“Fan-favorite” and “consistent” are a couple of adjectives generally thrown around when you have nothing particularly outstanding to say about an artist. For Todd Nauck, these are two adjectives that apply quite accurately, in addition to “brilliant,” “innovative,” “ridiculously talented” and “pretty darn funny.”
Todd is most well known for his run as penciller of DC’s Young Justice. He supplied art for all but a couple of the series’ 55 issues, consistently turning in quality work on time and without need of fill-ins. Todd’s ability to draw tons of characters and amazing eye for detail contributed to YJ being a cult hit and one of the most enjoyable books in DC history.
Having won a significant fanbase during his time on YJ, Todd launched an extremely ambitious project through Image: WildGaurd. The premise is a super-hero reality show and Todd single-handedly created dozens of new characters for the series. He served as both writer and artist on the WildGuard: Casting Call mini-series, that allowed readers to join in and pick who would make the team.
Todd is currently hard at work at follow ups to the successful WildGaurd franchise and also serves as the penciller on DC’s Teen Titans Go!, based on the popular animated series. Ben Morse has been a huge fan of Todd’s since the YJ days and got him to draw a bitchin’ Superboy sketch for him at San Diego. When Ben pressed for an interview, Todd was polite enough to oblige.
Ben Morse: Let’s get the big pimp out of the way right off the bat”¦what’s coming up for you and when and how can we expect some more WildGuard?
Todd Nauck: I’m currently drawing DC’s Teen Titans Go! series. I just finished issue #13. I’m starting #14 with (animated) Speedy’s first comic appearance.
I’m also producing weekly WildGuard comic strips. These strips pick up where the first mini-series, WildGuard: Casting Call, left off. They give readers more insight into the WG universe. Plus, it helps bridge the gap between the Casting Call and upcoming one-shots…
Speaking of which, the first WG one-shot is finished and ready for solicitation. It took awhile since I am writing, penciling, inking, coloring, and lettering the lead story. There’s also a backup story written by myself and drawn by a great new art team, Sean Galloway and Tim Kane.
It’s called WildGuard: Fire Power. Look for it this December!
For those people not familiar with the series, can you explain the premise and the process, including the fan participation aspect, of how the final team of five was selected for WildGuard? Also, briefly go over the final five that were selected and why.
WildGuard is a concept I came up with in 1992, while attending the Art Institute of Dallas. I was inspired by one of my favorite shows at the time, COPS. So, essentially WildGuard is a “made-for-TV” super-team. Their exploits are filmed as a reality TV show. I produced two homemade mini-comics starring WildGuard. A couple of art school buddies showed them to Dan Fraga, of Extreme Studios, at a comic convention. He liked them and showed them to Rob Liefeld. I was hired two days later. I put WildGuard on the back burner.
Eight years later, after wrapping up my run on Young Justice, I decided to dust of WildGuard and give creator-owned comics a go. With the proliferation of “reality TV,” I had plenty to work with. I decided the first mini-series should be their origin and approached the story with American Idol as the template: super heroes auditioning for a made-for-TV super team. The first issue would feature dozens upon dozens of heroes auditioning for a trio of producers: a savvy Holly wood producer, a retired adventurer, and a superhero/superstar. The cast would get cut with each issue until we were left with the final five. These five characters would be the team future WildGuard stories would revolve around.
A friend encouraged me to open the selection process up to the public. So, I decided to have a website where readers could check out mini profiles of forty-six different original characters and vote for the one they liked best. That character would be cast as the “Reader Vote-In” wildcard member.
The readers voted in Freezerburn. The general consensus was “appealing design” and “cool fire/ice powers.”
The other four members were “chosen” by the WildGuard producers.
Red Rover, a scrapper with super canine senses and abilities, and Ignacia, a young lady with flame powers, were in the original incarnation of WildGuard. I liked them too much to get rid of them.
Snapback, the malleable man with a mullet, is a good Ã¢â‚¬Ëœol boy. This character lets me draw from my days growing up in Texas.
Finally we have Lily Hammer: a hammer wielding warrior maiden. I was still up in the air on the fourth character. I really discovered who Lily was as the mini-series progressed. I liked how confrontational her personality had become. She would be great for causing tension between characters.
You created an amazing amount of characters for this series; were there some that were more labors of love for you that you put more time into and others that you just kind of drew to fill space and came up with the powers and personalities later?
Red Rover and Ignacia were characters I had since Ã¢â‚¬Ëœ92. So, yeah, they were far more fleshed out. But even other characters that I had brewing for a while, I really didn’t discover their personalities until I started writing the comic. They kinda wrote themselves. Like Lily Hammer, the Romancer, and Wannabe.
Some characters were created on the fly like Exploding Girl, Human Shield, and Adhesor, the Adhesive Man. These characters were fun discoveries. And people really latched onto them.
