IMAGE COMICS: Rafael, what's your overall approach to your artwork on this series? How do you want to make it feel for the reader?
RAFAEL ALBUQUERQUE: Since the beginning, Mark and I, we tried to bring a heartwarming approach to the art. Something that brought a vintage Americana feeling, and overall brought joy to the reader. My main reference art-wise was Norman Rockwell, because, well, nobody captured this era as well as he did. My art is a bit cleaner than I usually do in American Vampire, for example, and my ink washes are lighter, so that, combined with Dave's beautiful palette, would make it all look more pop and colorful.
IC: Were you at all nervous when it came to constructing a scene like this, where the visual storytelling from you and Dave is so important, or are you completely comfortable with silent passages?
RA: I love working in silent sequences. Especially when they are so well-written like this. Don't get me wrong, it's challenging, but since it's not so usual in modern comics, I enjoy every chance I have to stretch my storytelling muscles and it feels great when it comes out nicely.
IMAGE COMICS: Mark, this scene was the first look the general public got at HUCK, in addition to being the first scene in the comic proper. Why was this the right opener for the series? What's it say about the series-to-come?
MARK MILLAR: I wanted to establish the character as efficiently as possible. He isn't about cool one-liners or jokes or threats. There's no pay-off quips with this guy. He just gets the job done and very much in the tradition of the old Hollywood heroes from black and white movies. Back in early cinema, all the dialogue went to the antagonist and the protagonist was a reactive force who just sorted things out. Tarzan I guess was the ultimate example of this, and of course the Fleischer Superman cartoons where the title character virtually had no dialogue. I liked the idea of a character who just very bluntly gets things done. He doesn't hang around. He doesn't really speak to anyone or have any friends, and that's all planned out here, having him running through empty streets at night and doing the seemingly impossible for someone we establish he not only doesn't want thanks from, but someone he's never met. Everything about that character is covered here in these six pages and we know everything about him without him saying a word, right down to his little quiet joy as he watches from behind a bush at the pleasure he's brought to someone.
IC: How early in the conception of HUCK did you come up with this scene? Did this scene feel significant when you were scripting it, or just part of a whole?
MM: I think it was the first scene I conceived. This doesn't always happen. Wolverine: Old Man Logan, for example, started with a sketch of an old Wolverine being threatened by one of the Hulk family on his farm. Then there's an almost-slash as his claws are popped for the first time in years and he takes the Hulk down. But then we cut back to his tired old eyes and realise he's only thinking about it. Wolverine is just an old man now and putting up with even the most unreasonable demands. The next scene I put together was the reason he hadn't popped his claws in all that time, the flashback to him being tricked into killing the X-Men. This was five issues later, but sometimes the most important, defining scenes in a series need to be nailed down before the actual drafting properly begins.
HUCK was different. It came in a very linear fashion. The first two scenes I put together, which actually both mirror one another in terms of structure, was this opening and the origin story of where he came from we used as the opening to issue 4. There's an economy of dialogue with both, which always works best in comics. The more dialogue on an opening page, the less chance the reader will turn over for page two. Page one should be like a headline. That's your hook to turn the page and by page three they shouldn't be able to put it down.
IMAGE COMICS: Dave, this scene progresses from nighttime to sunrise to deep underwater. You go from deep blues to bright yellows, rather than doing something strictly representative of real life. Why was this the right approach for HUCK? What feelings do you want to evoke here?
DAVE McCAIG: Color in comics has a lot of jobs to do. Setting mood, establishing locations, and helping the reader understand passage of time. Creating depth, too.
HUCK really lets me stretch out color-wise, trying to hit all those points. I've worked with Rafa for a while now, and love the way that once he establishes a scene with his line art, he tends to leave the backgrounds in panels nice and open. It gives me a lot of room to push color around and hit emotional cues. Mark really wanted to establish a happy, upbeat tone in this series. The first scene in the series starts off at night, so the reader is not sure of what sort of mood the book might have yet, and once we realize that Huck has basically run through the whole night and covered a huge amount of ground, there's suddenly this explosive, saturated yellow morning sky. It's got a warm, prairie feel to it, and you can almost hear this swelling, uplifting music playing as he leaps into the ocean. Basically, this series lets me treat the color more like color-scripting an animated feature than many other comics would allow for. It's like creating musical beats with the color.
IC: The backgrounds underwater are really interesting to me, the way you use varying values of blue to trace the arc Huck is following in the sea. Can you talk a little bit about how you created this effect? Are you working entirely digitally, or is it a mix of analog and digital?
DM: My work is strictly digital, but I use a lot of brushes based on natural media. Rafael does a lot of work with ink washes on his pages, and I try to integrate those with my color work as much as possible to make it all look seamless. I paint into his washes, under them, and tone the whole thing afterwards with color overlays in Photoshop. It's really one of the most integrated team-ups I have in comics. Also, any chance I get to color underwater scenes makes me happy. I used to scuba dive quite a bit.