A rising star in superhero comics, Freddie E. Williams II has in just a few short years found himself with celebrated runs on such DC Comics titles as "Robin" and as the new artist on "The Flash." CBR News caught up with Williams last month, when he said working on the Mark Waid-scripted title was, "Amazing! I still geek out when I get a script from him, and just something as mundane as him writing a note to me in the script makes me giddy."
To help with the return of our weekly STUDIO TOURS, Freddie E. Williams II invited CBR News into his Missouri studio for a hugely detailed look into how and where he works and plays.
By Freddie E. Williams II
My wife Kiki and I live in Missouri, in a two-story house, but we pretty much live in this room, my studio. The studio is about 25 by 35-feet and takes up about half of our finished basement. Having a large area for a studio was an important pre-requisite when we were looking into a new house a few years ago.
I draw digitally most of the time, but I still have a few traditional art components hanging around here and there. Kiki does all the decorating; she enjoys creating a warm, fun environment, but it's also because I feel a bit guilty buying anything non-essential or non-work related, so she spoils me with lots of toys and other memorabilia. Some of the posters are newer but most of them are older. Some of them are over twelve years old.
Here we are standing right in the middle of the studio, looking toward the front of the house.
1. Classic Nintendo! Recently, Kiki has been on a retro gaming kick, playing the first three Mario Bros. games until the wee hours of the morning. I have to admit, as non-nostalgic/non-sentimental as I am, it was really cool to see them again and hear those sound effects. The first night we got the Nintendo, Kiki got the crazy infinite lives (on level 2-4), where you keep jumping up and down on the turtle shell on the square stairs. She got "King to the Blue Square" in lives, but somehow the game ended the next time she died...pretty lame.
Comic book movies on the shelves: Seasons of the animated Batman, Superman, Justice League, as well as "The Matrix" and "Star Wars" and "Indiana Jones." Also includes the crazy 14-disc DVD boxset of the Superman movies. I re-watched "Superman III" recently, and it made me feel embarrassed and angry, like they had humiliated a loved one, as Superman was a father figure to me when I was growing up.
If you look at the VHS movies in the upper right back row, there is an old video of a Magic: The Gathering collectible card game tournament. Me and a couple friends of mine watch that occasionally, just to hear the announcer say the names "Dave Oh'mahoney Schwarts" and "Dominique Crap-a-shitz." Awesome!
I think the only movie on these shelves I am ashamed to own is "Catwoman"...ugh!
Detail on my wall of fame:
2a. For our one-year wedding anniversary, Kiki put together a thick presentation frame containing my first issue of "Robin" (#149), a photo of my first signing at the DC Comics table at San Diego Comic-Con '06, a scanned photocopy of a commission I did for a fan, and a print of a photo of me in front of some Robin art from a newspaper article about me getting on at DC.
2b. A couple of my buddies at Hallmark made these for me before I left the company. The top one is a mock college degree (as I never went to college) entitled "Basement University," and awards me the degree "Doctor of Comicology." The lower one is the double-page spread from "Robin" #149 of Robin running through the police precinct, but with my head on Robin's body. All the police officers have Hallmark logos on their badges as if they are trying to keep me from escaping Hallmark.
2c. This is the black printing plate, from a newspaper press, of the first article about me and my comic work. On the left-hand side of the black printing plate is a Lazyboy sales event ad, and the headline above my article reads "Wal-Mart Threatens to drop Supercenter." These are the sorts of things that keep me humble.
2d. And further down are a bunch of badges from different conventions I've attended the last 2-3 years; feels weird throwing those away.
My work area: got almost everything within arms reach so I hardly leave!
3. The entire upper part of the hutch of the desk is covered with the following: Reference/how-to DVDs (even a few I had transferred from VHS to DVD), a couple Scott McCloud books, a signature series Dan Scott World or Warcraft metal box (Dan Scott is one of my best friends, a Magic CCG, WoW CCG and Warhammer 40k CCG artist), and a bunch of toys Kiki got for me. In the center of the hutch, there are three vases from my wedding to the Keekers.
4. The best of my comic book collection, including: Alex Ross' "Kingdom Come," Leinil Francis Yu's "Superman Birthright" (both written by Mark friggen Waid!!), Mike Mignola's "Hellboy," Corey Walker's/Ryan Ottley's "Invincible" trade paperbacks, and Katsuhiro Otomo's "Akira" (which, after collecting the entire series, I find unbearable to read but awesome to look at).
