If you're one of those people who thinks that DC Comic's "JSA" has exhausted it's star power, think again: the newest creator to emerge with buzz from that series is artist Patrick Gleason, whose art on "JSA #39" has been turning heads. Add to that work on Image's critically acclaimed "Noble Causes: First Impressions" mini-series and high-profile pencils in "Hawkman Secret Files & Origins #1," and you can see why many people are looking at Gleason's career carefully. CBR News caught up with the artist at FALLCON in St. Paul, Minnesota last weekend and spoke to him about his career thus far.
"I always drew as a kid, did my own comics and eventually met Doug Mahnke," explains Gleason of his career's roots. "He showed me how to put together a portfolio and the basics of it all, so I took it to Chicago where I met Brian Vaughn. He was a writer on 'X-Men Unlimited' at the time and he got me my first work at Marvel on 'X-Men Unlimited #22.' That's how I broke in and after that, I assisted Doug for a few years. I don't know why I've always liked comics so much- it's been a strange obsession I guess. It's what I've always done and I like the idea of being able to tell a story. Maybe it's even a power trip, being able to create a world and do whatever you want in it, constantly testing yourself, coming up with new ways of pushing things- it's all really rewarding."
The art style displayed by Gleason has been described as energetic as vibrant, but fans have also taken notice of the fact that he tries to keep things fairly realistic, without sacrificing the realism of the characters in order to convey the awe-inspiring nature of the situations. "I have so many influences and they're constantly changing- I'm not one to just stay with one group of artists or what have you," says Gleason of why his art has evolved to it's current look. "When I'm drawing, I try and find a middle ground where I can draw something that looks neat and realistic, but at the same time gives me the same time to take certain cartoonish liberties. I'm a big fan of movies and visually, they really impact the way I present things to the audience. Other artists inspire me obviously and I've recently gotten into Norman Rockwell, which is strange to hear I'm sure and I know that you wouldn't ever see it in my work, but I like the idea of being able to tell a story with a picture like he does and have so many different stories within that picture. I like the idea of including so many subtle things in that picture that you can tell where the character is coming from and Doug Mahnke, for example is great at doing that, as is Jason Pearson. I really like Jamie Hewlit and John McCrea for their unique styles too."
"There's certain levels of believability that you can put into a comic book, like if you've got Superman picking up a car and he's just holding it there, sorta like when Doug Mahnke picks up a car for reps," says Gleason, pausing to chuckle, "If someone else picked up that car and you had that much pressure at one point, the car would probably break in half, so it's just depends on the story. 'JSA' for example, was a little more fun and crazy, so I could play it up with some more liberties. 'Hawkman' I played more seriously and more straight nosed."
Speaking of "Hawkman," Gleason's contribution to that series comes in the form of the art for the lead story in "Hawkman Secret Files & Origins #1." "Peter Tomasi, my editor at DC, has been feeding me work constantly and has been a great editor- he's a great guy, too. He originally called me up when I was working on 'Noble Causes' and offered me 'JSA,' then 'Hawkman,' etc. Then between scripts he'd toss me a few pin-ups just to keep the checks coming. He's been nothing less than outstanding."
It's interesting to also note that Gleason says he's developed a greater affection for Hawkman and the JSA by working with the respective characters, becoming a regular reader of the characters' monthly comics. "Honestly, I may be ousted by the entire comic book community for being a fraud and a poser, but I'd never read a Hawkman comic before and the great thing about working on a series like 'Hawkman' is that they send you free copies of the series to acquaint you with the characters. Geoff Johns is writing it and man, it's awesome- I just loved reading the story, the characters are so cool. Same with 'JSA'- now I read both series each monthly. Drawing new things, new characters and keeping it fresh- that was the best part of working on these books. I like to do new things with my art and both 'JSA' and 'Hawkman' kept me on my toes. It's also great working with Geoff Johns, Christian Alamy (Inks) and Peter Tomasi- three great guys."
While one could argue that the aforementioned DC projects are the most high-profile in Gleason's career, it is undoubtedly Image's "Noble Causes" series that first brought the young artist to the attention of fandom. "Jay Faerber approached me to do one of the backup stories in 'Noble Causes- First Impressions' and I agreed at the time, of course, because I was just assisting Doug Mahnke and didn't have any solid work. I did that and Billy Dallas Patton was supposed to be the regular penciller of the series but through a bunch of different things I don't know about, I ended up being offered the penciling job for the rest of the series. I jumped at it, said, 'Thank God I got real work' and kept going from there, doing 'Noble Causes.'"
Some might think that Gleason's favorite part of working on 'Noble Causes' was the steady paycheck that allowed him to take his girlfriend out to fancy restaurants, but he says it was something else entirely. "The best part of the series was the sheer challenge of drawing talking characters because when I first started, if you look at any of my sample work, all I did was stuff blowing up and battles, superhero type stuff. When Jay first gave me the script, I was really upset because I thought it'd be boring and I sorta didn't wanna do it but I was going to do it. But once I did start drawing it, I got into the storyline and began to really appreciate the storyline, the characters and I learned a lot drawing 'Noble Causes.' It forced me to draw things I wasn't comfortable drawings and it's really helped me in the long run."
Gleason says that the charm of "Noble Causes" lies in the fact that it's a unique super-hero series that offers a view of the genre that you won't find anywhere else. "Jay, I'll try not to let you down here…I won't waste your sales pitch training," laughs Gleason. "It offers a good look at the behind the scenes ethics, morals and soap opera lives of super heroes. It's a great keyhole view of what is probably going on in the X-men or any or other superhero group...they just don't wanna tell you it's happening."
The future for Gleason looks bright and he shared with CBR News some of his upcoming projects. "I did a cover for the trade paperback of 'Noble Causes: First Impressions,' but that's really all for me in terms of Image work, as I'm focusing on my DC projects," admits the artist. "I'm working on a 64-page Justice League prestige format project that I believe is called "Welcome to the working week" by Patton Oswald who plays Spence on television's 'King of Queens.' He's a comedian and big comic book fan. The comic book follows a kid around who, through a series of events, ends up on the JLA's Watchtower moon base and observes the JLA members over a weeklong period. "There's a lot that goes on in the week of a superhero, let alone 7 of them. But I don't want to give too much away...Its cool though, trust me."
Gleason also says you can expect to see him at FALLCON and MICRON in Minnesota every year, as he feels these two cons represent the best of the comic world. "The MNCBA guys are the greatest- We're having a PIG ROAST tonight for crying out loud! They are genuine fans of comic books and they are so enthusiastic! It's great to be around those people and the fans who come in give off a great vibe of that 'super powered L-O-V-E'"
Before heading back to the signing table to be a "pencil jockey" as Gleason calls himself, he has a few parting words:
"A few years back I was coming here, just like everyone else, and standing in line with the fans. Now I draw for them. That's pretty fantastic, don't you think?"