Over the past few years, Russell Dauterman has quickly become one of the industry's top artists. He began his career in comics as the artist of the BOOM! Studios series, SUPURBIA. He went on to draw NIGHTWING at DC and CYCLOPS for Marvel.
Since then, Russell has drawn covers, illustrated interiors, and designed characters for various comic book titles and publishers. It was his work on THE MIGHTY THOR with Jason Aaron that catapulted him to superstardom. From there he launched WAR OF THE REALMS, the conclusion to Aaron's 7 year long epic.
With the last issue hitting comic shops today, Russell talks about working on such a massive project and what we can expect next.
COMIC LOUNGE: What inspired you to become an artist? Was it always your dream to draw comics?
RUSSELL DAUTERMAN: For as far back as I can remember, I wanted to be an artist of some sort, but at first I wanted to be a Disney animator. Once I started reading comics, the dream changed to being a comic book artist. I had some divergences along the way after that, but I kept getting pulled back to drawing comics.
COMIC LOUNGE: Who were some of you biggest influences?
DAUTERMAN: My favorite artist growing up was Chris Bachalo (GENERATION X!). Frank Quitely is a big influence. I love JC Leyendecker and a bunch of 20th century illustrators, especially of fairytale and mythology illustration. And animation has always been a big influence.
COMIC LOUNGE: I first discovered your work on NIGHTWING over at DC. What was your first published work though?
DAUTERMAN: The first big-deal thing I had published was a BOOM! Studios series called SUPURBIA. Grace Randolph wrote the book, and it was sort-of Justice League meets Desperate Housewives. After that I did a couple NIGHTWING issues, and then CYCLOPS at Marvel.
COMIC LOUNGE: You immediately jumped over to Thor with Jason Aaron. When you came on board it was right when Jane Foster took on the mantle of Thor. Having drawn the majority of that run, what were some highlights for you?
DAUTERMAN: So many! That book really means a lot to me, especially hearing the stories about how it's affected people. I didn't expect any of that, and didn't expect for the series to be as long-running as it was. I'm really thrilled that we got to give Jane's story a beginning, middle, and end with mostly the same creative team throughout.
My favorite page (probably that I've ever drawn) is in #705 -- the kiss between Jane and Odinson. That whole issue, and the final one, #706, are highlights for me. I'm really proud of the work the whole team did on those, especially.
COMIC LOUNGE: Did you always know it was Jane under the helmet?
DAUTERMAN: Yeah, I knew right away. Before I took the job, editor Wil Moss sent me a synopsis that Jason had written. That laid out the main story beats of the whole run, starting with the Jane reveal.
COMIC LOUNGE: After years of teasing, WAR OF THE REALMS has finally come out. How do you approach such a massive event as opposed to a book focused on a single character?
DAUTERMAN: I approach it the same way -- with a lot of research -- but it's just taken a lot longer! :) I always start with researching characters and compiling reference. If I have time, I'll draw character models, at least for the major characters, so I can work out ahead of time how I'm going to draw them. The benefit of WOTR was that I'd already been drawing a huge chunk of those characters and that world, so I was familiar with a lot of it. That was super helpful, and let me focus on the characters I'd never or rarely drawn before.
COMIC LOUNGE: You've designed pretty much the whole series. How daunting was this task for you and how long were you working on it before it was announced?
DAUTERMAN: Thankfully I'd done a lot of the design work while working on THE MIGHTY THOR, so for WOTR, I just got to (hopefully!) improve on what I'd done, and concentrate on the new stuff. But yeah, still pretty daunting! :) The most exciting design work in this has been the mash-ups like Daredevil the God Without Fear and Odin's Iron All-Father.
I started drawing WOTR nearly a year before it came out, which helped to get everything out on time. The biggest thing was juggling all the characters and locations, and trying to make all of that feel unique and interesting. And to hopefully give everyone a cool moment.
COMIC LOUNGE: Not only is this Aaron's culmination of his Thor work, but yours as well. What are your feelings as this series is winding down?
DAUTERMAN: I don't think it's sunk in yet. When I finished WOTR, I was mostly just tired! I think once issue #6 is actually out, it'll hit me that it's over.
When THE MIGHTY THOR ended, I said that it was a dream project, and I absolutely loved working with Jason, Matt, and the whole team. So it was amazing that we all got to re-team for WOTR. I know I'll miss drawing Thor stuff, and miss working with those people. I'm hoping that we'll all work together again.
COMIC LOUNGE: What are your plans following WAR OF THE REALMS? Are there any characters you would like to work on?
I have some stuff lined up, but nothing's been announced, so I can't say anything yet. But, I'm under contract with Marvel, so I'll be sticking with them for awhile longer.
My bucket list characters are the X-Men, for sure. Outside of Marvel, I'd love to do a run on Wonder Woman.
COMIC LOUNGE: Can you tease any upcoming projects of yours?
DAUTERMAN: I'm currently drawing some covers that I'm super excited about. Sorry that's so vague! :) They're for a variety of Marvel things.
COMIC LOUNGE: As an artist, what has been the best piece of advice you've received? What would you say to any aspiring artists out there?
DAUTERMAN: The best advice is something I read from C.B. Cebulski back when I was first starting to submit art samples: be patient, persistent, and professional.
When I was trying to break in to comics, I'd go to as many conventions as I could and do portfolio reviews with any publisher or editor that would look at my work. Sometimes I wasn't picked for a review, or other times I had a good review, but never heard anything back when I followed up. At the time, I felt like this comics thing wasn't going to work out and maybe I wasn't good enough. And, honestly, I wasn't good enough. I had to take the advice I received and I needed to improve. And then I needed to wait for an opportunity.
One of the first portfolio reviews I ever had was with an editor at Marvel, who I kept sending new work to, long after I thought he'd forgotten about me. But he hadn't -- he was the editor who first hired me at Marvel years later. So, I'd say to keep working to be better, to be patient, and to be persistent and polite in trying to get noticed.