5. My tech stuff. This part of the photo is a little staged, I don't often rotate my monitor like this, only when I draw covers or splashes (shown is the cover for "Robin" #171), but I thought it would look cooler if it was rotated for the pic. My computer is a PowerMac with 4 gigs of RAM, a dual core processor and tons of hard drive space. I usually use Adobe Photoshop, but I have many programs on it for both Mac and PC.
Take a close look at my Wacom tablet on the rollaway drawer there, I needed to raise the level of it by an inch so, for the way I sit, so I put two VHS cassettes under the Wacom to boost it up. The two VHS Cassettes? The "Akira" animated movie, and "The Jerky Boys" movie...not sure how that odd pair were selected; they were probably just the first two I grabbed.
6. A Large format Mustek Scanner, for when I draw the occasional traditional page, about 1-2 per issue.
Looking past my work area, now facing the door where the introduction photos were taken.
7. The two wall closets back there contain all my comic collection. Not sure how many are in the collection, but far too many for me to keep up with. By the way, not one of the comics in my collection is bagged or boarded. The most loved comics (in the hutch of my desk) are all wrinkled up with white frayed edges and tears around the staples.
8. Traditional art supplies that I use for commission con sketches and the few originals I draw traditional. I keep the supplies in a pencil box, just like the one you may have used in high school.
9. The snazzy, fully adjustable art deck Kiki got for me the same year I went all digital, so I hardly ever use it. You can see a couple original pages from "
Robin" #168, my last issue of that series. :(
This is the doorway the first photo was taken from. When I closed this door to get this pic I was surprised to see the Wargod poster there on the wall. "Wargod" was an indie book I did a few years back, through the now-defunct Speakeasy Comics. I forgot my wife put it there. On the back of that door is a really big door poster by Jim Lee back in his "X-Men" days. It's all tore up and taped together, and has survived the last 10 moves I've made; a miracle it's lasted me this long.
Three seriously kick @$$ Jim Lee posters, all gifted to me by one of my best friends Pat. Also a "Versus" CCG poster I got free at SDCC that my cats love to tear up, as evidenced at the bottom.
The small sliver of a doorframe there to the left of the pic is the doorway to my laundry room.
This shot is the reverse of the one looking at the front of the house with "Super Mario Bros." on the TV, facing the back of the house.
10. Bookcase Bonanza! Including a bookcase you can't see there are 6 of them back there packed with shipping materials, Kiki's novels, (like "Lord of the Rings" and the "Forgotten Realms" series) and all my crazy WWII history books. On top of the bookcases is a ton of other memorabilia, mostly bought by Kiki, including a superman centerpiece of mine that I drew all but the 4 center characters for at Hallmark Cards back when I was working for them a year ago.
11. Some artwork proudly displayed- created by my little niece Kaylei and nephew Christian, back when they were staying with us for a few months.
12. What's left of what was at one time my obscenely expensive "Magic" card collection. I had a fully powered black-bordered Type One deck that I competed with in many-a-tournament, but sold it off back in 2003 to pay off our credit card debt over $3,000 worth. If I had those cards now, I could probably sell them for $5,000. Do'h!
13. My laptop, that's a good shot of it, but will explain more about it in a sec.
14. My laptop and a stand with wheels. I take the laptop on "vacations" with me, so I can work the entire time I'm on the trip. The stand is so that I can answer e-mails and write my "how-to" book for DC (to draw comics digitally) while taking a crap...yup, I'm that busy, it's fun doing what you love, but I do it 15 hours a day with little exception.
15. The most comfortable chair I've ever sat in. Sometimes I'll print out new "Robin" or "The Flash" scripts and read them while sitting in that chair.
A ton of toys in a gun rack! The folks who sold us our house used this cabinet as a gun rack -- the guy must have had like 12 rifles or something. As with all the others, Kiki got the vast majority of the toys for me. Some of the older ones, like the metal Voltron, Slithe from "Thundercats" and a "Power Ranger" villain, my sister Donna gave to me. At the very top of the shelves, you can see the bottom half of Gizmo the Mogwai from "Gremlins." It's one of the few things I ever got from my father when I was a kid.
This is kind of the guest area of the studio, with that big chair from (from figure 15 above) and our extra computer.
