Artist Jason Fabok has been a mainstay at DC Comics, where he's worked on Detective Comics, Batman Eternal, or Justice League. Over the past year, he's turned his focus on projects that were shorter in length than his previous work, including the recent 80-page Swamp Thing Winter Special #1 and the Batman-Flash crossover The Button, which served as a prequel to Doomsday Clock.
While he's been itching to do another long run, Fabok couldn't say no to the chance to work on the final issue of Brian Michael Bendis' The Man of Steel miniseries. SYFY WIRE spoke to both Fabok and Bendis about this key upcoming issue, which will help usher in the much-anticipated Bendis era of Superman.
"I couldn't say no to that and when they told me the other artists involved with [the series] — Ryan Sook, Adam Hughes, Ivan Reis, Kevin Mcguire— [I knew] it was great company to be beside," Fabok says. "It was just awesome!"
"I haven't drawn a Superman title in a while. I've drawn him in Justice League, but this is different," he says. "It's trying to find your bearings and figure out how to draw the character. I've drawn Batman so much that, at the time, I hadn't drawn Superman enough to know how I was going to draw the character. But it's been a lot of fun and I think the fans are going to dig the book when it comes out."
Fabok was originally tasked with drawing the final issue of The Man of Steel miniseries, which will introduce Rogol Zaar, a long-lost Kryptonian villain bent on destroying Superman. Additionally, though, Fabok has also been drawing two-page teasers for Rogol Zaar in each of the other issues of The Man of Steel miniseries, ramping up to the sixth and final issue, which will hit stands this Wednesday.
"If you have all your plans laid out well in front of you, you can start to think about what to do with those plans," Bendis told SYFY WIRE. "One of them was, 'Well, in flashbacks, something has happened to Superman's family and in every issue, there's a flashback to what happened, a clue to what happened.' All of those clues will be laid out very strongly in issue #6, and knowing Fabok was going to be drawing 'ssue #6, we just thought, why don't we just have him draw [the flashback] everytime we go back to those scenes?
"That will alleviate the weekly production stress from artist to artist. It worked out production-wise and fabulously for the construct of the thing. So when people see Jason's pages in every single issue, it just builds and builds and builds to Issue #6. That's something you can do with a weekly book that you couldn't necessarily play off [of] as well [in] a monthly or bi-monthly. Boom-boom-boom, there's a rhythm to the reveal. [They] are coming fast, so you can make them tiny rhythms, where each reveal is bigger than the next and by the sixth issue, you better turn over all your cards. And we do."
Fabok says The Man of Steel takes place across a worldwide setting. "I'm getting to draw some cool, iconic locations that have been featured in Superman history," Fabok says. "I don't want to spoil anything, but I get to venture around and also draw Clark Kent, Jonathan Kent, and Lois Lane as well as the Superman stuff. It's fun to explore different stuff and challenge yourself to draw something different."
Since Superman has escaped Fabok thus far from an assignment standpoint, he had to figure out the visual language of drawing Superman, as it's a stark contrast to drawing Batman or Swamp Thing.
"I like lots of shadows and black," Fabok says. "When I drew Justice League, it was a dark story. Geoff Johns said, 'Just go nuts with the black. Don't worry about trying to brighten this book, I want you to go dark with this because that's your art and that's what I want for this book.'
"With Superman, you don't want to use heavy shadows. You can, but it just has to be that kind of story. I will get to use some of that in this story, but it's different. It's tough to try and find what that visual language immediately is... Let's say that characters are flying over a city. I don't want to draw five panels of a city from [a vantage point] way up in the sky. That's going to take me forever to draw, so you try to find ways around it. It takes a few pages where I think about where I'm going to go with this. It's fun to change everything up."
Fabok says he's excited for the visual diversity that Bendis' story allots him. "There's things that I've never drawn before and so I'm finding myself looking at older Superman comics, trying to pull from history and comics that I remember being influenced by and bring it into my artwork the best that I can."
Even though his Superman work has been limited, there are Superman artists who have influenced his other ventures, including his recent run on the aforementioned Swamp Thing Winter Special. The series was a passion project of his.
"Swamp Thing was a book where DC asked me what I wanted to do. I could tackle any character. I said, 'Swamp Thing,' who was one of my favorites since I was like 8 years old. There was an old Swamp Thing cartoon when I was a kid and action figures. I had them all. Then I discovered he was a comic book character and I went and tried to read all the books. He's always been one of those characters I've wanted to work on. To me, he's a tragic monster; he was once a man and now he's not. The story we told was a touching story about a Swamp monster and a little boy, and the relationship they had growing together going through that book. Then there's a terrible thing that happens at the end of that book. Tom King describes that book as one that's not about hope, but about hopelessness.
"It's different. I don't really like drawing that kind of stuff. I want the stories I do to have a good ending, to have hope, to inspire. That story was different, it was unique and one I felt [I] had to explore."
Drawing the beloved Swampy, as well as the forests he resides in and other monsters would have been enough to satisfy any artist, but Fabok especially jumped at the chance to work with writer Tom King.
"We clicked so well on The Button," Fabok says. "I had given Tom a pitch that had to do with Swamp Thing and a little boy but I had it set in an evil, dark, mythical forest. I really wanted to draw the trees and swamp. Tom came back apologizing: 'Sorry, sorry, sorry, I feel this story needs to be set in the snow.' At first, I was bummed out because I wasn't getting to draw the swamp, but when I read the story and heard what he wanted to do. [It's] very unique and very different. It stretched me; I had never drawn snow like that and snowy forests. That stuff is hard to draw. I came to love it."
Fabok hopes he has more chances to work with Swamp Thing in the future and that he'd get to work on a longer series down the line.
At the time of this interview, Fabok was getting the itch to do longer stories, something that lasted at least six to eight issues. He was fielding offers from different writers, but Fabok's main concern was finding a project he wanted to spend the rest of the year drawing.
Earlier this month, he made his decision, a project with Geoff Johns called Three Jokers, which builds off of the three Jokers who first appeared in Fabok and Johns' "Darkseid War" arc in the New 52 Justice League, which continued on in DC Universe Rebirth #1.
There's no set release date for Three Jokers yet, but The Man of Steel #6 will hit stands on July 4.