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Tony Daniel: Drawing Things Together One Year Later

by Dave Richards, Staff Writer
Posted: March 30, 2006

Being a teenager is difficult enough, but when you’ve got super powers or special skills and a desire or responsibility to help people, adolescence can be a nightmare. Fortunately, the super powered teens of the DC Universe have a place where they can go to deal with the pressures of puberty and be with a group of like-minded heroic peers. That place is Titans Tower, the headquarters of the Teen Titans. With the Teen Titans jumping “One Year Later” in April’s issue #34, Titans Tower and his inhabitants will be undergoing some changes. CBR News spoke with the man responsible for depicting those changes, “Teen Titans” artist Tony Daniel.

With the beginning of “One Year Later,” many DCU books will have brand new storylines and Daniel used this as an opportunity to develop a fresh approach to his art style on “Teen Titans.” “I wanted to step it up a notch with regards to my art,” Daniel told CBR News “I also felt like I needed to update my style, my approach. Issue #34 sees some of those updates I’m talking about, but I don’t actually get comfortable with it until issue #35. The immediate reactions from Geoff Johns and Eddie Berganza were for me to keep doing what I’m doing. They really like the new direction my art has taken.

“I’ve started to add a bit more realism to my figures,” Daniel Continued. “Also, I wanted a whole new look for ‘OYL’ and myself all together, but some of the things I’m doing, especially on the rendering, aren’t anything like I used to practice. So, we needed the right inker to come in who had the right arsenal and confidence to bring my new vision to reality. We got Kevin Conrad, my old buddy and inking partner, over on the book and it’s made such an incredible impact. We all feel the book now has its own unique look and we’re pushing the art further every issue.

“At first, I was trying to really stay true to what went on before me, in spirit, anyway,” Daniel explained. “I might’ve been a little afraid to cut loose since I wasn’t sure if I would be sticking around or not. Mike McKone was certainly beloved by the ‘Teen Titans’ readers and I had some big sized shoes to fill there. So, I might’ve been a little stiff starting out; a little stage fright. But Geoff saw something there and we began talking, quite frequently, about how to approach this book. It’s very important to both Geoff and I that this be the best we can be. So, his input was very, very valuable to me in expanding my style.”

Daniel and Johns communicate regularly to insure that “Teen Titans” is a product of their best efforts. “Geoff and I talk on the phone a lot about the approach,” Daniel said. “Mainly we talk mood, or layouts. Geoff likes traditional layouts. More widescreen panels on the action. His script is very thorough, but just in describing what’s going on in the panels, or the characters’ emotions. ‘Titans’ is a book that deals with a lot of emotions and it is very important that I pull off the emotion Geoff needs.”

The emotional level of “Teen Titans” will be heightened during “One Year Later” by appearances from a number of characters, many of whom will be sporting new looks courtesy of Daniel. “So far with the first arc, I’ve been drawing the Brotherhood of Evil and the Doom Patrol,” Daniel stated. “All of the Doom Patrol has been redesigned and so have the Brotherhood of Evil. So, I’ve already been able to put my stamp on some of these characters and feel at home with them. There are also some new villains Geoff created for the Brotherhood. It’s been a lot of fun for me. I’ve also redesigned all of the Teen Titans, eccept for Cyborg, but I’m still trying to see if I can tweak him down the road. Kid Devil is a new character. We worked together to find the right look for him. I think he’ll grow on people quickly.”

Daniel is also very excited for the artistic opportunities coming his way in future “Titans” stories. “I’m definitely looking forward to the ‘Titans East’ storyline,” he said. “I pretty much know all the members and it’ll be a lot of fun for me to work on. There’s also an addition to the team later this year that should have everyone flipping over. And I really can’t wait for that.”

In addition to depicting new members and characters Daniel is also having a blast bringing to life the core cast of “Teen Titans.” “My favorite Titans to draw are Robin and Wonder Girl,” Daniel explained. “I also love Raven. She’s such a great character. I love Beast Boy, too. I’ve finally settled on the ‘look’ for him recently so every time I draw him he becomes more and more real.”

Drawing work that feels real and is ready before a deadline is the most difficult aspect of illustrating “Titans” for Daniel. “It takes a lot of work to not be late,” Daniel stated. “I average five pages a week. The amount of quality I want on each page means that I have to manage my time right. I don’t like to rush my work, but I also understand the importance of getting the book in on time. To me, it’s always been a game of time management. I don’t allow myself to think I can be late. When I am, I feel like I underachieved or something. Fans want quality work on a monthly basis, so that’s the most difficult aspect for me.”