16. Hugely wide Wildstorm poster from way back in 1995-96 era SDCC. I didn't attend but a friend of mine, James, was nice enough snag one for me. Notice how Grifter is in a completely different lighting scheme from the rest of the characters? Travis Charest drew him, but it's always looked funny to me.
17. Kiki's old computer, now the guest computer/DVD database organizer/fax machine. It also has "World of Warcraft" installed on it. Me, Kiki and a guest can all sit in a room with our backs to one another and talk over our shoulders at each other.
18. Kiki has a thing for Vin Disel, so the poster to a horrible movie is okay. On the bright side, at least the poster isn't for "The Pacifier" for god's sake.
Coming full circle, Here is Kiki's Computer Area, facing the front of the house again.
19. Kiki also has a thing for goth dolls that she has been collecting for the last few years mainly at SDCC's. Also note, the Evil Monkey figurine - "Family Guy" us awesome!
20. Kiki plays a lot of "World of Warcraft," in fact she's playing it as I type this at 2:05 AM.
21. Kiki's brand new Dell Computer, which is comparable to mine in power, but has a ridiculously unnecessary lighting system on the front of it. You can put the lighting system into strobe and breathing modes. Crazy. Though it runs "World of Warcraft" very well, and we actually got it so she could work on 3D stuff for me.
22. The cat bed. Kiki used to place her purse there, but I think that spot in the floor must be a weird nexus point in the universe for our cats, because they were all drawn in to or on to her purse whenever she sat it down there. We put a little beanbag there instead, and the cats love it, though I guess not enough to be on it in this shot.
This pic is taken as if you were standing with your back to those Jim Lee posters my friend Pat got for me. It's my vanity bookcase. On the left of the pic is the back of my work desk, with all of the wires hanging from the back of my computers and peripherals.
23. Top of the bookcase has a "Surprise Pineapple" my mother-in-law gave me at our wedding reception, where a little hula-gal comes out and dances and won't stop until you give her a dollar. Also up there is a boom box Kiki has had since high school. We haven't used it in at least a year, but still leave it out there, just in case someone wants to rock the house someday.
24. The VANITY! The first shelf is all the role-playing books I've had art published in, mainly from Palladium Books. All of theose books are all in acid free polybags. Second shelf is filled with ld comic pitches from my indie comic days and random books. Third shelf is every comic book I've done art in. They are each in a hard plastic cases. Then the bottom shelf is nearly filled with portfolio binders that contain prints or photocopies of every piece of art I've drawn for years 2000-2007. The binders are not in order, the one on the far left is for this year, the biggest one yet.
Why does the back of my desk look like it's from "The Matrix," with them crazy cables? The answer is coiled up in that cute little furry pile! In the immortal words of Han Solo, "Gotta keep those Mynocks from chewing on the power cables." For some reason, our cats love to chew on cables --do they taste good? Do they like the shocking surprise when they bite into them? I'm not sure, but Kiki and I had to take an entire day to put these protective tubes around all of our wires, but I just know the cats are still plotting something else. I await their next move.
Speaking of the Cats, here they are! Kiki and I don't have kids, but we do have four cats, and just like real kids, they close their eyes to ruin any picture you take of them. Here, let me introduce them to you:
Midas: the golden kitty (about 8 years old). Probably the alpha cat. Very cuddly and purrs so loud it wakes Kiki up at night. In a couple podcasts/written interviews (that can be found on my site http://freddieart.com) I told a story of one of my cats that keept Kiki awake at night, so she wanted to dress the cat up as her, and send it in to work for her. This is that cat. The plan would have worked, too, if it hadn't been for the whole tail thing.
Pepper: The oldest and the Momma cat (about 10 years old). She was a stray, pregnant with a littler of kittens (Midas was one of them) when we first saved her from the streets. Even though our cats are all inside-cats, she still has street instincts and is very much a loner. I had to look for her for a few minutes to find her and take this pic. She was chilling next to a trashcan, just like back on the street.
The Spaz cat: (about 4 years old). We first got Spaz a few years back from a pet shop almost and almost immediately after that she started going into heat. A few times when Spaz wouldn't stop katter-walling, for hours at a time, Kiki would throw her in a bathtub with cold water in it -- not to be mean, this was honestly the only thing that would shut her up! After we got her fixed, though, Spaz and Kiki bonded, and is Kiki's favorite cat. Spaz does this weird thing where she drapes the top half of herself over Kiki's shoulder, and wants to lay like that.