Ivan Reis on Drawing the Justice League
Ivan Reis is no stranger to big and busy team books. Having taken on Green Lantern and Blackest Night he's been busy on Justice League and Aquaman. We got a chance to talk with him about his current work on these hit books.
Charlie Chang: In books like the Justice League that feature so many characters, who is the most exciting character to draw?
Ivan Reis: It’s a different feeling drawing each of these characters because the challenge in Justice League is to keep all of the designs with all of the characters working together. They’re all completely different with their colors, body language, even the designs and the challenge with the Justice League is drawing them in your own style but still making sure they work together visually.
I love to draw Cyborg, Cyborg is really cool. Aquaman, I have a very different challenge in the way I approach him. I remember when we were trying to find a visual to Aquaman I thought, “Well, why don’t we try to draw him like Flash Gordon/Alex Raymond?” They said “Noo…Alex Raymond is so old…” and I said “No, it’ll be cool, we’ll keep the hair perfect, like a classic superhero.” And that’s what I tried. If you look at my Aquaman, it’s the same Flash Gordon design. His face is Flash Gordon and the hair is always perfect because I see him as the classic one, the classic superhero.
The challenge drawing him this way is keeping him classic but modern at the same time. When they saw this approach they came around and said it was cool. Some people have said that his hair is TOO perfect but if you read the book you’ll see that he tries to keep it perfect but his hair is getting messed up all the time. I see the hair like an element. For Aquaman, he’s trying to keep control but he’s angry all the time. You know when he’s losing control when the hair starts to lose its perfectness. When he has a big splash page that’s when he can really be himself and explode off the page.
CC: When you have to finally bring him into the Justice League how do you manage all of these characters on the page?
That’s the challenge, trying to keep those tiny details within all of the characters present. My Batman for example, never shows his hands. When you finally see my Batman he’s always in the background. I don’t show the details on my Batman. I personally just can’t imagine Batman standing openly in the middle of a lot of superheroes where he’s the only one with no powers. His power is his secret and his ability to stay in the shadows. So when I’m drawing splash pages with the Justice League, normally most people put him in the front because he’s Batman. My Batman is always in the background because he’s always the last guy waiting in the shadows. I try to bring a different approach to my drawings.
CC: That’s so interesting because even though Batman is one of the most popular superheroes people know he’s there in these big team books even if he’s in the background.
IR: The most important thing about Batman is to feel him because you know that he’s there even if you can’t see him. I like not showing all the details on my Batman because he’s not going to let you get that close to him to see all the details of his costume.
CC: Let’s switch gears to Aquaman’s villains. These villains are always so important to the hero and what defines them. How do you look at Aquaman and then look at these characters that define him and make him a hero?
IR: I think a big part of the answer is how Geoff writes them. Geoff is perfect at writing super villains and normally he’s defines the superheroes using the villains. He did it with Sinestro and it’s the same with Aquaman. He made Ocean Master a cool character! Manta was always popular in the Aquaman universe. The old Aquaman was always a joke in the superhero world which made Ocean Master the joke within that Aquaman universe and now he’s a cool dangerous character. I think the writer defines the universe and the villains. The artist is there to help him do that. He’s the mind and I’m the body. It’s really cool when you start to make these characters and villains popular. The challenge is different when you’re drawing really popular villains like the Injustice League, there’s completely different pressure and weight on you as an artist.