Hello Comic Crusaders!
I’m huge fan of today’s interview subject, Todd Nauck. For the past two decades, he has worked on many projects for Marvel and DC, including Young Justice, Spider-Man, Teen Titans, Nightcrawler, and Deadpool: Too Soon. He also developed his own series called WildGuard that was published by Image and is incredibly active on the convention circuit and social media. I had the privilege of speaking to him at Cincinnati Comic Expo at his booth between drawing commissions for fans.
CC: I discovered you on the ongoing Nightcrawler title from 2014. How did it feel working with living legend Chris Claremont on such a beloved character?
TODD: I first began collecting comics at age 13 and Claremont’s Uncanny X-Men was my first monthly read. So, having the opportunity to draw one of my favorite X-Men written by one of my favorite X-Men writers was a dream come true. I probably spent the first half of the series doing a reality check, “I’m drawing an X-Men book with Chris Claremont featuring one on my all-time favorite X-Men!” It was definitely a comic creator bucket-list item. It’s an honor to be able to consider him a friend now.
CC: I know the X-Men hold a place in your heart, especially Kitty Pryde. What about her specifically draws you to the character?
TODD: She’s smart, funny, and tough. She’s also a leader and strong female character. And her phasing powers and pet space dragon are pretty cool, too!
CC: I bet it was really hard to not incorporate Kitty more prominently in the NC title. I know that Chris Claremont wrote it that way, but did you ever feel tempted throw her in the background on your own?
TODD: For the types of stories we were doing on Nightcrawler, with what was going on then, Kitty was switching sides between All New X-Men and Uncanny X-Men. She was pretty locked in there, so there was no real way that I could have reasonably worked her into the background of any X-Men comic I was doing at the Jean Grey School because she was now on Cyclop’s team at that point. I was able to utilize Iceman, Colossus, Beast, Storm, Rachel Grey, all favorite characters and easy to do since they all reside at the Jean Grey School, but with Kitty having just left school, I lost that opportunity.
CC: In the Death of Wolverine Tie-In on Nightcrawler #7, I was kinda surprised that you had Rachel consoling Nightcrawler after his stint in the Danger Room instead of Kitty Pryde, since she had such a strong relationship with Logan, but now I guess that makes perfect sense. But speaking of this issue, I loved your numerous homages to some of the great X-Men artists over the years, from his first appearance to him coming back from the dead in Amazing X-Men. How was that process, as far as referencing all that different artwork?
TODD: Fortunately, I had almost all of those comics, so those pivotal NC stories, I had them in my personal collection so I was able to go get my Mutant Massacres and Excalibur #1 and the death of Nightcrawler. So, the writer wrote it in a specific way…
CC: Didn’t Claremont write most of those initially anyway?
TODD: Actually, someone else plotted that issue because of deadlines. Marguerite Bennett broke down all these different hallmark milestones of NC’s major story arcs, from Giant Sized X-Men on, for his Danger Room memory lane walk that he’d be doing. So, some of the scenes I’d do my own take on that scene. Many of them were homages to that event, so I was doing my take on what Alan Davis had drawn. Like on the cover of Excalibur #1, I just flipped the angle so that Nightcrawler was prominent in the shot, since this is about him. Instead of looking at it from the left, we look at it from the right, but I still credited Alan Davis as the original artist, hence it’s “Nauck after Davis”. Same with John Romita Jr, John Byrne, Ed McGuinness; if I utilized that person’s image, whether I did a slight variation of it or not, I wanted to give credit to where that was from, as an artist should so.
CC: And I love that you do that, because not everyone does.
TODD: It’s fun to get to draw these. I loved the Mutant Massacre as a kid, so getting to do my take on the Mutant Massacre was an absolute thrill, because I was getting to draw my favorite characters and scenes from my favorite storylines.
CC: Were there any artists (comic or otherwise) that you looked up to growing up that made you want to become one yourself or that you emulated your style after?
