Planet Comicon Exclusive Interview
Comics artist Freddie E. Williams II is a regular guest at Planet Comicon. Williams got his professional start in comics in 2005 drawing the Chance of a Lifetime for Cellar Door Comics and then the Image Comics series Noble Causes. He quickly made the move to DC Comics where he worked with Grant Morrison on Seven Soldiers: Mister Miracle.
Within a year of his first Image Comics work he started a memorable run drawing DC Comics’ Robin. Since then he has drawn The Flash, Final Crisis Aftermath: Run, JSA All-Stars, Captain Atom, Legendary Star-Lord, and Infinite Crisis: Fight for the Multiverse. Along the way he even found time to write a book: The DC Comics Guide to Digitally Drawing Comics.
Williams has two projects coming soon. He’s drawing IDW’s crossover miniseries Batman / TMNT and is launching a new Legendary Comics series The Infinite Adventures of Jonas Quantum written by Arrow executive producer Marc Guggenheim.
Planet Comicon: The opportunity to draw a Batman and Ninja Turtles crossover sounds like the stuff many young fans’ dreams are made of. Were these favorite characters of yours as a kid?
Freddie E. Williams II: Oh man! Yup, very high up there in my favorites! I’m super lucky to be illustrating the Batman / TMNT crossover — pouring everything I’ve ever learned into this one miniseries! It’s a real dream come true!
Planet Comicon: How did you get involved in the Batman / TMNT crossover?
Freddie E. Williams II: I’ve been a TMNT fan since I was a kid, but something got stirred up and rekindled within me when I illustrated the variant cover for the IDW TMNT series [Issue 24].
Afterwards, I kept in contact with Bobby [Curnow], the editor of TMNT, looking for a project that would be a good fit. I should say that I stalked Bobby – what I mean is I’d email him every month or two, just to make sure I didn’t miss any opportunities that were on the horizon, and I was relentless!
We’d talk or email about different ideas, but nothing ever “stuck.” In one of those conversations Bobby told me that there might be a crossover with DC Comics and the Turtles coming up but it was far from a certainty. Close to a year went by, then I saw the announcement of the Star Trek / Green Lantern crossover on Twitter, I took that opportunity to shoot an email to Bobby and Jim [Chadwick] to reiterate my interest, that IF the crossover was still in the works, and if they happen to be looking for an artist still, to please keep me in mind!
Later Jim told me that I must have been psychic, because not only were they discussing artists for the Batman / TMNT crossover at that very moment, but my name was on the list they were considering! That’s the only time that kind of thing ever happened to me, I really lucked out!
Planet Comicon: It sounds like you were a major fan.
Freddie E. Williams II: Oh yes, There were these over-sized color reprints of the Ninja Turtles, and somehow I got “Book IV” first, which contains my now all-time favorite Turtles story in it, called “What Goes Around, Comes Around.” It was used as the inspiration for the first TMNT movie. It’s well written, perfectly paced and has the optimum versions of the Turtles visually. They were all in red bandanas, but you could still tell them apart because the storytelling was so strong. During my adolescence, I drew images from that book so many times that I can still perfectly imagine many of the pages, and page layouts. Just phenomenal stuff! That book contains the essence of what the Turtles are to me.
Batman, was of course everywhere. The 1989 film was a huge deal, and the “Death in the Family” storyline and Dark Knight Returns were all in the air at the time, and I was into all of them. But what really got me was Batman Year One! The SWAT Team hunting Batman down, down, down, until he’s exhausted all his resources — until even his Cape and Cowl are used leaving Batman completely vulnerable — really left an impression on me! This crossover really is like a fanboy dream of mine come true.
Planet Comicon: You’re also drawing a new series, The Infinite Adventures of Jonas Quantum, from Legendary Comics. This is the brainchild of Arrow executive producer Marc Guggenheim. How did this high profile project come your way?
Freddie E. Williams II: Marc and I met when we were working on some Justice Society stuff several years ago at DC Comics. We enjoyed the collaboration, so we kept in touch with each other. A couple years ago, Marc and I reconnected at San Diego Comic Con, at a time when my exclusive at DC was about to expire. So I mentioned I was looking to get back to some creator-owned projects. The last creator-owned book I was involved in was in 2004’s Chance Of A Lifetime.
Marc and I began talking about a few concepts he had cooking on his sub processors, and the concepts and type of adventure in Jonas Quantum immediately grabbed my attention. That started the wheels turning. Marc is a great collaborator so I’m thrilled to be working with him!
Planet Comicon: Jonas Quantum travels through time and hops through dimensions. Is a wide-open canvas like that daunting or creatively inspiring as an artist?
Freddie E. Williams II: Coming from a more controlled environment like DC Comics, Marvel, Dark Horse etc., to working on Jonas Quantum, where Marc and I could do anything, was – at first so freeing it was paralyzing! You just don’t know where your boundaries are; Are there boundaries at all?
Marc and I figured it out in the world-building, and in many phone and email conversations. It took a few weeks to get the lay of the land and from there we took off running!
By the way, Marc is always surprising me with twists in the road! Sometimes he’ll drop me an email with a partial issue written and it hooks me, where I’m dying to know what happens next. I think that’s a good sign that general audiences will also get hooked.
I hope a lot of people check it out, and that it doesn’t get too overshadowed by the Batman / TMNT stuff, since due to us being so far ahead in the production of Jonas Quantum, the two books will be overlapping in the shipping schedule.
Planet Comicon: I understand that you’ve lived in or near Kansas City for most of your life. For a comics creator, are there advantages or disadvantages to living in the Midwest? What makes the Kansas City area the right place for you?
Freddie E. Williams II: There are both. Being physically removed from the actual offices of DC or Marvel — now on opposite coasts — is a disadvantage because you aren’t able to stick your head into your editor’s door, to chit chat, or just happen to be visiting the offices on a day a big project becomes available, having less face time with those editors.
There are plenty of advantages to living in the Midwest though, mainly economic. There’s a lower cost of living here in the Midwest as compared to either coast. And family and friends who I don’t need to relocate away from. Plus I have terrible direction sense, so at least I’ve memorized a lot of the highways and side streets here, so I’m not wondering around lost 80% of the time, which would be the case if I ever relocated!
I’ve also noticed we have a great selection of food here in the Midwest, too, a selection that seems to be limited on either coast. I’ve been really surprised by that.
Planet Comicon: Who are the area creators who inspired you or helped you get started in your career?
Freddie E. Williams II: Phil Hester! He’s from Iowa, not Kansas City, but he’s been a regular at local conventions for years! He has hugely impacted me. Back when I was fresh out of high school, I attended a local show, and many of the artists there weren’t very helpful and not willing to give me much in the way of feedback on my portfolio. My portfolio was filled with my best work at that time, but looking back it was woefully inadequate — lots of pinups, short on sequential art.
Then I ran into Phil, who was also in artist alley. He was kind and encouraging. He spent a good hour giving me thorough feedback as I took notes. Phil recommended artists for me to check out, as well as a check list of stuff to include in my next portfolio. Great feedback from a great guy! I still think of that experience every time I give a portfolio review at a convention: WWPD, “What Would Phil Do?”
My wife and I give him a big hug every time we seem him. He’s a great guy!
Planet Comicon: Freddie, thanks so much for spending some time with us.
Freddie E. Williams II: My pleasure. I’m looking forward to Planet Comicon next year!