was born in 1963 in Key West, Florida.
In 1984, he graduated
at the prestigious "Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic
Art" and started working in the comics market. After drawing
a series of graphic novels continuing the Oz books, in 1991 he began
research for his masterpiece Age of Bronze, a comics retelling
the Trojan War.
He had published
several projects including the six-issue mini-series The Elsewhere
Prince (with script by Randy & Jean-Marc Lofficier) taking
place in Moebius' Airtight Garage universe, and Vertigo's Prez:
Smells like Teen President (with writer Ed Brubaker).
In 1998 Age of
Bronze began publication. Actually it reaches its tenth issue
under the Image imprint.
More info about Eric
Shanower and his works at:
I know you attended to the prestigious Joe Kubert School of Cartoon
and Graphic Art (in Dover, New Jersey). Could you tell us something
about this experience and how it has contributed to your artistic
I attended the Joe
Kubert School from Sept. 1981 until I graduated in May 1984. I attended
right out of high school, so it was the first time I'd been on my
own away from living with my family. It was a period of intensive
artistic growth because I had to draw a lot to keep up with the
assignments. I was introduced to new materials and techniques and
the professional standards of creating comic books as well as standards
for graphic art and advertising. The most valuable part of the school
was just the large amount of drawing I had to do, and the more I
drew the more my drawing improved.
style is very detailed without being heavy. On the contrary, you
have a very clean line and a very strong visual storytelling. Also
your drawing style seems to avoid easy mannerisms such as splash
pages so common in today's market. And there is a certain amount
of irony in the fact you actually work for Image. So, which are
your influences? Which are the artists you refer to?
Well, the reason
I don't use splash pages much is because I usually don't have room.
In Age of Bronze, there's so much story to get into every
issue, a splash page would be a waste of space. It does feel a little
constrained at times; for instance, I would have liked a double-page
spread at the end of Age of Bronze #9 to show the departure
of the Achaean fleet, but I had to settle for a half-page panel
because I just didn't have room for more.
I don't really "work
for Image." It's probably more accurate to say that Image is the
publisher of Age of Bronze and that I work for myself. The
reason that Image publishes Age of Bronze is that - to my
surprise -Erik Larsen offered to publish the series and, ironic
or not, that was the best offer I received.
My greatest artistic influence is probably John R. Neill, the primary
illustrator of the Oz books, whose work I encountered first when
I was six years old. I also enjoy the work of the classic American
illustrators such as Charles Dana Gibson and Maxfield Parish. I
admire Alphonse Mucha greatly.
I've also read comics
for most of my life and have enjoyed quite a range of cartoonists
such as Winsor McCay, Carl Barks, Charles Burns, John Byrne, Milton
Caniff, Walt Kelly, Dave Sim, Kurt Schaffenberger to name a few.
At the start of your career, you have worked on a series of graphic
novels continuing the Oz books by L. Frank Baum. Why this fascination
for Oz stories?
I fell in love with
the Oz books when I was six and my parents read a chapter to me
each night of The Road to Oz, the fifth book in the series. After
that I wanted the whole series, and I decided that I would write
and draw Oz books when I grew up. And I did. As for the "why" of
my fascination with Oz, that's a difficult question to answer, because
I'm not exactly sure why. I think it has to do with the appeal of
a child traveling from the real world to a world of adventure and
beauty where the possibilities for wonder and magic seem endless.
also drew some Nexus books. I love the character. Steve Rude
is a magic penciler. It is a shame there is no place for this hero
in today comics market. Do you like working on him?
thought Nexus was a fascinating comic with great art when it began
in the early 1980s. First Comics asked me to try out as inker for
the title when they began publishing since Steve Rude didn't have
enough time to ink his own pencils. I, myself was a bit disappointed
that he wouldn't be inking. I think splitting penciler and inker
is not the best artistic decision usually. But when I was selected
for the job, I was very happy! It was my first major ongoing work
in comics - October 1984. I continued to read Nexus after I quit
inking it, although for me it soon lost a bit of the magic of the
early issues (particularly after they discovered the Merk), and
when Steve wasn't drawing it, it just didn't seem like Nexus.
It would be great if it could be published now. When Nexus
began Mike Baron said it had a definite end, and I've thought that
they should publish that ending so that we can read it, rather than
leave the story hanging in limbo as it is now.
