Thursday, July 24, 2008

INTERVIEW: Dan Davis speaks to James about Captain Luck! Part Two

[Interview originally conducted for Cartoons Dammit! Superblog 22.5.08]

JAMES MCLEAN: What research did you do to generate such a classic comic strip template for Captain Luck?

DAN DAVIS: Well a lot of it is just ingrained up in my head from years of reading strips and comic strip reprints. I've kind of absorbed the story pacing of a daily comic strip and it seemed natural to write Captain Luck that way.

I did analyze a few styles in particular including Tintin, Terry, Annie, Dick Tracy, Captain Easy and Alley Oop. I wanted Captain Luck to kind of slot in there on the funny pages with a familiar yet new look. In particular I wanted to use "cartoon eyes" for Cap and Wink to ground them firmly in that comic strip tradition and it seems to be one of the first things people notice.

MCLEAN: How did you approach the design of the characters?

DAVIS: I wanted Cap to be the hero type, but with a little bit of a tussled hair look. He's a good guy who might get knocked down on his seat at times, but will figure out a way to win in the end. Wink's the nervous tech guy, a little smarter with that stuff than Cap is but Cap's got him beat on practical horse sense. They work well together.

MCLEAN: Your website features a video that shows Dan Davis hard at work on an entirely digital set-up! Can you give us a little technical detail to your new digital entourage of tools?

DAVIS: I had been sliding towards digital for the last 5 or 6 years and went all digital with a Wacom tablet about two years ago. But recently I was able to get a Cintiq drawing monitor and can draw right on the screen. It really feels like drawing on paper now, more than when I used a tablet, and I'm completely happy with it, except I don't have any more original art (sigh).

MCLEAN: I notice on the video you are left handed - did that ever cause any problems with smudging before going digital?

DAVIS: I would adjust on paper by inking the right side of the page first and as most inkers do working on two or three pages at a time to let ink dry. Because you're constantly rotating the page around I think it's about the same as working right handed and both ways can result in smudges and accidents.

But early on I learned Milt Caniff drew left handed, so I never worried about it after that!

MCLEAN: How long does it take you to finish a single news strip page for Captain Luck, and has switching to digital decreased the time it takes to finish a piece of art?

DAVIS: Digital is definitely faster. No erasing and filling in blacks and corrections are a breeze! A Captain Luck page takes me about 2 days which is really a good chunk of my work week, but I'm expecting it to go faster as I do more of them (Subtle hint to vote for Captain Luck to see more!).

MCLEAN: What problems have you suffered with digital? Are there any cons?

DAVIS: As I mentioned, no more original art. In every other way it has been perfect for me.

MCLEAN: Do you think more comic artists will be following your footsteps to an entirely digital set-up?

DAVIS: I hear from guys everyday who want to get a Cintiq and are close to taking the plunge so I expect they'll become much more common. And I expect like all tech stuff the prices will drop. I should be a salesman for them!

MCLEAN: Who's sexier, Rita Castro from the Captain Luck or Supergirl?

DAVIS: Rita of course, she has a bit of the bad girl in her!

Thanks Dan!

INTERVIEW: Dan Davis speaks to James about Captain Luck! Part One

[Article originally published for Toon Zone News 24.5.08]

Dan Davis is a professional artist working as a penciller and inker for many mainstream titles. He has worked on Justice League, The Batman Strikes!, and Green Arrow. He's currently working on The Simpsons comic, Samurai Jack, a new DC mini-series called Family Dynamic with J. Torres and Tim Levins, and the Harry Potter 6 coloring books.

Dan is also writing and illustrating a brand new comic strip of his own design called Captain Luck starring Captain Luck and his sidekick Wink Goodwin. You can view this comic for free at and vote for it in the current competition that closes on May 31, 2008.

MCLEAN: You have a new comic strip at called Captain Luck - what can you tell us about this story?

DAN DAVIS: Captain Luck is about two treasure hunters who live in the Bermuda Triangle. With the Triangle as a setting you can be sure they'll get mixed up with all the mysteries that the region is known for, like disappearing ships, UFOs, weird lights and sightings under the water, and strange electromagnetic forces. Maybe even time travel and ghost pirates and of course sunken ships, treasure, and ancient mystical relics!

MCLEAN:With the Bermuda Triangle featuring so prominently in Captain Luck, would you have a personal interest in mysterious phenomena?

DAVIS: Yes, I've followed that for years and kind of enjoy the unsolvable mysteries of paranormal phenomena. Is there anything to them? Will we ever be able to prove any of it? I was always reading books about UFOs and strange mysterious places and powers and still catch a lot of those types of shows on cable. And the thing is, I'm somewhat of a skeptic, but I'm always kind of hoping we'll get proof someday and solve some of these mysteries. My personal theory is that there is science out there that we just don't understand yet. And I know that it all makes for great jumping off points for good exciting stories.

