Rustle Up a Red Wolf Sketchbook

Red Wolf continues to ride in his upcoming self-titled series. Written by Nathan Edmondson and drawn by Dalibor Talajic, the December-launching book will offer plenty of Wild West action, but with a modern twist.

Spinning out of the Secret Wars limited series 1872, RED WOLF focuses on the title character’s struggles to deal with a present that seems further and further from the past he’s familiar with. The book itself will also spend some time in the past, specifically the town of Timely which reflects a more natural time period, as Talajic explains.

The artist talks about how the time periods relate to nature, revising Red Wolf’s look, and the oft-dreaded task of drawing horses. This book is not only about a specific place, but also groups of people with rich histories. Does that translate into a lot of research and reference on your part?

Dalibor Talajic: Well, the story itself starts after the events of 1872, so not many of the characters from there appear in this story because it propels itself in our time almost immediately

Still they do appear as sort of the guest stars. For as short a time as they do, still I had the need to presume how they would behave—in the terms of body language at least—in the Wild West context. This, the body language, is always important to me. Always! It’s not ever enough for me to just come up with a cool outfit or pose or look in general for the characters. The little things like the walk, the gestures, mimic of their faces—these are the things that make them alive. So I guess my answer would be I need to know them in their realm and then try to translate them, so to speak, in this new historical frame. Red Wolf also has a history in the Marvel Universe. What classic elements of his look made sense to carry over into this new version?

Dalibor Talajic: I think he was redesigned quite well in this version that I’m supposed to follow. Obviously, his cowl made of wolf fur had to go, both for the reason of wearing fur is not a cool thing nowadays, and it’s not very authentic historically. In his previous incarnation he was a bit more of a Conan type of figure than a Native American one. Also, tribal painting on his face and chest make a lot of sense especially now, when we live in an era where tattoos and makeup are almost a must-have. Timely sounds like a very interesting place. How was it exploring an entire town like that?

Dalibor Talajic: At the beginning of Nathan’s story Timely is already set from 1872. And we soon leave it either for nature or for the parallel universe. So I’m concentrated on making the panoramic moments of nature as close as possible to the beautiful and rich tradition of Hollywood in rendering westerns, while also echoing the European tradition of rendering the Wild West in the comics. I especially lean on the great work of Hermann Houpen’s Comanche. When that guy drew the Wild West—and I always say this—you could almost know how each of the characters smelled, you could hear the crickets in the woods, feel the heat of the steps. If I get even close to this I’ll be very happy with my work. What challenges do bouncing between the different time periods offer?

Dalibor Talajic: First off, the Wild West time dictates a spectacle to me. It must be grand. You know, when you revisit some old movie from the 50’s that opens with a wide shot of the nature, it just makes you smile. In these moments I’ll have a chance to revisit Timely—to widen my last answer a bit—and get to oppose it to the purity of nature. My Timely is going to be dirty and careless; obviously manmade next to this pureness of the steps, hills and woods.

As for modern time segment, it’ll be more moody; more film noir; even more cruel in the looks than the Wild West, because here and now humans have won over nature. So maybe it’s not as dirty physically, but it’s more sinister a world emotionally. Many artists hate drawing horses and avoid westerns. Is that a challenge for you?

Dalibor Talajic: I love challenges! I admit horses are a tough nut to crack, but they are magnificent animals: the way they move, the majesty combined with physical strength, one simply has to love to draw them! And westerns in general give much more opportunity to an artist to play with shadows. Mind that there was no electricity in those days, so [there are] lots of ways to play with light.

You know “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom”? The scene where Indy is attacked by the assassin in Maharaja’s palace? And a lamp falls on the floor and lights everything weirdly as the action unfolds? What a joy! What a joy to watch! A possibility to do that sort of a stunt in a comic? Why in the world would anyone want to avoid that?!

RED WOLF #1 rides at readers this December from Nathan Edmondson and Dalibor Talajic.