Having worked in both comics and animation, Ethen Beavers is privy to what it's like to work on both sides of the fence. Add on the fact that he's worked on a wide array of DC's "animated" comics, then it becomes obvious that Beaver's has done his fair share of animated-themed work. The World's Finest has sat down with Ethen to talk about his animated comic work.
The World's Finest: First off, tell us a little bit about yourself. Your background, your previous work, all that great stuff!
Ethen Beavers: I loved to play with clay as a child- I think they call it sculpting when you get older. I made cowboy dinosaurs. The clay got in the carpet, so clay was outlawed. So then I started drawing. I've been drawing ever since. I started looking for work in comics in 2003. Since then I've worked on Justice League Unlimited, Ben 10, TeenTitans Go!, Legion of Super-Heroes in the 31st Century, Samurai Jack, Clone Wars Adventures, and Indiana Jones Adventures. I've worked mostly at DC and Dark Horse. I have a tiny bit of experience as a Storyboarder in the animation field. I ink almost all of my own work.
WF: Before we go any further, you have a new comic coming out! The last Wednesday of April 2008 sees the release of Teen Titans Go! #54, featuring your artwork. Anything you'd like to share about that issue?
EB: Just that I'm OVERJOYED that Tom Palmer at DC let me have a crack at Titans Go! before it got cancelled. Titans was on my list of "Comics I'd like to draw before I die."
WF: Now, many fans recognize your work from the past issues of both Justice League Unlimited and Teen Titans Go! you provided the artwork for, but many don't know that you also did storyboard work as well for Justice League Unlimited. What are the major differences you see in drawing a comic book and working on a storyboard?
EB: First off, I only worked on part of one episode on the last season of JLU- I'm not really an animation guy. But my sense of the difference between story work and comics is this: In Storyboarding, a scene must be explained in as much detail as possible. The characters move and the background moves, and the lighting changes, and all that must be explained in detail to the animator- the person who draws the 24 frames per second. In comics you do not (and should not) explain everything. A great deal of action takes place between panels, and the readers must imagine that action for themselves. In comics you're only drawing the most telling "snapshots" of a scene. The medium of comics allows for the unexplained because we can stop at any time to reflect, figure it out, go back or whatever. Furthermore, comics force the audience to participate- to fill in those blanks, which is always a benefit to any art form.
WF: As a sort of follow-up to the previous questions, how did you try to remain faithful to the Justice League Unlimited animated series when working on the comic, and is it difficult, while working on the comic, to keep it up to date in the changes in the animated series, design-wise or even story-wise?
EB: The comics and TV shows were working with the same characters under the same title, but in the comics, each issue was a stand alone 20 page story. The TV show was full of two part stories and the series had running story threads that lasted entire seasons. As far as design goes, you do have to figure out the style of a particular show/book, which is challenging, but I actually enjoy figuring out character designs. A lot of really talented guys design those characters, and learning how they put a design together is helpful to my own development as an artist.
WF: The Justice League Unlimited comic features a collection of characters that weren't overly showcased in the actual animated series. Do you like being able to tackle characters in the comic that you might not get a chance to in the cartoon itself? Like Space Cabby, for instance?
EB: I think It's great that the comics guys had the freedom to work on characters and stories that they believed in. On my second JLU issue I requested a Darksied and Orion story, and I got one! And the story that Adam Beechen wrote was smokin'. Let the creative people be creative!
WF: Justice League Unlimited also wasn't your only animated DC comic work. You also drew issues of Teen Titans Go! and Legion of Super Heroes In The 31st Century. How are you able to juggle having to adapt to a distinctly different art style when working on these three different series? What are the challenges it presents?
EB: It takes a little while to become competent with new styles, but after a while, you start to figure things out. for instance on Titans, I learned that Murakami's designs for the original Titans (Cyborg excluded) are actually pretty creepy from the neck down. They are very angular and thin, and they hunch a little bit. Without the heads on, the characters look a lot like zombies. In contrast, their heads are these huge, cute, Anime looking things. I never would have thought to put those heads and body types together, but the fact is they look great together! So I learn a lot with each new style and I have an opportunity to get better, and hopefully smarter, at drawing in the process.
WF: As a sort of follow-up to the previous question, between Justice League Unlimited, Teen Titans Go! and Legion of Super Heroes In The 31st Century, is there any title in particular you enjoy working on the most?
EB: I don't know if I'm into a particular title as much as I'm into particular characters. I love Samurai Jack, Superman, Batman, Orion, and Darkseid. Spider-Man is pretty cool, too. Obi-Wan Kenobi rocks.
WF: Your influences are cited to include Jack Kirby, Darwyn Cooke, Bruce Timm, among many others, and it actually comes through in your artwork. What do you find appealing about these artists and how do you think it translates to your own artwork?
EB: All those guys you mentioned are incredible, and Kirby is a true Super-Genius. What I like about their work is the simplicity and economy of the drawings, and the dynamic figures. If their work translates into my own work, it's because I really study those guys. Ultimately, I believe If you're going to study comics in an effort to increase your own skill, you'll learn more from studying Jack Kirby than any other single artist. Also, I like drawing the way those guys draw. It's fun and enjoyable to me. They all make really good comics.
WF: You have also done work outside of the animated DC comics, including work for Dark Horse comics, Speakeasy Comics and Image Comics. Care to fill us in on those projects and what you'd recommend for readers just discovering your work through the animated titles?
EB: I did a book called Mutation with George Singley- It's an all ages type book. George and I have some neat plans for the character, and hopefully we can find the time to get the thing done. One of the first comics I drew was a book with Mike Oeming and Dan Berman at Image. It was called Six. It's a psychedelic story about an alien agent who is
searching for other agents who have been on Earth too long. These aliens become more like a humans the longer they stay on Earth. They also go a little crazy. Mike sold the rights to the property and a pilot was shot, but nothing has come of it since.
WF: As we wrap this up, let's look ahead to the future! Will you be doing any other animated comics in the near future? What other projects do you have lined up, both in the comic and animation world?
EB: I'm currently working on Indiana Jones Adventures #1 at Dark Horse. It's a 72 page one shot in digest format. I'm really excited about drawing Indy as well as using some of the techniques they used in the movies- i.e. silhouettes, drop shadows, etc. I just finished a neat little Samurai Jack story that will be appearing in an upcoming issue of the Cartoon Network Action Pack book at DC.