Exclusive Q&A with Mike Miller on George R. R. Martin's "The Sworn Sword" and "The Hedge Knight"
Artist Mike S. Miller had a big year in 2013, and his 2014 is poised to be just as busy—from the success of DC Comics’ Injustice: Gods Among Us to two new editions of The Hedge Knight and The Sworn Sword, prequels to George R.R. Martin’s massive A Song of Ice and Fire series. Recently, the artist found time to answer a few questions about all of these works and what lies ahead.
Q: With the recent success of the Injustice: Gods Among Us comic highlighting your artwork once again, what’s it like to see new editions of The Hedge Knight and The Sworn Sword, which were originally published earlier in your career? Any fond or not-so-fond memories from those experiences?
Mike S. Miller: I have the most amazing memories of working on the Dunk and Egg graphic novels. It was at a time in my career, I was about a decade in, and I was just coming off of some high profile work on Adventures of Superman and JLA for DC Comics. I was wanting to do something more independent, something I had more control over, and along come the Dabel brothers with The Hedge Knight. I had never heard of George R. R. Martin before, I went out and bought the anthology to read “The Hedge Knight,” and I was hooked. Ran out and bought the three existing A Song of Ice and Fire novels, and devoured them.
I told the Dabels I would work on the project, assuming George liked my work, if I could be the art director on the project. They made me the art director of the fledgling company instead. It set me off on a truly creative direction not only on The Hedge Knight, but in my own creative world. In that time, I developed multiple properties of my own, one of which had been optioned by Lionsgate films. It lead me to my teaming up with a magazine publisher, Brett Burner, and starting our own comic book company, Alias Comics, which boasted the largest independent comic publisher launch in history, with twelve titles in our first month… It was an ambitious, exciting, creative time in my life. And it all started with The Hedge Knight.
Q: Has your artistic style changed since The Hedge Knight? How?
Mike S. Miller: My innate style has remained the same, but there are nuances that have changed, and will continue to change. On the original [edition of] The Hedge Knight, all I did was the pencils, even though I was an inker for the first several years of my career, and am still counted among the top ranks of inkers in the industry, for some reason I chose not to ink The Hedge Knight myself. After a talent search, we found Mike Crowell, and his fluid style was something I hadn’t seen on my pencils before, and seemed to fit the book very well. I’ve never had a project look just the same as it did with Mike’s inks. He did a fine job, and I will always be proud of how The Hedge Knight ended up.
For The Sworn Sword, which didn’t start for several years after The Hedge Knight ended, I had grown tired of being inked by other people, and wanted my pencils to shine through. I started doing digital inks on my work, and was using a darker pencil to get that feel. The final scans and printed work look good, but there’s just something about ink on paper that makes me feel better as an artist. So for the next book in the series, The Mystery Knight, that’s what I’ll be going back to. As of late I’ve been using a lot of quill instead of brush… and using a lot of hatching instead of filling in blacks. There have been times that I refused to use any blacks, times I’ve been black heavy… it all kind of depends on what I’m playing with at the time. So yeah, I’m always in a state of change, even if people don’t notice it. [Laughs]
Q: What did you learn from inking over your own pencils?
Mike S. Miller: What I’ve always known: That I like my own inks the best. It’s not that there aren’t excellent inkers who have inked my work… but as an artist, when you lay a pencil down on paper, if you’ve been trained as an inker as I have, you are thinking about how it’s going to look in ink. And no matter how good of an inker you have working on you, it’s never going to look just the way you imagined it when you penciled it. That’s why I went the digital inking route for a time, because I could just ‘ink’ with my pencil, and I knew how it would look from that point. And to be honest, getting paid for pencils and inks, when you’re just penciling is nice. But it’s just not as nice as having a finished page that is inked, in your own style, by your own hand. Even if nobody notices but me.
Q: What is different about the Jet City Comics editions from prior editions?
Mike S. Miller: Well first of all, the covers! It’s been a decade since The Hedge Knight had new art for the cover. Even the Marvel editions just recycled covers and interior art as covers… getting to put a new face on that opus was a thrill, and I’m absolutely in love with the work my colorist, Mohan Sivikami, did on both. It’s also really the first time I’ve done a cover for either book that was both penciled and inked by my hand. I think they came out really well done. We also got to add in a bunch of original scans of the pages, un-inked, so that fans can see what my pencils look like, as well as throwing in some character designs that I don’t believe have ever seen print before. Lots of cool bonus stuff for the fans out there!
Q: What work can fans look forward to from you next?
Mike S. Miller: The next big project on my slate is the third Dunk and Egg installment, The Mystery Knight. I’m just waiting on approval from George before I start drawing that sucker. Champing at the bit, so to speak. I’m also still involved with Injustice: Gods Among Us, although with the new schedule for that, as well as my commitment to The Mystery Knight, I’m not certain how many chapters I can manage for Year Two.
I've gotten to spend some time working on some long over-due screenplays as well. I wrote a lot back in the Dabel Brothers through Alias days, but it's been something missing from my life for the last few years. It feels great to create your own stories and properties... Hopefully fans will get to see some of that work in the future. I’ve also been fairly regular at hitting the convention circuit over the last year, which takes time out of my drawing schedule, but it’s fantastic getting to meet the fans out there who have never had a chance to see my face, since I’ve been such a hermit for the last two decades. It’s really touching to see the reaction of some of my fans. I had no idea people cared. Hopefully I’ll see some of your readers out there at a convention soon! Check my website for my convention schedule and link to my facebook fanpage: MikeSMillerArt.com
This interview was conducted by Amazon Editor Alex Carr. Interested in comics and graphic novels? Sign up for Comics Delivers, a weekly email featuring the best in comics each week - from weekly booklists to deals and exclusive content from creators.