“A Sense of Determination:” Nicola Scott
My favorite Nicola Scott story goes back to before she ever entered comics. Scott, who had cherished Wonder Woman her entire life, at one point found herself in auditions to play the armored Amazon. Xena: Warrior Princess was enjoying its cult status at the time, and that show was basically Wonder Woman: The Wonder Years. So Warner Bros. began putting an actual Wonder Woman series together. Casting came down to Scott and Baywatch’s Alexandra Paul. Then it was neither, because the producers declined to pursue a pilot any further. Smallville happened instead.
Ouch. If you dangled the opportunity to not only become my favorite hero but join the very short list of icons to do so, I’d probably still be crying in my beer. But for Scott, it was a reason to resolve to herself that, one way or another, she would depict Wonder Woman.
Folks, Nicola Scott is not only one of my favorite comic artists, but an old friend and decennial drinking buddy. I first made the Australian penciler’s acquaintance in the creators’ section of writer Mark Millar’s (Kick-Ass, Wanted) message boards, where her art samples wowed the community. Scott avowed she would draw Wonder Woman professionally, and we all wanted to see her claim come true. She and I talked about a possible collaboration, but before that could happen, Dark Horse discovered what we at Millarworld already knew: the Sydneysider was bound for the top. They enlisted her talents to draw Star Wars.
It wasn’t long before she landed at DC Comics, illustrating Gail Simone‘s fantastic scripts for Secret Six and Birds of Prey. Eventually, as promised, Nicola got her stint on Wonder Woman, along with Superman and Teen Titans. These days she’s drawing Earth 2, DC’s tales of a parallel timeline where different heroes arise…and usually get smashed flat by the terrible state of affairs in their world, including a brainwashed Superman hellbent on global domination. This nonstop disaster movie is currently written by Tom Taylor, whose work we never miss a chance to praise around here.
And that’s pretty much all you need to know to enjoy our conversation, except that she’s wonderfully sardonic while also entirely cheery. I sat down with her in Chicago, when she was coming off a long flight from Australia and prepping for another one to California.
Man Cave Daily: Hi.
Nicola Scott: Hi!
MCD: Good to see you again.
NS: [laughs] Yeah, you too, honey.
MCD: Sorry you’re flying all over creation.
MCD: I will lead off with something I wondered while I was reading Earth 2. They’re so constantly on the ropes. Every time they manage get to some form of safety, something else terrible happens. When you’re drawing that, do you find yourself in a particular mindset?
NS: No…I know I keep forgetting to damage everybody up, because at the moment everybody has been on the run since the war in Dherain, which was [writer] James Robinson’s last arc. No one’s had a moment to stop and scratch themselves since then. So they’ve all got the same battlescars and rips in their costumes and I keep forgetting to do them because that was months ago. [laughs] So that kind of thing can be confusing.
It’s more to do with…not really a mindset. The whole point of this arc is that they’re just not getting ahead. The more superpowered people they bring into the fight against Superman, they’re just not winning. He’s too powerful. Him by himself can do too much damage, and he’s got these two henchmen and a parademon army. They’re just not winning, which is the point of Val, our new Superman. He’s possibly the only thing that they have that could turn the tide. Even then we don’t know if that’s possible, and I can’t even say if it is possible. It’s one of those tricky situations where everything is $#!+ and it’s not getting better, and that’s kind of the point of this arc: that we’re desperately losing.
MCD: Do you ever keep a character sheet when you know you’ve got injuries and damage to the costume?
NS: I keep going back to issues that I’ve already drawn. I know I’ve made mistakes. I’ve left off bandages. I know I’ve left off particular holes and scrapes. But that’s inevitable.
MCD: I was talking with Mike McKone and he told me something really interesting that I never would have thought of: he’ll do one character a day — going through the pages fleshing out that character so he’s not forgetting a strap or a wound…
NS: Oh my God…I don’t know that I could do that in a team book. There’s too much interaction. There’s too much…you know, layers of people in each panel.
MCD: So with them being so brutally beaten up–Mr. Terrific has always been, fundamentally, this optimistic character. And in this case, he comes from a better world than theirs, Earth 1. Does he represent an option for their world to change?
NS: I am not 100% sure at the moment because currently where we’re at, he’s still under the influence of Bedlam. He and Terry Sloane are still mind-controlled. And I’m really hoping that–so far of what I’ve drawn, everyone’s having a heroic moment in turning the tide. But it’s not there yet and I’m waiting to see what issue #26 is. That’s the last issue before the September palaver that’s happening.
MCD: When Green Lantern came back, did you change how you drew him at all? This is a character that died, was resurrected by the Earth itself, and is dealing with the fact that he might be immortal for as long as the Earth needs him. Did you change his body language at all?
NS: He’s more determined now. I feel like before he was just a powerful character given powers and a sense of responsibility. Where now he feels the weight of the responsibility. He’s powered by the Earth. He’s feeling the damage and the pressure. He’s more conscious of what’s going on than anybody else is. There’s a sense of determination. He’s not prepared to run, and that’s playing itself out in his body language.
MCD: Is it fair to say he’s Earth 2’s Swamp Thing?
NS: A little bit, yeah. From the very beginning he was going to be powered by The Green. At some point we had been talking about Wildcat being introduced and powered by The Red. But that’s one of those things that we haven’t managed to find our way to yet. But we’ve indicated that he’s there. Yeah, he’s absolutely the equivalent of.
