Artist PHILIP TAN On The Changes To The DCnU HAWKMAN
For artist Philip Tan, the chance to draw DC's relaunch of Savage Hawkman is the culmination of three years of artistic evolution.
"For a long time, I had a lot of criticism from fans and readers about how inconsistent my artwork is. Quite frankly, I had to go through a lot of searching for a look that I'm comfortable with and happy with," Tan told Newsarama. "It has been a learning process for me since I started my career. You saw me experimenting in the work I did on Green Lantern and Outsiders and Batman and Robin. They were all stages of learning and growth for me as I experimented to find that look I wanted."
Now that readers have seen his work on Savage Hawkman, the artist is determined to keep up the "consistency." As he and writer Tony Daniel introduced readers to the Hawkman of the DCnU, the character was revealed to have a new organic-type armor, as well as a mysterious origin.
In our continuing follow-up with the creative teams behind DC's New 52 initiative, we talk with Tan about the first issue of Savage Hawkman -- and get a peek at some exclusive art.
Newsarama: Phil, with Savage Hawkman, one of the more interesting additions you made to the character was his armor. Was that something you came up with?
Philip Tan: The design originally came from Jim Lee. Tony and I took that original [design] idea and came up with ideas about how we could make it even more interesting visually and in the story.
It evolved from there. We put a lot of thought and discussion into it. We thought it would really help the visuals of the book while adding to the character. And we really agreed on making it that way.
We really wanted to show the process of him changing. We wanted the audience to see how it happens.
As people have seen, the armor is more organic. It's alive. It's building on the character like a canvas. It's appearing out of his skin. It's not like he has to physically put pieces of it onto his body.
And this armor manifests whatever weapon he needs or armor for whatever part of the body needs to be shielded.
This will all be important as you keep reading the book.
Nrama: A lot of readers have noticed the style you're using for this book, and how different it is from some of the work you've done in the past. What's the process behind this newer look?
Tan: For awhile now, I've been using watercolors and have been inking my own stuff. It's a medium I wanted to use to do my artwork. I prefer this medium, with the use of the watercolor. It's unlike the traditional penciling I've been doing before.
It really helps me find the details I want put into the book. And it's the happy accidents that sometimes give the book such an interesting look, especially when you're working with watercolor and mixing it with inks and paints.
Nrama: Is it softer?
Tan: Yes, the effects are going to be softer.
But you know, a lot of the stuff that we do on the book, the colorist also has had a very involved hand. So the visual is not just myself, or not just Tony and myself. The colorist is Sunny Gho, who is just amazing.
Nrama: Is it more difficult working with an artist like Tony as your writer? Or does that actually make things easier?
Tan: It's more collaborative, really. We go over the script, and I have a lot of input, as far as ideas about the visuals and how we're going to tell the story. Then I do the layout, and he's very open to different interpretations.
Nrama: There's still a lot of mystery about Carter. We still don't know his real background. There's a hint that he's "not of the world," yet he said he's born in the USA.
Nrama: I assume we're going to get answers soon?
Tan: Well, there won't be one issue where we'll explain everything. We don't want that, and I don't think the readers really want that either. It's going to be a slow reveal. We want everyone to be enjoying the book while he's going through all these adventures, and really, really make this character compelling. We want to establish him and his stories in this new DC Universe.
Nrama: We discovered a lot about him, but how would you describe this character's thought process now that we've seen the first issue? He doesn't really want to be Hawkman, does he?
Tan: He's got a lot of things going on that he doesn't want to face, but he has to. Things he must take care of.
As an archaeologist, he's been isolated a lot. He's had to do his work by himself, or in the past with Hawkgirl. But now, these supporting characters will be more involved. He's got a lot of people around him that we thought would bring a lot of color into his adventures, and you'll get to know them more.
Nrama: So it's an adjustment for him to go from having Hawkgirl around to working with these other people?
Tan: You know what? I would not comment on Hawkgirl right now.
But to answer the other part of your question... yes, it's a big adjustment period for him right now.
Nrama: So I can't ask you if you have gotten to draw Hawkgirl?
Tan: You can't.
Nrama: Nothing we can tell readers about that?
Tan: Just tell readers to be patient.
Nrama: How far ahead are you?
Tan: We've been working really far ahead. Right now, we're more than four issues ahead. I'm working on issue #5.
Nrama: Has the story evolved in style or tone now that you're working on issue #5?
Tan: We're actually working very hard to keep things consistent for the first arc, so the evolution for me has been more about getting to know the characters in the book and just feeling familiar with them. I think the tone and the style were something we really put a lot of thought into before the first issue, so we're keeping that steady for all our new readers.
Nrama: So it's still this Indiana Jones/adventure approach?
Tan: Yes, and that has been driven by Tony. He has a real vision for what he wants this book to be. I'm riding shotgun on this thing.
Nrama: There are changes to Hawkman, but it's obvious you guys understand the character's past. Did you look at any of the old comics for your design ideas?
Tan: I've been reading a ton of old comics, but not for the design really. Jim designed the new one, so we've been working from that. The new design is what DC wanted, and I actually love the new one.
I've been using some of the old ones for the design ideas for his weapons, and his armor, and have kind of incorporating it into the organic armor he got that morphs into weapons.
Aside from that, visually, we're trying to go with this new direction on design that Jim created.
But story-wise, I went back and read a lot of old Hawkman comics. I wanted to know this character really well, and I have come to love him. I really love him.
Nrama: Any comic in particular that you really liked?
Tan: I really liked Geoff [Johns] and James [Robinson]'s take.
Nrama: What have you heard about the reception to Savage Hawkman #1 from fans?
Tan: I haven't read anything online, but I've heard about the success of the book, so I'm very happy about that. And I've met fans here in New York who really like the comic, so that's always great to hear. I love working on this comic, and I'm very thankful that people are giving me a chance, working with Tony, on Savage Hawkman.