THE MYTH OF THE
TROJAN WAR AND OTHER STORIES
In Italy we know
you for your Vertigo book Prez with story by Ed Brubaker. It was
a sort of journey into the American soul and in the title, Prez:
Smells like Teen President, it cited a famous Nirvana hit. Was
it a story with a political message? How did America change from
1995? In music, it seems that American teenagers shift from Nirvana
to Marilyn Manson: is it a bad sign?
Yes, I think Prez
had a political message - one of hope and faith in the individual.
It was primarily Ed Brubaker's message, but I was in sympathy with
it. I don't think it had a lot to do with Nirvana--it was just a
coincidence that Kurt Cobain died while we were working on the story.
In fact, Ed considered changing the title to something else (Manifest
Destiny) after Cobain died, but then we figured it didn't really
matter and that the original title was far more amusing. I really
can't say a lot about the patterns of American teenagers' musical
preferences. I don't know many American teenagers. I think that
for many years now America has been turning into more of a rabid
consumer culture and less a place of rational, free thought. Of
course I think this is unfortunate. But while working on Age
of Bronze I've tended to take a broad view of history, and I
don't think human nature has changed much for thousands of years.
I'm not sure how well I can comment on the past six years of American
culture, since I sit in a room drawing comics most of my time while
American culture proceeds on its merry way without me.
Let start talking about your
ongoing project, Age of Bronze (Image) about the Trojan War.
When did you start working on this story?
I got the idea in February
1991 while I was listening to the audio taped version of Barbara
W. Tuchman's book The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam.
I began serious research on the project in fall 1991.
I began writing the script in 1996, and began drawing it in 1997.
The first issue was published in November 1998.
a comic book based on an historical event?
Well, I'm not sure
you want to go on record saying that the Trojan War is an historical
event. I certainly wouldn't. Age of Bronze is based on the
cycle of legends about the Trojan War as it has accumulated over
the millennia. The historical setting that I've given the story
is very important to my retelling of the legends, but it is nevertheless
a secondary aspect.
Whether the Trojan
War actually took place or not, and how much truth there might be
in the legends, is not a question I can answer. Better leave it
to the archaeologists to debate. It's not so much that I chose the
Trojan War, it's more like the Trojan War chose me. When I heard
the Trojan War chapter in March of Folly, I thought a retelling
of the legend would make a really great comic book. I knew it would
be a long, involved project, and in 1991 I didn't think I'd be getting
around to it very soon, so I kept trying to put it on the back burner.
But it kept forcing its way to front, so I finally gave in. I'm
glad I did.
Are you, in some
ways, intimidated by telling a story so important and, above all,
a story with a well known end?
No, I'm not intimidated.
Maybe I should be, but I'm not. I'm excited. It is extremely enjoyable
to be retelling this story which has been told over and over for
so many years. The energy of it just carries me along and I want
to write and draw it so that everyone can see it the way I see it.
In some ways it's a little easier to retell an established story
rather than make up a new one. The plot is already there for me,
so I know where I'm going. Sometimes it's a little tricky to get
the characters to move smoothly in the direction they need to go,
but the Trojan War legend is so rich that I can always find the
motivations for the characters to make the decisions (sometimes
seemingly ridiculous decisions) they need to make to carry the story
I know that the end of the Trojan War is the most famous episode,
but there are many, many episodes before I reach the end that most
people aren't familiar with. I hope to keep readers intrigued with
the unfamiliar material.
And I hope readers
will look forward to my particular retelling of the ending.
Which is your
I love them all,
but I admire Hektor quite a bit. He's the only one who really tries
always to do what he thinks is right.
only other history-based comic by an American author that comes
to my mind is Frank Miller's 300. To avoid any polemic, I want preventively
say that I like a lot 300 and I consider Frank Miller one of the
greatest ones in the comics medium. But I think Miller used an approach
been more visual based than yours and a little too much American
centered. It seems to me that 300 is - in some ways - a blockbuster,
hollywoodian movie, a sort of "Gladiator" put on paper. Compared
to 300, Age of Bronze seems more story centered and
with a sort of European narrative rhythm. What do you think of 300?
Are my considerations on target?