TODD: Oh, definitely, and I make no secret of who my biggest influences are, like, on my broadcasts on Facebook and Periscope, because I get that question quite frequently from younger artists. So my top four influences, of many, are Arthur Adams, Rick Leonardi, Alan Davis, and Walter Simonson. They were drawing the X-Men books in the late eighties when I was a teenager and I realized I wanted to be a comic artist, so I was studying the craft. You know, back then we didn’t have the luxury of the internet yet, so I was pretty much just holed up in my room with my favorite comic creators’ comics, studying what they did and mimicking what they did, trying to find my way in my art, style, and visual voice. I was also influenced by artists like Mike Zeck from his Secret Wars comics, Marc Silvestri who did a great run on Uncanny X-Men, and then that led into artists like Jim Lee, Todd McFarlene, Rob Liefeld, and Eric Larson that developed into the early nineties. But those first four I mentioned- Art Adams, Rick Leonardi, Walter Simonson, and Alan Davis- those were my foundational four.
CC: How was it going back to drawing Spider-Man in The Spider(Fly) Effect? Like riding a bike?
TODD: Oh yeah! Spidey’s m’boy! I’ve been working on Spidey projects off and on for about 10 years. So picking back up with the ol’ web head for Spider(Fly) Effect was a piece of cake. Like reconnecting with a longtime, good friend.
CC: I really like Robbie Thompson’s work. Is he easy to work with?
TODD: Robbie Thompson is the best! He’s great to work with and I love his dialogue. He has a great handle on how to script Spider-Man.
CC: What was it like working with Joshua Corin on your latest Marvel project, Deadpool: Too Soon?
TODD: It’s been great working with Joshua. This is his first Marvel Comics’ gig (he’s more known for his novels and screenwriting) and he’s handling writing comics like a champ! He’s been really cool to work with and open to my ideas as I flesh out the story visually.
CC: Is doing a Deadpool book different from other characters?
TODD: Sure! Deadpool is one of the craziest characters in comics. And this series, “Deadpool: Too Soon?” has to be one of the wildest stories I’ve worked on in my career.
CC: This was practically a team-up comic, with each chapter focused on a different guest character. Who was your favorite to draw?
TODD: I love how we’ve gotten to bring in so many other characters as guest stars in this series from Squirrel Girl, Rocket & Groot, Ant-Man, Spider-Ham, Howard the Duck, Punisher, and more. I really enjoy drawing team books because I love to get to draw different character designs and personalities. So I’ve enjoyed drawing all of them. But this series has made me an even bigger Squirrel Girl fan. And having grown up reading Spider-Ham comics as a kid, it has been really cool to draw a childhood favorite! (I have a fan letter printed in an early issue of the Spider-Ham Star Comics’ series from the 1980’s!)
CC: Were there any “funny” characters that you would have liked to have had in the comic that didn’t make the cut?
TODD: The writer, Joshua Corin, along with editor Jordan White really had mapped out who the characters were going to be to guest star in the series. By the time they brought me on to draw it and to bring my contribution to the series, it was pretty much locked in there. Of the funny characters of the Marvel Universe, I wish we had more She-Hulk. We just have one panel of her in issue one, where we learn the reason why Howard the Duck has been brought in on this invitation to this mysterious mansion by Deadpool, blackmailing Howard the Duck with the pranks he’s been pulling on She Hulk. I wish we’d gotten more She-Hulk because I’m a big She-Hulk fan. But having the opportunity to bring in characters as cameos at the most was something I sought to do, especially in chapter six with Deadpool doing his monologue through the streets of New York. I figured if we have these 8 screens in New York and he’s talking, let’s make them exciting along with recapping what’s been going on in the series. This gave me the opportunity to draw Spider-Man, the Green Goblin, Iron Man, and of course the Extraordinary X-Men fighting the Blob. That was a very self-indulgent opportunity for me.
CC: How is the process/ structure different for Infinite Comics versus normal comics?
