How NOCTERRA gave Tony S. Daniel his own artistic renaissance

The arrival of Nocterra It can be framed as a return to the types of ‘blockbuster’ adventures loved by comic book and movie fans alike, the veterans of DC storytelling who bring it to life are an equally important selling point. By the stars of Nocterra, this new creation means surviving in a world swallowed up by darkness holding on to what remains of light. But for artist Tony S. Daniel, it’s an opportunity to take years of stellar success with the biggest titles in comics and funnel him into a new challenge.

For the unknown, the story of Nocterra takes place ten years after the world plunges into an eternal night that turns all living creatures into monstrous “shadows.” Following the heroine Valentina “Val” Riggs, a skilled “boatman” who transports people and goods on unlit roads with his large reinforced (and illuminated) truck, everything changes when an old man offers Val a job to take him already. her granddaughter to a near mythical sanctuary across the Rocky Mountains. It’s the kind of timeless adventure story that, in the hands of DC veterans Scott Snyder, Tony S. Daniel and Tomeu Morey, creates instant excitement. But as we learned during our chat with Daniel, that emotion is just as powerful behind the scenes as well.

RELATED: Scott Snyder’s Nocterra Is Just The Beginning Of His New Comic Mission

Fans of DC Comics will already know Daniel as a leading artist who helps define the modern look of bat Man (among others), and at the same time lending his own talent for writing. But joining forces with Scott Snyder for his Best Jackett Press debut, a return to creator-owned comics was an opportunity for Daniel to unleash his skills. Snyder has called it Daniel’s best work to date, and while every reader will make that call for themselves, Screen Rant was fortunate to hear about the work behind Daniel’s own art. Readers can find the full interview below.

Nocterra Image Comics 1 Preview

Screen Rant: Speaking with Scott Snyder, he explained that you two have had this team at work for years, and were hoping your schedules would allow it. How early was Nocterra’s premise understood between the two of you, and how much did that story change or expand once you were able to really start moving?

Tony S. Daniel: It’s true, we had talked a few years ago about teaming up. I’ve been wanting to venture back into the world of creator-owned comics for several years now. I stopped writing for DC after Deathstroke because I thought he would rather write stories for me, especially if they are going to generate big hits for DC like the God Killer story did for the Wonder Woman movie. I started planning to invest in myself again after that, and started writing stories for myself again. I was really determined to write and draw my own material. But then in 2019 Scott and I met in Manhattan and started chatting about finally getting together on something. Working with Scott means putting my other story behind me, but I felt like it was worth going backwards because it’s big and wouldn’t be ready for several months, and here is Scott, someone I’ve always wanted to partner with and he was ready to GO! So the moment for him and I to join forces was one of those things that was meant to happen.

Scott, of course, has a lot of ideas and this one morphed and took shape pretty quickly after a few phone conversations. He had a spark and was super excited when he described what had happened to him, this story that takes place in the dark. In the following weeks, we would talk, he would write some new ideas, then we would talk again and he would write more. That’s the best thing about working together on something. Even though this is an idea that you came up with, just talking to me on the phone opens up new ideas and momentum begins to take shape.

SR: As a writer and artist, it makes perfect sense to hear that you were not only dedicated to the artwork, but to the world of Nocterra, the character of Val, and beyond. So in terms of the artwork here (but definitely not limited to that), what was the goal or goals that you ended up setting for yourself, or struggling to achieve when the world of Nocterra really came to life?

Tony S. Daniel: For me, it was about shedding my skin and becoming new and fresh again, something that I think is important for an artist who wants longevity. Or for artists like me who are simply in constant search of perfection, style or whatever. I felt like I could really immerse myself in this world and the characters.

It is very different from what people are used to. There are no bulging muscles or clenched fists, which I can do too, but this is a different beast that I focus on in the storytelling, setting the tone, creating these characters, and broadcasting their expressions so you forget you’re reading a book because ‘I have been so paralyzed with what you are seeing and reading in front of you.

Nocterra Image Comics Preview 3

SR: Many comic book fans will think that a story set in “a world of permanent night” is permission for an artist to let loose on the fuel of horror and nightmare, but there are several scenes and splatters only in the first issue that almost make light and shadow look like additional “tools” woven into the fabric of Nocterra’s world. Is that true on the art side, when it comes to pencils and inks?

Tony S. Daniel: Yeah, well, when Scott first described the story, I envisioned a lot of black skies, very little background, a lot of open areas of darkness. But when I started working on it, my focus was to keep drawing as much as possible and build this world and use all the artificial lighting sources that light the way, just enough so that we can see our characters.

I love being able to add lights to all the background characters, their hats, their dresses, or gadgets they made to stay lit. In fact, I’m having a lot of fun drawing the backgrounds and the people in the background because they really create what this world will look like. He is very ambitious, I love it and I do my best work when I have challenges like this.

Nocterra Image Comics Preview 3

SR: Did anyone see the face of your colorist Tomeu Morey when it was explained that Nocterra would be set in a world of almost total darkness? I love hearing anything and everything about how the whole team made that idea work so well in the finished comic.

Tony S. Daniel: When I first approached Tomeu, who I worked with for over 10 years in DC, I sold him an easier coloring book because it takes place in the dark. I told him, it will be easy, don’t worry, you can fit it into your schedule. I didn’t mean to be untrue, I honestly thought there would be a lot more open black areas and we would focus primarily on the characters, trucks, and monsters.

But when he saw the first issue, he replied that he thought this was going to be easy. He has done a great job playing with the lighting and the characters, it looks fantastic.

Nocterra Image Comics Preview 4

SR: The first issue offers various looks at the world that has been created as humanity huddled around the last embers of light and referenced new creatures, new humans, new locations, and new threats. Without ruining the surprise, how can you describe the journey and the story to come? I know that readers, like me, will end the first issue feeling like they have no idea what’s next.

Tony S. Daniel: I think the first issue, which is a 32-page, double-size story, really sets out what we are planning in the stories that follow. We are happy to have the space to show what we wanted to show in the main issue. We are establishing not only our main characters, but the world around them, how humanity is resilient in the face of doom.

Whatever happens, there are people who will find a way to survive, whether it be by becoming helpers, heroes, scavengers, thieves or murderers, or in the case of Black Top Bill, a guy who might want to take advantage of the circumstances and profit.

Main cover art for Nocterra Comic

SR: There’s no way we can go without talking about that villain, Blacktop Bill. Obviously we don’t want to spoil Bill’s fictional origin story, but what can you say about Bill’s origin outside of the story? Where did this amazing idea come from?

Tony S. Daniel: It’s a bit of a mystery right now, but we’re going to reveal its origins in an upcoming mini-arc we’re planning. There will be good conversations between Scott and I very soon about how to build around it and where it came from and how it got to this point. We are very excited about him and what is to come.

Nocterra # 1 is now available to comic book fans everywhere, so call your local comic book store to reserve a copy today.

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