Filling in the blanks

By Dave Kenney

Cary Nord is looking for control.

Seated at his desk, the Calgary artist and cartoonist pokes around the computer screen with a relaxed, yet focused look. On the monitor is a drawing of a female, brought to life through Nord’s careful eye for colour and detail. His calling card is nearly ready. Time to end the sabbatical.

Nord’s postcard creation is his effort at reentering the comics industry after a three-month break. Three months might not sound like much, but for the 27-year-old comic artist it’s long overdue.

Starting his comics career at age 19, Nord has been drawing superheroes and villians alike for practically eight years straight. Burnout was imminent.

“When I go back into comics I want to go back in as a product, a Cary Nord product,” he says. “People are going to know what they’re going to get. I can fulfill some kind of niche.”

Until now, Nord has fulfilled the niche of a penciller for various comic titles including Wolverine, Catwoman and Mutant X, to name a few. He is currently involved as a graphics guru with multimedia company Conductor Concepts. Today, in his office in the Alberta Grain Exchange Building, Nord is planning his stab at gaining control.

“I’m never happy with the colouring and inking so I think I need to take a step back and get more creative control over how my finished product looks, which is what I’m really missing,” he says.

Nord draws based upon what his editors and writer tell him. After that, it’s mostly out of his hands. And he’s very picky and self-critical. When picking images to run alongside this story, Nord was somewhat squirmy in his choosing.

Such pickiness shouldn’t be viewed as paranoia or a lack of confidence, though. Today’s comic arena is a lot more complex as artists have to showcase their ability more than ever before. The average comic takes six to seven weeks to draw and come deadline, days can last 10-12 hours.

But even with all the pressure and frustrations, Nord trucks on. Maybe it has to do with his love affair with comics. At age 13, Nord bought his first comic–Classic X-Men #1–and his obsession followed.

“X-Men all the way,” Nord says. “It was a nice place to start. I got to know the characters and I jumped onto the regular series and then I started collecting X-Factor, X-Force and all that kind of stuff.

“A good story’s always great but I can’t read a comic–no matter how good the story is–if the art sucks. So it’s always been about the art.”

Nord’s X-Men reading habit inspired him to copy former X-Men artist Mark Sylvestri’s style. Serious about his art, Nord attended the Alberta College of Art and lasted one year. He didn’t drop out, but was snatched up eagerly by DC (Detective Comics) after he sent them a sample package of drawings. ShowcaseI ’93 had the Calgarian appearing beside other new artists and writers.

“I couldn’t believe it,” says Nord on landing the DC gig. “It was one of my first submissions. I read it took [Todd] MacFarlane 259 times to get in so here I was on submission one, like, Jesus.”

So far, he’s had the chance to draw all his characters of choice. He’d like the chance to draw more female characters, though. Nord sheds a shy look when explaining his reasons.

“Obviously, it keeps me interested a little more,” he says. “It’s just a different approach to drawing–softer angles and it’s a little sexier.”

Traditionally, Nord draws dark characters such The Six in Mutant X . While he creates an effectively creepy mood, Nord says he like a shot at drawing the Man of Steel again. Call it a happy-go-lucky break.

“He’s such an icon, it’s hard to imagine–you know, everybody knows Superman and to get a chance to draw him was weird. Kind of a swallow-your-pride feeling,” he says. “He’s kind of a goody-goody character. I think he brings out a side of me that I haven’t had a chance to explore. Doing Superman is like (doing) the true superhero.”

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