It was clear from our recent talk with writer Kieron Gillen that he has developed a very specific, detailed, and intense vision for his new monthly series Uber, which begins with issue #0 in April from Avatar Press. On developing and writing the series, Gillen told us:
It’s hard work, both in terms of research and the emotions you have to go through. I write it angrily. That coming back to Uber means that I normally start reading around the subject always leaves me fuming. Any time you read about WW2, and really try to comprehend what it means, you end up this seething mess. Any given paragraph in any historical book contains a thousand novels. You can’t hope to do justice to it, and all I can do is try.
That sounds like some very ambitious, challenging work. Today we talk to artist Canaan White about how he collaborates with Gillen to bring that power and emotion to the page:
You are the artist on the new ongoing World War II comic, Uber. What is it like to work with Kieron Gillen on the project?
Caanan White: Well, first off, it’s an honor to be paired with someone of his caliber and reputation. That alone was a huge motivation to make sure what I do represents the work his fans have come to enjoy. Second, I haven’t spoken to Kieron personally, but from emails and the things I’ve read online, he’s a “pretty swell guy!” Yeah, I know that was lame, but geeks can say stuff like that, right? Finally, I love his writing style. It’s very straight forward and he has the ability to tell historical fiction while making it relevant to readers in this generation.
How do you approach a book that is so deeply researched references from real life Allies and Nazi personalities?
My goal is to be as accurate as I can. With period works such as this book, I want the reader to feel they are really there. Kieron does an awesome job attaching links to key characters as well as the technology of that era. However, I still like to go even further to capture the authenticity. For example, what did a camera look like in 1945? Or even something as basic as the style and look of a cup or plate. I think it’s important to immerse the reader in the story. I tried to apply the same principle to the Nazi regime. They were cruel; holding true to the nature of a sadistic leader. So, they had to be shown as smug, arrogant and without remorse in my opinion.
It’s funny you asked that. I’m not a lover of gore, so my first reaction was, “This is insane!” But then, I understood this is war and war is very ugly in all its facets. Saving Private Ryan was the example I used to familiarize myself with the effects bullets and shrapnel had on the body. I think this movie truly captured just how brutal WW2 was. So, needless to say, I researched a lot. I wanted it to make sense rather than being graphic for the sake of the “cool” factor. War is never “cool.”
What are the challenges you face working on such an ambitious monthly book?
I think the biggest thing is staying on schedule. I try to make sure I pump out high quality art and meet the demands. This is my first time being on a monthly book, so, with any new endeavor; I weed out the bad habits and build on my strengths with the goal of always improving. I try not to perfect every page, but rather, improve with the next one. It doesn’t mean I slack off, but I do my best learn from my mistakes and keep rollin’
Did you have creative freedom to design the superhuman Uber characters? What was your inspiration for their look and powers?
For the most part, Kieron knew what he wanted. He just pointed me in the right direction. I’ve always admired Bryan Hitch’s and John Cassady’s realistic spin on the superhero uniform and their attention to detail (the seams, stitching, buckles and zippers). My goal was to create a sleek, realistic uniform holding true to the Nazis.
What has been your favorite part with regard to working on Uber with Kieron and Avatar?
I’d have to say creating the characters. As cool as the mainstream heroes are, they can be limited as to what you can do with them. With Uber, you are starting with something entirely new . I like history anyway so this combines 2 things I enjoy.
Hmm…OH YEAH!!! There’s a scene in issue 5 where – nah, you’ll just have to see it for your self, lol. Seriously though, I try not to read a head and just focus on the page I am currently drawing. That way when I get that “OMG” moment, I can illustrate that same emotion I’m feeling – like a snap shot. And honestly, Uber is filled with them! Oh and I wasn’t joking about that “OH SNAP” moment in issue 5(shivers)
What is Canaan White’s dream assignment? If you could pick any book or project to work on following Uber, what would it be?
– Uber(the 2nd coming)! Just kidding. I’ve always wanted to draw Superman. He is my favorite mainstream character. I’d also LOVE to draw a Cloak and Dagger title. Weird huh? The contrast of those two and their powers has always fascinated me. Oh and Doing a Captain America book would be sweet too, lol.
You are developing quite a following as comic fans are getting on the Uber bandwagon. What would you like to say to people that are new to your art and this project?
In regard to the project: Uber is an intense retelling of a dark time in our world history. A lot of devastation took place during WW2. Movies and tv shows have done their part to show this. Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers are good examples. I feel that Uber will take you deeper into just how diabolical and cruel Hitler was. You’ll discover that though these “Uber’s” are god-like in power, they too , are just pawns in this wicked plot. Are they heroes? Well, in their minds, they are. In the midst of all the Uber destruction, you will cheer for the courage and fortitude of those who stood in the face of tyranny, to bring hope to the helpless.
As far as those new to my art, it’s a mix of many different styles. I grew up during the 90’s boom watching the likes of Jim Lee, Marc Silverstri, Brett Booth, David Finch and late Michael Tuner to name a few. So they might notice a little of their influence in my art. But my ultimate goal is to inspire others, using detail and dynamic visuals to capture that cinematic feel in each page to engaging the reader. When you do that successfully, you’ve achieved your goal as a Comic Book Artist.
It’s been a long journey. I’m honored, humbled and most of all grateful to God for giving me an opportunity like this. I don’t take it lightly. There’s so many amazing unique people out there and I can’t wait to meet them! This is just the beginning.