MCD: In New 52 there are all these books with this enmeshed continuity. But you guys are responsible for something that’s the same size in a completely separate box. There’s so much to talk about, but Earth is constantly in the middle of a Michael Bay movie–
NS: Yeah, it’s a Michael Bay book.
MCD: Is it daunting to have custody of that much?
NS: It’s probably more daunting for the writer because they need to stay conscious of the big picture. For me, I’m facilitating what they’re writing, but rarely do we find ourselves in the same place twice. So far in the book we’ve been all over the world and that’s going to continue.
MCD: You and Tom are old friends — do you have skull sessions about what he wants to do?
NS: A little bit. Usually when we’re talking he’s sort of nutting out a problem. And I’ll sit back and say, “Okay, pick your battles. What’s key here?” And you know, getting him talking out loud is half of the nutting it out. And it’s the first time he’s worked through the east coast office, so the nature of dealing with that ongoing continuity and such–it’s a slightly different headspace that you need to be in.
I think he’s appreciating someone who’s been working through there for awhile to say “Okay, here is a good point where we can ask for more pages for an issue. Let’s treat this as a special issue and get more than the 20 pages we’re usually allotted,” or “Let’s see if we can do this.” It helps give him an idea of the scope of the practical nature of working through the east coast office.
MCD: When you do character redesigns, do you feel more like you’re trying to make it something no one’s ever seen or you have to recapture the old designs that everyone’s going to recognize?
NS: A little bit of both. I always go back and reference what’s come before, cause I want to see…particularly liked characters like Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. You’ve got to be respectful of everything that’s come before but there are really interesting ideas that maybe haven’t been recognized so well. Or it could be mined in a slightly different way.
But you’ve also got to apply them to the book that you’re on and the context that they’re in. Certainly when I was designing those, I was like, “Okay, this is a planet that only has Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. I don’t want them to look like they’re a team. I want them to look like their origin. With Superman’s outfit I wanted to make it sleek and classic but at the same time…like my redesign of the shield, I didn’t want it to look chunky. I wanted it to look elegant and simple. Really simplify it as much as possible.
And with Wonder Woman’s outfit I wanted to make it more of an armor and a bit more of a battleskirt…sort of Greek it up a bit. And with Batman I wanted a jumpsuit, a practical outfit.
MCD: I know what a big Wonder Woman fan you are. Beyond the costume, what did you do to differentiate the more vicious Wonder Woman of Earth 2 from her more familiar Earth 1 counterpart?
NS: Well I only got to draw her for the one issue and all she was doing was fighting parademons, so really what I was drawing was the classic Wonder Woman in my version of the costume. All she had an opportunity to do was slice parademons.
MCD: I felt a little bad for you. I was like, “She gets Wonder Woman on a regular title!” and then it was taken away.
NS: Yeah, I did say early on when I read the first script, “Okay, Wonder Woman’s dead…Superman’s dead…Batman’s dead…okay, they’d better all stay dead, because if Superman and Batman come back and Wonder Woman doesn’t, I’m going to get really pissed off!” [laughs]
MCD: And now they’re both here…
NS: Yeah, but Superman isn’t really Superman and Batman isn’t quite Batman. Part of what I love about Thomas Wayne is that he’s not a detective. He hasn’t trained for this. He’s not really Batman. He’s just a 60-year-old thug on drugs wearing a Batman outfit because he feels he’s doing the right thing by his son’s legacy. And I like that someone like Lois Lane in the Red Tornado robot is someone who can point it out to him, because she knew Bruce. “You are NOT Batman. You might wear the outfit, but you don’t know what you’re doing.”
MCD: I was going to ask if, when you’re drawing robot Lois, you were inclined to show a person constrained in a robot body, but I also know she feels very natural in that form…
NS: I wanted to…as soon as I knew it was going to be Lois, because Red Tornado had shown up earlier but at that stage it wasn’t Lois. It was just a robot. It was really issue #17, Tom’s first issue, where they were downloading her consciousness into the body. And so straightaway I wanted to make all of her physicality–how she moved, how she expressed her face, everything about her other than her texture feel really human. She’s not so conscious of the fact that she’s a robot. Despite the fact that she’s got these abilities now. She spent so long with Superman that those abilities feel like second nature to her, despite the fact that she’s never had them herself. So yeah, I’ve tried to make her as UN-robotic as possible.
MCD: Last question…
MCD: Do you know how much your fanbase loves the butts that you draw?
NS: [laughs] I do!
MCD: Every time an issue comes out, I see a message board: “Are the butts there?”
NS: Yeah, that Nightwing butt I did in an issue of Secret Six about 5 or 6 years ago…that took on a life of its own and I still hear about that now. I still see it pop up on the internet. There was a meme about six months ago that was a mock-up of a new book called Nightwing’s Butt #1. And it was that butt. I was like, “Holy $#!+, man, they’re never going to let this go.”
MCD: Well, you get to be the Ed Benes for guys.
NS: Exactly. It’s part of the job.
Brendan’s other recent interviews include Batman & Robin writer Peter J. Tomasi and the Mad Love of Harley Quinn‘s Amanda Conner & Jimmy Palmiotti.