Artist Mike Hawthorne has been delighting comic book fans with his talents for over two decades. Whether he’s drawing new adventures for popular characters like Deadpool and GI Joe or creating new stories like his self-published comic Hysteria, Hawthorne has done more than his fair share to shape the imagination. He is also heavily involved in producing content around anatomy and figure drawing, helping other artists develop and perfect their craft.
CBR caught up with Hawthorne to discuss highlights of his illustrious career, including his prolific run on dead Pool. The entertainer talked about some of his favorite moments and projects he’s been involved in over the years. Additionally, he talked about his experience working on Wild Cards: card draw #1, especially given the series legacy of George RR Martin and the die-hard fan base that would pay attention to every detail.
CBR: I know it will sound like asking someone to pick their favorite child, but which project do you think best exemplifies your work as an artist?
Mike Hawthorne: Oh man… I’ve been incredibly lucky to have been able to draw so many classic characters, from Spidey to Wonder Woman. But I’ll follow my gut and say my own book Hysteria (my first comic, self-published in the late 90s, early 2000s) with dead Pool as a close second. Very close.
Hysteria is an easy choice because that was me as a cartoonist, writing and drawing everything I wanted to see in a comic. It had all the stuff I fell in love with as a kid and some new ideas that I hadn’t seen in the comics before. I was shooting this combo of classic hero comics with outrageous visuals (like a giant kaiju killer bee) and the manga I had started to discover at the time. I [wanted] this kind of hybrid G.I. Joe and apple seed, all on a Caribbean island with all the Latin characters. I wanted the book to have tons of humor, unlike the spooky stuff I saw in the comics before it. While making this comic as a kid, I was testing out ideas and gags while hanging out with friends, then incorporating them into the book.
dead Pool is the only book I’ve worked on for others who felt like they were in the same vein. I had to scratch a lot of itches left over from my time Hysteria and made me realize that I had to bring Hysteria return. dead Pool had the humor, the pathos, the action and the heart that I had tried to put into Hysteria.
Which character or series would you still like to have the opportunity to work on and why?
Like I said above, I have to draw almost everyone on my bucket list, so it’s difficult. Batman comes to mind, but I think that’s the character every comic book writer wants to be interested in. I never ran on the x-men or the Avengers. It could be fun. i think i have one Superman Where Pontoon book in me too. Other than that, I have to do a creator-owned book. Hysteria must happen again, especially in my A gang of men miniseries. I took care of it on my Patreon, hoping to gather enough to build a project around it.
How was it to work Wild Cards: card draw #1, especially given the show’s legacy?
wild cards was a heavyweight. As you mentioned, the legacy is such that I knew some hardcore fans would be paying attention to make sure we got it right. I’m trying to do my homework with a character, but in this case I had to crouch down and figure out the world. The gig started with character design, so I sequestered myself for about a week with the first wild cards book, a highlighter and a sketchbook to work on the drawings. I read each chapter, taking notes on the actual as well as indirect descriptions, annotating them all, and coming back with my sketchbook to brainstorm ideas.
I also had to pick the right period, so there was a ton of research to do on everything from clothes to sets. Even small things would take tons of time. For example, there is a single scene where a bombing siren goes off. I spent a few days tracking this down for just one panel!
I spent a lot of time designing the designs and presenting them to George [R.R. Martin]. I’m honored to say he loved them all and only had one note about a character: a hair change. Really proud of that. Paul [Cornell] knows the material inside and out and wrote the characters in a way that was true to the books but also like real people, so I just had to get the visuals right. I hope I have done my job well and [that] fans of the series appreciate it.
Three days in Europe received a lot of attention at the time. Have you ever wanted to return to this world, or is this book signed, sealed and delivered for good?
Anthony [Johnston] and I had hoped to return to the characters. There was a lot of interest from Hollywood, and to this day it’s listed as “in development” online, but it never quite worked out. It’s a shame we had to tie a new book to a movie deal, but there was no money in it at the time, so it was the only way to entertain by making more.
But the book launched my career in many ways. The fans absolutely loved it, and their kindness spoiled me to death. I’m incredibly proud of the book. Nowadays, [I] Will suggest it to friends who aren’t diehard comic book fans but still want to check out something I made. He has a broad appeal, which I attribute to Antony. The man is just a natural and nailed these characters’ voices in a way that I found impressive. So here is. Never say never!
Do you prefer to see an endpoint in sight when working on creator-owned projects?
No, I like open stories. I love the “What’s Next” challenge, you know? I love to go all out on a book, make it feel like it had to be the end, and then dive deeper to see what can be done to further explore the story!
What about genres? Is there a genre of comics you haven’t tackled yet that you would like to try your hand at?
Again, I’m spoiled in the sense that I’ve been able to do everything from rom-coms to westerns to sci-fi and everything in between. That said, I have a war comic in mind that I’ll get to before too long. That and a Detective Comic Steph [Phillips] planned for me. Both genres are the ones I think I can sink my teeth into.
You post a lot of material around anatomy and figure drawing. What fascinates you about this particular field of art?
I have a fine art background with a major in painting, so it just feels natural to me. I also teach anatomy and character design at an art school, so I was immersed in that world while making comics. For most of my career, I didn’t realize it was unique until people started asking how to improve their work. For me, the answer has always been to study the figure.
Since Hysteria, I always wanted to go back to self-publishing, but I always thought it would be comics. I stumbled into educational self-publishing by chance through my anatomy class. I would hand draw the student handouts for the class. Before I knew it, I had 130 pages of material. This created clunky photocopy collections for students, and I realized I needed a better way to share this stuff. So we scanned everything and uploaded it for them to download for free. But interest grew by word of mouth, and I began to realize [that] I was going to be charged by the host for these “free” books, so I offered them for a nominal amount. Free for my students, like a dollar or two for everyone else. Demand has increased for a print version, so [I] I threw it. It took off like crazy. That (and a little comic I did with cartoonist and friend Jeff McComsey) got us back to self-publishing.
He became the Draw cheat codesart books like my personal art books All the citycharacter design collections like Studied life and Warm-ups, as well as the sketch fanzine I post quarterly on my Patreon. I love every minute of it!
To learn more about Mike Hawthorne, visit his website.