The Other History of the DC Universe has lived up to its title, bringing a grounding realism to the superhero icons we know and love and giving insight into what it's like for those living in a world with larger-than-life beings who can bend steel and deflect bullets. While issue #1 focused on Jefferson Pierce, issue #2 focuses on Malcolm Duncan and Karen Beecher, and because of all their dealings with the Titans throughout their superhero careers, artist Giuseppe Camuncoli had the chance to put his own spin on some legendary moments and characters from DC history. ComicBook.com had the chance to speak to Camuncoli all about the issue, including that perfect first-page encapsulation of Mal and Karen's relationship.
"First of all, thanks. It seemed like the only way to open this issue, given the text, was to introduce these two characters in their most common look, and then juxtapose all of their different incarnations during the years," Camuncoli said. "I went for splashes as frames, as I thought it was a cool way to depict these variations blooming around them like flowers of sorts. The thing I enjoyed the most, being quite unfamiliar with these two characters, was to discover what they both went through over the years, and illustrating their path, which is forever intertwined."
Throughout the story, we see Mal's look change several times as he takes on new identities and at times returns to old ones, including his Hornblower and Guardian suits, so we had to know which one ended up being Camuncoli's favorite.
"Definitely the Guardian suit," Camuncoli said. "Mostly because it's the less absurd, and the one that still looks quite alright to these modern days of ours, but most possibly because I think I was first introduced to Guardian during the John Byrne run on Superman, which I totally loved as a kid!"
In addition to Mal and Karen's various suits, Camuncoli worked with plenty of classic Titans costumes, and one, in particular, stood above the rest. "I had definitely a lot of fun with the original Cyborg - it's such a great design by the amazing George Pérez, and it was very cool to draw."
While superheroes are of course a big part of the series, it's really the humanity and struggles of the people under the masks that make this book so special, and maintaining that balance was a challenge at times.
"Well, I guess there are two big challenges here: trying to make it look real, coming from a world of superbeings that do crazy, over the top stuff, and trying to do justice to the masterfully crafted moments of intimacy, struggle, doubt, and humanity that John wrote so well in his text," Camuncoli said. "It came quite natural since the beginning, though, and this is mostly due, again, to John's words."
One such example of that in action is when Karen is telling the story of Mal being beaten by a White Pride gang. There's a lot of text, but you end up getting swept up in all the anger and pain of that experience because of how this scene is laid out and visually conveyed, and there wasn't a lot of back and forth once that initial vision of the scene came into view.
"Again, thank you so much. No, almost every page and sequence was approved right away," Camuncoli said. "I tried to delve in a very careful and attentive way through the massive amount of references that John and the editors shared with me, but once again I was very easily driven in my renditions by John's powerful words. Reading the text and looking at the source material has been an awesome experience of putting the pieces of the puzzle together, and yet trying to show a different angle to it."
"Every time I work on a script, since day one, my only aim is to follow the writer's lead and try to put to the paper exactly what he had originally in mind, whether it's joy, adventure, horror, pain or action," Camuncoli said. "And in this case, I just thought that I could convey all of the brutality into very fast and almost blurred images of the beating, spiraling and ending up to the hospital bed. I luckily never went through that, but I assume that the effect could probably be similar to the one I tried to illustrate here, and to somehow forward its impact to the readers."
Another stunning scene is the wedding of Donna Troy, which perfectly conveys the conflicted feelings of Mal and Karen in regards to the Titans and their own wedding, which was impressively a one and done deal.
"Once again, this was a 'first time right' scenario. The first thing I usually do when there's some source material is to decide the layout of the page in order to make the drawing shine and leave enough space for the text to be enjoyed in a specific way," Camuncoli said. "Then, I just basically took the original double-spread by Pérez and simply added Mal and Karen's faces in the background, almost as if they were ghostly presences, both resenting not being invited and at the same time making their absence felt by spouses, guests, and readers as well."
Throughout the story, we also see several iconic scenes from DC history, including Crisis on Infinite Earths' death of Supergirl, and getting a chance to recreate some of these classic moments was part of the project's appeal, but he didn't just want to come in and overtake those classic scenes.
"Well, it really was a no brainer. This whole miniseries is such a heartfelt tribute to so many legendary and endless moments in DC history, that there was no other way to repropose them, filtered only by my and Andrea Cucchi's linework. It probably would've taken me less time to do my own take on these, but honestly, I wanted readers to immediately recognize what we were referring to, and to be brought back in a nanosecond to the pages of the books in which those scenes took place and life for the first time," Camuncoli said. "Some of those were familiar to me, because I was exposed to them as a reader, and some of them weren't, but the feeling I wanted to recreate was one of sudden familiarity, and also of celebration of every writer and artist who contributed to DC's longtime epic."
"I think this decision actually came to me when reading the first script and getting to the part in which John Stewart tries to commit suicide after the tragic events of 'Cosmic Odyssey'. Well, that was a book that I immensely enjoyed as a reader, both for Jim Starlin's epic tale and both for Mike Mignola's powerful pages, that I thought that I had no choice but try to homage that perfect moment, that perfect panel in a book like this," Camuncoli said.
Camuncoli gets the chance to work with so many classic DC characters in this series, and if he could work with one on an ongoing series, there is one character that stands above the rest.
"Oh, that's probably the easiest question, and - no pun intended - it would probably be, er... the Question? I must say that I have a knack for drawing trenchcoats (and this is the same reason why I always loved a character like John Constantine, which I drew for so many years on the pages of his original 'Hellblazer' book by Vertigo), and I'm also very fond of the noir/hard-boiled genre. Plus, Renee Montoya is such a multifaceted character, and this would bring so much to the table," Camuncoli said. "Although I always say that, with the right writer (and John is definitely one of those!), ANY character would be a thrill to draw!"0comments
The Other History of the DC Universe is in comic stores now.
What did you think of the issue? Let us know in the comments or as always you can talk all things comics with me on Twitter @MattAguilarCB!