Comics Vanguard talks to STEVEN SANDERS!

When Steven Sanders isn’t dealing with the SERIOUS BUSINESS of drawing Wolverine (as he started doing in today’s milestone Wolverine #300, and will continue for the next few months) he’s busy drawing X-Men characters getting arrested or drink coffee. After starting his career by drawing the original graphic novel Five Fists of Science for Image comics, he’s since jumped across to Marvel for stints drawing SWORD, Uncanny X-Men, and now Jason Aaron’s final arc on Wolverine. On top of that, he once drew a picture of Deadpool fighting a man who is also a monkey.

Clearly, he is a man worth spending some time with.

So we did! With Wolverine #300 out today – go get it! – we decided to sit down with Sanders and go through his career, in comb-breaking depth and detail. We’re getting so in-depth here that you won’t be able to stop thinking about him for at least the next two hours. HE SHALL HAUNT YOU. A Sanders Spectre, if you will.

With that in mind, let’s get into it! Why, we’ve got alien adventures, steampunkery and cosmic fashion to discuss!

First off – with three dual-fisted protagonists, shouldn’t it have been SIX fists of science?

Timothy only had one real hand. POW.

Comics Vanguard always like to kick things off with an inaccuracy caused by lack of research.

Your first Marvel project, SWORD, gave us space geraniums, Dark Avengers, alien invasions, British bounty hunters, copious muffins and an alcoholic dragon. How did you first get involved with such a bizarre-sounding project?

I think Matt Fraction suggested to Nick Lowe that Kieron and I be paired up to work on it. I’m sure Nick has been regretting that decision ever since.

What were your favourite moments from the series to draw?

Oh, man. All of it? I liked the Marvel Boy scene, as I loved the Grant Morrison mini, and that was basically a tribute to that, and the transforming space car from the first issue, and I think the entire last issue. I’m sure there’s more, but that’s all that sticks out at the moment. Scenes with UNIT were enjoyable.

You created quite a lot of aliens during the series. Have you ever been tempted to give them complicated, overdramatic back-stories?

Not really, I saved that for the machinery.

If the series had continued, where do you think it might have headed next?

Got me, I just draw what gets placed in front of me. Likely something involving space.

Is Hepzibah your favourite character?

Do people exist who do not consider her to be their favourite character?

Hepzibah was responsible for many of SWORD’s finest moments

And of course, there has been a lot of online squabbling over your depiction of Beast. And by that I mean your decision not to put a bow-tie on his space suit. Do you ever regret making that artistic choice?

Daily.

You’ve worked a lot with Matt Fraction and Kieron Gillen, who are rumoured to be friends in real life. Would you call them YOUR friends, too?

Matt, Jamie McKelvie, Kieron and I all shared a table at SDCC in 2006, I think. Matt used to live in town, wherein we’d unhermit and be social on occasion, and Kieron visited for dinner once, so we are automagically best friends forever.

Our Love is Real saw you handling another interspecies relationship, to go alongside SWORD. Are you worried about typecasting at all?

It’s better than getting typecast for steampunk. That poor genre. It was so enjoyable and then everyone showed up with glue guns and watch gears.

And these weird hats.

The book also saw you experimenting with your art style – using more of an ink and wash method, I think. Was this a deliberate attempt to try something different? How important do you think it is for an artist to try and develop/evolve their style, create something unique for themselves?

Yeah, I have never really been an inker. I learned to draw using pencil, and always hated giving up the shading you can easily achieve with it vs straight black ink. So I started messing around with a variety of techniques until I arrived at what was used in OUR LOVE IS REAL. It’s my pencils, with ink used to lend line weight where needed, (mostly in outlines and areas of pure black) and then I shaded it in photoshop. I’m using the same technique in WOLVERINE 300-303.

I think individual style can be a double edged sword. I do think that one should always be striving to make their work better, in whatever form that takes. Otherwise it gets boring. That said, if you cultivate a very unique style that is a hit and stick with it, you are likely to age poorly as an illustrator, as eventually it will fall out of fashion. Ideally, I’d like to have a style that is “invisible”, where you don’t see the work as having a particular “look”, but see the characters and backgrounds and what is happening instead. I don’t want style to overwhelm the communicative aspect of the drawing.

The world Sam Humphries and yourself created in the issue seems too big for just one story. Would you ever consider revisiting the premise and telling new stories with this world?

We are currently mulling that over. It’s more a matter of money and time than anything else.

You seem to flit between independent work – like Five Fists of Science – and Marvel work quite often. What is it about working independently which most interests you as an artist?

It’s completely accidental. I just want to draw things and get paid, so if I work on something, I’m most likely doing it for money or to set myself up for more paying work. I’m trying to be, for lack of a better term, process focused rather than product focused. A craftsman instead of an “artist”.

Certain stories and themes do appeal to me, but that comes second to getting paid, largely by necessity. Ideals and vision won’t pay my mortgage. If I ever become fiscally independent, maybe I’ll look into indulging myself a bit more. Or if I can find a way to both indulge myself and make money doing it.

Would you ever consider writing and drawing a comic yourself?

Maybe a silent one. I’m a poor writer, I’m afraid.

You drew an issue of Generation Hope recently, which featured a Hepzibah cameo in the background. Is she your favourite character?

Hepzibah is everyone’s favourite character.

You’ve kept pretty staunchly to X-Men comics so far. Were they the comics you grew up with?

In grade school, yeah. I switched to japanese and european comics in middle school onward. I’ve been doing X-books mostly because I only know X-book editors, for the most part. That said, if I were allowed to pick, I’d still go with the X-books as they tend to be the closest thing to sci-fi in the marvel universe outside of the cosmic stuff, and I like drawing sci-fi machinery.

You can actually find some of Steven’s sketches in the back of Wolverine #300, where he breaks down his process when designing a suit of armour for one of the characters to wear. Did we mention how you should buy the issue immediately?

You’re currently drawing for Jason Aaron’s Wolverine series – can we assume you will be continuing and wrapping up the Yukio/Amiko storyline?

I’ll be continuing it for a bit. I don’t know about wrapping it up.

This question, we’ll admit, was asked before we picked up the issue. It turns out that instead of having three stories with a different artist on each, Sanders’ art rotates with Adam Kubert and Ron Garney to tell individual ‘chapters’ of the same story.

What can we expect from these final few issues? Can you guarantee THRILLS?

AND SPILLS. And ninjas and shooting and things exploding and fighting and cool shit.

And farming!

Will Hepzibah – your favourite Marvel character – appear at all?

She’s in every comic I make. Sometimes just off panel.

You can find Steven at his website, on his twitter, on a tumblr, and if you search hard enough in your garden. MANY MANY thanks to him for giving us so much of his time!

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