When CBR News last spoke to overseas artist sensation Liam Sharp, he hinted at a number of projects he had in development with DC Comics and fans now know one of them: a fill-in issue on the popular "Firestorm" series.
"The Firestorm gig was fairly organic," Sharp told CBR News. "I'd had a project that didn't come off which would have been edited by Pete Tomasi, and we had gotten along well. When that project fell through he asked if I wanted to do a 'Firestorm' issue and I thought 'why not?' It's been a while since I did a straight superhero title - well I thought it was going to be a straight superhero title..."
Sharp says he was quite impressed by the depth of the issue, which is part one of a crossover with writer Dan Jolley's other series "Bloodhound," and explains why it isn't a typical superhero comic book. "The script turned out to be quite a surprise! On the one hand you have the classic suspension-of-belief (in the powers, the costumes, etc.) of a regular capes book intact - which is kind of the fun of these books. It harks back to my memory of reading comics as a kid. But on the other hand, Dan had written this urban shocker! I mean, it's genuinely disturbing. Not at all what you expect in a mainstreem title.
"Chris Cross, the regular artist, has a completely different style from me. Very bold, graphic stuff with a strong line. So I decided I was going to just pencil this job and get back to a more traditional look, like my old 'Death'sHead II' work, and I called up Andy Lanning who used to ink me way back in the day on that title. It was liberating actually, and I'm really happy with how it turned out. I've made Firestorm really powerful looking, and getting to draw Clev was great. Like Conan with a high IQ!"
For many American fans, this will be their first exposure to Sharp's work on a superhero comic, though he collaborated with writer Geoff Johns on the "Possessed" mini-series last year. "Well the last superhero book I drew was 'Superman: Where is thy Sting?', written by J.M deMatteis, who I'd worked with on the Manthing series of a few years back. That would have been maybe four or five years ago. I did draw the odd X-Men issue, and The Hulk for eight issues, and don't forget 'Death's Head II' featured half the Marvel universe - so I'm not a complete stranger to the superhero genre. My recent work has been a lot more unconventional and adult orientated. So, regarding your question, I wouldn't say I'm nervous. I'm pretty used to splitting opinion on my work! I hope some people will enjoy the fact that it is a return to something more akin to my early mainstream work, but everything I've done since informs it - so I hope it has a little more balls and gravitas now!
"I don't know that [his style since 'Possessed'] has grown as such, but it gave me the chance to do some kick-ass superheroic action sequences, and it's been a while since I've done that! If we do surprise anybody then I think it will be as much down to Dan's hard-as-nails script as much as the art."
As he said earlier, Sharp was expecting a more standard superhero book and found it an even greater pleasure to illustrate "Firestorm" due to the unique story. "Well the story was interesting on a bunch of levels. We have an urban sequence, a shockingly violent gang-related sequence. There's all the crazy stuff that goes on inside Firestorm's head, a great crossover with Clevenger, and a brand new superpowered vilain that I had the pleasure of designing myself! We also have a big climactic fight out in the countryside - lots of trees, which is a forte of mine [laughs]!"
Working with Jolley was also a pleasure and Sharp is confident in predicting that Jolley's popularity will explode over the next year. "Dan was great. Really full of enthusiasm for the work, and unexpected as a writer. He's walking a fine line between superhero title and urban shocker, and that makes for a very interesting book. I've not really come across anything else I can equate it to. Who knows what the future holds?"
But over the next year you're also going to see a lot of work from Sharp and he gives a few more clues as to what to expect. "Right now I'm finishing up a 'Vampirella/Witchblade' crossover, kind of sex in the city in hell with superpowers. I'm following that with a short Vampirella black and white story I'm writing as well as drawing. But the big thing right now is the publishing company I'm involved with setting up. We've already published my artbook. That's had great reviews and we'll most likely do a second edition in a year's time - only bigger and better! We launch 'Mam Tor Gems,' a four-part anthology title in May next year. So far we have contributions from Steve Niles, Ash Wood, Chris Weston, Brian Holguin - to name a few! We're also showcasing some classic creators, like Michael Kaluta. And, all being well, we'll be running some illustrated short stories by some of today's most creative writers. It'll be somewhere between an artbook and a comic. Quality work produced for the love of the artform. So watch this space!"