Interview with X-Men: The Animated Series DVD Artist David Nakayama
By James Harvey
Marvel Animation Age has caught up with artist David Nakayama to discuss his contribution to the recent X-Men: The Animated Series - Volume One and X-Men: The Animated Series - Volume Two DVD releases.
In the all-new interview, Nakayama discusses his inspiration behind his design choices for the X-Men: The Animated Series - Volume One and X-Men: The Animated Series - Volume Two DVD releases, his body of work, his upcoming projects and much more. The interview is available below.Return to Backstage
Marvel Animation Age: First off, tell us a little about yourself, your previous work, and your background.
David Nakayama: I'm a Hawaii native currently working as a concept artist for NCsoft, where I get to draw all kinds of cool stuff for the City of Heroes massively multiplayer online game. Previously, I spent 5 years in the comic book industry working for Marvel and Top Cow.
MAA: Your work has appeared in Marvel Adventures Hulk, Marvel Adventures Iron Man, among others. Do you have a particular draw toward Marvel characters? If so, why?
DN: I first got excited about comics after seeing Jim Lee's work on Uncanny X-Men in the early 1990s, which is why I'm particularly thrilled to be drawing his version of the team on these DVD covers! He had a slick modern style that completely blew me away, and I found myself collecting comics pretty soon after that. And though I started with Marvel mainstays like X-Men and Spider-Man, I quickly discovered DC and independent titles as well.
MAA: Before that you did some work for Image Comics and Top Cow. Was it a difficult process to break into the comic business?
DN: It took me a while to get my portfolio up to speed, but I was pretty dedicated to it--to a fault, you might say. I'd been practicing hard since high school and continued to do so through college, where I got a BFA in Illustration, and later at the Kubert School where I spent a couple years doing postgrad study. Eventually, I had a fruitful portfolio review with Top Cow and ended up winning an internship with them through a contest in Wizard magazine.
MAA: Now that you're well-known in the comic community, do you feel that helps in getting new assignments. Word has it you have a new five-issue mini-series coming up with Chris Claremont for Marvel. Care to divulge?
DN: I was lucky to have pretty steady work at Marvel, but I'm not so sure about being "well-known." It takes a while to really establish your name in the minds of comic readers. As for the Chris Claremont project, that would be the Big Hero 6 miniseries I completed back in November. It ran 5 issues, and we did it in a cel-shaded anime-influenced style, which was a first for me but definitely a fun experiment.
MAA: More recently, your artwork has appeared on the cover for both the X-Men: The Animated Series - Volume One and X-Men: The Animated Series - Volume Two DVD releases. How did you get this assignment and what went through your head when you found out you had it?
DN: Nothing too exciting, I'm afraid. Disney found me on the interwebs and offered me the job. Having grown up with that cartoon and having been a huge fan of that particular team of X-Men, I was thrilled to get the box art assignment. Beyond thrilled, actually! I think it'd be hard for them to find a bigger fan of the X-Men than me, and my art's pretty much just a gushing love letter to the characters.
MAA: Can you tell us your approach and your thought process when coming up with the artwork for Volume One and Volume Two? Is the final product for both basically what you had in mind from the beginning?
DN: I start each cover with some general guidelines from Tim Ramos, who's the Art Director on this project. He gives me a list of characters and a rough idea for the composition, such as "the team's running at us in a cool action pose." Then I create a couple sketchy layouts and, pending approval, get started on the actual drawing. First I pencil in all my lines, then comes an ink layer, and I complete the image with digital Photoshop colors.
MAA: Are there any particular moments from the classic X-Men: The Animated Series that still stand out for you, and any that served as an inspiration for your artwork on these DVDs?
DN: Definitely the intro. That music's unforgettable, and I love the scene at the end when the heroes and villains collide with each other like the opposing armies in Braveheart. Really cool moment. Beyond that, I guess it's a matter of which character we've chosen to highlight on each piece. Wolverine gets his due on the Volume One cover, of course, but less predictably we've featured Dark Phoenix really prominently on the Volume Two cover, and that's just a function of how awesome "The Dark Phoneix Saga" is, both as a comic storyline and an episode arc on the show.
MAA: You will also be providing the artwork for X-Men: The Animated Series - Volume Three and X-Men: The Animated Series - Volume Four? Care to give us an early look at the artwork that will grace these two releases? Also, will these two releases effectively finish off the series, placing the remaining 43 episodes of the series on DVD?
DN: There's definitely a plan to release the entire series on DVD, and I'm happy to announce that I'll be creating cover art for the remaining volumes. In fact, here's a little preview of Volume Three in progress. Artwork's subject to change, but there you go.
MAA: Any final thoughts on both these DVD releases, the classic X-Men: The Animated Series and the fact that you are now part of the show's legacy?
DN: Well, maybe I'm a footnote in the show's legacy, but for me, that's pretty freakin' awesome. I loved the show when I was a kid, and I loved the original source material even more. That was the team I grew up with, and it'll always have a special place in my heart.
MAA: And, to wrap this up, care to fill us in on what projects you have coming down the pipeline?
DN: City of Heroes, in big way! I've contributed a number of character and environment concepts that'll play a central role in the upcoming 5-Year Anniversary content, aka Issue 15, and that's really just the beginning. City of Heroes fans will be very, very pleased about what's coming down the pike, believe me. Beyond that, I'm really pleased to continue working with Disney on DVD projects and with Zenescope on comic covers. Hopefully some other stuff as well, but we'll see how much time I've got left after all of that!
Nakayama also informed Marvel Animation Age that Buena Vista Home Entertainment has been citing big sales for the X-Men: The Animated Series - Volume One and X-Men: The Animated Series - Volume Two DVD releases, with both volumes selling out in multiple locations across North America.
Marvel Animation Age would like to thank David Nakayama for his contribution and participation in this interview.