Jason Lutes is an historical comic. So is Louis Riel by Chester
Brown, although Brown is Canadian. There are also other comics based
on legend-mythology: The Ring of the Nibelung by P. Craig
Russell, the various King Arthur comics by Jeff Limke, Beowulf
by Gareth Hinds, and Roland by Shane Amaya, to name some
I actually only saw
a couple of issues of 300. I kept missing it in the comics
store because I thought the logo said "ZOO" instead of "300."
I can't really say much about it in comparison to Age of Bronze,
because I don't think there's much point of comparison. 300
was a comic based on an historical event, and Age of Bronze
is based on legend. It's a little like comparing the Norman Conquest
with the Battle of Britain. Frank Miller does what he does very
well, particularly in page design and panel to panel storytelling.
I thought the design of 300 to be later released as a double-comic-size-wide
book was clever. But I'm just not the person to compare 300
to Age of Bronze since I see only the most passing of surface
similarities - let someone else make the comparisons.
The story of Age
of Bronze certainly is the most important part of the comic.
I think the story is the most important part of any comic. All else
is subordinate to the story. I don't know if Age of Bronze
has a European narrative rhythm. I think it's got an Eric Shanower
rhythm. I tend to focus
on comics' equivalencies to prose rather than comics' equivalencies
to motion pictures, so maybe that's a factor and what you're picking
Recently, you drew a beautiful
short Promethea story for the ABC special. It was titled Promethea
and Little Margie in Misty Magic Land and it was written by
Steve Moore. How do you feel working on a character created by Alan
Moore? Why do you choose a style so reminiscent of Winsor McCay's
Thanks for calling
it beautiful. I was delighted to be asked to draw that story. I
was delighted to work on a story connected with Alan Moore, whose
work I usually enjoy quite a bit. I was especially delighted that
it was connected with Promethea, since I think that's one
of the best comic books currently published. The editor and the
script indicated the art should be reminiscent of Little Nemo,
so that's what I tried to do--retain a flavor of Winsor McCay, while
not slavishly imitating McCay. I do love McCay's work, and I think
that I was appropriately selected to draw that story.
Also you worked on another surprising
book. You contributed with a 5 pages sequence to the third issue
of the Erik Larsen's 12 issue maxi-series Fantastic Four: the
World's Greatest Comics Magazine dedicated to the genius of
Jack Kirby. Do you like drawing Kirby's fantastic icons? Do you
think Kirby's lesson of free, powerful imagination is still actual?
Or today superhero comics lack of "sense of wonder" and are only
full of gratuitous but "cool" violence?
Larsen roped me into that, too. This was an interesting exercise,
and proved to me how difficult it really is to imitate Kirby. I
enjoy Kirby's art and think a lot of it is really beautiful. I'm
not sure I can address your questions of whether it's relevant to
today's superhero comics. I don't think Kirby was necessarily a
"superhero cartoonist". I think he was a cartoonist who for much
of his career drew superheroes. He drew many other things and was
as versatile as any artist. His art will always be relevant for
the achievement that it is. I can't say much about today's superhero
comics because I don't read them much (and maybe that in itself
I have read your
answers to the "Creators
speak out" special
As a gay comic creator which is your opinion on today growing appearance
of gay characters in mainstream superhero comics? I am referring
to Authority's Apollo and Midnighter and to some characters
of Alan Moore's ABC line as Promethea or Cobweb, just
to name a few. Is it a reflection of a new sensibility in readers,
creators and publishers or is it only a new "cool" theme to be used?
As I mentioned, I don't really read superhero comics, so I don't
know about the first couple characters you mention. As far as Alan
Moore goes, I think he's used gay characters in his work for many
years--for instance, I remember them in his American Flagg
work in the mid-1980s--so I don't think he's using them as a fad
or gimmick--just part of the texture of life as incorporated into
his stories. And that's how I think gay characters in fiction should
be used for the most part--as a reflection of the texture of real
life. As a gay man, I'm interested in the portrayal of gay characters
in any medium, but more importantly I need to be interested in the
story whether it has gay characters or not. If a story doesn't hold
my interest, it doesn't matter what the sexual orientation of any
of the characters is.
Which is your
comic dream project?
Age of Bronze
Do you think the
Internet could be a place to develop a new comics language?
I really don't know.
But I'll go out on a limb to say that if the language changes much,
the result may not be comics any more. That's not necessarily a
bad thing, but it may be a completely new thing.
UltraThanks you for your availability and time :-)
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