And even though Steve is busy slaving away on the art table, he took time out to talk with the Shrine about his experiences working with Dan on the King of the Seven Seas:
The Aquaman Shrine: How familiar were you with Aquaman beforehand? Had you been a fan at all?
Steve Epting: I had a passing familiarity with Aquaman. I was a fan of the Jim Aparo run in Adventure, but that's because I was a huge fan of Jim Aparo. I also loved Nick Cardy's work on the book. To me, those two have never been surpassed on Aquaman. But as you can probably tell, I was really only drawn to the book when it featured the work of artists that I admired.
AMS: How did you end up on the book?
SE: I had been doing Superman with Dan Jurgens for a short time when an editorial shake up essentially removed everyone from the Superman books. Dan was going to be taking over Aquaman after Erik Larsen's run and I believe he asked the new Editor, Tony Bedard, to bring me on to draw it.
I had enjoyed working with Dan on Superman and didn't hesitate to agree to the job. Even though I wasn't overly familiar with the character, Aquaman is one of the most recognizable superheroes in the world and in that way is an iconic character. I was pleased to have the chance to work on the book, and it was a pleasure working with Dan.
AMS: Who do you consider some of your comic book artist influences? (I'm going to go out on a limb here and say John Buscema is one, because there are some shots of Aquaman where his face looks very Buscema-ish to me. Which of course is meant as a compliment!)
SE: Yeah, Buscema was a big influence on me early on, along with John Romita Sr. The list of influences is a long one but I'll throw some others out--Al Williamson, Stan Drake, Jim Aparo, Joe Kubert, Jose Luis Garcia Lopez, Neal Adams, Jim Holdaway, Frazetta, Kirby, on and on...
AMS: The setting for the Aquaman stories (undersea cities, magical beings, etc.) are about as different as possible from the work you're doing now on Captain America (gritty streets, skyscrapers, etc.), yet both worlds are fully realized visually. Is there a particular type of comic book story you prefer working on? Something with a lot of sci-fi/fantasy elements, like Aquaman, or something more down to earth, like Cap?
SE: Both have their pros and cons. In a more reality based setting you have abundant reference for anything you need to draw, however, you also have to adhere to reality and make sure everything is accurate and recognizable.
On the other hand, in a fantasy setting you are free to use your imagination to draw anything you want and to create the world your characters inhabit. The downside here is trying to be creative and original at the same time. It's nearly impossible to create something totally unique without drawing from other sources or influences. That said, I don't really have a preference when it comes to what I'm drawing, though I do like variety.
AMS: One of the elements I was really struck by in your Aquaman work was the physical positioning of certain characters in relation to one another. I noticed several times that when you had a scene with Aquaman and Mera, there's a use of body language that seems to reflect the years of history the two characters had. Was this something you were consciously aware of and adding to the page, or am I reading way too much into it? :)
SE: If it comes across that way, then that's a huge compliment. I won't say that I analyze these things and put enormous effort into figuring out the poses, but it something that I'm definitely aware of when drawing. The artist has to make the characters "act" and the body language is a big part of that. I try to draw what I feel would be natural for the scene and work best for telling the story along with the dialogue.
AMS: Except in brief one or two panel flashback sequences, you never got to draw Aquaman in his "classic" look, which he was eventually returned to. Was that an Aquaman you would've preferred to draw, or didn't that matter to you?
SE: It didn't matter too much to me, though as I said, I was a fan of the Aparo run and it definitely would have been nice to do an issue or two with the classic look from that era.
AMS: What was it like working with Dan Jurgens?
SE: Dan is great to work with. Since he is an artist as well, he has a strong visual sense of the story and the pacing. This makes it easy for an artist to interpret since it has been thought out visually as well as in a story sense.
I've frequently had to draw scenes where the writer would ask for impossible things like two different camera angles in one panel or something like a page with 15 panels, one of which is described as a "big splash panel!". Those kind of things didn't happen with Dan, and the plots themselves were entertaining to read and to draw.
AMS: All your issues were inked by Norm Rapmund, which (I thought) gave the book a nice visual consistency. Did your relationship change over the course of the year, in that I mean did you change how much you left for Norm to flesh out as the inker?
SE: I think my pencils were a bit of a challenge for Norm at first, simply because he had been used to inking a different style of art. Anytime two people who have never worked together before end up on the same project, there is naturally a learning curve as you figure out how to best work together and I think Norm adapted really well over the course of our year on Aquaman.
I don't recall changing my approach at all during our run, I think Norm gradually "figured me out" as we went along, and by the end we were working together quite smoothly.
AMS: Was it a fun assignment, overall? Would you have wanted to continue on Aquaman if DC hadn't cancelled it?
SE: I was definitely enjoying it and would have stayed on as long as Dan wanted to do the book. It was quite fun to draw. My favorite issues were the Warlord arc. That's the closest I've come to Conan story!
AMS: What are you working on now? Are you staying on Captain America for the foreseeable future?
SE: Actually, I'm sort of on hiatus from Cap. Ed Brubaker and I will be doing a mini series called The Marvels Project which deals with the origin of the Marvel Universe. It's part of the 70th Anniversary that Marvel is celebrating this year. You can real all about it here.
I've never had the chance to talk to both the writer and artist of a particular Aquaman run in succession like this before, and I thank Dan and Steve for their time.
They did an amazing job on Aquaman, and their year on the book definitely deserves to be collected into a trade so more people can have a chance to enjoy some fine adventures starring the King of the Seven Seas!
Thanks to Steve for his time and his great work!