TODD: As an artist on a print comic, I focus on how the panels fit together on a given page to lead the reader’s eye in the proper sequence. But in a digital Infinite Comic, it’s a series of screens formatted for handheld electronic devices (like tablets and smartphones). So I’m not drawing 20 pages of comic art as much as I’m drawing a series of screens, panels and patches to create a more digitally guided experience. It is a new way of thinking for me as a visual storyteller.
CC: After doing two consecutive Infinite Comics series for Marvel, would you say you prefer this medium or straight-to-print comics?
TODD: I like both. Drawing the series of screens for the digital-first comics was a challenge to learn. But I feel I picked up on it pretty quick. I like thinking in new ways to keep myself fresh. So I find both comic producing media have their merits!
CC: Do you have a contract with Marvel or are you free to work on books for other companies like Image and DC?
TODD: I am a freelance artist. That frees me up to work on any project for any company at any time.
CC: As a huge Doctor Who fan, I know you cosplay as the Tenth Doctor and have done some variants for Titan Comics on some of their Doctor Who titles. How rewarding is being a fan that is actively contributing to the property?
TODD: It’s a lot of fun to be a fan of a property and get to contribute to its mythology. But I’ve been doing this my whole career with Marvel and DC Comics!
CC: Would you or do you aspire to be a regular artist for a Doctor Who book?
TODD: It would be fun to draw a Doctor Who story, sure! But Marvel is keeping me hopping with work so I haven’t looked too far into scoring a Doctor Who gig beyond covers.
CC: Speaking of variants, you do many Hastings variants for Marvel, which is bummer for me since I used to live near one before moving to the Midwest. Is there any particular reason that store exclusively offers your work?
TODD: You can buy those Hastings variant on their site! And they’re reasonably priced! I guess they really like my work since they keep requesting me to draw variants for them. Having grown up in Texas, I used to shop at Hastings for my comics. So it’s kind of this cool “full-circle” moment for me!
CC: Is there one comic book that you consider your dream project to work on?
TODD: HAHA! YES! Anything with Kitty Pryde or Booster Gold in it! Or, better still an X-Men/Justice League crossover book featuring Kitty and Booster!!!
CC: Did you ever read the Uncanny X-Men/ Teen Titans crossover that they did in the 80’s with Claremont and Austin?
TODD: I think Walter Simonson might’ve drawn that? I can’t remember if I got that or not. I wouldn’t be surprised if I do have it; it’s just been so long since I’ve read it.
CC: With you having experience on Teen Titans as well as doing some X-Men work, I would assume you’d be all over that.
TODD: Oh yeah.
CC: One more character question and I’m done. Booster Gold. Why do you love him so much?
TODD: One of my favorite runs at DC Comics is the 80’s Justice League by Giffen/ DeMatties/ Maguire. I love all of those characters. I especially enjoy the antics best pals, Booster Gold and Blue Beetle, would get into. Booster is a fallen man trying to redeem himself as a hero (and not always doing the best job at it!). And I really like how Geoff Johns gave even more depth to the character in his pre-New 52 solo series. This is where we learned his “goofball” persona was a cover for the true work he was doing protecting the time stream.
CC: So, if you could return to any one of your previous projects that you worked on in the past, like if you had the chance to pick up where you left off, which one would it be?
CC: It’s tough, I know…
TODD: Yeah, that is tough. I will say that I was sad to see Nightcrawler end so soon. So I’d love to get back on Nightcrawler and continue that with Chris Claremont, that would be an absolute thrill. It was so much fun to do and I love those characters. I’d love that to continue. Over at DC, of course, it would be Young Justice. I love doing that series; I was ready to do a Jack Kirby/ Fantastic Four 102 issue run on that book. I was ready and willing to keep going.
CC: They cut it off at what, 55?
TODD: Yeah, for it to relaunch as Teen Titans to coincide with the new Teen Titans cartoon.
CC: I’m a big fan of your original property WildGuard, published several years ago with Image Comics. Do you still intend on continuing the story? Maybe a Version 2.0 or a web series?
