DC Comics artist Tony Daniel discusses his new Dark Matter series “Damage.”
Enjoying Comic-Con International: San Diego requires a certain level of comic book geekdom, especially when you have the opportunity to talk to the creators themselves. There’s no doubt DC Comics’ Dark Matter is shaking things up exponentially, with Jeff Lemire joining DC with a new series, Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo joining forces once again, and artist Tony Daniel and writer Robert Venditti producing a new series focused on a character named Damage.
We had the opportunity to sit down with Tony Daniel to discuss the new series, his artistic process, what made him fall in love with comics, and more!
AiPT!: How has this year’s convention been for you?
Tony Daniel: Its been nice. I’ve just been walking around and being social. I’m not in artist alley and hustling. I’m really here to promote the book.
AiPT!: Yeah Damage.
Daniel: If everyone is going to be here from Dark Matter talking about the books, it doesn’t make sense for me to be home.
AiPT!: Speaking of Damage, I was looking at your Twitter and I saw you were playing with the design. I was really excited to see your designs.
[Daniel pulls out his phone and shows a black and white sketch of Damage]
AiPT!: Oh you have it?
— Tony S Daniel (@TonyDanielx2) July 22, 2017
Daniel: This is it. It’s in the works but it’s done. Very cool.
AiPT!: Did you use any purple at all? I saw that in one of your tweets.
Daniel: He’s going to be gray with a little bit of blue to him mostly. We were thinking green.
AiPT!: Because of a certain other hero?
Daniel: [coyly] Who?
AiPT!: In the summary I saw he will have his powers for one hour. There must be a transformation that’ll be fun to draw.
— Tony S Daniel (@TonyDanielx2) July 20, 2017
Daniel: I’ve never drawn it before, I’m going to start drawing the interiors this week, I get to do whatever I want. I think my best ideas are more spontaneous ideas. Some of my best ideas are spontaneous. With something like that, I want to be able to get to the drawing board and start going at it and seeing what I come up with that day. It’s going to be fun, I’m doing something different with him, with technology and things our colors can do we can really make it look special and unique. Something a little different from what we’ve seen everywhere else.
AiPT!: When did you fall in love with comics?
Daniel: When I was maybe 7 or 8 years old. My brothers and I happened on a box of old books from Jack Kirby and Gene Colan and John Buscema, books that were all 10 or 15 cents. Old. We just went, “wow, what is this” and we started reading those and loved them. I fell in love with drawing when I went to 4th grade, I transferred schools, this boy that I became best friends with was already drawing little comic books with funny characters. Tearing school paper in half and folding it and making little booklets out of it. We had superheroes and characters and we recruited other classmates to make this little mock company. We used the same characters and it was real. It’s funny all these years later I’m still doing that in a different capacity.
AiPT!: And you were collaborating too.
Daniel: And we were collaborating. Writing the stories and some of the stories were good I remember being a kid. My friend made a big epic tale, a 60-page spectacular. It was like a ghost town western thing, involving all these characters that we used. It was so good. I just loved it as a kid. Reading his story that he made. That’s when I fell in love with comics.
AiPT!: Speaking of collaboration, how has it been working with Robert [Venditti], I know you just said you haven’t started the interiors yet.
Daniel: So far with Robert we’ve just been talking about other story and what he’s doing and what the plans are. I’m able to share some of my ideas with him. A lot of my ideas we aren’t going to use in the first arc. We’re already there we’re already on the first arc. I’ll come up with an idea and I’ll tell him I got this cool idea and we won’t see it for a year or six months later. He’s been very receptive of the ideas. He hasn’t shot any down yet.
AiPT!: Reading his Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps, the scope and scale is so huge. Are you guys doing that with Damage at all.
Daniel: I think it’s going to be more confined since it’s grounded on Earth. We don’t have that atmosphere going on. Which is good because I want to focus on this character and his plight and what he has to go through.
