Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Aris Asks Cully Hamner

Cully Hamner is currently working on The Question which will will appear monthly as a co-feature in Detective comics beginning with issue #854 from DC. Recently he finished up Black Lightning: Year One and a run on Blue Beetle and is also known for his creator owned project RED. He is one of my favorite artists ever, and really thankful he took the time to answer some questions.

1. Why do you think people think you are Black?

I've been trying to figure that out for almost 20 years now. The only thing I can think of is that when people first started to notice me, I was the artist on GREEN LANTERN: MOSAIC. That was the one that featured the JohnStewart GL, who is black. I guess add to that a name that isn't Mike or Jim or Steve, and people's own benign prejudices or preconceived notions do the rest. I don't care, really, what color people think I am, as long they spell my name right.

2. Besides the guys in your studio who is the biggest influence on your art?

Oh, let's see. I grew up in the 70's and 80's, so I could list anywhere from DC greats like Schaffenberger, Swan, Oksner, and Giordano to Marvel ones like Byrne, Miller, Simonson, Paul Smith, and like a hundred inbetween.

When I hit my late teens, I discovered Mike Mignola and the late,great Will Eisner. And around that time I discovered that writers could influence an artist as a storyteller, as well-- probably because Byrne,Miller, and Simonson all wrote their own stuff-so it became important for met o learn what makes a story work.

I noticed a lot of television writers,because I felt that they had to work in a way that was compact and episodic,and get a lot of information across with very little. I guess instinctively felt a relation between TV and comics. So, I'd add Rod Serling very prominently to the list, along with Harlan Ellison for both his TV and short fiction.

3. How did you get into comics?

As a reader or as an artist?

As a reader, I don't remember. I read everything as a kid, and comics were around. I liked to do that and to draw, so the math is pretty evident, I guess.

As an artist, I just figuredout pretty early that it was something I wanted to do. So, I always drew,and wrote, and begged my Mom to buy me books on it all-- which, by the way,she and my Dad were actually pretty great about. I was the only kid I knew of in my area that had a makeshift drafting table set-up in my pre-teens. I had a pretty functional little studio, complete with supplies, in my room.And for me to have that in a family of six, sharing a room with my older brother, you have to hand it to my parents.

4. Are you sure you're the same guy that drew Green Lantern: Mosaic?

Yup. Like I said, my first substantial work in comics-eleven issues, I think.

5. How did you get involved with Gaijin?

I had met a writer by the name of Chuck Moore at the Atlanta Spring Comics Fair while I was showing samples around. I want to say that I was maybe twenty. Chuck knew Brian Stelfreeze, and took me over to his studio one day. It was the first time I'd ever seen a real working comic book artist's studio, and I think both Karl Story and Adam Hughes were there visiting,though I may be mixing up visits. But I basically just melted into the group. At the time, there were those guys, plus Craig Hamilton, Joe Phillips, Tony Harris, Wade Von Grawbadger were also hanging around. Dave Johnson and Jason Pearson came into that orbit right around the same time as me, I think, but there was no Gaijin yet.

I do remember on one visit that Brian pulled me aside and said that the plan was for a bunch of the guys to congregate in Atlanta and lease a warehouse space together, to form astudio, and he wanted me in it. The thinking was that the one criteria was that you had to have a regular paying gig, and I didn't have Mosaic yet.Once I did, I saved some money for a few months, and made the move in June or July of 1992. I was kind of the last puzzle piece of that initial group to move in; Brian, Adam, Joe, Jason, Dave, Tony, and Stine Walsh (a veryfine oil painter) were already there. Karl had been there during that firstyear, but left temporarily when his wife at the time had to move for her job. He did come back to stay, though, eventually.

6. Have you ever been intimidated by another artists work?

From day one and every day since! And thanks for rubbing it in.

7. What are you working on right now?

I'm working with Greg Rucka on DETECTIVE COMICS, doing The Question,starting with issue # 854, and having the best time. I really love working on it. I like the character, I like who I'm working with, I like thes tories (which are of a very manageable length for me to do on a schedule).Just no downside so far, the whole situation has me whistling while I work.

8. Blue Beetle, Black Lightning: Year One, and now the Question.your arguablythe whitest guy in comics, what's with the ethnic characters?

You got me, pal. It's another thing I've been trying to figure out. May bebecause I try to be fair and honest in my portrayal of ethnic characters? I don't know. The bottom line is that I try to approach characters from the inside out, rather than the reverse. Whether that has ever had something to do with me being assigned a disproportionate number of characters who aren't whitey, I have no clue.

9. Do you have any other projects on the horizon after the Question?

Hmm. I do, but nothing I feel I can talk about. For the foreseeable future,it's The Question.

10. What is going on with Red?

A bit, actually. Summit Entertainment-the studio behind TWILIGHT, KNOWING,and PUSH-bought an option from Warren Ellis and me last year, and it's being produced by Lorenzo DiBonaventura, former WB studio chief and producer of TRANSFORMERS, and Mark Vahradian. Last I heard, they were talking with Bruce Willis to star and a few people, among them Richard Donner, to direct.It seems to me that they're moving with a fair head of steam, so I'm hopeful that it actually gets made.

Also, DC/Wildstorm will be publishing abrand-new edition of the original work in June. It has a new cover by me,and features all three original issues, along with Warren's first-issue script and my first-issue layouts, side-by-side. All that, plus my character sketches and the like.

11. What did you think of Kirkman's creator owned argument a while back?

I think it's a nice idea, but probably not real feasible if you're not considered to be in the top five percent of pros in this business. I'm too busy making a living and paying my bills most of the time, and I have to be very strategic about when I do creator-owned work. I'll do more, for sure,but it can only be when my own circumstances allow it. Still, I think what Robert said needed saying.