TODD: I do have more stories I’d like to tell with WildGuard. As well as some spin-off series in the WildGuard universe. Not to mention some all new creator-owned ideas. It’s really a matter of finding time to do it. I’m currently working on a WildGuard short story as I experiment with watercoloring the colors. But Spider(Fly) Effect, and then Deadpool: Too Soon has kept me busy all year. I hope to get that WildGuard story done as soon as I have spare time!
CC: Care to elaborate on your “all new” ideas or are they all under wraps?
TODD: That’s pretty much under wraps at the moment. Yeah, I can’t really speak on that just yet.
CC: But is it at least moving forward?
TODD: It’s moving forward… in my mind, ha ha. Fortunately, I have a lot of projects with Marvel. Every time I start wrapping up one, they have another one for me. So when I was done with the Spider(Fly) Effect, they had Deadpool: Too Soon for me. Before I finished Deadpool: Too Soon, they said “Can you do Spider-Man/ Deadpool?” So that has been keeping me hopping all year long. So the WildGuard watercolor experiment short story that I started last year is still on hold. Other things I wanna do, still on hold because my Marvel work, those deadlines come first. So it’s been a great year this year, but not a great year for my side projects, because unfortunately they’ve been way on the back burner.
CC: I’m glad that you brought that up, because they recently announced that you are doing Spider-Man/Deadpool #12, the holiday issue. Since you have Too Soon experience and you have Spider-Man experience, was it like Christmas came early drawing those two together?
TODD: Oh yeah, definitely, and it being a Christmas issue is the icing on the cake there. Having recently done both a Spider-Man miniseries and a Deadpool miniseries, I was well-practiced to take on an issue of Spider-Man/Deadpool, so I was very excited when I got the e-mail, because it’s a great series. I love what Ed McGuinness has done on the series with Joe Kelly, and then the Reilly Brown and Scott Koblish issues have been great, so I feel honored to be in that SM/DP corral of creators, you know, to be brought in on the first year of SM/DP.
CC: You seem to thrive on doing commissions for your fans. What about the fan experience is so appealing to you?
TODD: Simple. My fans are awesome!!! It’s great to meet fans at cons and chat while I work on their commissions. I’m still a comics fan and enjoy the chance to spend time with like-minded people!
CC: Has doing Periscope and Facebook Live broadcasts expanded your reach and influence as a creator?
TODD: It has definitely helped me reach and interact with my fanbase as well as bring in new fans. It’s fun to create a piece of art in real-time and invite comic fans and aspiring artists to join me for the process. I get a lot of great questions and comments during my broadcasts. I’m discovering I have a lot of regular viewers. There are now running jokes that have developed. I truly appreciate everyone’s interaction and support!
CC: Why did you recently expand from doing just Copic marker sketches to doing watercolor as well? Have you had any commission requests for watercolor?
TODD: Watercolor is a different way of thinking and it’s fun to do. I like having multiple skills and options available. I’ve done a few watercolor commissions.
CC: What inspired you to do post-it note sketches?
TODD: It started as a quick warm-up sketch. A Spidey on a red Post-It Note. When I shared it on my social media, the fans reacted very positively to it. So I did more. I think I have almost 300 Post-It sketches (now more full-blown illustrations) in a dedicated album on my Art of Todd Nauck page on Facebook.
CC: Finally, for those of us who don’t know, what social media do you use and what are your respective handles?
TODD: You can find me at all of these places:
I can honestly say that Todd is one of the most relatable creators I’ve ever met. He and his wife spoke to me every time I passed his booth, and encouraged fans to watch him draw and make conversation as he did so. He even signed my shirt and made me an Amazing (X-Men) commission. Everyone should check out his work.
Deadpool: Too Soon #1 hits comic shelves October 19th (or the 12th according to some sources), but you can read it right now on Marvel Infinite! And be sure to pre-order Spider-Man/ Deadpool #12 for the December release!