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Say it with a Bullet

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Famed illustrator Tommy Lee Edwards joins J. Michael Straczynski this week on Marvel’s Bullet Points, a book that will show how 1 bullet can change the course of history.  He stopped by to talk about the book and his future plans with Broken Frontier.

BROKEN FRONTIER: You're mostly known for single illustrations and more prestige books (covers, art books). What made you decide to work on this miniseries and get into a more monthly swing?

TOMMY LEE EDWARDS: With Bullet Points, I'm still doing the average amount of comics I typically do—which is about five issues a year.  While I'm spending time illustrating comics exclusively for Marvel for the next three years, I'm also tackling film and game concept designs, book stuff, licensing, and advertising work.  I love doing comics, though.  It's actually my favorite medium to work in, due to its uniqueness and creative freedom.

BF: How did the process of you getting on board with this book work out?  Did you come on with JMS at the conception stages or where you brought along later on?  And how much input into the eventual storyline did you end up having?

TLE: I was brought on to Bullet Points by my editor after JMS had already written the scripts.  Therefore, I didn't really have any input into the story at all.  I'm merely taking the scripts and trying to put my all into them.  This took some getting used to, as most of my comics have been very collaborative efforts.  I do have a lot of freedom on the visual end, though, and am having fun with my interpretation of the characters.   

BF: What drew you to this project?  The chance to work with JMS?  Was it the story itself or the chance to draw all of Marvel's characters at once?

TLE: I had decided to sign on with Marvel while drawing and coloring a Daredevil: What If book for them, so the timing on Bullet Points was just right.  Mark Paniccia, my editor, sent me the scripts.  I thought they were fun and that they had a lot of good ideas.  I was not familiar with JMS, but quickly found out who he was and learned of his large Marvel audience.  That was attractive to me, as I had wanted to try my hand at a more "mainstream" comics project.  And yes, it is a cool opportunity to draw pretty much every Marvel character in one miniseries.

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BF: With a story like this that spans so much of Marvel's history, how much research did you have to do?  Did this story allow you to touch on any old favorite stories or characters that you remembered reading as a youth?

TLE: I haven't had to do a ton of research quite yet, as most of the stuff in the first three issues contains characters I grew up on.  As a kid, I was especially fond of the original Thor, Captain America, Silver Surfer, and Spider-Man reprints.  Most of my comics collecting was in the 1980's, through junior high and high school, so I really got into Claremont’s X-Men stuff, Simonson's Thor and X-Factor, New Mutants, and that black Spidey suit.   

As a professional, I haven't done a ton of superhero comics, so I can't really draw most of the characters correctly from memory.  That's where books, old comics, and the internet come in handy.  Issues four and five of Bullet Points get into a LOT more characters, and I've had to look for tons of character and costume references. 

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BF: Artistically, what were your goals for the project?  Seeing as how the story spans multiple decades in the Marvel U, where did you go for inspiration?  Did you attempt to match up some artistic styles with the ones from the older decades?

TLE: I did not try to match any artistic styles to that of the original Marvel comics, because I am not Don Heck, Jack Kirby, or Steve Ditko.  I was very influenced by them, however, like I was with Ditko when illustrating The Question for DC.  Bullet Points really pays homage to those original Stan Lee stories, and I try to do that with the artwork and storytelling style.  I really wanted this miniseries to feel like "good-old-fashioned-comics". 

Bullet Points takes place throughout several decades, yes.  It also links together all of these pieces of the Marvel Universe.  Therefore, the book has to have a sense of continuity and symmetry.  So nailing the time-periods and keeping the book consistent throughout are big struggles for me.

I tend to do so much research for my work, that it became a pretty huge workload with Bullet Points .  For example, when Iron Man is in Guadalcanal, we believe it.  When Peter Parker is walking around in the 1960's missile testing range, we believe it.  When the Fantastic Four is launching their rather "sci-fi" style ship in issue three, I've added just enough research and realism into the time-period, costumes, and technology, that we hopefully believe that as well. 

So, beyond going to the comics' source material for inspiration, I went to real life.

BF: Along those lines, what was it like being able to take more freedom with the looks of the characters?  Because the story shows some significant differences to today's Marvel Universe. I have read that some of the costume designs are different, was that a fun experience?

TLE: Some of the designs are different, but not all.  I'm drawing the S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier right now.  In THIS story, it's designed by Reed Richards.  However, I'm struggling with the idea of altering it at all because this book rides on everything being so iconic.  Hulk basically looks the same, but his origin is different.  Iron Man is almost the same, but another man wears the armor.  As time goes on, the story elements do shift the look of certain characters and places.  Spider-Man looks different due to his unique role and origin in Bullet Points. 

It's really fun to play with the designs, while trying to stay true at the same time.  For selfish reasons, I find myself not wanting to change anything at all.  I pretty-much let the story dictate these decisions, though.

BF: Which character was your favorite on the story?  Which time period? 

TLE: From a writing standpoint, I think that Peter Parker is my favorite.  Peter Parker as the Hulk is my least favorite to draw, however.  I think the audience will really like it though.  I love drawing the original "tin-can" style Iron Man.  It's challenging to make him dynamic and exciting while, at the same time, draw him with a suit that would obviously be very heavy and have mobility issues.  My favorite time-period to draw is the WWII stuff—hands down.

BF: Finally, what is next for Tommy Lee Edwards after this book?  Will you be continuing with more prestige projects or jumping into the monthly books?

TLE: I don't see me getting into the monthlies at all.  On top of all my "non-comics" stuff, penciling, inking, and coloring five books for Marvel every ten weeks about kills me.  After I wrap-up Bullet Points in January, I'll be starting a new Marvel miniseries written by Mark Millar.  I'm also starting work on another painted Star Wars book for Del Rey due out late next year. 

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