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Interview with Todd Nauck
From the archives...
Todd Nauck is a name that you probably know. Maybe its from his early days working for Rob Liefeld’s Image books, or maybe from his subsequent Marvel and DC fill-ins, including on Legion of Superheroes. More likely its from his breakthrough gig as the regular artist on DC’s Young Justice for its entire 4-year-plus run, where he drew some of the best young super-heroes we’ve seen for years.
Or maybe you know him from his recently concluded creator-owned series for Image (as both artist and writer), WildGuard: Casting Call – a fun super-hero based look at reality TV shows that gave him the chance to really strut his stuff with character designs and ideas. (If you didn’t pick this up when it came out, go take a look at www.wildguard.com and www.toddnauck.com for a peek at what you missed and be on the look out for a trade paperback, hopefully later this year!)
Heck, maybe you just know him from his current work as the regular artist on DC’s Teen Titans Go!, based on the popular cartoon, where he’s showcasing his flexibility by adapting his usual style for a more animated approach.
Wherever you know his name from, there’s no denying Todd’s huge talent, enthusiasm and commitment to his work. Rich Lovatt caught up with Todd recently for a chat about the past, the present, and the future!
Rich Lovatt: What’s the earliest memory you have of wanting to be an artist?
Todd Nauck: My earliest memory is of scribbling in a circle on a piece of paper while sitting at the kitchen table. I was three years old and drawing a hamburger.
RL: Did you always want to get into comic books?
TN: I wanted to be a fireman, astronaut, veterinarian, and actor before I realized I wanted to be a comic book artist at age 15.
RL: Your first assignment was a cover for Marvel’s humour book, What the-?! - how did you land that?
TN: I was still attending the Art Institute of Dallas. I was at a Dallas comic convention the spring of ’92 and showed my portfolio to a Marvel editor. She said she’d buy an X-Men gag off of me for the back cover of What The--?! #21. That was a real coup for me with my fellow classmates to get work in my desired profession while still in school.
RL: And it wasn’t too long after that that you started at Image, working on a number of the Extreme Studios titles – Badrock and Company, New Men, Youngblood – how did that come about?
TN: After I graduated art school, Dec. ’92, I was sending out samples of my work to all the major companies. I was also making mini-comics and sending them back to my friends at art school.
Two of my buddies took them to a convention in Houston and showed them to Dan Fraga of Extreme Studios. He liked them and took them to show Rob Liefeld. I was hired two days later. I soon moved to sunny Southern California to work in-studio.
RL: Its fair to say that a lot of comic book readers look back on that era of Image in general, and the Extreme titles in particular, with disdain, but the titles generally sold well and had a pretty coherent universe to them – they were fun without trying to be too meaningful. Looking back yourself, what are your thoughts on that period in the industry? What did you learn in that time?
TN: It was exciting to be hired at Image. They were snatching up a lot of young talent. So it was a real honor to be included in that crop. It was a lot of hard work and tense as the industry started to decline. But I really got to cut my teeth and grow as a comic creator. Plus, I got paid real well to do it!
RL: What led you to move on from Image – was it a desire to work on more recognisable characters?
TN: I was drawing the Power Rangers ZEO comic for Rob. I had drawn four issues and part of a Youngblood/ZEO crossover. Then the editor gives me a call saying they lost the license and to stop drawing. They paid me for what I had done and shut down (later to re-emerge as Awesome Comics). I submitted my work to Marvel and DC and was soon hired to work on Legion of Superheroes and various fill-ins.
RL: Following those fill-ins your first big ongoing gig was, of course, Young Justice of which you drew pretty much the entire run. How did you manage to get such a high-profile book?
TN: I helped out Sensational Spider-Man writer, Todd Dezago, by drawing a few issues of the book while Mike Wieringo was away. Dezago was the original writer for YJ and when he showed editor, Eddie Berganza my Spidey pages, they snatched me up for the job. I drew 53 of the 55 issue run, plus 3 double-sized YJ special (Sins of Youth #1-2 and Our Worlds At War), YJ 1 Million, and part of the YJ/Spyboy crossover. So, essentially I did well over 55 issues of YJ.
RL: Young Justice had a strong following, and you managed to get a lot of characters into some issues – the ‘try-out’ issues, the Trans-Sibal storyline – are there any characters that you’d have liked to be able to draw more of from your run?
TN: I’d have loved to have drawn Captain Marvel, Jr., Beast Boy, Damage, and the Wonder Twins. I was really glad we got the twins into YJ#50-51 and they let me redesign them as well. That was a lot of fun!
RL: Did you have any favourites to illustrate on the team? Or any that you absolutely hated?
TN: My favorites were Robin and Wonder Girl. I really enjoyed reading about them as well as drawing them. I hated drawing Empress. I have no one to blame but myself. Eddie told me not to make her costume too intricate since I’d have to draw her over and over. D’oh!
RL: You had great writers on the book – Peter David, obviously, but Chuck Dixon also did a few fill-ins if I remember correctly. Did working with them help you when it came to writing your own series, WildGuard: Casting Call?
TN: Chuck Dixon did write YJ#8. I split art chores with Coy Turnbull.
I learned A LOT working off of Peter’s plots for almost 5 years. It was an awesome education and it gave me the gumption I needed to try writing on my own.
RL: Tell me a bit about WildGuard; obviously it’s been heavily influenced by the current rash of reality TV shows but I understand that some of those characters have been with you for a long time?
TN: I came up with WildGuard in March of ’92 while still at the Art Institute of Dallas. I was a fan of the show COPS and thought it would be a cool show if cameras followed superheroes around. Ignacia and Red Rover were two of the team’s original incarnation.
