Eric Battle Tackles “The Scourge”
By Robert Jeffrey II July 7, 2011
Eric Battle is an accomplished comic book illustrator, with a resume including such titles as “Green Arrow: Moving Targets,” “Batman: Under the Red Hood 2” and work he's done for LA Banks’ popular novel series “Vampire Huntress.” With no signs of slowing down, Battle recently teamed up with acclaimed Comic Book Writer Scott Lobdell (Marvel Comic’s “Generation X,” IDW’s “Galaxy Quest”) and movie-producing powerhouse Gale Anne Hurd (“The Incredible Hulk,” AMC’s “The Walking Dead,” “The Terminator 1-3”), on Aspen Comics’ “The Scourge”.
Battle recently took some time out of his busy schedule to speak about “The Scourge,” his “Truth: Red, White & Black” inspired portrait, career and other topics.
In the seven-issue series “The Scourge,” NYPD SWAT officer John Griffin and a friend have brought back a virus to New York City, which is now transforming unsuspecting victims into gargoyle-like monsters. In the vein of “28 Days Later,” “The Crazies” and other popular viral outbreak/monster films of recent years, the virus sweeps over the island, creating a hellish backdrop for the story. Griffin seeks to find a solution for the growing problem, save his son, while also attempting to stay alive.
“The course of the story basically takes you through his (Griffin) journey throughout NYC as he encounters all these monsters, in the company of his son [and] his son’s school teacher,” Battle explains.
“I’ve tried to make each issue look better than the previous [one]. For people who’ve even picked up the #0 issue, I think they can look forward to a satisfying adventure, from issue #0 to the final #6th issue, and hopefully more. It’s a very exciting and entertaining read.
“That’s Scott Lobdell’s forte. Giving you characters that you can care about, as you’re witnessing the dilemmas they’re put into at the same time,” he further explains. “I think it’s a very well rounded and fun story. I’ve certainly had a lot of fun drawing it.”
Following the route of many comic book properties of recent years, one goal is to eventually bring this story to the big screen. With Lobdell’s script, and Hurd’s impressive resume of movie hits, the chances look good for the finished product to be adapted, Battle confirms.
“I believe the goal is for a film,” he continues. “I’m pretty sure that if she wants to take it to that next stage… it's gonna happen. The way that Scott Lobdell has written it, it very much has that big screen, action thriller, summer movie type of feel to it. That’s how I’ve approached the visuals to it.”
In addition to drawing a supernatural/monster heavy title as “The Scourge,” Battle’s career includes dropping into the world of super heroes on a regular basis. He’s drawn tales for the JLA, the Green Arrow and Spiderman, to name a few.
“It can be exciting, drawing these characters,” Battle accounts. “The main thing, in terms of characters that have been around for a while like Batman, Green Lantern and those sorts, is each artist tries to put their own stamp on them, if you have a particular style. It can be a lot of fun drawing characters that have been around for a while that I may have grown up reading.”
One such character that Battle has attempted to put his own perspective on includes Isaiah Bradley, a.k.a the First Super Solider, featured in Marvel’s 2003 miniseries “Truth: Red, White & Black”. “Truth” told the story of a group of African-American soldiers who, in a Tuskegee Experiment-like fashion, were subjected to test trials of the Super Solider Serum. Isaiah Bradley was the last soldier of this group to survive the experiments, and fight successfully in the World War II. The experiment was then completed on Steve Rogers, and Isaiah and his fellow soldiers were tossed to the side bin of history.
Upon hearing about the project, Battle and a group of other artists put together their own individual takes on Isaiah Bradley, in the hopes of presenting their work to then Marvel EIC, Joe Quesada. Titled “The Real Truth,” the artwork features an African-American Captain America perched on the Statue of Liberty—who, herself displays African American facial features.
“The reason I put him on top of the Statue of Liberty, goes with why she has more pronounced African American features. That was from hearing that the first version of the Statue of Liberty that had been presented to the United States had actual African American features,” Battle says.
“The U.S. at the time wasn’t ready for that type of thing. The French were asked to modify her features to the way she looks presently. I decided to marry those two sorts of subject matters in the same piece.”
Though the drawing was never formally published, Battle explained at a later time he had a chance to show the piece to Quesada, who, he says, was impressed by the artwork.
“I did the piece, I showed it around. People will say it’s a nice piece, but there really hasn’t been much reception to it outside of that. I’ve just kept it all moving, and went on to do other projects.”
Another project that Battle has worked on includes his creation of the official character archetypes for LA Banks’ “Vampire Huntress” series, a personal favorite of the artist.
“The greatest thing about working on LA Banks’ characters was at that time, none of the characters had been interpreted visually when we had started working together,” he professes.
“With the book covers to her novels it only depicted the main character, Damali, and it gave hints of the love interest, the character Carlos. Neither character had been shown clearly on the covers because with novels, the publishing companies want the readers to come up with their own interpretations of those characters.”
“That she entrusted her characters to me…that was a great responsibility, and it helped me to sharpen my vision of how I wanted my work to look. I’m very, very proud of the work I did with her. People still seem to respond to it very, very well.”
Battle also ranks “The Scourge” as a favorite, citing his recent work on the series as being some of the most solid work he’s done throughout his career.
“The Scourge’ project stands out for me right now because I think I’m doing some of the best work that I’ve ever done,” he says. “Part of that is because all of the issues have been printed from my pencils, so I’m not being interpreted by an inker, or filtered by someone else’s hand. I’m just happy that people will be able to see my work for what it really is.”
Upon expanding more about his recent projects, Battle provided some advice for artists hoping to breakthrough in the industry.
“What any aspiring comic book artist needs to do is put together a portfolio of about five to six pages of sequential art. That’s panel to panel pages to show various editors even within the same company,” Battle explains.
“That particular editor might not like what you do, but you show it to as many editors within the same company, because one person may not like what you do while with another person, you might be the next best thing since sliced bread.
“They’re going to be looking to see that you know your anatomy, perspective and the basics of drawing. Also, that you have clear storytelling ability. You don’t want to show them a whole bunch of pin-up shots of superheroes beating the crap out of one another. They want to see that you can tell a story.”
Even with the success that has come throughout his career, Battle explains he doesn’t rest on his laurels. The artist maintains he’s constantly growing as a creator, taking it day-by- day.
“When I first started in the industry, just because I was younger, I just wanted every page to have stuff happening, with every square inch. I’ve learned to calm it down and let the quiet moments actually work for the more exciting moments,” he admits.
“I’m still learning, and I try to amaze myself with each new project. I want to be able to look at something that I did yesterday, and look at it today and say I can do it differently and better today. I never want to be so self satisfied with things that I can’t see there may be room to improve somewhere. I just try to stay open.”
Robert Jeffrey II is an award-winning Atlanta-based freelance writer whose work has appeared in such publications as Ja Dore magazine, The Atlanta Voice newspaper, and Urban Voices In Comics. When he’s not ranting and raving about comic books, he’s actually writing them. Check out http://www.terminusmedia.com/ for his comic book story, Daddy’s Little Girl, featured in the anthology, Terminus Tales Presents #1: Platypus vs. Monkey.” Robert can also be found at http://robertspageofwriting.blogspot.com/.