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Titan of an Artist: Tony Daniel

by Vaneta Rogers
posted 08-27-2006, 01:32 PM
courtesy of

When Tony Daniel was announced as an artist on Teen Titans, it seemed like a temporary gig — and rightfully so. The artist wasn’t exactly known for his superhero work and his style seemed more appropriate for the “indy” stories he’d been more recently penciling.

Yet a dozen issues later, Daniel not only looks to be sticking around for the long haul but is winning over fans with the way he’s changed up his style and designed a batch of new young characters for the DCU.

And with a slew of “missing year” Titans being revealed in the next Titans story arc and the recent announcement of the Titans East roster by DC, Daniel’s new characters have been getting a lot of attention. Add to that new characters we’ve already seen, like Kid Devil, and the tweaks he made to the Doom Patrol characters, and it’s looking like this guy’s working overtime on character sketches and redesigns – along with the regular issue of course.

We sat down with Daniel to discuss how he got the gig as regular penciler on Teen Titans, why he changed his style and how he’s approaching the development of all these new characters.

Newsarama: Let’s start with how you came to the Titans. How were you approached to pencil the series?

Tony Daniel: Actually, two years ago, I approached Eddie Berganza at the Chicago Con. I told him that I wanted to work for DC. He asked me what book I wanted to draw and I told him Teen Titans. A few months later there was an opening with Mike McKone leaving. I offered up some sample pages so Eddie could see how I handled the characters.

However, I hadn’t drawn superheroes in ten years. So let’s just say, he wasn’t blown away by the samples. To make matters worse for me, my sketches and sample work is never as good as work I’m getting paid for. I don’t know why, but when I know it’s getting published, there’s an extra gear that kicks in.

Eddie told me that they would try me out on a couple issues. But before I got my first script – Teen Titans #26 – it was announced that Ivan Reis would be the new Teen Titans artist. Ivan is a great artist and that was totally understandable. But I was bummed as hell.

NRAMA: Well, that’s understandable. But things can obviously change.

TD: Yeah – when I finally got the script for #26, I decided that I was going to somehow figure out how to draw superheroes again. And do the best work of my life. I had only one goal, and that was to make them regret not putting me on Titans. So when Eddie got the first half of the book, I was floored when he asked me, “How come you didn’t tell me you were this good?” No one knows how hard I worked to adapt my style and skill to be able to handle these kinds of characters.

NRAMA: It was obvious that you changed your style quite a bit from what you’d been doing elsewhere.

TD: Well I hadn’t yet gotten all the chinks out of the armor yet. And my new approach still needed adjusting. I wanted to upgrade and modernize my style. I went with a more realistic approach. It’s not Bryan Hitch realistic, but it’s photographic compared to what I used to do. The reaction I got from Geoff Johns in particular told me it was the right way to go. I’m still refining the style, so hopefully it’ll keep getting better.

NRAMA: Did you have any idea you’d be drawing so many new characters?

TD: No. I had no idea. Not until Geoff told me about the team shake-up. He mentioned Kid Devil to me and what he envisioned with Rose too. He had everything all planned out in his head. He told me I would have carte blanche with the character designs and so I got to work.

NRAMA: Well, let’s talk about some of those characters. Just running through the list of Titans, what can you tell us about the character design of Kid Devil?

TD: Geoff gave me an idea of what he was thinking. But it took a few sketches to get him right. At first, he was very beast-like. More hairy and evil-looking. But Geoff hinted that there might be romantic interest involving him at some point. So I wanted him to look more human. To at least be a good-looking demon.

NRAMA: Cassie Sandsmark’s new costume?

TD: I did several variations, including a look similar to what Cassie looked like in the “Titans Tomorrow” storyline. Wearing battle armor. In the end we settled on an homage to Superboy. Jeans and Tee. I wanted her to wear a shirt like the very first Wonder Girl wore. I also wanted her to look more mature, less cute. Like a woman.

NRAMA: Rose Wilson was added to the team One Year Later, and you gave her a bit of a new, sleek look. How do you approach that character?

TD: By the second OYL issue (#35) I easily figured her out. She’s sexy, a bit raunchy and a bad girl in every sense. But she has a good heart.

NRAMA: Robin’s new look — did you have any say in that? And what’s your take on that character as you draw him?

TD: I didn’t have any say in Robin’s design. The first I saw of it was the cover Ed McGuinness drew. So I just adapted that to work within my style. I really like it. But I liked everything about the old outfit too, except for the belt.

NRAMA: How about Cyborg?

TD: They didn’t want me to tinker with Cyborg, though I would’ve loved to change him up. There’s a lot of work that goes into drawing him. It’s like drawing a car. There’s lots of parts. And often times I’ll erase a character several times within a panel. So he takes so long for me to draw. I often draw him last in the panels. I love him, but he just consumes a lot of time. It’s a love/hate relationship.

NRAMA: Then you did some Doom Patrol designs. Briefly walk through how you approached that team.