RL: How did you manage to keep all the character straight – it seems that you had a few hundred in there! And who’s your personal favourite? Did any not make the team that you wished you could have kept?
TN: It was easy to keep all the characters straight for me. They live inside my head.
Some of my faves are Four, Ignacia, Red Rover, Snapback, Lily Hammer, Freezerburn, Strong-bot, Shrubling, Exploding Girl, Travel Agent... Who am I kidding? I love them all. They all play a part in the WG universe.
RL: WildGuard: Casting Call seems to have been pretty well-received – you must be over the moon with that. Are there any plans in the works for another mini or ongoing?
TN: A one-shot is in the works right now. I’ve pencilled and inked up thru page 7. Once it’s completely drawn, I will solicit it. Look for more one-shots to follow!
RL: You’re also working on Teen Titans Go! for DC, based on the animated Teen Titans series. Your art style on that is very different from your usual style – do you find that harder to draw?
TN: I love drawing TTG. It’s very easy to draw in the animated style. It’s also a great way to exercise my artistic mind’s eye switching between traditional and animated styles on different projects. It really keeps things fresh.
RL: Given that many have speculated that the cartoon influenced the cancellation of Young Justice (and the subsequent relaunch of Teen Titans), are there any mixed feelings working on the book based on the cartoon?
TN: As far as Young Justice coming to end to relaunch as Teen Titans, I was sad to see YJ end. But I didn’t hold it against TT. Comics are always being cancelled and relaunched. I’m just glad YJ wasn’t cancelled because it sucked. We were picking up new fans from issue #46-55 so it was nice to go out on top. I see Teen Titans Go! as a next step in projects for me.
RL: Aside from more Wildguard and Teen Titans Go!, what have you got lined up next?
TN: Well, I have teamed up with Peter Parker, Spider-Man writer, Zeb Wells, to pitch a new book of pre-existing Marvel characters. But it’s too early to say much more than that. I’m also hoping to do some more work in the DCU. As for WildGuard, look for one of the rejects to show up in a six page story I wrote and drew for the Hero Happy Hour Super Special due out this summer. Visit www.geekpunk.com for more on this cool series.
RL: Working as an artist, which writers would you like to work with that you haven’t already?
TN: My buddy Zeb Wells. This guy is hilarious! Geoff Johns and I would like to do something again after only doing a fill-in on Superman: Man of Steel (#121). And Brian Michael Bendis - I’ve really enjoyed his Ultimate Spider-Man work.
RL: As a writer, which artists would you like to work on your scripts if you couldn’t?
TN: Carlo Barberi, Skottie Young, Pasqual Ferry. These guys have real fun energy to their work. Plus, they’re really cool, too. It would be fun to see Frank Cho draw a WildGuard story. He has awesome facial expressions for his characters.
RL: Moving onto the industry generally, what do you think the key is to bringing in new readers?
TN: Getting them to where the comics are. It’s great to see comics in big chain book stores like Borders and Barnes and Noble. Then we need to give quality art and stories that keep the readers interested, excited, and sharing with their friends.
RL: What’s your advice to any aspiring creators – artists or writers – on breaking in to the industry at the moment?
TN: Practice! Draw every day!!! No excuses to not draw (or write). Show your sample pages to editors and get critiques. Then implement those critiques. Send out samples to comic companies. And have fun!!!
RL: Okay, time for some quick fire questions (but feel free to let your answers ramble!): First comic book?
TN: Electric Company Spidey Stories from the late 70’s…the one with the guy with a bag of measles. It was also on an episode of the show. I read that thing till it fell apart.
A three pack of Secret Wars( #7-9) is what started me collecting comics in 1984.
RL: Who are your biggest influences in comics?
TN: Art Adams, Walt Simonson, Alan Davis, Rick Leonardi, Mike Zeck.
RL: And outside comics?
TN: Mystery Science Theater 3000 and B-movies, Saturday morning and weekday afternoon cartoons, music from 94.5 the Edge (my favorite Dallas station back in art school), the 80’s, 90’s and today.
RL: Barry Allen, Jay Garrick or Wally West?
TN: Wally West. Barry had just died during CRISIS when I started reading DC. So, Wally is the one I got to know. But I dig Barry from the Superfriends cartoon.
RL: Alan Scott, Hal Jordan or Kyle Rayner?
TN: Hal Jordan. Great costume design! Classic.
RL: Peter Parker or Ben Reilly?
TN: Peter Parker. Ben Reilly was an unfortunate blip in Spidey’s history.
RL: Garfield or Snoopy?
TN: Ugh. Neither. Garfield has been a waste since the late 80’s. And though I have much respect for Charles Schulz, Snoopy has been licensed out way too much for my tastes. I’m suffering from Snoopy overexposure. My money is on Leslie the Bullfrog (Liberty Meadows)
RL: What comics are you reading at the moment?
TN: Lotsa DCU, the Marvel Ultimate line, random Marvel titles (FF, Avengers, Spectacular Spidey, Cap’n America), Transformers, random Image titles.
RL: What are you reading outside of comics at the moment?
TN: Mike Nelson’s Mind Over Matters. These essays read like a Mystery Science Theater 3000 host segment. I can imagine Mike, Crow or, Tom Servo delivering any of these essays as a monologue. Buy this book! And tell ‘em Todd Nauck sent ya!
RL: Last film you saw?
TN: Journey to the Center of Time. One of a four pack of LAME sci-fi DVD’s. A real stinker from 1968.
RL: Last good film you saw?
TN: Down with Love. My wife rented this. I didn’t think I’d like it, but it really surprised me. Hmm. This movie was set in the 60’s. What’s up with me and the 60’s lately?
View some of Rich's older writing at http://www.paperbackreader.com
Monday, May 07, 2007
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