Catching Up With Kristian Donaldson - DMZ, 99 Days and More

Catching Up With Kristian Donaldson

Kristian Donaldson is one of a new breed of artists whose work belay not only its comic roots but also its inspiration from film, magazine and fine art. Well known for his collaborations with writer Brian Wood on Supermarket and DMZ, Donaldson's star is on the rise even outside comics with illustrations for a line of furniture with design legend Philippe Starck. Back in the world of comics, his next project is a two-issue stint on DMZ and an unnamed project which we might convince Kristian to spill out. Let's stop talking and get to the interview...

Newsarama: We've been wanting to catch up with you for awhile, Kristian. You've got a lot of projects going on. What are you working on today?

Kristian Donaldson: Today I'm inking pages from DMZ #35. I've got Matty cruising through a wrecked up New York Harbor in a zodiac boat, on his way to Staten Island.

NRAMA: And what else is currently on your plate?

KD: I just wrapped up the run of covers on the Chuck book from Wildstorm. That was a really fun gig. First time I've gotten to illustrate a series of covers in a while. My main project at the moment is full art duties on an upcoming Vertigo Crime book called 99 Days. But, in the meantime I get to do this DMZ two parter.

NRAMA: A new Vertigo Crime book? That's news to me… but let's talk about DMZ first. This isn't your first time doing a guest spot on art for Brian Wood's series, so what's it like being a regular player in the series?

KD: Since it's one of my favorite books I'm really into it, and I really study all the brilliant little touches that Brian and Riccardo add to make this world interesting visually. I try to get into that frame of mind when I get a chance to draw this world. it's all about looking at a finished sketch of a scene and then realizing you could push more and add more, more rubble, more bullet holes, more weird signs in the background, more buildings, pipes, fire escapes, smoke, whatever. It really appeals to this obsessive part of me that wants to be structured but make a mess. Plus, a lot of the story is in THERE, in all that mess, there's mystery to it. Your imagination can drift off to what happened to put a hole in the empire state building.

I also enjoy interpreting the characters a lot. I get really used to their regular incarnations, and then I get a kick out of interpreting them through my style. I try to strip the main characters down to their base, and then add my own embellishments on top.

NRAMA: And how would you describe the two issues you're working on, #35 & #36?

KD: Issues #35 and #36 are a two parter called "The Island", which takes place on Staten Island, which is a US staging ground and base. It's very atmospheric, and loaded with some dark humor. I can say that the first six pages of issue #35 are the coolest and moodiest thing I've ever had to draw. It's a lot of establishing shots, which I eat with a spoon. we kind of sweep into Staten Island from Manhattan by water, and get Staten Island DMZ style 101 in a couple of pages, and then we kind of seamlessly sweep down a street following the thumping of speakers, and into a soldier house party in an old Victorian house, with the camera just following Matty as he makes his way through the house. It's really cool bit of writing in the way it moves Matty around.

Brian's still working on the second part, but the focus is on US army grunts and their life on the Island.

NRAMA: You're working with Brian on DMZ, you did Supermarket together, and there's also word you two are working on a video game. Can you tell us anything about that?

KD: I can't get into too many details. We're still early on, but I've done some concept work. The focus is on a wicked visual style that's never quite been done in a game, and on having a cogent and engaging plot.

NRAMA: We'll let you slide for now, but we want to know more as it comes. What can you tell us about the Vertigo Crime book you're working on, 99Days?

KD: 99Days is in the lineup of Vertigo Crime books, the line which was announced in San Diego last month. I love this book. I love drawing it. It's such a radical departure from anything I've ever done. It hasn't been specifically announced, so I don't want to go into too much detail. It's different from things I've done before in a few ways, it' a modern day LA noir story. I'm trying to really capture LA in all its beautiful weirdness. The cast is almost entirely African and African American. The book is in black and white with grayscale, which I'm enjoying a lot.

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