TD: Doom Patrol was easy. I kept everyone close to what they already were. Robot Man was my favorite to draw. Mal was fun. He just needed to be mysterious-looking.

NRAMA: What about Bumble Bee?

TD: I wanted Bumble Bee to look like she did in the Teen Titans cartoon. I thought that was a fun look. Though in hindsight, I would’ve done her a little simpler. I didn’t plan for her to always be 2 inches big. So the design for her didn’t suit her size issues.

NRAMA: Let’s talk Titans East – their opposite numbers. Can you go through what you’re thinking for each character? Duela Dent’s redesign? How did you approach the Joker’s daughter?

TD: I know Duela Dent is popular amongst long time fans. I just wanted to carry over her fun style and personality into the new look. She’s flashy and sort of silly looking. But still, I needed her to be modernized. So she has a better style sense I think.

NRAMA: Batgirl’s costume is the same, right?

TD: It’s unchanged.

NRAMA: Risk and Inertia?

TD: I didn’t do them.

NRAMA: Kid Crusader?

TD: I wanted a Hispanic character on the Titans East. I’m Irish and Puerto Rican. There’s not enough minorities in comics, so that was my one request. Geoff wanted Kid Crusader to look like an alter boy. So his design was easy. I just wanted to get his face and hair right. He’ll be Kid Devil’s arch-enemy. I think we went through a few names too. First he was “Alter Boy,” then “Choir Boy.” I came up with the name “Kid Crusader.” So I believe that’ll be his name.

NRAMA: Sun Girl?

TD: Sun Girl is derived from Sun Boy.

NRAMA: From the old Legion of Super-Heroes.

TD: An old ass character for God knows when [laughs]. I Googled him and found a toy. So that’s where I saw the costume. I redesigned it to be sexy.

NRAMA: Can you tell us anything about Match?

TD: Geoff wanted Match to look like a clone of Superboy. Geoff wanted him wearing the black T and jeans. But ripped and ragged-looking. And he wanted his face sort of Silver Age Bizarro-esque. I’m sure I’ll tweak him a bit by the time I get to actually draw him in an issue.

NRAMA: How about the Titans who were part of the team during the missing year? We see Miss Martian showing up on a cover soon, and she looks really young and even downright perky. How did you approach the look and costume for that character?

TD: I’m a big J’onn Jonzz fan. So I derived her costume from his. She’s supposed to be cute. Not so much sexy. So we added a white tee shirt under the red x on her chest. We also gave her a little skirt. We envision toys of her and seeing people dressed up as her at next year’s Cons. I’m really hoping that happens. Then you know you’ve hit the mark.

NRAMA: Yeah, but the real challenge for a con costume of Miss Martian is that green skin. What about Zatara?

TD: I derived Zatara from Alex Ross’s version from Kingdom Come. The only thing I did was give him a fun hairstyle.

NRAMA: Talon?

TD: We wanted him to look a bit like Owl-Man from the Crime Syndicate. I don’t know if I can share who it is under that mask. It may be a secret.

NRAMA: Red Star?

TD: I kept Mike McKone’s design on that one.

NRAMA: Molecule?

TD: I don’t know how much we’re going to use Molecule. But it’ll be interesting to see him develop. But for a time, he was a Titan.

NRAMA: Bombshell?

TD: Bombshell was initially named Lt. Atom. Eddie [Berganza] wanted a military look to her. And I think we’ll see why that fits when issue #39 hits the stands.

NRAMA: How about some of your favorites among other characters we’ll be seeing. Can you tell us some of those?

TD: Yeah, the Riddler’s Daughter.

NRAMA: The Riddler’s Daughter? That’s a new one.

TD: Geoff and I created her. I think she’ll be a favorite. She’s cute as hell. And Argent. I redesigned her.

NRAMA: So that’s where Argent shows up. How did you change her look?

TD: It was hard because of what’s been done before. I didn’t derive anything from her previous looks. I hope people like her. Also, there’s Kid Frankenstein or Frankenstein Jr. I hope we see him somewhere soon.

NRAMA: Sounds like you guys are still developing some of them. You talk a lot about working with Geoff Johns on the designs. How has it been working with him on the title?

TD: Geoff is the biggest reason I’m on this book. Without his support I’d be doing something else. I feel like a real part of the process with him, and I feel like this isn’t just a job for me — it’s part of my life.

NRAMA: Wow, you feel that strongly about these characters and this gig?

TD: For me, Teen Titans was my first choice to draw. It’s a dream come true for me to be here. It’s very challenging, which is what has helped me improve and what keeps me improving. I’m not a slow artist. But there’s no way to draw this book fast. So it’s a real labor of love. Of course when I get burnt out, eventually, I’ll be itching to draw a single-character book.


End of transmission. About this author:  Bill Walko is an author and artist and the man behind He's been reading and drawing comics since he was 5 years old and hasn't stopped since. Read more from this author