Mike Norton is one of the hardest working artists in comics, working on books ranging from Runaways to Revival. Not only that, he cohosts the Crankcast, and is running both an ongoing webcomic, Battlepug, about a very familiar barbarian and his faithful snuffling doggie steed, and a limited series for Dark Horse, The Answer.
We got a chance to talk with Norton, and he filled us in on how The Answer got started, why he enjoys drawing fistfights, and adorable pugs.
Gamma Squad: How’d you start with Dennis Hopeless on The Answer? I understand you came up with the character first, and you and Hopeless went from there?
Norton: I came up with the the concept quite a while ago, but I felt I lacked the skills to fully realize it as a story. After I met Dennis years after, he thought he could make something out if it. I thought he understood the project well enough and let him take a stab at it. I loved the results.
Gamma Squad: The Answer features quite a few beatings, generally handed out by our hero. As an artist, how do you approach an action scene?
Norton: The same as anything else, really. Actually, it’s probably a little easier because you can turn off your brain and just think of choreography.
Gamma Squad: The Answer has quite a bit of both mysticism and super-science around the edges, but it generally keeps that somewhat in the background. Any chance we’ll see that erupt in issue #4?
Norton: Short answer? Yes. Long answer? No spoilers!
Gamma Squad: Transitioning a bit to Battlepug: You actually have a surprisingly wide range of physiques and design in your work; it’s rare to see characters who look like Devin and Black Sasha in any form of comic. Was that a conscious decision, or did it flow from the character?
Norton: A little of both I guess. I really think all manner of women should be represented in comics, but in the comics I make, I really only draw the kind of women I find interesting. I thought the idea of Red Sonja as a real woman made me want to play with expectations: That’s why Black Sasha exists.
Gamma Squad: Battlepug is, among other things, a really funny parody of Conan comics. Were you a fan of Conan growing up?
Norton: Not really. I loved the movies, but the only comic I had was a Korean version that a friend from school gave me. I couldn’t even read it because it wasn’t in English!
Gamma Squad: Battlepug has its roots in a T-shirt design; did you ever expect it to become what it is?
Norton: Hell no! But I think that’s what has strengthened the idea. I didn’t have any expectations going into it. Everything that works is a pleasant surprise.
Gamma Squad: And, finally, I’ve got to ask… any plans for us to meet a skullmonkey with actual flesh?
Norton: Yes. If only to see what the difference between a live and dead one is!
I want more like this!
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