Described as a being inspired by reality TV shows, in Image Comics’ new series Wildguard readers get to choose from hundreds of heroes which will make it to the final of five. Couched in the hyperbole of shows like American Idol, Pop Stars, and Making The Band, the series’ press release recently emoted, “WILDGUARD follows a host of heroes as they endure the agony of competition and a myriad of unforeseen dangers in the hope of being selected by an elite panel of judges, including the mysterious ‘Producer X.’” We’re hooked on the idea already!
Todd Nauck, previously of Young Justice fame, took some time off from his new series, to talk to First Comics News about his career and give us an inside look at the new series. First up we jump in the “way-back machine” to see how it all started…
First Comics News: You had your art published in the “Amazing Art” section of Wizard; was this a contest or was this just a fan art section?
Todd Nauck: It was both really. Fans submitted their Wizard “cover” and each month selected entries would win a prize from the company of the character they drew. I did a Prophet piece and received a gold foil embossed Brigade #1 from Extreme Studios. That was in Wizard #26. I also won a Madman art contest in Hero #7. I think it was #7.
1st: Your first professional work was MX – The Superhero Series for Radical Comics, how did you break in?
Todd: I found out about Radical Comics through the Art Institute employment advisor. I graduated from the Dallas school in 1992. I submitted my samples and they hired me to pencil/ink three issues (#2-4). Issue #2 was the only one to see print and I never got paid for issues #3-4.
1st: Almost immediately you ended up at Extreme Studios, how did that come about?
Todd: My art school buddies took my WildGuard homemade mini-comics and showed them to Dan Fraga at a Houston comic convention in Jan. ’94. He liked them and took them to show Rob Liefeld. He liked them and I was hired.
1st: They had you start out doing pin-ups in Supreme, Team Youngblood, Youngblood Battle Zone, Brigade Sourcebook, andNewmen. Was it the standard at the time to have new artist do pin ups first?
Todd: It seemed that way. I don’t know if it was a set standard or not. But just about everyone that came through Extreme started with pin-ups.
1st: Your first regular assignment was the Badrock & Company mini-series, was this something you wanted to do, and did you enjoy the character?
Todd: Badrock & Company was what I was hired to do first. They picked me to be the artist of that book and I moved out to California to work in studio. I was happy to be drawing comics and enjoyed the Badrock & Company mini-series.
1st: What was it like to adjust to a different writer every issue?
Todd: Since I didn’t have a lot of experience with working with just one writer, it was easy to be flexible. I’d get each writers plot and jump in and tell the story. I love working with different writers. I, now, learn new ways to approach the story and lay out working off of different writers.
1st: After that you started two runs on Newmen and Team Youngblood, what was the experience at Extreme Studios like?
Todd: It was pretty stressful. They saw how much work I could turn out and gave me two monthly comics. I feel my quality of art suffered. Gosh, I was still wrapping up Badrock & Company #6 when I gotNewmen and Team Youngblood. I didn’t have much of a life at the time and the pay was really good, so I didn’t mind. When they tacked on Power of the Mark, I knew I was over worked. I did half of theMark #1 and asked to be taken off the book. They gave Team Youngblood to someone else and I could focus on Newmen. My art started to improve with the lightened workload around Newmen #11. After Newmen #20, we did the four-issue New Force mini-series.
1st: Are you still friendly with the people from those days?
Todd: Oh yeah! Inker, Larry Stucker, and I hang out and talk on the phone all the time. I mean we never really stopped working together. I still keep in touch with a lot of those guys. A group of us did a store signing on the last Free Comic Day. Eric Stephenson, the writer ofNewmen, is director of marketing at Image, so I still keep in touch with him.
1st: When Newmen ended you started doing fill in jobs at Image and the started doing fill in work at DC, how did you make that transition?
Todd: I was drawing Power Rangers ZEO for Liefeld. That was okay, but when they had me drawing Beetleborgs, I knew I was not enjoying my work anymore. Extreme had to lay people off and I finally got cut in the second or third wave when they lost the Power Rangers / Beetleborg license. I started submitting my art to DC and Marvel. I did two issues of the Spider-Man cyber comic. Then I started getting work at the Legion office at DC.
1st: How was it different working for DC?
