Painters specialize in capturing one moment in time. Comic book artists specialize in sequential storytelling as each image presents a snapshot of an overall story. Combining the two styles provides readers with a spectacular visual experience.
Painter J.K. Woodward has been furnishing Star Trek comic fans with photorealism storytelling over the past eight years, leaving mouths agape with each panel, page and issue.
Beaming aboard for several stints in the final frontier since 2008, when he first provided color assistance to Star Trek: Year Four #6, and has since contributed to the 2014 comic adaptation of Harlan Ellison’s “The City on the Edge of Forever.”
Woodward’s Starfleet commission is once again reinstated as he joins the brother-writing duo of David and Scott Tipton on IDW’s summer event, Star Trek: The Next Generation – Mirror Broken. Readers should immediately salivate over a TNG Mirror Universe story, especially one painted by Woodward.
We caught up with the artist at The Great Philadelphia Comic Con on April 7 as he met fans and painted pages for upcoming issues of Mirror Broken. Woodward discussed how the mini-series developed differently than most, how long it takes for him to produce an issue, his favorite TNG character to paint, and more.
TREKCORE: How is it working with the Tipton brothers?
J.K. WOODWARD: Part of me loves it and part of me hates it. They pack so much on a page, that it is a terrific challenge but takes so much time. The comic fan in me loves that, but the guy that has to get it done hates it! [Laughs]
Seriously, these guys are masters of their craft and they give the readers their money’s worth. Every page is packed to the brim and bursting at the seams. It’s like getting three issues of content in one issue!
TREKCORE: How long does it take you to paint one page of a comic?
WOODWARD: Usually I can pencil a page between 8-10 hours. That’s the easy part. Painting takes an additional 16-20. So it’s roughly 30 hours per page.
TREKCORE: When did you get called upon to take on Mirror Broken?
WOODWARD: Mirror Broken actually started with a CBS product style guide – there is already planned merchandise based on this comic which isn’t even out yet.
I did a bunch of illustrations for a style guide, and I was talking with John Van Citters [CBS’s Vice President for Consumer Products] and I was saying to him, “We need to do a comic of this.” I was having so much fun making up back story for the characters.
John went to IDW and talked to Sarah [Gaydos, Star Trek comic editor] who went to the Tiptons, who immediately were onboard. The Tiptons and I got together and I went over what I was thinking since I had worked on the style guide. I could just show them pictures of the characters – “This is what we’re doing, this is what you’re writing.” Immediately, boom-boom-boom; ideas just started flying out.
TREKCORE: How did you become involved with the style guide?
WOODWARD: The style guide was John’s idea and CBS was already working with designers to put it together. They decided they needed seven or eight illustrations for it. They came to me to design the characters from the ground up. So if anybody hates these outfits they are wearing, it’s my fault! [Laughs]
TREKCORE: Do you know why CBS decided to do a style guide?
WOODWARD: They wanted to do a Mirror Universe style guide. They thought it would be a good way to go with different products because it’s something you can’t do with any other Star Trek. You can go a little darker; have a little more energy to it, a little less cerebral even – you can do all those things you are not supposed to do with Star Trek with the Mirror Universe.
TREKCORE: Picard’s got some serious ‘guns’ on your Free Comic Book Day cover!
WOODWARD: Everybody has guns! You should see my Riker — he’s pretty built and has a big scar on his face. Everybody is a little bit rougher and a little more like Klingons.
TREKCORE: How much more fun was illustrating a Mirror Universe story over the 2012 TNG / Doctor Who crossover?
WOODWARD: It’s hard to compare. The Doctor Who team-up was a dream come true. I didn’t even believe it when I got the job. It was so great. That’s a whole different feeling, that buzz you get from a mash up.
This is just a story I wanted to tell since I saw “Yesterday’s Enterprise.” I was like, “They’re kind of doing a Mirror Universe tale, but not really.” The minute they did that zoom on Picard where they zero in on him and all of a sudden his collar is a little higher, the color and lighting is darker – that’s how I want to paint Star Trek.
The thing about The Next Generation [cinematography] is they don’t have any shadows. They blast [the sets] with lighting. I like doing noir lighting and shadows everywhere. I was already doing Mirror Universe in TNG with my style of painting.
TREKCORE: Painting a comic is rare — so when did you know that is how you wanted to illustrate comics?
WOODWARD: I always wanted to draw comics. I was a penciler / inker and in the ’90s Photoshop started becoming a thing, I got into coloring — I swore that was all I wanted to do. Then I moved to Germany to do some artwork for a record label, and I got into painting. I did large oil paintings and thought, “What if I do that with comics?”
One of my favorite artists from the ’80s was Bill Sienkiewicz. He’s does amazing things with mixed media and it made me think there was a market for that. I didn’t know about Alex Ross yet – he beat me too it. I thought that maybe that was my niche to break in because there are so few painters. It also limits the amount of work you can get because no one wants to wait six issues instead of four.
The one time I painted a comic on a regular schedule was Fallen Angel #1-5 and that nearly killed me!
TREKCORE: Who is your favorite Next Generation character to illustrate?
WOODWARD: Probably Data, and it’s a lighting thing — I just like the way the light plays off him, and the way you do a lot less painting and get a lot more. It’s also the hardest for that reason.
If you look at him, almost all the detail is blasted out of his face from the lighting. It’s a challenge to get him just right and it takes two-to-three strokes of the brush.
TREKCORE: Is there another one of the Star Trek shows you would like to do? This is your moment to hint to Sarah Gaydos!
WOODWARD: She’s already heard all my ideas [laughs]. I come to her with all ideas all the time. But I think it would be Deep Space Nine – I haven’t done it yet. I really like to take a crack at that, and the closest I’ve come is this Mirror Universe story because it’s in the same mirror universe.
We are tying this story with the DS9 [Mirror Universe] stories, to smooth over the continuity and tie it all together.
The first preview issue of Star Trek: The Next Generation – Mirror Broken will be available Saturday, May 6 at a retailer near you for Free Comic Book Day 2017.
The series will continue in May with a six-issue monthly miniseries – watch for our reviews of all the issues throughout the summer!