Tuesday Q&A

Tuesday Q&A: Dale Eaglesham

The FANTASTIC FOUR artist talks about growing up with the FF and his process behind drawing Marvel's First Family

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FANTASTIC FOUR #572 preview art by Dale Eaglesham

By Kevin Mahadeo

Artist Dale Eaglesham first met the Fantastic Four when he was six years old after his mother brought him home an issue of the "World's Greatest Comic" by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. That initial journey into the realm of the fantastic impacted the artist's life so much that during his near 25-year-long career as a professional comic book artist, the issue has literally stayed with him the entire time.

"It's in tatters, minus the cover and a few pages, but I still have the first [issue] I read," admits Eaglesham. "My mother often brought a comic book home for me, picking one off the grocery store rack as she left the store and they tended to be whatever. I did choose FF quite a few times when I was there with her, mostly drawn to the stretchy Mister Fantastic on the cover. That first issue introduced [me] to Galactus and it treated me to an amazing array of [Jack] Kirby machines. Imagine the effect this had on my burgeoning artistry."

Readers need not imagine, as when Eaglesham returned to Marvel with an exclusive contract this past year, things came full circle and he finally got an opportunity he never dreamed possible: drawing that same marvelous family he grew up with on an ongoing basis. Working alongside writer Jonathan Hickman, Eaglesham visually shapes the adventures of Marvel's First Family as on FANTASTIC FOUR, a gig which began with August's issue #570. With issue #572 due to hit stores Oct 28, Eaglesham took some time out of his busy schedule to talk about his love of Marvel's premiere super hero team, his views on the members of the family both as an artist and as a fan, and a certain group of inhuman characters he cannot wait to draw.

 

Marvel.com: What about the Fantastic Four drew you in as a fan? What did you like about them as a team and a title?

Dale Eaglesham: 40 years ago, [FANTASTIC FOUR] stood out to me the most because the characters' powers were so iconic, so elemental, the kind of powers any kid might choose first if they played super heroes with their friends. What kid wouldn't want to be able to stretch, turn invisible, flame on or smash a school bus with a rocky, orange fist? These are powers kids can easily understand and relate to. In those pre-video-game days, kids' games often consisted of playacting various adventures.

FANTASTIC FOUR #572 preview art by Dale Eaglesham
Seeing this whole "super hero team" concept in a comic book gave us a whole new kind of adventure to play. I also think the cosmic nature of the adventures in FF interested me because they were similar to one of my favorite cartoon shows at the time called "Rocket Robin Hood."

Marvel.com: Who was your favorite character growing up?

Dale Eaglesham: Reed Richards' stretch power appealed the most to me as a kid because it is dynamic, spastic and often humorous to look at. While Mister Fantastic had big-time appeal to me as a kid, you can't discount the impression the Thing, a big pile of orange rock, had on my young eyes. The word "thing" is pretty generic, but when applied to an organism it can have frightening and intriguing implications. Put the word "Thing" on the cover of a comic book and any kid with two eyes and a pulse will be compelled to read on.

Marvel.com: When you were offered the FF book after coming to Marvel, I can only imagine it being a dream come true, but at the same time it must have been a bit frightening coming onto something you adored so much. What were your thoughts and feelings once you got the gig?

Dale Eaglesham: In my career as a comic book artist, I never thought I would get anywhere near this title. Right up until the day I signed with Marvel, I just never contemplated it. The FF has an almost mythical status to me, so my reverence for the title made it seem at best a remote possibility. I also knew they had a superstar artist in Bryan Hitch working on the book, so it was just a dream that took a dirt nap long ago. So when I talked to [editor] Tom Brevoort about what projects would be available, I was completely unprepared when he mentioned the Fantastic Four as one of the possibilities. It's kind of difficult to speak when your heart has stopped, but I gurgled out a halt to the list of possibilities being recited by Tom. I jumped on it. "Stop the list! Stop! That's the one!" How lucky am I that Hitch and [Mark] Millar were ending their run just as I was re-joining Marvel? Honestly, it hasn't sunk in yet. I read this book over 40 years ago, a fascinated child just beginning to discover what drawing could do for his hyper-imagination. This book, and Jack Kirby, showed me the way to go and I have never deviated from this path. I am not typically fazed by any high profile gigs as I just tend to do my best and whatever

FANTASTIC FOUR #570 variant cover by Dale Eaglesham
happens, happens. However, the first FF issue was a nerve-wracking, intimidating affair. This title can hit your brain like a wrecking ball when you think too long about its history and who created it. The more issues I draw, though, the more I am simply being drawn in to what this title is all about. I am seeing what Kirby saw in it and that is like gravity, inevitable and powerful, drawing me on.

Marvel.com: I wanted to touch on the characters in the book, starting with Reed. I understand you really wanted to take him back to the days of Kirby and give him this visually imposing look. What attributes would you say define the character? How do you incorporate these aspects of personality while drawing?

