Join Date: Jun 2002
Location: The Baxter Building
Iron Man : Hypervelocity
New comic book puts artist on fast track
POP CULTURE: Brian Denham returns after long hiatus
12:00 AM CST on Saturday, January 6, 2007
By DAN KOLLER / Quick
Iron Man: Hypervelocity is all about speed. And Brian Denham, the Bedford artist drawing the comic book, is renowned for working fast.
But Mr. Denham, 37, would not have gotten the assignment, his first full-length gig for Marvel, if he hadn't been working on a relatively slow-moving bus.
A few years after making his name by drawing Violator vs. Badrock, a 1995 miniseries written by Alan Moore, Mr. Denham walked away from comics. A tumor on his right hand made drawing too painful, and the industry was in a slump.
"Editors were losing their jobs weekly, so it was tough to be a freelancer at that time," Mr. Denham said.
He took a series of jobs outside the industry, including working in a grocery store. By 2000, he was briefing tourists on buses taking them from the Los Angeles airport to cruise ships.
"We would give them a speech about, you know, have your tickets ready and how to go through the line faster," Mr. Denham said.
But his life changed when he found himself preparing participants for a themed cruise full of comic-book writers and artists.
One of them was Neal Adams, who illustrated the Batman comics in the 1970s that took the character back to his dark roots from the campy image created by the 1960s television series. Mr. Adams was an early influence on Mr. Denham's style. As a teenager, Mr. Denham learned to draw by studying a collection of old Batman comics that he found in the Richland High School library.
"I was giving the speech, and I was like, 'Oh, my God, it's Neal Adams,' and I could barely finish the speech," Mr. Denham said. "I just went and sat down, and I was like, 'I'm going the wrong direction.' "
Also on the bus was Chris Ware, writer and artist of the acclaimed graphic novel Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth. A few years earlier, Mr. Denham had presented a Harvey Award, a comic- book equivalent of an Oscar, and Mr. Ware had been the winner.
"He wasn't there at the show, but Chris Ware was on the bus!" Mr. Denham said. "Man, it all just went back to my roots. So, I was like, 'I gotta stop. I gotta stop and regroup and go forward.' "
His first step was to call Top Cow Productions, a California studio. He subsequently published two semiautobiographical comics, Killbox and Bit Torment, through San Antonio's Antarctic Press.
Then Mr. Denham found out about Hypervelocity from friends at Guru-eFX, the studio that had been contracted to color the project for Marvel. He'd heard his name was in the running to draw the book, so he lobbied for the opportunity.
"We gave the script to Brian for a tryout, and he turned in, like, a third of the book in a week," said Molly Lazer, Mr. Denham's editor at Marvel. "We looked at it, we liked it and said, 'Let's go.' "
That experience, and his fateful encounter on the bus, taught Mr. Denham a valuable lesson: "When destiny knocks," he said. "You don't tell him, 'I'll be right back.' "
DID YOU KNOW?
Brian Denham is believed to be the first person to write, pencil, ink, color, letter and publish a comic book on his own: 1994's My Name Is Mud. "[Crisis on Infinite Earths artist] George Pérez congratulated me at the time and said he was jealous because he always wanted to be the first one to do that," Mr. Denham said.
Mr. Denham's first full-length work for a big-time publisher was Image Comics' Violator vs. Badrock, which was scripted by Alan Moore, writer of acclaimed comics such as V for Vendetta and Watchmen. Mr. Denham was recruited after meeting Image co-founder Rob Liefeld at the Dallas Fantasy Fair.
Mr. Denham is one of the few artists in comics who doesn't use a pencil. He works exclusively through the computer program Adobe Illustrator. "My hands and wrists stopped hurting as a result of using the program and a digital tablet," he said.
--- Dallas Morning News