While attending last year’s COMIKAZE Expo I got to meet with Justin Harder.
You know him best for his paintings, featured in THOR: THE DARK WORLD.
If you think ye be worthy, scroll on and see what the talent had to say!
UTF: Your style offers a very kinetic / chaotic feel and I wanted to ask you what was your core inspiration for that?
Justin Harder: I think that when I started out drawing comic book characters I copied Jim Lee, McFarland, Liefeld back in the day. I used to draw every single muscle in all the right places, every single vein, and detail. I think that I just got older and I just got out of that. I found more fun when I went faster and looser. The style now has evolved where my characters have a bit smaller heads for their bodies, but I think that it came about because I wanted to be as loose as possible. Anytime I find myself putting too much detail in, I immediately stop and say, “This is done,” because that’s when I know that I’m going done the wrong path.
UTF: You definitely have a wide array of characters with your own touches. I saw a Darth Vader piece where he had two lightsabers all the way to a sensual Wonder Woman that makes use of her length.
Justin Harder: She’s a tall woman, right? If she’s a tall woman, I think you need to show that. I wanted to have her face down. It wasn’t the classic pose, she always has her chest out in a fighting pose.
UTF: Agreed. So what were your inspirations for your different renditions of these characters? Let’s go back to Darth Vader, for example.
Justin Harder: I put the lightsaber in his right hand, at first. Then, honestly the left hand was empty without it and I go, “You know, no one’s put two in his hands before.” By all means, maybe somebody has before, but by putting it in there, it just felt like the right composition. I’ve gotten comments on it from people, especially guys that love Darth Vader, they always go, “Dude, two sabers. That’s awesome.”
It just came about because all my drawings I do with the Wacom pad and Photoshop I try not to erase. So, when you’re going as fast as I try to go, some of those happy accidents come about and for me they are the most fun because when I’ve already planned it out in my head, I don’t really have a lot of reason to go through with it sometimes because I already know. It’s so predictable. So, if it’s looser, and then you see something else that might be able to happen, things just start appearing that you wouldn’t have imagined.
UTF: One last question: I understand that at the end sequence of Thor: The Dark World we’re going to be seeing some beautifully rendered pictures done by you. How did that happen? How did you get the call?
Justin Harder: I’m a freelance art director / credit director for commercials and feature films. In this particular instance, this was a commercial client of mine, a studio over in Culver City. So, when they were pitching for the movie, they wanted to do six pitches, six different styles. One of the styles they wanted to do was a very illustrative, very designing bold, simple approach to it to round out their pitch package because they had one with photo-reeled lightening and slow-mo lighting and awesome stuff, but approaches that would’ve taken a lot of money. So, they wanted to do a graphic approach and they go, “Could you have anything?”
So I went to the trailer and I pulled some stills from thre and just started painting some Thor images and gave them four or five, just concept stuff. Luckily, Marvel chose it. It was awesome. It was one of the coolest days I’ve had ever. To get a call that says, “Hey, Marvel wants to use your drawings at the end of their film.” I’m like, “Yes,” and then I thought, “How’re we going to do this…now?”
Then you go from just having a couple style frames that are very loose to actual frames that Marvel approves from the film to have the actors look like that. Then they gave me those frames and I painted them up. Then we had to get a sign-off on the way I painted them. So, it was a long process. I was on the project for four and a half, no five weeks and they animated probably for two months and then it’s done. It’s two and a half minutes.
It was three and a half minutes and it got cut down a little bit because their movie, I think, ran a bit long. So they go, “We had to make sure everything gets condensed.” It’s all black and white and gray except for red, the splash of red, for Thor’s cape, which now after doing this, working on Thor, I’m Thor’s biggest fan. I’ve dressed as him for Halloween. I made a rap video called Hammer Time, where I wore hammer pants and I changed all the words to the song.
As we close out I want to thank Mr. Justin Harder for sitting down with me. It was a pleasure and as I type that Wonder Woman I bought hangs above my work station.
But what did you guys think of the questions? Sound off with your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!