The evocative, stylish art of Tommy Lee Edwards has appeared in comics, magazines, and on posters. He's illustrated for Lucasfilm Ltd, Paramount Pictures, Sony, and Warner Bros. on projects including Star Wars, Men in Black 2, and Dinotopia. Batman, Daredevil, The Shield, and many others have felt his brush's touch in comics.

After studying film and illustration at the Art Center College of Design, Tommy moved from Los Angeles to Chapel Hill, NC with his two children and wife Melissa, an artist herself who has colored such comics as Earth-X, Disavowed, Static Shock, and Zombie World. Scoop caught up with Tommy and talked to him about his upcoming DC Comics six-issue mini-series The Question, created with writer Rick Veitch.

Scoop: Do you have any background with the Question as a fan? If so, what?
Tommy Lee Edwards: Ten years ago, I had my first exposure to The Question. It was a story I found in an issue of Charlton Bullseye #5 from around the mid-seventies, drawn by Alex Toth. Like many illustrators, I'm always on the search for every Toth story on the planet. So without being very familiar with the original Question material, Toth's short story became my definitive version of the character. I had seen the Question series of the nineteen eighties, but it never really grabbed me. It wasn't until a little over two years ago, when I was offered the new Question series, that I went back and researched and fell in love with the greatest version of them all, Steve Ditko's.

Scoop: Out of the many artists who have taken on the character, there have been a couple distinctive interpretations of the Question. How would you describe yours?
Tommy Lee Edwards: Boy, never thought about that. There will definitely be no mistaking my version of The Question for anyone else's. The entire book is very designed. I see the character as taking place in the time Ditko originated him. Often I'll get into a mind-set and think of a comic as a live-action feature film. For me, as I work every day, I imagine that The Question is a film shot in 1963, staring Cary Grant as Vic Sage (the Question), and Audrey Hepburn as Lois Lane. The Question is a modern-day story, taking place in Metropolis, but has a sixties feel to the way it's drawn, composed, and paced. It's not only my way of tipping the hat to Ditko, but I can also let some of my artistic influences of that period visit my brain a little more than usual.

Scoop: What do you like about the Question?
Tommy Lee Edwards: My favorite thing about The Question is his anonymity. He's literally just a featureless "face" in the crowd. It's also fun to push the contrast between the Hero side of the Question, and his altar ego, Vic Sage. Vic is a celebrity crusading news journalist. He's very handsome and very well-known.

My favorite thing about this particular Question series is that Rick Veitch's script is so smart and so extraordinarily original, while staying very true to the concept of Ditko's work. This thing is easily one of the top three scripts I've ever gotten my hands on. Working on this series is always something I look forward to because of the script.

Scoop: How fast do you work?
Tommy Lee Edwards: I'm always working on four or five projects at once. Therefore, it's hard to gauge exactly how long I spend on an issue of The Question. Each issue has taken months to complete because since I've started it, I've also completed work for various short comics, movies, video games, and animated films.

Today I actually finished drawing six pages. I've got four more to finish by Saturday. Then I start scanning and coloring. That's the other thing. I usually work on several pages at once and get them to varying degrees of completion. I also have a tendency to work out-of-sequence.

Scoop: What's your work area like?
Tommy Lee Edwards: My studio is about forty yards behind the house. The downstairs work area is about 24' x 24'. Due to all the various projects usually on-hand, there's one desk devoted to painting, one for drawing with ink, one for the computer stuff, etc. The rest is packed with books, reference, supplies, and Godzillas. Upstairs in my studio is where I keep all the books I've done, original art, cameras, and costuming equipment. You can actually view my studio by visiting http://www.tommyleeedwards.com. The pictures are a year old- but you'll get the idea.

Scoop: Do you listen to radio or watch TV while you work, or do you like silence?
Tommy Lee Edwards: I can't listen to anything when I'm doing layouts, because it takes all of my concentration. While on the computer, I can't listen to music with lyrics. I definitely don't watch TV, but I put in and "listen" to a lot of DVDs and laserdiscs. Sometimes the project I'm working on dictates the background music. The Question usually calls for a lot of Bernard Herman.

Scoop: What's an average workday like for you, or is there such a thing?
Tommy Lee Edwards: I attempt to make the average day a nine-to-six or so.... It seems to help productivity, and helps me make sure to spend enough time with my wife and kids. That's one of the reasons I have the studio "out back."

Scoop: Who are some of your artistic influences?
Tommy Lee Edwards: The biggest influences on my work were definitely the teachers I had as a kid and in College at Art Center. I had great illustration and film teachers there, such as Harry Carmean and Burne Hogarth. Like I mentioned before, many of my favorite artists of the early sixties are inspiring The Question all the time, guys like Bernie Fuchs, Bob Peak, Noel Sickles, Al Parker, Austin Briggs, and Coby Whitmore. Howard Chaykin and Alex Toth are made a huge impact on my storytelling techniques.

Scoop: Do you bring influences aside from the visual into your artwork?
Tommy Lee Edwards: We mentioned music. I'm influenced by everything: the weather, my kids, a friends' work, etc. The source-material for a job is the initial influence and inspiration- be it a movie I'm working on, a comic I'm drawing, or a video game I'm storyboarding.

