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“Lazarus” artist Michael Lark stopped by the CBR Tiki Room at New York Comic Con 2013 to talk about his acclaimed creator-owned series from Image Comics. The artist told CBR’s Jonah Weiland about how his art has evolved over the years, what about the “Lazarus” pitch attracted him to the story and his approach to designing atypical comic book heroine Forever Carlyle. They also speak at length about Lark’s collaboration with writer Greg Rucka and why he would be happy if “Lazarus” ends up being the last thing he ever draws.
On how his art has changed over his career: When you say [my art] is more open, that’s probably more a product of the storytelling that I had to do for “Gotham Central.” “Gotham Central” was more like a TV show so I was using those smaller, square panels where “Lazarus” functions more as a widescreen action movie most of the time, and I think that’s probably why. As far as how my style has developed, there’s no conscious effort on my part. It’s just how I see, the tools I use, the scripts I get, things like that. I’m not one of those artists who can say, “Okay, I’m gonna draw in this style now.” I just draw how I draw.
On designing protagonist Forever Carlyle as something other than a typical male fantasy character: We didn’t want to do the typical comic book, you know, tiny-waisted, big-boobed, fanboy fantasy woman. Just because of who she is, because of how she’s been engineered, she is a big, strong woman and so Greg and I started talking about how are we going to pull this off. How are we going to make her attractive. One of the first things we started talking about is female athletes. Greg’s a big soccer fan, and we started talking about the women’s soccer team and different players on the soccer team. I kind of have a little crush on Hope Solo, and that, for me, was my inspiration. Here’s a woman who’s athletic, she’s strong, and she’s also really hot. That’s kind of what I wanted to do for Forever; that’s how I wanted her to come across. … As soon as we hit on that, it was easy. It was a piece of cake from that point on.
On how his collaboration with Greg Rucka works: It’s not just a case of Greg says, “Okay, here’s what you need to draw. We definitely feed off each other. He’s real excited right now because he’s introduced some new characters that I’m just starting to draw, and for him to see these characters come to life, it starts influencing how he’s going to write them. So the collaboration is very easy. We get along like brothers, and always have. I’ve never had any kind of conflict with Greg working with him and it’s been years, off and on, that we’ve worked together. We’ve never had a conflict about anything, and if we do it’s real brief and we talk about it and it gets resolved.
I described getting the first scene, him pitching the first scene to me — when he sent me the first script for the book it wasn’t there. And I was like, “What? What is this?” And I called Greg and I said, “Where’s my first scene?” And Greg will say now that he believes we had a stronger first issue because of that phone call. That’s how easy it goes with us.
On how “Lazarus” is different than working on titles at the Big 2: Because of the history of the medium and the necessities of publishing a monthly book, especially with the Big 2 publishers, it becomes less of a collaborative effort than something like what we’re doing now, something like what we both like to do. As Greg said, when we worked on “Gotham Central” it was unusual for him to have that much contact with an artist. They tend to keep us all separate from each other and the editor kind of runs the show. I’ve had writers that I’ve worked with that I’ve never even spoken with — that I’ve never even met — and I can’t stand that. I want to talk to the writer, I want to pick their brain, because my job is to take what’s up there [in their heads] and put it on the page.
With Greg, we feed off each other that way. There’s a lot of give and take. I suspect that Forever is a different character than he initially envisioned based on how I drew it; I’m sure that it grows. And Greg is really cool about being open enough to how that’s going to affect him.
On why he’s commited to drawing “Lazarus” regardless of how long it runs: I felt that way about “Gotham Central,” too. A good book is a good book, and they don’t come around that often. I don’t want to have to go out and scrounge for work. I love this book. I love working with Greg, I love the book. There’s so much potential in it. There’s so many stories we can tell, there’s a whole world of stories we can tell, that we could just go on and on and on. I’ve said many times that as far as I’m concerned, I would be perfectly content to be an old man and keeling over of old age with an unfinished “Lazarus” page on my drawing board when it happens. That would be just fine with me if this is the only book I ever draw for the rest of my life.