12. What is your relationship to 12 Gauge Comics?

Minimal, for now, due to my DC exclusivity, but I guess I'm part of a braintrust for 12 Gauge. I was one of the folks that was on the ground floor of it, and later accepted a "Creative Consultant" title to offer whatever experience I could without cutting too much into my main projects. Keven Gardner, Doug Wagner, Brian Stelfreeze, and Jason Pearson are all my buds,and I help whenever I'm asked and wherever I can.

13. You're on the internet a lot, how do you get any work done?

Before I can give you an answer, Aris, you have to tell me, down to the minute, how much time I do actually spend on the internet. Get back to me with that, would you?

14. Any advice for aspiring comic artists?

It's not just about drawing, in and of itself. Develop the writer within you along with the artist, take control of your craft, and always try to foster a dialogue with your writer. Be a partner, listen, but don't be afraid to contribute on a story level, as long as you do no harm to the idea. You are not there simply to take dictation. Your job is to service the story.

15. Does it make your day knowing your one of my top three favorite artists?

It not only makes my day, it makes me regular, my friend. You're my own personal laxative.

16. How long does it take you to do a finished page?

It depends on how much work the page itself calls for, but I average something like three or four pages a week, pencils and inks, give or take.

17. If you weren't drawing comics you would be?

Probably still something creative, maybe in film, TV, or animation, I guess.I never considered the possibility that I wouldn't be doing comics when I was trying to break in. How arrogant is THAT?

18. You're driving on a windy rainy night. You spot a car broke down on the sideof the road, you stop, roll down the window and its George W. Bush, what do you do?

First, I look around for cameras. Then I ask him if he slipped his SecretService detail. Again.

19. Is Dave Johnson an ordained minister?

He is, as are Karl Story and myself. When Dave was in the studio, we all sent away for certification in the Universal Life Church of Modesto,California. Far as I can tell, it's legal, and any of us can actually perform marriage ceremonies and such.

20. Gaijin Studios is an amazing concentration of talent, has been for years,are you guys actually in a studio together?

Thanks. We're together just about every day, actually, and the core of us has been since 1991. It's not one of those virtual "studios," where people live in different states, work home, and only appear together at cons. We come in every day and work.

21.Who are the other members?

Currently, Brian Stelfreeze, Doug Wagner, Karl Story, Laura Martin, and myself.

21. Who would win in a Thunder Dome style fight to the death?

Brian, 'cause he'd cheat!

22. What is the best thing about being a comic artist?

Being essentially your own boss, being creative, having fans... I could goon. I mean, sure, there are negatives, but who wants to hear that, and why on earth would I ever complain? I'm really lucky.

23. You seem like a politically savvy guy, who would you describe your politicalviews?

On my Facebook, I describe myself as a "pragmatic lefty." I consider myself a liberal, and all that that implies, but I get tired of being told that that means I don't love my country, I don't respect people in uniform, and that people like me are elitist and weak. Nothing could be further from the truth. I understand that wars are necessary at times; I just want it to be a last resort and for good reason. I understand that a strong economy depends upon favorable conditions for business; I just don't want it to be at the expense of the little guy. I understand that the majority rules, but I feel that the voice of the minority should be respected and protected. I think we should respect intelligence, not demonize it. I have no wish to live in a theocracy. I think we should take care of the planet as best we can. And I think that people should be in charge of their own bodies, and should be able to marry the person they love-period.

24. People say the days of paper comics are numbered, what do you think?

It's certainly possible, and even probable, but I don't think it'll happen with any permanence until someone comes up with a light, hand-held notebook computer that looks, acts, and feels like paper. When computers match that,that's when the change over will happen. Until then, printing on paper and reading books is still the best option.

25. Your exclusive with DC now, but looking across the pond at the otherc ompanies, is there a character and creator who you haven't worked with thatyou have been dying to get at?

Sure, a number of them. I like Spider-Man, Captain America. I'd love a real shot at Daredevil sometime. Or to work with Mike Mignola on Abe Sapien, or Lobster Johnson, or something. There are tons of writers I'd like to work with, too many to name here.

26. How is Obama doing so far?

Well enough so far, given the mess he inherited. I'm reading that this recession has perhaps bottomed out, and I think it would've taken longer to do that had he not acted when he did. Am I happy about this bailout? Of course not, but given a situation like this, deficit spending and bailing out banks is the really the only thing to do. One of the reasons the Great Depression lasted so long is that the Hoover Administration let so many banks fail without stepping in right away.And it's nice to have a President that seems dignified, intelligent, and so genuinely good. We haven't had that in many, many years.

27. Does it bother you that he bowed before the Saudi King?

Not in and of itself, no. I have no problem with the President of theUnited States showing respect to a foreign ally who is royalty. Would anybody complain if he bowed to Queen Elizabeth? He's making an effort to change the image we've had to deal with for the last eight years, and to show the world that we can be respectful of other cultures. Our great Presidential tradition should be one of humility and calling, not acting-like Chief Executive who sits at the top of the world pyramid,demanding respect and showing none. We've had enough of that, in my opinion.

But it does bother me that Robert Gibbs, President Obama's Press Secretary,didn't defend it in any way other than to lie about it. He maintained that it wasn't a bow, that the President was stooping to shake his hand. Look, I saw the video-it was certainly and obviously a bow. I think most people would totally respect it if the Obama Administration just went ahead and owned it.Ultimately, though, it was just one of those non-issues that the media loves to exploit. It has nothing to do with anything.

You can find out more about Cully @, they have a great message board there. Make sure to check it out and pick up Detective Comics #854...Batwoman and the Question? It's gonna be awesome.

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