AiPT!: Looking at Ethan Van Sciver’s work, where he has so many characters on the page, are you doing that on Damage?
Daniel: [laughs] No, I mean, no thankfully. I can draw those pages where there’s a lot of characters but not all the time. In this book it’s going to just focus on the big guy and he’s going to be fighting a team of people, the military is after him and there are a lot of extra characters in the book. That’s enough without having to add a hundred other Multiple Man-type characters.
AiPT!: Just standing in the background.
Daniel: Just to complicate things and just extend my work day by five more hours.
AiPT!: How collaborative has it been as far as building the story or working on the dialogue?
Daniel: What Robert is going to do is he’s giving me a plot and I get to transform that into a 20-page story. That gives me a lot of breathing room to pace it and add big panels and double-page spreads. The point of this is to really have fun with the imagery. Drawing the big stuff, I’m good at that, so it plays to my strengths which is always fun for me. Collaborating in that sense, that’s more my contribution as a storyteller with him. Being the guy who’s pacing it and all that. The way you would be the director, cinematographer, and the actors. I have a lot more room to play than if he was to write a tight script.AiPT!: At AiPT! we pride ourselves on having the most reviews every week, 30-plus comic reviews a week, and I write around 15 a week…
AiPT!: And I’ve found pace is so important and I think it’s something people neglect. It’s the artist who is pacing a book, how many panels on the page, or how they interact or where the gutters are.
Daniel: Yes, pacing is everything. Being an artist, when you’re writing you have your own pace in your mind, I guess. But when you try to fit in a 20-page count, as an artist you have a little bit more leeway with the panels. You can add a few panels, subtract a few panels. You need to know what you’re doing. I’ve been around a long time, and I’ve learned a lot from some great people in how to pace a book. It’s going to be a lot of fun and liberating and enable me to do my best work because I can pace it the way I want to. If I have that much control I’m not not going to take advantage of it.
AiPT!: Have you ever been on page 16 and thought, “oh my god, I need two more pages here!”
Daniel: I did that a lot when I was writing Batman or Deathstroke, but I always found a way to make it work. At that point, that’s only happened a couple times maybe when there was an unforeseen idea toward the middle of the book that I really wanted to use and I didn’t plan for it. Usually, I plan ahead and I know where I’m going in broad strokes as a writer. I don’t have that problem. That’s inevitable eventually when you run out of room and you want to add something.
AiPT!: Or like invention. You might think of something and go, “oh my god!”
Daniel: Honestly, all my best ideas are spontaneous. They’re the idea you didn’t land. It just sort of happened because another idea gave birth to it. You know they say genius can’t be planed and it’s true. It’s what happens when you’re doing your best and having fun. That’s what I try to do with the books and I think it’s the way to go for me in the future. I want to concentrate on working with writers who want to do a plot style the way I’m working with Robert.
AiPT!: Are there any double- or single-page splashes…
Daniel: Oh there’s going to be a ton. We’re going to have fun, there’s plenty of room for that.
AiPT!: Is there a particular one you’re looking forward to drawing?
Daniel: Probably when we first see Damage. That’s going to be the big one, the one we really want to impress with. Probably doing that later this week, so it’s coming up.
AiPT!: What is your favorite method of procrastination?
Daniel: I don’t know. I try not to procrastinate. I have a very rigid schedule at home with the kids and stuff. I’m on the schedule. I don’t have a ton of time. Honestly, doing what everyone else does. Trolling the internet, I look at social media, but I try not to spend too much time on it. Yeah, that’s it.AiPT!: Do you ever look at comic reviews.
Daniel: I do not, I don’t because I don’t believe the good and I don’t believe the bad. I’m afraid I might listen to the bad. I might take too much credence to what the bad stuff is saying. When people give me complements I let it roll off and I don’t really take it in, I should more often, but I consider myself pretty humble. I say thank you and move on. Unless it’s someone I really respect and I want their approval or something. The bad comments, I avoid them all.