen before.
In comic book art, I feel like today there is no limit to what you can do. And with Swamp Thing, I've been inspired into pushing myself further. I wanted to be as creative and innovative as possible. And I feel like it's very important that Swamp Thing is now part of the DCU, as a contrast to the Vertigo days. And that puts even more of an incentive on me to do something very different and innovative.
So as I deal with the inspiration from my predecessors, I try to be faithful to this spirit of illustration, and to reach this book beyond just superheroes. I'm trying to get some sort of brainy, creative, adventurous storytelling going on there, to keep with the tradition of this book.
Nrama: When describing your art in a recent interview, Scott told us that you can do "some of the scariest, creepiest, disturbing images out there." Does that mean there's a horror feel to the book?
Paquette: [laughs] I do feel natural in the horror world. I did a Wolverine story with Jason Aaron at Marvel called "Insane in the Brain," which was pretty much a horror story. And I do have that nature of using lights and darks to heighten the dramatic intensity of a horror story.
But Swamp Thing adds another level to it, as I explore many other things.
Like nature. It's so rare that I've been able to really let loose upon drawing flowers and plants and these kinds of visuals, that you don't get drawing, say, Spider-Man or Batman. This book gives me access to this potential. On the personal side, I love nature. I collect bugs. So for me, it's a challenge because it's something I'm not used to drawing, but it's something that I'm really enjoying getting to do.
So yes, there is horror influence in the way I'm drawing Swamp Thing, but there are other levels of this book that are allowing me to explore things I couldn't do in superhero comics.
Nrama: You've getting to draw Alec Holland in this comic, and Scott told us he's playing a central role in the comic. How are you approaching his character?
Paquette: That has been difficult because we didn't see much of Alec in the regular Swamp Thing, so I went back and looked at Wrightson's design. And although he's associated with this crazy, interesting character Swamp Thing, I wanted to make him look like this ordinary guy. I wanted him to just look like a normal person.
Nrama: Scott has also indicated that the Green plays a major role in his approach to the title. How are you communicating the Green graphically?
Paquette: For the Green itself, when I started drawing issue #2, where I'm tackling the Green, I tried to capture some of the craziness that [Steve] Bissette did in the past. With stuff like the Green, it's so freeing, because you can create something new and really push yourself to make it look unique.
Nrama: What is it like to work with Scott Snyder? He seems very collaborative. And you're getting to coordinate with Francesco Francavilla.
Paquette: Yes, I'm doing the first arc on the comic, and working in such a collaborative way is great because, especially with Scott, he is so enthusiastic about the comic and the story he's telling. So we're making sure that the story is told in a way that really sets it apart and takes the mythology of Swamp Thing in new directions while still having all the things in there that make the character so compelling.
Nrama: You seem to have a real excitement about this book, Yanick. You keep saying that it's "different" from superhero books, but is the experience different? What is it that sets this experience apart for you?
Paquette: I think it's because we are able to do so much that is new. It's different than your average book where you know exactly how to approach the art. It's challenging me in new ways, and that is very exciting. With Swamp Thing, every time I sit down to draw it, I really have to push myself. I have to draw things I've never drawn before, and I'm even more motivated because of my love for the character and for the people who have already touched this mythology. And that's all very exciting for me as an artist, and as a fan.Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!
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