SUPER-Stars (Part 2): Ivan Reis talks "Action Comics"

Wed, March 17th, 2004 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Arune Singh, Staff Writer

"Action Comics" #814
While many comic book readers are looking at the re-invigoration of DC Comics' Superman titles in April with two words in their head- namely "Jim" and "Lee"- that doesn't mean there isn't other exciting talent coming onboard the world's most familiar superhero. There are two more words you should know now, so you're not left behind when he's the next big thing: "Ivan" and "Reis."

In Part 2 of CBR's Superman celebration, CBR News spoke with Ivan Reis, the artist of "Action Comics" and as one might expect, the young penciller is quite excited about illustrating the Man Of Steel.

"Man, Im so excited about it, that Im still trying to figure out what happened... it was all really crazy," says Reis of becoming a Superman artist. "All of sudden I saw myself being picked to take over the title, without doing a single sample page of Superman..! In the middle of my work on 'Superman/Batman: Secret Files & Origins,' they wanted me for the title as the regular artist and... BAM! Just like that! [smiling]

"But, in my mind, I think my good friend Geoff Johns had something to do with this! I had a great time working with him on 'The Vision' for Marvel, and he liked my work a lot... well, mysteries of life! [laughs]"

Like many artists in the comic book industry today, it would be a dream to work on Superman and Reis recognizes the honor of his position. "Definitely the big 'S' is one of the most iconic super-heroes of the world! And just like the dream of each fan out there who wants to be an artist, my dream became a reality! Well, its a tremendous responsibility! After all we're talking about a character portrayed by hundreds of great artists, and not just that, Superman has legions of fans out there! Needless to say I'm more than happy with this opportunity!"

If you're guessing that Reis is a big Superman fan, well, you're right True Believer! The only problem that comes from such unabashed love for Big Blue, explains Reis, is the inability to verbalize such passion. "I can't put in to words the magic surrounding the opportunity to draw that big 'S' on the character's chest, you know? Superman is a very noble guy, and none can draw him another other way. I'm trying to portray him in the most natural way. I don't want to make him very different than what he is, and I don't intend to cause a creative revolution with my work. To be honest, I have only one thing in mind: to put all my heart and soul in 'Action Comics,' and enjoy the honor that is working with a big time hero such as Superman."

"Action Comics" #814, Page 3
While his own appreciation for the character may be hard to explain, the artist who blew away fans on the aforementioned "Secret Files" has an idea why the character has endured for so long. "He's the perfect human stereotype... without being human, that is -- being an alien. He represents the highest ideals of mankind... the dreams of all people are represented in him. Who doesn't want to fly? And have super strength? And be respected and admired? And on top of all that, use all that to help people? As long as the Human dreams last, there will always be a Superman. You can count on it."

Approaching Superman from a visual perspective, Reis feels there are some aspects of the character that one needs to stress and some that just capture readers by their sheer innovation. "It's really impressive how Superman's looks are so outstanding, and have the power to remain in people's minds. And I'm not just talking about his costume... any artist would be capable of drawing Superman or Clark in the middle of a crowd, and yet any people would recognize them. I don't remember any other character with that quality.

"Well, maybe... uhn... Jonn Jonzz or the Hulk! But, hey! They are green, dude! Other characters always have a visual gimmick that make them recognizable... some weird hairstyle, or cool sideburns..! [laughs]

"The whole concept of Metropolis and Smallville is awesome! Metropolis mirrors the qualities of all big cities, while Smallville has elements of the small country towns. Anyone can relate to that, and this is a strong point to the whole idea of Superman and the universe surrounding him."

While not as well known as some of the other artists on the Superman books, like Jim Lee or Mike Turner, it isn't bothering Reis. "To work with such big names can be somewhat intimidating... but I'd rather not thinking about this right now, cause if I do, man... I might end up with some sort of mental block and not be able to do a single page. [laughs] My job now is to use my talent to do my very best -- I mean, to deserve the honor of working side-by-side with those highly talented gentlemen! And you bet I'll work my ass off to make this happen!"

If you haven't seen Reis' work, the description of his influences should back up the belief from his fans that Reis is a unique artist. "This is hard to describe," says the artist of his influences. "It's a mix of all that I like -- John Buscema, John Byrne, Alan Davis, Kevin Nowlan, George Perez, Serpieri, Carlos Pacheco, Mike Mignola, and many others. Now, I just let my work flow out naturally... Today I'm not using as much references as I used to years ago... I'd like to see how things go this way. I don't even have comics with me when I'm working. I just let things to happen in a very natural way. Just go with the flow without other artistic interferences."

That lack of interference includes not looking to past Super-work for "research" purposes. "None, at all. I dont want to be influenced by other artists and their ways of doing Superman and his universe. I try to do Superman as I always pictured him. Sure, when I have a couple of issues under my belt, I'll feel much more comfortable with the character, and my work will be more consistent. Ah! I forgot...! My only preparation for the series was watching all the Superman movies with Christopher Reeves. I love them!"

Not surprisingly, Reis loves working on "Action Comics" thus far and when asked how long he'd like to stay with the series, he answers, "I intend to stay on the title as much as fans and [editor] Eddie [Berganza] want me to... which I expect to be a very looooong time! Plans for the future? Hey! Hold a sec..! I'm still with that silly smile on my face for the chance to work in Action!

"Action Comics" #814, Page 18
"I didn't even have time to plan ahead yet! [laughs]"

The reaction to Reis' "Secret Files" work was universally positive and while he was nervous about illustrating Superman and Batman, he feels more comfortable as his style has evolved. "When I did that issue I was so nervous... with a shiver down my spine... all the time! After all, it was the first time I was tackling Superman, and I knew everyone would be paying attention. But my work changed a bit from 'Secret Files' to 'Action'... let's say 'Secret Files' was a lab experience, in order to adapt the style I was using on 'Lady Death.' A medieval one to a more superheroistic tone... and that is a major change, believe me!

"But I really think my work changed after 'Secret Files'... for the best. Well, I hope."

Collaborating with Reis on "Action Comics" is controversial writer Chuck Austen and Reis has a newsflash for readers: Chuck Austen isn't Satan. "Chuck is a great writer and a great person. His action sequences blow me away... every time! He does a lot of crazy and wild stuff on his scripts. I feel more than comfortable reading (and pencilling) his stories. I don't have a single worry or concern when I have to pencil his pages. Besides that, there is something very important to me: his scripts allow me to explore the strongest points of my work, which is great."

It's no secret to comic fans that Chuck Austen has his share of detractors and while Reis is happy for people to have their opinions, he finds humor in the venom put forth in Austen's direction. "That always happens when the guy is good and competent. And besides, Chuck has the guts to speak out loud to anyone, both his thoughts and opinions. I understand what he's going through... believe me! Many people think I will do Superman with an attitude, veins pumping all over his body and big chest."

Excitement and anticipation are the two key words of the Superman reinvigoration and even with all the hype, Reis isn't worried about the reaction to "Action Comics." "Usually fans are very worried and critical whenever their favorite heroes go thru a new phase. Well, I don't think they need to worry about 'Action Comics,' as I'm sure the book that will please them all.

"If people want to say something bad about the book, let them buy it first!"

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