Dale Eaglesham: In my approach to Reed, I was less concerned with his physique reflecting his rubber constitution and more interested in projecting a heroic, passionate and imposing figure. Kirby ultimately chose a heroic figure for Reed and I used this as a guide for my own interpretation. That rubber power of his can come off as comedic even in dire situations. It was important to me that the character of Reed be able to inspire fear in an opponent and I considered the problem of how to do this with a rubber-man. I decided that it isn't just a more imposing physique, but also a dimension of personality: that he could become dangerous in certain situations. Reed has a mercurial temperament, a tendency to obsess, epic determination and an indomitable will. He's not a loose cannon, not at all. However, if he's pushed far enough, and he gets that look in his eye, you might want to try your Skrull crap in some other universe. In general, I wanted to inject a measure of emotion and passion into his character, but as a complement to his scientific mind, not in contradiction to it. The reason for that is Reed has never been just a lab-bound scientist but a super-scientist and adventurer, roaming impossible worlds, saving worlds and battling the bad guys in hand-to-hand combat. Calculated, clinical detachment seemed too one-dimensional for who he is and the things he does. I wanted to give

FANTASTIC FOUR #571 variant cover by Dale Eaglesham
visual representation to the qualities any adventurer would possess: passion, daring and courage. I looked to a completely different source to inspire me for this aspect of Reed's appearance: the art of Frank Frazetta. I asked myself, what would Frazetta do with this character? In the pages of FF, I'm working out that answer.

Marvel.com: How do you see the Invisible Woman as a character?

Dale Eaglesham: To me, Sue is the backbone of this team, not Reed. Reed is without a doubt the leader, but it is Sue that keeps Reed and the rest of the team in harmony. She is the stable emotional and moral center of the team and that makes her the strongest member in my view. To keep Reed from going off the deep end in any number of ways requires Reed's equal, and she is. Her role as I have described it on the team is basically background for her character and only a portion of the sum total that is Sue Storm. I see Reed and Sue as the royal couple of the Marvel Universe. Yes, she plays a crucial support role as a team member and as a mom, but the character traits that make her very successful at that also make her very classy, glamorous and graceful in public life. I see a bit of Grace Kelly in Sue.

Marvel.com: Let's hit on Johnny Storm, the "hothead" of the team. Johnny has always been the goofball of the group, the perpetual child. How does this visually influence his quieter moments? How do his powers play into drawing the character?

Dale Eaglesham: What came first, the hothead powers or the hothead attitude? I think he was that way already and those cosmic energies that the team were zapped with worked with that somehow. Ever stood near a house on fire? The searing heat, the rapid destruction and the power of

FANTASTIC FOUR #572 variant cover by Dale Eaglesham
the updraft as the mass of flames roar upwards are terrifying. Johnny becomes that. So what does it take to be able to light yourself on fire, potentially as hot as a sun? You [have] to be a warrior to have these powers. I'm thinking that when Johnny flames on, he moves a little closer to the element of fire, is a little more immune to fear, a little more reckless and daring as his body alters. With the powers turned off he is still the hothead but a less intimidating one, with the goofball, playboy sheen to soften the impact of his personality. He's the one who will have a power drink for breakfast along with his Hulk Smash cereal, sit sprawled across a chair, ignore most of the team protocols and start parties in unlikely places. It's not so much that he is a jerk as that he is a free spirit, living every day as if it were his last.

Marvel.com: Ben Grimm has often been the bane of many FF artists' existence due to his rocky exterior. Considering your brilliant attention to detail, do you find this especially the case? I mean, you even gave him a rocky tongue.

Dale Eaglesham: Drawing Ben is an involved process to say the least, but I love every second of it. As a kid, my first forays into art were mainly in the form of doodles, oodles of doodles, filling the pages of sketchbook after sketchbook. This is the purest form of drawing because it's free-flowing, stream of consciousness type of drawing that fulfills the wild meanderings of a fertile imagination. It's very busy and steady, but also very Zen in a way. Drawing all of that rock puts you in that exact frame of mind and at the cutting edge of form creativity. I don't just draw in the

FANTASTIC FOUR #573 variant cover by Dale Eaglesham
rock facets, I like to raise and lower the levels of the facets to create mini mesas across the surface. It can be intense, especially on a tight deadline, but brings out the doodler in me and that is just fun.

Marvel.com: Lastly I wanted to touch on the kids, Franklin and Valeria. While visually children, Franklin is arguably the most powerful mutant in the galaxy, if he regains his power, and Valeria is a genius at age two. How does this affect how you draw them?

Dale Eaglesham: Despite Franklin's potential, he is still a typical young kid. If he regained those powers, who knows? I'll know what to do when the time comes, but for now, he is very much the typical kid, all "wowee" and knee scabs. Valeria is quite a distinct challenge. She is a genius but she is far from mature. She can reason out pretty much anything but lacks the seasoning of life experience so she can still be naive about things and possibly lack in proper judgement. That could definitely get her and those around her in trouble. Let's keep an eye on that!

Marvel.com: Before we close, I wanted to ask: what other FF character do you want to draw the most? Are there any villains you are dying to take a crack at?

FANTASTIC FOUR #572 preview art by Dale Eaglesham
Dale Eaglesham: We've seen him [against] Captain America and the Hulk but I would love to see the FF go up against M.O.D.O.K. It's a giant head. You can't go wrong. I think Jack would have loved it. I'm also a big fan of the Inhumans and would love to draw an adventure featuring Black Bolt, Medusa, Lockjaw and the rest. There is so much intriguing stuff across the FF universe that it is difficult to pick. Wow, life is hard, eh?

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