Were you concerned putting a major decision like that in the hands of the fans or were you confident enough in all the characters you created that you knew you could work with whomever the fans selected?
I was totally up to the challenge. I was ready to work any character back into the story if they had been cut prior. It was kind of exciting to see who was gonna end up on the team with the four I had already picked. I figured no matter who the readers picked, I would have fun making them fit in the story and running with it.
Will there be more fan participation in future WildGuard projects or are you just going to tell the stories of the selected team now?
I will add fan participation to story arcs I feel warrant it. I don’t want to do it for every arc. That’s just too much gimmick and not what WildGuard is about. So, for now, it’s stories I want to tell.
How difficult was it making the transition from just doing art on a series like Young Justice to suddenly writing, doing art, running the whole show on WildGuard?
It was definitely a learning process. I had to wear a lot more hats than just being a penciller. I had to deal with production, the printer, and promotion. The writing was a lot of fun. I’ve even learned to color and letter through this process.
Say you were voting on a super-hero reality show that could feature any five characters from any company”¦ Who would be your picks?
I’ve been asked this before. I was to pick between Marvel and DC. But now I can pick from any company? Well, I love the obscure characters. So, it definitely won’t be a “Superman, Spider-Man, Wolverine, Batman, Wonder Woman” kinda team. Let’s see…
-Guy Gardner (Green Lantern version): a total jerk with a unique visual design.
-Dazzler: I’ve been crazy about her since she was in X-Men back in the mid 80’s.
-Ironhide: One of my favorite G1 Transformers.
-Lady Jaye: The coolest and toughest female member of GI Joe.
-Space Ghost: The hero. Not the talk show host. An incredible, classic design.
I should try drawing this team someday.
Your breakout run in comics was on one of my favorite series, Young Justice. You were the regular penciller for all fifty-five issues with very few fill-ins. What did the series mean for you and what was it like working with Peter David?
I loved this series. I was already a fan of these characters”¦then to have DC ask me to help launch this JLA spin-off where I get to draw Robin, Superboy, and Impulse? It’s a dream come true! I really cared for all these characters. Peter David’s writing really helped. I always looked forward to reading the next plot. They were always funny. Or moving. Or both. Young Justice #42 was a great example of this. It was an honor to work with a comic writing legend like Peter David.
Who were your favorite Young Justice characters?
It’s like asking a parent “which is your favorite child?”. Well, maybe not exactly. I would say Robin and Wonder Girl were my favorites. Robin was a great “straight man.” He reminded me of the Martian Manhunter form the Giffen-DeMatteis run on JLI: a leader surrounded by a bunch of lunatics. Wonder Girl really came into her own in YJ. It was great to see her grow.
What did you enjoy more artistically on Young Justice, creating the looks for characters like Secret and Empress or redefining the looks of established characters like Superboy and particularly Wonder Girl?
I enjoyed doing both. It’s great to create new characters and have them interact with established icons of the DCU. It’s also exciting to take the well-known characters and give them a tweak here and there visually.
You did some of the best covers in the business during your YJ tenure, from the homage to Crisis On Infinite Earths #12 on issue 51 to the Brady Bunch cover on issue 52 (and when I first thought of this question I didn’t realize those issues were back to back, they were both just really cool), which was your favorite?
The covers to YJ#50 and #51. I love drawing TONS of characters. I have both of those covers framed and hanging in the living room.
As mentioned before, you did some great homage covers; were there any you wanted to do that you never got a chance to do?
Well, I got to do my Crisis #12 homage, the JLQuarterly #1 homage (which is an homage to Giffen-DeMatteis’ Justice League #1), and I homaged my own YJ #1 cover twice with YJ #18 and 21. I can’t think of any specific homages I would wanted to do. They kinda came as we discussed that issue’s story.
Back during the Sins of Youth crossover you got to draw just about every character in the DCU Universe”¦ Are there any characters left from that company you’d still like to draw? How about Marvel?
You know everyone that appeared in Crisis? Them. More specifically, I would have loved to have drawn Firestorm, Blue Devil (original design), Green Arrow (if he were alive at the time of that story), the Metal Men, and the original Outsiders.
I’d love to draw the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, any X-book, and a big Avenger multi-character storyline for Marvel.
What do you think of the current Teen Titans series, in particular how the YJ characters are being handled?
I love it. Geoff [Johns, writer of Teen Titans] is a good pal. I have much admiration for what he does and his love for the DCU. I think what he’s doing with the YJ kids is great. I like that he’s taken Impulse to a new level as Kid Flash. I love that he moved Secret and Wonder Girl to Arrowette’s private school. Geoff doesn’t forget where characters came from and isn’t afraid to take them somewhere new. That’s what makes TT a great read!
