Unbridled class and violence: an interview with Daniel Warren Johnson

Unbridled class and violence: an interview with Daniel Warren Johnson
In Lucca Comics & Games we interviewed Daniel Warren Johnson, one of the most esteemed American comic writer and artist, who already worked for most important publishers, thanks to his immediately recognizable line and his frenetic stories.

In Lucca Comics & Games we interviewed Daniel Warren Johnson, author and guest for saldaPress, to tell us about his works and his influences.

In Murder Falcon music is a fundamental subject. What do you think are the relations between music and comics?
One of the first thing that comes to mind is dynamism. Having a small panel with nothing inside relate to a huge panel with a lot of things going on in it, it’s like playing the guitar in a simple way on one string while on the other hand you have a complex chord. Also there is storytelling: the masters of music know how to do everything with an instrument, but the most important thing they know is what a song need. Every song is like a journey and if every note is not played in a dynamic way it’s not fun listen it. In the same way, if there is too much going on in a story it’s non fun to read. So for both medium I think it’s about what we had, what we take away and what we show.

In Extremity hate is the driving force of the world, like an exaggerated metaphor for our world, but in all of that art gives hope. In creating Etremity, have you been inspired from the sociopolitical situation in the United States?
When I was writing Extremity in 2015 Trump was beginning his political campaign, but to be honest I can’t say I was writing a story about the world today. I was only looking for a good manner to express in natural way the path of Thea in the story. It seems the world that I created was suitable for what she has to face. I didn’t want to say something about the world, especially before 2016. Watching the past few years it seems that I want to tell about the present, but I didn’t do it on purpose.

Your drawings received influences from Paul Pope and Geof Darrow, especially in the line, panels construction and frames of violence. Are this artists a benchmark for you?
Yes, they had a huge influence on me. I was reading Geof Darrow‘s comics since I was a kid, I think I read Hard Boiled when I was sixteen, and I read Batman Year 100, I knew the line of Paul Pope and I think he’s really cool. They are very different in the way they approach art and lines, but both remain really dynamic. I met few years ago Paul Pope and he said me how much he likes my work. It was amazing! Paul and Geof are good reminder for me that art is not meant to be very thight and prestine: it can be messy and still looks awesome. I also learn from him how to draw faster which is always useful.

Among your style there are some references about manga and japanese animation, like strong dynamism, an emphatic use of onomatopoeias and attention for character and mecha design. How did you rework these features in personal way?
I just can’t help copying the things I love and I read a lot of manga and they have all the things you’re talking about. Especially the manga from the 80s and the 90s, like Akira, Appleseed and Ghost in the Shell, had a huge influence on me. In a manga when someone is punched the reader can feel it in his face or chest, and when I started making comics the goal was always try to recreat this feeling. So…it’s just me copying manga (laugh).

You realized Ghost Fleet with Donny Cates. Did Donny give you freedom in building pages and panels or you respected a stiff script?
The script was solid, but not too stiff. He set up the panels, but he didn’t really direct me or told me where to “put the camera”. He gave me freedom in almost every scene and I really like that. Sometimes I changed the layout, because I thought that can work better and he always said: “It’s cool, keep it on”.

You are working on the miniseries Wonder Woman: Dead Earth for DC Comics. How was born this project?
DC called me. They want me to draw Wildcats, but at the time I was working on Murder Falcon so I didn’t have time. We stayed in contact after that and later they called me again, asking if I want to draw something for Black Label. It sounded very interesting to me and I asked what they are thinking of. They left me full discrectionary power, because they want something in my own style and I thought about it. All Star Superman is one of my favourite comics and after reading The return of the Dark Knight was never be the same, but I didn’t read anything about Wonder Woman. I didn’t like the character’s traits. Therefore the goal was create a Wonder Woman comic that I want to read. They really liked and now I am working on Wonder Woman. It’s crazy!

Live interview from Lucca Comics & Games 2019.

Daniel Warren Johnson

Daniel Warren Johnson is comic writer, cartoonist and cover book artist with extremely personal line, who works for the most important comic publishers, for example Marvel (“Manthing”, “Cable”), DC (“Sinestro”), Dark Horse (“Alabaster”, “Space Mullet”). For Image Comics drawed Ghost Fleet, written by Donny Cates and published in Italy by saldaPress. For Skybound, Robert Kirkman’s label inside Image Comics, created “Murder Falcon” and “Extremity”, both published in Italy by saldaPress. Extremity, that came out in 2018, is a mix of Studio Ghibli setting and Mad Max breathtaking grandeur. An unforgettable adventure that talks about the necessity of survival in a cruel world and the importance to break the vicious circle of revenge.

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