SoMuchComics: Mr. Williams, thank you very much for lending your time to some questions I have. You got your start at DC Comics like any dreaming fan hopes, at a talent search during the San Diego ComicCon. Since then you have made your mark on a number of popular titles, including Robin and The Flash, before the relaunch, and now Captain Atom and Green Arrow. I would like to help the readers of SoMuchComics get to know you a little better.
Freddie Williams II: Thanks for all your interest in the Captain Atom series, J.T. and I put a lot of ourselves into that book, so it’s great that you were on board and supported the book, for the whole series!
SMC: Absolutely. I wanted to ring the bell loudly to get as many eyes on it as possible. You and J.T. Krul are credited as “Storytellers” in the Captain Atom series. J.T. has said that you were directly involved in shaping the story of this character. Have you worked on titles previously where you had this much of a hand in the writing of the book? Has it made you want to write a series on your own?
FW: J.T. Krul is a kind and interactive collaborator, willing to entertain spur of the moment suggestions, without stubbornness, when we were talking on the phone for hours, back and forth, like playing jazz. No ego, just notions and themes - that is SUPER RARE! My experience towards the end of JSA All-Stars was similar, with Matt Sturges, where I had heavy influence on the pacing/page breakdown. But I had much more input on plot and themes with Atom though. It’s possible I may try to write a series myself, but for now I think the co-plotting is what I enjoy the most. It’s more fun to throw out a bunch of plot ideas and character motivations, then let the writer figure out how to make all of it work together in a cohesive way.
SMC: Well, we all look forward to the day you decide to expand on your talents. The style you employed for Captain Atom had a lot of your signature handiwork in it, but is definitely different than anything (1) we’ve ever seen you do, and (2) in the mainstream comics out there right now. What helped you arrive at the stylistic choices you made? Did you find it tougher or easier than your previous work?
FW: The amalgam style I used when drawing Captain Atom was very challenging to work in… I had been cultivating the ink wash look on commissions, but the heavy black brush inking was almost brand new to me. I felt like those two styles were as diverse as could be, so it’d do a good job isolating Captain Atom from the rest of the world, since he was the only character to look that way. It was a pleasant surprise to me that DC Comics was on board for the drastic departure from my standard stable of styles.
SMC: I remember seeing the cover art for #1 teased before the relaunch, with Atom’s face in close-up. Stanley “Artgerm” Lau did those first covers, which were amazing, but I don’t think anyone expected what you brought on the interiors. Some really huge topics were explored in the pages of this title: time travel, the Big Bang, one’s own place in the universe. Was any of this daunting, or difficult to figure out how to convey visually? The edge of the expanding universe in issue #12 comes to mind, along with the ocean-like timestream in issues #8-10. I know it would take some controlled substances to help me conceptualize it that way.
FW: Haha, J.T. and I are about as straight laced as you can get, so no help from controlled substances there. Of course there is some difficulty in conceiving some of those abstract topics. Though there is a certain liberation to approaching those big ideas, that there is no visual reality known to us, in which to compare the visuals, i.e. we only need to concern ourselves with the visual metaphor, and to make it look “cool.” The ocean of time was a concept I’d had in mind since I was in high school, so I had a head start on that one! And the visuals for the edge of the universe was supposed to reflect (echo) the nuclear blast wave in issue #3… So thinking about subtext like that - even if the reader doesn’t pick up on it - can be greatly helpful in the development of the story and visuals for the creative team.
SMC: It was definitely fun picking up every month’s issue and wondering what incredible thing I was going to see next. Like I knew you guys would give us an awesome concept for “time.” But, you have worked on a number of different books with DC Comics. Other than having an input in the writing, or adopting a new edge to your artistic style, how has Captain Atom differed from what you’ve done in the past? Has DC’s New 52 initiatives had anything to do with that?
FW: When Michael Marts (Senior Group Editor at DC Comics) offered Captain Atom to me, he stated that they were (at DC) encouraging the artists to take a bigger role in the creative team. In other words suggestions were encouraged. Getting a green light like that is liberating, as I LOVE to have as much input on all aspects of the comic that I can! So that of course was a big change, and Captain Atom was much bigger in scope as compared to a book like Robin, which was fun, but much more “street level.”
SMC: It’s safe to say that Captain Atom is definitely something larger than anything you’ve done before. With the admittedly tragic cancellation of Atom, you have recently come in on the Green Arrow book. Do you find it easier to draw this title, compared to Captain Atom? Or are you finding it more limiting and structured?
FW: It’s easier in that I’m drawing more real life items, but the detail level on the New 52 costumes (Green Arrow and Hawkman especially) adds a lot of time to the page. I like to customize the style I’m working on from book to book, the pen and ink one just fits the Green Arrow book. It’s fun “returning to my roots” with a traditionally rendered pen and ink style. I’ve always loved artists like Jim Lee and Arthur Adams, so it’s cool playing with some of those stylizations.
SMC: Is there anything new you’d like to bring to Green Arrow, in the way your previous book was innovative?
FW: My role on Green Arrow is much more traditional, and narrowed in focus - although I’ve had a few fun conversations with Annie Nocenti (the series writer) and I’ve kicked out some ideas. Really I’m just here to pencil the book, and having a good time while doing it!
SMC: The Zero Issue of Green Arrow definitely looked fantastic. Is there any DC Comics book, existing or otherwise, that you would most like to tackle? Who would be your dream creative team?
FW: Batman would be amazing to work on, and Superman is my favorite character. Doing a series or a stand-alone with either or both those guys would be a dream come true! I’ve had the chance to draw them here and there, but just as guest stars. I don’t really have a dream team of creators, I’ve worked with a bunch of very creative and talented contributors, it’d be hard to narrow it down. :)
SMC: Are you currently foaming at the mouth for any of DC’s currently published titles, or any other comics out now?
FW: I’ve always been a fan of the characters Grifter, Cully Hamner’s Blue Beetle, and of course they’ve just announced that their respective series are ending, but I would have loved to have a crack at either of those titles, especially if I got to co-plot! Outside of DC, I LOVE Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and just about anything in the X-Men house of books… Those were the books I was reading when I first got real serious about breaking into the industry and has a special place in my heart.
SMC: I haven’t been reading TMNT but I’ve heard great things. You, on the other hand, have had a very prolific career with DC Comics, and have done work on very big titles with a lot of the industry’s best talent. What keeps you inspired, and gets you excited to start drawing each day? What do you do to wind down?
FW: Thank you! I’m a driven person, so motivation isn’t usually a problem for me, it’s the winding down or “taking it easy” part that poses the biggest problems. It’s very difficult for me to turn my brain off, to stop thinking about side projects, or wanting to study my favorite comics to unlock their secrets! When I do let myself have down time, I will play Magic: the Gathering, or just hang out with family and friends, which I wish I could do more often.
SMC: Oh, man, speaking of amazing art…those Magic cards are so much fun to look at. Finally, what one thing - be it another comic book, a movie, a popular artist, or anything at all - has helped you the most to become the artist you are today?
FW: Name one thing? Jim Lee, hands down. Artwork so good, it’s both inspirational and demoralizing! I’ve not spent much time around him, but the illusion you get is like you can get a feeling for a person by spending so much time looking at their art, like you are spending time in their mind or something. I’ve made a habit of studying his work, his X-Men stuff especially!
SMC: Thanks for reading, everyone! Check out my reviews of the issues Freddie’s involved on by clicking this link! You can also view the Captain Atom and Green Arrow reviews!
(All images belong to Freddie Williams II, and are courtesy of his website portfolios, viewable here: FreddieArt.com. Some are even available for purchase!)