MCLEAN: How did Captain Luck come about? What were your inspirations beyond the tale—there seems to be a rather retro vibe in both the framing of the story and the artwork.

DAVIS: I tried to give it a classic comic strip adventure feel, mixed with a cartoony style like the old Sunday comics used to have more of, yet set in modern times. I always wanted to have my own strip, so I set it up kind of like a weekly Sunday comic page so that each page has a beginning, middle, and gag or cliffhanger at the end of the page, yet still advances the story. I think of it as kind of a Terry and the Pirates meet the X-Files by way of Tintin!

MCLEAN: Did you ever have a personal favorite news strip feature?

DAVIS: Loved Alley Oop as a kid. A time traveling caveman with a dinosaur! What's not to love? V.T. Hamlin sent me an original strip in answer to my fan letter and I was hooked on comics! I just devoured all comic strips and later comic books. Too many favorites to name them all.

MCLEAN: Captain Luck is running as part of a webcomic competition hosted by DC's website. Do you enjoy the competitive edge that audience polling brings?

DAVIS: That's a new experience for me. I like the feedback and comments, since I'm usually kind of isolated working alone in my studio, but I wish all the strips could just have a place to present their full stories without the added stress of will they or won't they win the race they're in and get to continue. It may be a way to build interest and involve the readers in the strips though, so that part's good! I've had a lot of great comments, but of course it all comes down to votes and we're going to need every one of them to win, so I hope everyone will stop by check out the strip and hopefully take the time to vote for Captain Luck so I can continue on!

MCLEAN: What made you choose to run Captain Luck as a webcomic?

DAVIS: Adventure strips don't seem to be viable anymore in the Sunday comics, but on the web you can take advantage of all the space and color you want and build an audience that can easily return to follow a story. Webcomics are growing and I wanted to jump in.

MCLEAN: There has always been a question about commercial viability in webcomics. How do you see webcomics finding a place within the comic industry? Is its role more of a showcase for new material or does it have monetary value for creators and the industry?

DAVIS: Zuda sounded like a good step in the right direction, and when I heard about it I thought it might be right for me. It sounded akin to the comic strip syndicates, and since was backed by DC I thought I'd try it. As to the future, I'm sure comics will eventually find themselves making money on the web. It's all going digital and I'm hopeful more publishers will set up sites and use comics to attract readers to those sites just as newspapers did.

MCLEAN: How different is it to be in total control of a comic rather than part of a team effort?

DAVIS: I've enjoyed collaborating, but who doesn't like total control? It's just more satisfying to see something through from idea to the final coloring. And I can rewrite even as I'm lettering and move things around for last minute ideas or to make things more pleasing to the eye, so I think you end up with a better product.

MCLEAN: And somehow you're finding time to work on Captain Luck along side your other commitments? You are doing a lot of work for DC at the moment. How hard is it juggling these various titles and the stylistic requirements from each?

DAVIS: I'm used to the juggling by now. At times I've been the inker on series, and that's about all you have time for, but I truly enjoy the variety of work I'm getting, and bouncing back and forth between styles keeps me from getting bored! I stay busy, but I'll be more than happy to squeeze in some more time for Captain Luck! I've only got to draw the first part of the adventure and I want to see how it all comes out!

MCLEAN: Your website showcases a video of yourself at work as an entirely digital artist. When did this change in approach to your art come about and how difficult was the transition?

DAVIS: I taught myself first by doing some digital coloring with a mouse of my own scanned-in art and then later getting a Wacom tablet for that. Once I was holding a pen it was natural to try to ink and draw. Some things though were still coming out better on paper so I inked half the page on paper and then scanned in the pages and finished them on my computer. Then as software improved I was able to go all digital about two years ago. The Cintiq was the last piece in the puzzle for me. With a tablet there's a bit of a disconnect between drawing on the desk and looking up at a monitor where your art "appears", but with the Cintiq I can draw right on the monitor, and it has a feel of pen and paper that is quite remarkable as to how sensitive and accurate it can be.

MCLEAN: You're penciling and inking some more Samurai Jack. Are you a cartoon fan? Did you watch Jack before getting the gig drawing him?

DAVIS: Yeah, I'm a cartoon fan and of Samurai Jack in particular. It was one of my favorites and I was always impressed with the designs and tone of the series. So when they asked if I'd want to draw some, I jumped through the phone and grabbed it! It delivers what I've always believed is possible, fast action stories with a cartoon style! That's what I hope to do with Captain Luck.

MCLEAN: Wink Goodwin is a classic name! What's Wink short for—and should I name any future children after him?

DAVIS: You could if you want him to be able to bask in the glow of being named after a popular movie character when they make the Captain Luck movie in about 10 years! I have a back story as to how he got the name, but I think I'll save it for the strip. Glad you like it!

(Competition is now closed).