Todd: The editors are in New York, so I wasn’t working in-house. I’d get a call. I’d get the plot, draw it up, and send it in. The editors there have been very supportive and helpful in honing my art.
1st: How did you go from doing fill in work on the Legion titles, to launching Young Justice in the GirlFrenzy event?
Todd: Editor, Eddie Berganza, and writer, Todd Dezago, were putting YJ together. I was one of five artists under consideration. Dezago liked my art and asked me if I’d like to do a couple of fill-in issues onSensational Spider-Man. After doing the first one, Eddie saw my Spidey art and snatched me up for Young Justice.
1st: You started working with Todd Dezago on Young Justice: The Secret and before the first issue of the regular series came out they switched writers, were you nervous about your position on the book?
Todd: Nope. Eddie Berganza told me I was secure. Dezago had chosen to step down and the book would be a little delayed as they searched for a new writer.
1st: What was it like working with Peter David?
Todd: Great! I had read a lot of his Hulk and really enjoyed his writing. His YJ stories were always fun to read and fun to draw. I couldn’t wait to get to the next plot and find out what was going to happen next.
1st: How much input did you have in Young Justice?
Todd: Eddie was always open to my suggestions. I got to design all the new characters. I could rework panels if necessary, which was rare. I suggested the Ray be on the team. I put together the list of teen hero guest stars for Young Justice #50-51. So I had some input, but was very content to draw what Peter wrote. There was always so much to work from.
1st: After 5 years was it hard to leave DC?
Todd: Well, I haven’t really left DC. We hope to get another project going soon. It’s just that when YJ ended, they didn’t have anything lined up at the moment. So I took the opportunity to pursue WildGuard.
1st: What can you tell me about WildGuard?
Todd: WildGuard is a Made-for-TV super team. The first six issue mini-series, WildGuard: Casting Call, is the origin story where the heroes are auditioning for the team. Think American Idol for superheroes.
1st: As you said this was your original concept you showed to Dan Fraga when you first broke in?
Todd: I came up with WildGuard while still in art school. I had produced a two ashcan homemade mini-comics, as well as four solo character mini-comics.
1st: Did it have the Reality TV hook at the time?
Todd: Yes. WildGuard was my superhero version of the show COPS.
1st: Why did you switch from COPS to American Idol?
Todd: WildGuard will still have the COPS vibe to it in future stories. I’m going with the American Idol template for WildGuard’s origin. Plus,American Idol is HOT. So now is the best time to play up on that. Especially as WildGuard will be wrapping up as American Idol 3 will be starting next year.
1st: Are you a big fan of Reality TV shows?
Todd: Yeah. I liked the first three MTV’s the Real World, the first two or three Survivors, Fear Factor, and Surreal Life.
1st: Is my understanding correct that the fans get to vote on who makes the team?
Todd: I’ve picked four of the five heroes to be WildGuard. I’m asking the readers to choose the fifth member of the team. Readers can go tohttp://www.wildguard.com and vote for the hero they want to see on the team.
1st: How does that work when you are producing the comics in advance of the release date?
Todd: There will be a voting “cut off” deadline. Also, characters will be cut narrowing the voting field. I’m trying to make the story as flexible as possible to work anyone back in if necessary.
1st: You’re not just penciling but also writing, lettering, promoting and paying for WildGuard, how can you do all of it?
Todd: Lotsa prayer! I’m just going for it. I feel this is my next step. I’m definitely growing as a creator. If anything, it’s a great education and time for growth. I’m having a blast!
1st: How do you survive without the regular paycheck and still pay to produce WildGuard?
Todd: Original art sales from http://www.toddnauck.com. My wife is working part-time, too.
1st: What’s next after WildGuard?
Todd: Hopefully more WildGuard! So, everybody go buy the book! Maybe something with DC, again. I’d really enjoy that.
1st: What projects would you like to work on?
Todd: Flash or Green Lantern. Fantastic Four or Ultimate X-Men. ATransformers or GI Joe story would be fun. More WildGuard would be a continued dream come true.
1st: Good luck with WildGuard.
To visit Todd Nauck on the web go to http://www.toddnauck.com
To visit WildGuard on the web go to http://www.wildguard.com
To visit DC Comics on the web go to http://www.dccomics.com
To visit Marvel Comics on the web go to http://www.marvel.com
To visit Image Comics on the web go to http://www.imagecomics.com