Sketching the Squadron Supreme

The Squadron Supreme has a solitary goal in their new series: to keep everyone safe no matter what.

The adventures of Hyperion, Nighthawk, and company will be chronicled by the team of writer James Robinson and artist Leonard Kirk. The two will steer these crusaders on a series of missions that will pit them against those they see as threats, starting off with Namor.

We talked with Kirk about the group’s mission, putting together new takes on familiar characters, and his continued collaborations with Robinson. You and James worked on FANTASTIC FOUR before this. How has your collaborative relationship evolved with experience?

Leonard Kirk: We’ve started wearing gloves and helmets when we fight. Just more sensible.

Kidding. I don’t know that I can measure how much it has evolved. I can’t say this series provides the exact same creative and collaborative experience as with FF but it is similar; another team book, familiar characters, new characters, old designs, new designs. But the mood is very different. FANTASTIC FOUR was, and has always been, about family. Squadron Supreme is a team formed by opportunity and perceived necessity.

Like other super teams, they feel the need to combine their efforts to make a better world. However, because of their various histories from various worlds, many tragic, you may get a sense of union but not that same sense of family. They do what they do because they think they have to. They work together because they think they have to. Not everyone agrees with one another and not everyone gets along.

If there has been any evolution in our relationship, I would say only that it keeps getting better and better. I’m not sure our work together on SQUADRON SUPREME would be as good as it is without our history. The members of this group all come from different worlds. Is it difficult making them look like a cohesive unit?

Leonard Kirk: No, I don’t really find anything difficult with this. I’ve worked on several team books over the years. Like almost anything else, it’s just something you get better at handling with more practice. I do rely on James to handle much of the team’s cohesion through his characterization and then just do my best to interpret everything on the board. The Squadron has a very serious mission. How does that inform how you compose the characters on the page?

Leonard Kirk: Rather than thinking of the of their mission, I will focus on the moment I am illustrating and let every piece of the puzzle fall into place on its own to form the big picture. That’s pretty much how I handle most of my storytelling. I do take the surrounding moments into consideration and the big picture is always on my mind, for the sake of continuity, if nothing else. However, I don’t tend to make that part of every panel or pose. The story would end up too repetitive.

If the Squadron’s mission does inform my composition, it mostly comes from the script, directly. I throw in my two cents, visually, but James sets the pace for how the mission might influence my work.

Oh, and also I use black, a lot of black. Seriously, shadows, silhouettes, looming, empty spaces—black is awesome! I’ve always enjoyed using black and it is very well suited for this series. How is it getting to play with a variety of alternate realities as the series progresses?

Leonard Kirk: I’m just wrapping up the third issue and haven’t had much opportunity to do a lot with the alternate realities. I’ve drawn one flashback sequence for Doctor Spectrum so far and am looking forward to more with the other characters. How did you and James come to the decision to alter your style for the different flashbacks? Have any of the specific styles offered more challenges for you?

Leonard Kirk: This was James’ idea, right out the gate. Again, having only worked on the first three issues, I haven’t done much playing around with the various styles but I am anxious to do more. Paul Neary has certainly helped with his inks. He’s very good at adjusting his finishes to make it all work. I can’t think of any particular style being more challenging than others but that attitude might change as we move along…especially when pushing a deadline.

SQUADRON SUPREME #1 by James Robinson and Leonard Kirk hits hard on December 16!