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Talking Comics with Cully Hamner

Updated: Jan 24, 2020

Cully Hamner ha sbeen drawing comic books since the early 90's. His first major work was on the book, GREEN LANTERN: MOSAIC for DC Comics. He went on to work for all of the major publishers since then.

One of the books he's best know for is BLUE BEETLE starring Jaime Reyes. Hamner co-created the character with Keith Giffen and John Rogers. Jaime has gone on to be a popular character among fans. He was a part of the "Rebirth" intitaive DC did 2 years ago and has also appeared on TV shows such as, "Young Justice" and "Smallville".

He also co-created RED with Warren Ellis, which went on to become a hit film starring Bruce Willis.

Recently he finished up BATMAN AND THE SIGNAL, starring one of Batman's new sidekicks Duke Thomas/The Signal. Last month also saw the return f the original Joker in BATMAN BEYOND #25, in which Hamner drew one of the creepiest renditions of the Joker yet. Looking forward to see what other books he's got in the pipe.

Comic Lounge: What inspired you to become a comic book artist?

Cully Hamner: I’m not sure I can remember back that far! It’s just something I feel like I always wanted to be. I always drew a lot, read a lot, and as a kid, I would read the names in the credits and somewhere it just clicked for me that people created comics. They were celebrities to me as much as anyone I’d seen on TV or in movies. I mean, at various times I also wanted to be a writer, an actor, and a singer. Drawing comics seemed—oddly—the most realistic choice, I guess. But it was also the most consistently in my head. I don’t remember ever not wanting to do comics.

Comic Lounge: When did you first break in to the industry?

Hamner: It wasn’t necessarily a single event, but I sort of started skirting around the edges probably 1990-ish. I was meeting people working in comics, and had started to get some interest and some little jobs. First thing I did was some coloring for a woman named Lurene Haines, who had gotten into a little deadline trouble on an American edition of an Alan Moore/Alan Davis series called D.R. & QUINCH. I did… I don’t know, I want to

say like around 10 pages of it. After that, I had gotten a gig drawing a feature in DARK HORSE PRESENTS called “The Chairman.” Just after that, I was assigned a story in an IRON MAN annual for Marvel, but almost at the same time I was offered a regular series with DC called GREEN LANTERN: MOSAIC. That would have been maybe late summer of 1991. I wasn’t going to pass up a regular gig, so I had to let both “The Chairman” and the Iron Man story go, unfortunately. I was so excited to be getting offers, I’d have loved to do them all, but it wasn’t to be. So, I ended up doing about a year’s worth of GLM.

Comic Lounge: You've worked on so many great books, one of them being Blue Beetle. What was your fondest memory of that book? Did you think the character would become as popular as he did?

Hamner: I have to be honest here: I didn’t have a clue. Look, at the risk of irking a fan or two, I wasn’t necessarily a fan or follower of any version of the character, although I was a regular reader of the Giffen/DeMatteis/Maguire JUSTICE LEAGUE, so I had some familiarity with their take on Ted Kord. Beyond that, I had no perspective on how much people had invested in Blue Beetle. It was a job that was offered to me and I wanted to work with Keith. And you know… that’s how most of the things I may be known for started. I’ve almost never gotten to do major work on characters I’m an actual diehard fan of. But it almost always happens that I fall in love with those characters while working on them. It happened with Jaime. Also, with Black Lightning, and definitely with Renee Montoya/The Question. Those have all become signature characters for me, and all three have found larger audiences over the years. It’s a cool feeling.

I don’t know if I have a single, specific fond memory of working on BB. I just got to work with great people like Giffen, John Rogers, Guy Major, Joan Hilty, Rachel Gluckstern… also later got to be friends with the talented bastard who took over when I stepped off, Rafael Albuquerque. Also that it was the first thing I did for DC that got a real push in the marketplace, and for that I thank Dan DiDio. I was kind of on a downswing at DC before he took over, and he’s the one that really brought me back by putting me on that book.

Comic Lounge: You also co-created RED with Warren Ellis, what was it like see something you created brought to life?

Hamner: Unexpected. You have to understand that RED, at the time it came out, didn’t make that much of a noise from what I could tell. It was one of Warren’s minor works, really. It was 66 pages long, in, out, done. It didn’t really leave room for further stories, either. It sold okay, but it didn’t set the world on fire. So, to get that call five years later that there was interest was kind of eyebrow-raising. To see it go from there to movie screens within two more years was shocking. That it actually was successful enough to warrant a sequel was literally insane. It was a ride, for sure. And while it was very different from our book, I really enjoyed what they did with it.

Comic Lounge: Are there any characters you would like to work on in the future?

Hamner: Sure. I mean, my white whale is definitely SHAZAM! Longtime favorite character. Wonder Woman would be cool—a real shot at any of the DC Trinity would be. I still don’t think I’ve done my definitive Batman yet. At Marvel… I’m a huge Daredevil fan. I drew some Daredevil once, but he had amnesia, was out of costume, and it was set in Paris… you know? Not *really* a DD story. Love Spidey, love Captain America—would love to do them. I think I could do a cool Black Widow.

There’s also something to be said for taking an underrated character and transcending it, you know? With the right partner and the room to really work things, you have the opportunity to do something worthwhile. No one really cared much about DAREDEVIL that much until Frank Miller completely rewrote what you could do with it. Nowadays, I look at something like what Tom King and Mitch Gerads have done with MISTER MIRACLE and think very much the same thing. I really admire how they’ve reprogrammed how people look at those characters. The writing feels like political commentary and autobiography all at once, and the visual storytelling dialect on that book is fascinating to me. And it’s funny!

And you know… I want to create more characters on my own, too. I got a taste of that with Warren on RED and with some of the early 12 Gauge stuff on THE RIDE, and I feel like maybe I’ve fallen behind on that part of my creative life. So… stay tuned.

Comic Lounge: If you could pick one comic book that changed your life, what would it be?

Hamner: I can’t pick one. I can pick a decade, and that would be the ‘80s. Marvel owned the first half with Byrne’s FF run, Miller’s Daredevil runs, Simonson’s Thor run, and Claremont’s X-Men run; and DC owned the second half with Miller’s DKR, his and Mazzuchelli’s BATMAN: YEAR ONE, Moore and Gibbons’ WATCHMEN, and Byrne’s MAN OF STEEL and Superman books. Those and about a hundred other books from the time. It was a really fertile period. Great time to be a fan, for sure.

Comic Lounge: Are there any projects you're currently working on that you can talk about?

Hamner: Not yet, really. I have like three cool things in the pipe, two of which will make themselves known in 2019, and one in 2020-- it’s very early days on them all. Meantime, you can check out both BATMAN AND THE SIGNAL and BATMAN BEYOND #25 for recent work. And I’ll always be doing a bunch of covers and such. I keep busy.

Comic Lounge: What would be your dream project?

Hamner: As far as work for hire… probably SHAZAM or DAREDEVIL, depending on who was writing. Creator-owned? Stay tuned.

Comic Lounge: Do you have any advice you could share with artists trying make it, professionally?

Hamner: My main thing is that no one should look at this as a vehicle just for drawing cool pictures. If that’s what you’re looking for, there are lots of other ways you can do that. Comics is *about telling stories*. I mean, sure, if it looks cool, that’s desirable, but if it can’t be read, it’s a failure at being comics. So, learn that language. Learn to draw *everything*. Learn to troubleshoot and to problem-solve. Learn to be a team-player. Sometimes you’ll be the leader and sometimes you won’t, but you’ll almost always be part of a team. Make yourself indispensable.

And don’t be a d*ck.

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