Tony Daniel: A Freakish Perfectionist!
Interview conducted by SEA
Edited by Dimitris Sakaridis
Currently, Tony Daniel is one of the most popular pencillers in the American comics industry. His work on the highly popular TEEN TITANS, is highly appreciated by both fans and reviewers. As it is, he's also much more of a realist than anyone would possibly expect. Without displaying any false modesty, but at the same time being fully aware of the extent of his abilities, he seems to truly enjoy working at an industry that takes care of those who love and support it with their professionalism and the quality of their work.
TONY DANIEL: As a youngster I was exposed by my parents to a large box of comics, mainly Marvel comics, dating back to 1968. I remember a lot of John Romita Sr., Gene Colan, and Jack Kirby's. I was in 4th grade when I met another kid who was drawing little comic books, with funny characters. I joined him and we started to draw superhero comics.
I decided to pursue it as a career after I learned that it was possible to make a living. I'd rather draw comics, something that I'm good at, and enjoy and love, than get a real job, right?
SEA: What was your first professional work? How did you feel when you first saw your work in print?
TONY DANIEL: As I got older, I naturally got better and eventually I was good enough to get work with Comico Comics drawing THE ELEMENTALS. After working for Comico for about a year, I finally found work with Marvel, drawing X-FORCE, by pestering writer, Fabian Nicieza.
SEA: Have you done any formal studies in art or comics?
TONY DANIEL: I'm a self taught artist.
SEA: What artists inspired you when you were starting out?
TONY DANIEL: As a child, my favorites were John Byrne and Mike Zeck. But I was also a big Frazetta fan and a fan of HEAVY METAL Magazine and European artists, like Moebius and Manara. Later, I became inspired by newer artists, like Jim Lee. But then again, I think Jim Lee has inspired everyone after him.
SEA: Would you consider yourself to be a "mainstream artist"? How would you define yourself in regards to the industry and artform?
TONY DANIEL: Today I do consider myself a mainstream artist. I'm working for DC on TEEN TITANS and it doesn't get any more mainstream than that. But for most of my career, up till now, no. I never considered myself a mainstream artist. Things change.
SEA: Marvel's X-FORCE is the title that helped you make your name in the industry. Looking back at this work, what is it that you see most?
TONY DANIEL: I see a novice who got lucky being in the right place at the right time. What I lacked in technical skill, I made up for with energy. I was young and enthusiastic and I think it showed. Though looking back, I think the work is horrible. But I'll tell you that about work I did just a few months ago too. I have a strong drive to become much better and I'm a freakish perfectionist. A hard thing to be in a deadline related job like this one which makes perfection impossible.
SEA: What is your relationship with other members of the industry? Do you have any friends or enemies?
TONY DANIEL: I have some friends in the industry but I'm not sure about enemies. Am I liked by everyone? Maybe not. But that's life. I'm just an artist trying to do his best in the end.
SEA: What was your initial reaction when the forming of Image was announced? Did you find yourself in the position of having to choose sides?
TONY DANIEL: I was only hoping to break into comics at that time. I hadn't yet had the opportunity to choose sides. I probably would have been swayed towards Image back then because of all the hype. But who knows?
SEA: Let's talk a little about THE TENTH which is probable the work you are most famous for. What's the story behind the book's creation? When I read the first series, I got the feeling that you had really put a lot of "yourself" in it.
TONY DANIEL: THE TENTH was really about the kid in me being given the keys to a toy store. I did whatever I wanted, whatever I dreamt. So I had unlimited fun doing it. I pretty much made it up as I went along. I had a basic idea of what I wanted and I just dreamt the rest up as I went. Today, I'd do it differently. I'd plot out a year's worth then get to work.
SEA: After the maxi series, you kept doing minis with the characters from THE TENTH. Did you think that the market couldn't support an ongoing series, or was it more a choice made from a storytelling point of view?
TONY DANIEL: It was basically a ploy to try to attract new readers. The series was still selling reasonably well but I always thought it could do better. It was a big chance, but it worked at the time. If it failed, I would've gone back to the ongoing numerical order.
SEA: Do you prefer being a writer or an artist?
TONY DANIEL: For comics, I prefer to pencil. It's my strength. Though I do like to write, moreso in fact than draw. But I now use that talent to work on screenwriting, where I hope to break in to Hollywood at some point in the near future.
SEA: What's your opinion on self-publishing? Do you see much merit in making a one-man-show, one-man-operation title?
TONY DANIEL: Today's market doesn't really allow for anyone self-publishing to turn a profit. It's a big risk right now to put your own money into a book that's not an established franchise. I wouldn't attempt it again until the market got better and there was demand. That could be in five years or ten, one can't tell.
SEA: What sort of advice would you give to aspiring artists, trying to break into the industry?
TONY DANIEL: My advice is that if you truly want to be in comics, you must really love it. You must love reading comics as well as love the craftsmanship that goes into it. It's very hard to get in and very hard to become established. I consider myself very, very blessed.
SEA: What's your opinion on the state of the comics industry and artform at the moment?
TONY DANIEL: I'm happy that the industry has become much healthier these last few years. It's on the upswing again and I think the worst is behind us. The last few years have shown steady growth for comics as a whole, but mainly with Marvel and DC.
SEA: Would you consider giving up comics to work in some other, more prestigious (and probably better-paying) industry like film, TV or advertising?
TONY DANIEL: As I stated earlier, I do consider myself an aspiring screenwriter. So maybe with some luck and persistence, I'll succeed in that too.
SEA: What are your plans for the immediate future? Are there any more projects for DC or any new creator-owned works? Will we ever see a sequel to the recent HUMANKIND mini series?
TONY DANIEL: No more creator-owned work for a while. But I will be at DC for at least the next year. Likely, I'll still be on TEEN TITANS. I hope you guys check it out.
SEA: We sure will. Well, that's all. Thank you very much for your time and patience.
TONY DANIEL: Thank you!
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