As a fan of comic books and strips for over 35 years, I actively refer to Doug Wheatley as “an artist’s artist”. All that really means is that, in my eyes, he is one of the most accomplished artisans in the comics industry, today. While I can only speak for myself, however, I suspect that his refined, realistic style has convinced many other fans of the same. It was a pleasure to conduct this short interview with him, and I appreciate his patient, enthusiastic manner.
Mark: Let’s start early: When and where were you born, and how did you first become interested in art?
Doug: I was born in Winnipeg in 1968. My mother noticed that I liked Mickey Mouse when I was 3 or 4 I think, and so she taught me to draw them. Drawing has been a big part of my life ever since then.
Mark: Did your mom have any kind of interest in art, or art endeavors? Or, was she just intuitive as to your inclination towards art?
Doug: Art was a hobby for her, she dabbled in various crafts, one of which was Tri-cam…so long ago…
Mark: What was your first professional art job?
Doug: I was hired to paint portraits of race horses when I was 17 by the horse owners, it was a great gig. I would go to the race track and take pictures of the horses. Spend some time with them, it was a totally different experience compared to drawing dragons and super heroes.
Mark: To this day, when I think of you, I think of Superman: Last Son of Earth, Superman: Last Stand on Krypton, Aliens: Apocalypse, and even your Jonny Quest work for Comico in 1988. You made an impression on me early on. Looking at your work today, however, you have done a LOT of Star Wars work for Dark Horse. Talk about the special place that property/universe has in your heart.
Doug: Note: I didn’t do Johnny Quest, would have loved that job, but that was Mark Wheatley. I saw Star Wars when I was eight years old, and like drawing, it has remained a part of my life in some fashion or another, more so now then in the past. Star Wars is a visual playground and a lot of fun to explore. At any given time or in the same picture you will draw a human, a dragon-like beast, driods, alien beings, and horse-like creatures carrying their bounty hunters across a city filled with hovering cars…etc. Exciting right? But when you add a fantastic writer who can add purpose and emotion to all of these elements, well, for a storyteller, it’s irresistible. Working with writer/editor Randy Stradley on Star Wars: Dark Times is a fantastic way to start a day and I love the books we’re doing.
Mark: Oops! My mistake on Jonny Quest. Apologies to Mark Wheatley; it’s been quite a few years since those comics passed my eyes. Since we’re speaking of other artists, though, which artists have influenced, inspired or even helped you most over the years?
Doug: When I first began my effort toward comics, George Freeman gave me a lot of advice along with Nick Burns, Both of these men helped considerably. My influences for comics are Milton Caniff, Alex Raymond, Noel Sickles, Frank Frazetta, Moebius, Alex Toth to name a few. I love these guys.
Mark: Is there a particular genre of comics about which you have said, “This is my niche”, and, if so, will that preclude you from working in others?
Doug: Not really, I love all the genres, from super heroes to fantasy, to crime and horror. I would work in any of these arenas. Telling a story is my “niche” if you will. It is the story that matters above all else for me.
Mark: Talk about your “dream” gig, and any artistic mountains you have the desire to overcome.
Doug: Every time I climb one artistic mountain, I become aware that the view from the summit is filled with more mountains to climb, some large, some small. I mean to say that I will stop learning when I stop drawing. I set goals for myself continuously in all aspects of drawing and painting, design etc. It is an exciting adventure! I’m grateful for the opportunity to be an artist. I do have some dream gigs, I’d love to draw a Spider-man, or Batman book. Those two characters were my favorites as a kid.
Mark: Is there a current project you are working on that you can talk about?
Doug: Yes, I am currently involved on a few projects, and no, unfortunately it is too early to share them, here, now…but I want to.
Mark: Lastly, where do you believe the medium of comics is headed? Are you encouraged? Discouraged? Worried? Excited?
Doug: I’m excited about comics more today than when I first started in the industry. Right now, we are seeing online publication take root, this has so much possibility, the most obvious is that anyone can publish online. For me, this opens the doors wide for creativity and diversity.