Greg Capullo is best known for his 80-issue run on Todd McFarlane’s Spawn. After spending some years working primarilly for the video game industry, he returned to comics full-time last year. Since DC’s „New 52“ relaunch he’s the regular artist on Batman, written by Scott Snyder, which is the best-selling title of the New 52. This October, Greg Capullo did a signing tour in Germany. At his signing in Hannover, Stefan Svik met him for our interview.
The most extrovert comic book artist I ever met? Greg Capullo! During his signing in Hannover he jumps off his chair again and again, choking fans, giving a shy man a little massage and accepting gifts like beer and bat-muffins, which he proudly presents on his Twitter account. The first 100 fans at the tour even received a free signed Batman print. One of the best signings I have yet attended, with a real entertainer!
Comicgate: You went to Essen to Comic Action. Was it a lot different from the fairs in the USA like Comic Con?
Greg Capullo: Sizewise absolutely. It was much smaller. Comic Con in New York is a complete off the wall zoo. You can’t walk around very comfortably. This was much smaller than what I’m used to in New York.
I liked your work for Spawn and Haunt very much. At the moment probably everyone wants to talk with you about Batman, right?
It’s true. Batman is popular across the world and everybody loves Batman, right?
That’s true. How did you get the chance to work on Batman?
I was working, as you mentioned, on Haunt, which was a lot of fun, working with Robert Kirkman of Walking Dead fame, but Haunt was a book that right from the onset was panned by critics, even before the first issue came out. When it came out there was even more critical ridicule, it was „Spidey-Spawn“, there was „nothing original“, „we waited all this time for Todd McFarlane to create something and it’s just redundant“. Anyway, with all that criticism combined with no promotion for the book the sales were not very good. And I just recently got married and now had a stepson that I had to put through college so I said to myself: I have to do something for my career. So I told Todd, after so many years working with him I have to part ways.
That was when Marvel and DC knew I was on the free market. Marvel had wanted me for many years and sent me an open contract. They offered me Avengers vs. X- Men and DC said: We can’t tell you what it is, but it’s Batman related. I said: You have to tell me something, because Marvel offered me this. So they made me sign an undisclosure form and they told me we are relaunching Batman. So after two months of deliberating at night and sort of pulling my hair out (takes of his cap and shows not that much hair left and smiles) that was when the little kid in me said: You have to do Batman! And I’m so glad that I did. Avengers vs. X-Men is very cool and so on, but Batman is an icon worldwide and it will not vent. It’s an ongoing phenomenon, that will last past my lifetime. So I was happy that I went there. That’s how it all happened.
How does DC comics prepare you for your run on Batman? Do they give you a huge Batman encyclopedia or something like that?
As a guy who (clears his throat), aehm, hadn’t really been looking into those kind of comic books for a while I needed source material. So they sent me what the characters look like, they showed me the design of the new Batman costume, which I still modified, I don’t put quite as much lines in it as Jim Lee designed it to have, because I don’t care so much for the armor look. A lot was left to me, for example everybody was re-aged to look younger and that was my only direction, Bruce will be around 30 years old, 32 years old. I had a lot of free room. So there wasn’t very many constrictions or guidelines.
So you have a lot of freedom working on Batman? Can you create a new character, if you want?
Well, I did. We created the Talon. I created the Talon along with Scott (Snyder) for the „Court of Owls“ storyline. We haven’t created any other character yet apart from the whole Court of Owls. Yeah, you have freedom. If you got something that makes them money, DC will be more than happy to take the creation.
Do you have a lot of trouble with censorship from DC?
It’s different where you are in the pecking order, being Scott and I, working on the best selling book they have, I’m sure they leave us alone a little bit. They don’t really bother with us too much, because we make them money. I can’t have naked ladies parading around Wayne manor or any gory killing. As long as you are sane – no restrictions.
When I look at the cover of „The Court of Owls“ I think of Frank Miller. When I look inside the book, it reminds me a bit of Todd McFarlane. Which artists have influenced you?
Todd in no way. He inked me a lot so people think I look like him. Frank Miller? I like Frank Miller’s Dark Knight, but again I wouldn’t say he was an influence. My influences were Mort Drucker, Chuck Jones. My early comic influence was John Buscema. I was influenced by John Romita Jr. Those are my biggest artistic influences.
I think there is a pretty violent scene in „The Court of Owls“ (a man is getting killed with a lot of knives) that reminded me of movies like Seven or Saw. Do you think the reader of an adult comic book demands that kind of violence?
That comes from the writer. I know that Scott has an inclination towards horror. So that all comes from him. I don’t think that comes from an editorial that says: „Give us more blood“ or „give us more violence“. If anything, they would say: „We have to pull that back, it can’t be so extreme.“ I think that comes naturally from Scott’s incline towards horror.
There was this terrible tragedy this year at the premiere of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, USA. Has that influenced your work on Batman?
No, not really. There are insane people all over the world and you really can’t change your path in fear that some insane person could, you know, be influenced by it. This guy was just a disturbed individual. Of course I feel bad for the family members of that tragedy, but it really doesn’t change our course too much at all.
There is a scene in the book where Batman nearly turns into an owl. It reminded me of the look of Spawn and Haunt. Is that the look you want Batman to have?
It’s just a natural by-product of the story. Batman is on hallucinogens, so it really gave me a chance to distort things. I mean I just draw the way I draw and maybe having worked on some darker tone books makes that an easy transition for me? But I started with a book like X-Force, that is a regular superhero kind of thing. I consider myself just an illustrator. Whatever is the call of the day for me to draw. If I have to draw Bambi prancing in the forest I draw Bambi prancing in the forest. (We both laugh). If it’s dark I do that. Whatever the job calls for I do it.
What’s your working technique? Do you use a computer very often?
No, I don’t use a computer often. I pencil traditionally. I ink my own covers. Occasionally I add something digitally. Most of the time I work traditionally. And cover #12 of „The Court of Owls“ I did as a digital painting using the Coral Painter.
I think readers who liked the movies by Christopher Nolan can get more easily into your Batman than in Frank Miller’s or Neal Adams‘ Batman, because your work does look more like a film. Do you agree?
I really don’t know. All I know is that the heaps of fans that come to me say: This is the best Batman we have seen in the last 20 years. I’m not the one to say that mine is the best, but they tell me that they love it. I take it that it is accessible to most people. I’m just grateful.
What are you going to do next?
Currently we are working on a Joker story, which is pretty, pretty scary stuff. Much more scary than „The Court of Owls“. And after that we will return to the origin story. After that Scott is working on a Riddler story. So far there is no origin story of the Riddler, not even DC knows where the Riddler came from.
Thank you very much for the interview. Enjoy Germany!
You’re welcome. I enjoy Germany very much!
Images: © DC Comics, Greg Capullo
Photographs: © Stefan Svik