You’re able to draw more characters in a page or panel than perhaps any other artist outside of George Perez; if you were drawing the biggest splash page of your career, which of the following characters would be in it and which would not?”¦ And why or why not? : Bloodwynd, Nova (the human rocket, not the chick), Pantha, Dazzler, Deadshot, the Wrecking Crew, Karate Kid, Daredevil in his 90s armor costume, Tomar Re, Moon Knight, Gunfire and Spider-Man 2099?
Hey, I’ll draw anybody! But to play along…
-Bloodwynd: NO. He replaced Martian Manhunter only to be revealed as Martian Manhunter (from what I remember reading).
-Nova: YES. Awesome design.
-Pantha: NO. I’m not too familiar with her.
-Dazzler: YES. You know my feelings on Dazzler.
-Deadshot: YES. He has a gunsight over one eye.
-The Wrecking Crew. YES. They were villains in the comics that got me collecting: Secret Wars.
-Karate Kid: YES. But only if I can draw Pat Morita and Elizabeth Shue, too”¦just kidding.
-Daredevil (90’s armor): NO. What a joke!
-Tomar Re: YES. A classic DCU alien and GL member. Great visual!
-Moon Knight: YES. I kinda feel sad for this character. How many cancelled series has he had?
-Gunfire: NO. I can’t remember who that is.
-Spider-Man 2099: Great character with a great design. Plus, I’m a big Rick Leonardi fan!
What was it like working on Teen Titans Go!? Did you feel more pressure because there were established appearances for the characters from the TV show or was it easier to have a template to work from?
I was nervous at first. I didn’t like the idea of drawing in the animated style. They sent me the style guides and an overview of the cartoon series. I agreed to draw issue #1 to get them started. Then, I saw the cartoon and saw that it wouldn’t be too difficult to adapt my style. Once I got crackin’ on the book, I’ve found it fun and easy to do.
Your style is known for being associated with more lighthearted series from YJ to WildGuard to Go! Do you see this as being any sort of stigma against you? Do you feel like you’ll never get a chance to do work on series of a more serious nature? Do you have a desire to?
I like to draw fun comics. I don’t think “fun” means there can’t be serious elements to the stories. I like comics that have adventure and character driven stories. I don’t like to draw stories that are silly and mindless. I’m doing what I enjoy and invite people to join me in having fun with comic book stories.
Having now established yourself as being a talented writer as well as artist, would your dream collaboration be with an artist or a writer and who would it be, or is Todd Nauck too big for collaborators now (kind of like how I’m doing this interview on my own having ditched the baggage of my former interviewing partner Tim Stevens)?
Coh-labb-or-ate? What is this emotion?
No, really. I’d love to draw more Geoff John stories. It’d be awesome to work with Brian Michael Bendis or Robert Kirkman.
I’d lose my mind to have Art Adams draw one of my stories. Yes, I said I’d lose my mind.
Do you feel that working on WildGuard has given you an edge should you ever choose to compete on a reality show? Is that in your future?
Well, I do enjoy reality TV. It’s a shame the Mole was cancelled. That was my show, y’know? My wife and I would like to audition for Amazing Race. We just missed the cut off date for Amazing Race 6. Now, we have time to get in condition and shoot for #7.
But, I have just taped an episode of the new PAX TV game show, On the Cover. It’s pop culture trivia based on magazine covers. It airs weeknights at 8pm (e/p). The episode I am on will air Nov 24, 2004.
Tune in and join the fun! Send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org to get on a reminder e-mail list for when the show will air. I’ll have an e-mail sent out a few days before the episode and the day of the episode airing.
In an interview I did a couple weeks ago with Geoff Johns, he essentially called himself unstoppable when it comes to a barroom brawl. Let’s cut to the chase: Johns and Nauck, two men enter”¦ Who walks out?
Well, if Geoff says he’s unstoppable, who am I to argue. But has he taken into account I’m indestructible? I guess we’d do a lot of property damage, get bored, then leave.
You said you’d be naming your first born Nexus in order to help us plug the new site”¦ When can we expect this?
No plans for kids from the Naucks. We like it being just the two of us. We can go to comic conventions and travel and not worry about babysitters. How about a fish named Nexus?… Sounds like a sequel to A Fish Called Wanda.
Any final thoughts or comments you’d like to share?
Help control the pet population: have your pets spayed or neutered.
Thanks for your time, Todd. Good luck with everything.
You can check out Todd’s work on Teen Titans Go! monthly from DC, read his WildGuard comic strips online and look out for WildGuard: Fire Power in December. Also, as he mentioned, Todd will be appearing on PAX TV’s On The Cover on November 24 at 8 pm (Eastern Time) and could be showing up on reality TV from Survivor to Fear Factor any day now.