Getting a chance to illustrate one of DC’s most popular titles on a monthly basis is the most rewarding aspect of working on “Teen Titans” for Daniel. “I had a choice to make last year and that was to change direction in my career,” Daniel said. “Doing commercial illustration and video game work or giving my comics career one more shot. I felt I’d never reached my full potential in comics and I failed myself in what I envisioned for myself as a young artist all those years ago. So, I decided that if I was going to stick around, I had to do it right. I wanted to work on my craft, get better and grow as an artist and storyteller. That meant changing my approach, my style even, which is easier said than done. It’s like deciding to suddenly speak properly when you’ve only known slang your whole life. Sure, you’ll slip a bit here and there, but with practice, you learn and it becomes almost second nature. That’s where I’m getting to now. Occasionally shaking out some of those old bugs, but with the support of Eddie Berganza and Geoff Johns, in particular, I’ve really started to see my own progress. On a personal level, reaching the goals I set for myself is the greatest reward.

“All of us working on the book feel like we’re part of something that’s really special and that the books we’ll be putting out this year will be considered special too by the readers,” Daniel continued. “We can’t wait to have these issues come out. We can’t wait to get working on the issues that Geoff has planned for this year and next.”

Tony Daniel has updated his blog with more news and sketches about the upcoming One Year Leap!

On the leap: “Anyway, working with Geoff has been great. I really feel part of the team with him, mainly because we’re both so driven to make this book one of the best titles out this year. We both feel we’re on the cusp of something very special and I think when time passes, we’ll all look back at this forthcoming run as something extraordinary. If you’re a Titans fan, you’re in for a real treat. If you’re not, jump on with issue 34. You’ll be glad you did.”

On Wonder Girl: “She’s probably my favorite Titan right now. Everytime she’s on the page, I know I’m going to have a good day. Here we see a more straight up angle of her new outfit. I received a lot of messages from people who were worried that she was wearing some kind of ‘cup’ or something and would look too sexual. As you can (clearly) see (now), I think I handled her with class and dignity, which is what Cassie’s about. Her attitude and charisma is what makes her sexy. She’s one year older and one year wiser in OYL. Now you all will have to go and get Teen Titans 34 and beyond to see for yourselves.”

“I designed her outfit, so if you don’t like it, blame me. If you like it, I get all the credit:) Anyway, I did this when I was sick, so thank God, I didn’t need to draw the background (YET). That’ll come later after I finish designing the two new members of the Brotherhood of Evil. Needless to say, Wonder Girl is on the team. Her character will get much more play than before and I think you guys will love what Geoff has in store for her and the other members.”

On the Doom Patrol: “I was lucky enough to be asked to redesign the doom patrol members for this Teen Titan arc. Elastigirl is my favorite to draw, anyone wonder why? I wanted to give her a retro look. Kinda sixties-ish, with a little bit of Japanese Race Queen thrown in too. My next fave would be negative man. He’s someone who appeals to the kid in me. I remember being fascinated with the ‘Invisible Man’ because of his cool bandages and sunglasses and leather gloves and trench coat. Being invisible would be the super power I think I’d want most to have. Flying would be too, but I’d need to deck out in extreme weather gear everytime I’d go for a fly. :)”

On Cyborg: “Initially I thought Cyborg was also getting an overhall. It would’ve made sense since he was getting rebuilt. And if I had my druthers, he’d look much different today than he does now. Not necessarily looking like this sketch here, ( I only did one version then was told to halt), but still, something more modern. I wanted to see him in clothes, maybe wearing a jacket and pants or something. Anyway, like it or not, he stayed the same.”

Tony on Kid Devil: “Welcome the newest Teen Titan, Kid Devil. I won’t say too much about him until you guys start reading the issues with him in it. But Geoff and I re-created this character specifically for the Teen Titans. As the image shows, the character has issues. What are they? Find out in the first arc of Teen Titans OYL.”

Tony on Ravager: “So there’s still not a lot I can show for fear of Spoilers, but this is pretty harmless. It’s a smaller panel with Ravager. I wanted her to look sexy and seductive, yet still look like she’ll slit your throat when you turn around. She does wear a mask, but in these images that we’ve leaked, we wanted to show her face. Teen Titans 34 is coming soon and we’re all looking forward to it.”

“As for Ravager, I wanted something a bit sexier, though close to her current outfit. I didn’t want to mess with her too much. But she does seem like the type who’d want to show you what she’s got, right? Maybe later we’ll see a sexier version of her. For now, the sexiest I can make her is when she’s unmasked. ( or unclothed). :)”

“Issue 34 was a new starting point for me. I wanted to do something different with my style, but just didn’t know what. It’s hard to shake your ‘style.’ It took months of hard work for me to learn a new way of interpreting my vision. Even 34 isn’t totally there yet. You’ll see where things start to look a bit more realistic perhaps. With the strong words of encouragement from Geoff Johns and editor, Eddie Berganza, all were on board with the new look.”


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