Scoop: You don't do a ton of comic projects. How do you pick which ones you do?
Tommy Lee Edwards: I can't to one thing for too long. I think it gets me bored and makes my work look boring. The more I do, the more I grow. Therefore, I don't do comics to make a living. For the past five years or so, I've been trying to do only the kinds of projects that really interest me. The main factors are the timeframe and subject matter. I also usually do all of the art (and sometimes story) myself. That's my favorite thing about comics- creative expression and freedom. If I don't have that freedom, I won't do the comic.

Scoop: When you get a script, do you read the whole thing through a couple times or just start illustrating?
Tommy Lee Edwards: Yeah, I read it once pretty fast, then again very carefully. I read it a third time while laying out the panels and indicating the balloon placements. Read #4 happens while I'm working on the finished pages to make sure I'm executing the acting well enough, etc.

Scoop: What's the toughest thing about comics?
Tommy Lee Edwards: I think that the toughest thing about comics is the business-aspects of them. The toughest part of creating a comic is the storytelling. The layouts. That will kill your brain.

Scoop: What's the best thing about them?
Tommy Lee Edwards: The storytelling. Coming up with the layouts and killing your brain. Funny how that works out.

Scoop: Since the Question's mask has no facial features, do you have to put in more detail on the rest of the figure to make that stand out?
Tommy Lee Edwards: Not usually. If I want him (or anything) to stand out, I'll use a certain composition or colors. His acting without facial expressions relies pretty heavily on body language, though. I'll actually hint at a lot of the form under The Question's mask while rendering in color.

Scoop: Do you have a favorite Question story from the past? If so, which one?
Tommy Lee Edwards: I couldn't really pick a favorite, but Mysterious Suspense #1 has a lot of great stuff in it. Charlton's Blue Beetle has the best Question stories in it- especially #3.

Scoop: You're working on a lot of things outside comics. What can you tell us about them?
Tommy Lee Edwards: I recently wrapped up designing characters for a video game at 3D Realms, as well as a ton of concept art and an animatic for an upcoming military-sci-fi game at Electronic Arts. The other newer stuff includes box art for Hasbro's Command and Conquer, all the Star Wars RPG book covers for Wizards of the Coast, a series of licensing illustrations for Batman Begins, and the same type of thing for Star Wars Episode III. I'm currently working on an Episode III children's book for Random House, and a series of covers for Dark Horse's Star Wars: Empire.

The Question is taking precedence over most things now, since the first issue is slated for November. I'm wrapping #3, and have three issues to go.

Scoop: Is there anything different in your approaches to illustration for the various mediums?
Tommy Lee Edwards: The medium is decided upon by figuring out which approach best-suits the project's needs. A comic's primary objective is to tell a story. Sometimes other things, like a poster, need a singular eye-grabbing image. I may decide to paint that. My storyboard work is usually done with black pencil and charcoal- mainly for speed. Many of the pieces I did to promote the first Harry Potter movie were done with a brush and ink. The interior Question pages are primarily drawn with markers and nibs. I'm hand-painting the Question covers. The interior color is done with Photoshop. We've even used 3D Studio Max to build models of certain Metropolis architecture. Comics are by far the most unique, because of the storytelling aspects. Whatever works best.

Scoop: What was your first comic work? What's changed since then?
Tommy Lee Edwards: Technically, I guess my first comic was done in high school. It was a sci-fi piece of crap I self-published by writing, drawing, running the printing-press, binding it, etc. When I got it in some stores, I had to charge seven bucks to actually make a profit. That was back in 1991. My first "mainstream" work came from places like DC, Milestone, and Valiant back in 1993. Since then, my work has obviously evolved into something much better. I've also had an easier time getting to come out with projects I'm happy with. That primarily comes from a publisher trusting you to do your job the way you see fit.

Scoop: Your art book came out from IDW. How has the reaction to that been?
Tommy Lee Edwards: The reaction has been great. It doesn't get a ton of exposure, because it's (unfortunately) not really solicited for bookstores. When people see the book, it does great. I've been selling $45 versions of the book through my website, which include an original ink-drawing on the inside front cover. The Art of Tommy Lee Edwards book is fun because it groups together so many of the projects we just touched upon. A lot of people had seen just my comics work, or just Star Wars, Men in Black, Harry Potter, or my storyboards, or whatever. Most people think that an illustrator can do just one thing in one medium. It's been fun to break that stereotype with the art book.

Scoop: Anything else you'd like to add?
Tommy Lee Edwards: Well, I guess I'd just like to reiterate how proud I am of The Question. Rick and I have come up with, what I think is, the most unique DCU book to come around in a long time. Within the confines of staying true to Ditko, and having the story take place in Metropolis. We've come up with new characters and a whole new underground of crime that only The Question can foil. This stuff perfectly intertwines with all of the major Superman cast as well. Lex Luthor, Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, and Superman play a major role in this Question story. After The Question, I've got plans for a creator-owned comic that I've wanted to do for about ten years.