Terry Dodson has distinguished himself for being one of the finest superhero comic artists, thanks to the unmistakable faces and movements of his characters. Active since the early nineties, he has worked mainly for Marvel Comics, signing Trouble and Marvel Knights Spider-Man with Mark Millar, Star Wars: Princess Leia with Mark Waid, without disdaining high-profile jobs for DC Comics (Harley Quinn, Wonder Woman) and Image Comics (Red One).
Now, the author is back on the shelves with an independent project, the steampunk Adventureman, written by Matt Fraction, with which he had previously collaborated in Marvel on Uncanny X-Men and The Defenders. For both it is a return to atmospheres they know well, those of adventure comics, distilled here according to their personalities.
Do you remember when you first thought about becoming an artist?
Maybe Junior High, 13-14 years old, that’s when I bought How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way by Stan Lee and John Buscema.
What’s the first thing you remember drawing?
Jawas and Tie Fighters from Star Wars around age 8, though I did just find a christmas card I drew of a snowman when I was 5 years old – my mom “hired” me to do it!
I’ve read that you went into comics because of Star Wars. What was the occasion?
I started reading comic books because of the Star Wars movie – I bought everything Star Wars and Marvel made Star Wars comics – the rest is history!
I always ask people what kind of person they were at 16, because I think it’s a very peculiar age that in a way defines one’s life. What kind of kid were you at 16? And what was your relation with comic books at that age?
I was a good student, I played sports, I had started taking art class in school at that age, and I know I only had time to draw for myself in the summer, when school was out. I don’t know if I was that much different, I am just more educated, mature, wise, travelled, experienced now. But in a lot of ways, the same, I enjoying creating art while listening to music!
Were your parents supportive of your artistic inclination?
Yeah, I was the fifth of five boys, so I think my mom was like, “Whatever”. It kept me busy and out of trouble!
How did Adventureman come about? What was the creative process with Matt on the book?
Matt and I were working on an Uncanny X-Men story that took place in NYC, and I said to him I’d love to do more stories in the city. And he said, “New York?!” and sent me his proposal for Adventureman! This is circa early 2010. For me it was taking all the things that I like, and merging with Matt’s initial concept – keep the basic story but created a fully realized world to set it in. Matt has a basic plot and list of characters/concepts with brilliant names and I began breathing life in to those and there are so many “concepts” I want to explore that I pick and choose where to add those.
You have been working on the book for quite some time. What was the journey of the book? Did it change much from the initial idea?
The core story/plot is the same but the characters have changed a lot and the world itself has been completely fleshed out. We’ve taken a lot of detours but these add to the believability of the world.
Adventureman is a love letter to the adventure pulp and to the dieselpunk genre. What influences did you have while creating that world, design-wise?
Steam punk meets Indiana Jones meets Art Nouveau – I’ve dubbed it Steam Nouveau (TM!). J.C. Leyendecker, Hellboy, Mathieu Lauffray’s Long John Silver. Vespas. Honestly, it’s a culmination of a LOT of things I like – it’s a lifetime of things I love stored in my head.
Adventureman had a very different working schedule from your normal gigs. Was this helpful for you in trying more things before drawing the finale page?
The extra time enabled me to do try more things, and definitely be more inventive. And put the amount of detail and thought necessary in every scene and to create a unique world.
I saw you did Adventureman on paper. What’s your personal pros and cons about drawing on paper vs. drawing on a digital board?
I draw everything on paper. I do sometimes scan in sketches or even finished art and make modifications digitally. I also have been playing with doing my sketches 100% digitally – but I just enjoy pencil/pen on paper the most
In general, what is the thing you prefer drawing, and what is the hardest or the one that you don’t like?
People. Specifically kids, and old people, I think you get a lot of freedom when doing these type of characters. Lots of people – only because of the amount of time it takes – I can look at a script and just add up the hours it will take me to draw something because there are “x” number of people in a scene – just add up hours and hours drawing more people in a scene – it wears me out because I try to make the best and individual as I can,
Do you look back at your own work? Can you see an evolution in your craft? Are there any weakness you felt you managed to overcome over the years?
Of course, the goal is to be the artist I always wanted to be – in some ways I have become THAT artist but there’s always a drive to be better. It’s nice to see I’m improving so I don’t mind. But I feel I can still improve at everything. I just wish I was more consistent, but that’s what keeps me trying to better, because maybe once I’m consistent, I will stop growing as an artist.