HUNTSVILLE, Alabama — Comic book artist Cully Hamner’s copy of the script has
another title on it, but he’s unsure if he’s been cleared to share that
information. So he refers to the film simply as “RED 2.”
It’s a sequel to the rollicking 2010 Bruce Willis action flick
“RED,” based on a three-issue series of the same name Hamner, a Huntsville
native, co-created with Warren Ellis in 2003.
“I’m given to understand it’s going to come out in August,”
Hamner, 43, says of “RED 2.” “The director is Dean Parisot, who was the
director of Galaxy Quest.’ And it’s looking pretty good. I did not get to go to
the set this time because I had a lot going on and couldn’t find a free week to
go over there.”
“RED 2” was shot in Montreal, London and Paris. In addition
to Willis reprising his role as retired CIA agent Paul Moses, the film stars
John Malkovich, Mary-Louise Parker, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Helen Mirren and Anthony
While “RED 2” depicts characters Hamner helped bring to
life, like the first film, it’s being made without his input, and he’s fine
with that, as he told me last year, “That’s kind of how it works. They buy it,
adapt it how they see fit and if they want your advice they’ll either ask you
or hire you to offer it. But other than that, it’s their thing and I’m
happy to let them do their interpretation of it.”
During Hamner’s career, he’s drawn marquee heroes including
Superman, Batman, X-Men, Daredevil, Silver Surfer and many more.
On a recent afternoon, Hamner calls for the below interview
from his Honda Insight Hybrid, parked outside his Atlanta office. It’s raining.
Cully, on Jan. 14, you
posted on your Twitter account: “Today, it has begun. I’ll be drawing lots of
cowls and capes the next couple of months.” What does that mean?
All that means is I’m about to start on an arc of “Legends
of The Dark Knight,” which is a Batman, sort of half-digital, half-print book –
meaning it will see digital release first and then they’ll collect it into a
You’ve drawn Batman
before. What do you find compelling about that character?
I think among superheroes, he’s one that has some of the
most interesting psychological underpinnings. You have a character like
Superman, who for all intents and purposes was born with his powers, and spends
all of his energy trying to be appear as weak as one of us, whereas Batman is
someone who experiences a trauma early-on and he spends all of his energy
trying to become strong enough to make sure that (trauma) doesn’t happen to
You drew Superman for
“Action Comics Annual #1,” which published in October. Do you tend to draw the
cover for a comic you’re working on after the interior pages are done, in the
middle of the process, before…?
All of the above. It just depends on when they need it. It
just so happens on that particular book I drew the
cover first. Mainly because I was waiting for a final script to be done. There
were things that needed to happen in a rewrite of that script so they said, “Go
ahead and do the cover.” It gave me a chance to figure out my version of
So what was your spin
It’s sort of half-classic, half-new for me. There’s a demand
to have a recognizable look to the character as he’s appeared over the past
several decades, where you want him to have that strong jaw. You want him to be
a muscular guy. But at the same time, there’s always a danger with a character
as venerable as that you might make him look old.
For the New 52 [the DC Universe redesign Hamner helped lead
in 2011] that version of (Superman), there’s a very specific direction they
wanted to go in. They didn’t want him to look 35 or 40, they want him to look
25. So you try to keep extraneous lines off his face while still maintaining his
strength. Me personally, I like to draw Superman with sort of tousled hair without
giving him a sort of hair helmet, with an “s” (curl) in the front. I like him
to look sort of windblown.
When you were growing
up in Huntsville, where would you buy comics?
When I was a little kid there weren’t any comic shops, so I
bought comics at whatever convenience store was nearby. We used to live in
North Huntsville on Suzanne Terrace, and there was a convenience store a few
blocks away. I was pretty young, but it’d walk a few blocks to this store by
myself – that was when you could still let a kid walk somewhere by themselves.
When I got a little older, maybe when I was around
13-years-old, I saw a TV ad during an all-night marathon of “Star Trek”
episodes for a shop called Tattooed Lady Comics that
was in North Huntsville. And I got my mom to take me there. It was just this
funky little shop and run by this very nice woman. I think her and her father
owned the store. I went there for years.
When I could drive, there was a time when I’d also go to
this place called The Comic Shop in Five Points, run by a guy named Bill
Cooper, who was also very good to me and would occasionally give me a free
comic to try, “Hey, I think you’ll like it.” And when I did my first signing, I
did it there.
Was that for “Green
Lantern: Mosaic” in 1992?
Yeah, the week that came out. I actually have pictures of it
which I’ve never shown anyone because they’re pretty hilarious, my hair and
everything. I had hair!
What are some of the
earliest things you remember drawing?
I was always drawing DC and Marvel characters and Archie and
Richie Rich. I was kind of a DC kid. I think if you talk to a lot of people my
age that grew up reading comics, they tend to be more into Marvel stuff – and I
read a lot of Marvel stuff, especially when I was older – but I’ve always loved
the DC characters. The main Justice League characters and the whole Multiverse
stuff. And I was a huge Batman kid. And liked The Flash and Green Lantern.
Green Arrow was another favorite of mine. Captain Marvel.
How surreal was it to
see the main character from a comic book you co-created to be manifested
onscreen by one of the biggest movie stars ever, Bruce Willis, in “RED”?
It was totally surreal. But things like that are surreal for
about a day and then you sort of settle into the reality of it. Yes, it was
very strange to walk onto the set and see Bruce Willis and this actor and this actor. And
they’re talking to you. It’s weird to see these people in three dimensions at
Got any good stories
from the set of the first “RED” film?
Getting to the set the first day and have Bruce Willis stop
in the middle of a scene to remind me I needed sunscreen on my head because
we’re both bald was pretty funny. Him giving me candy on that first day was
pretty cool – I think I tweeted, “Hey Bruce Willis just gave me a pack of Smarties.”
And I had people say, “You’re going to save those Smarties, right?” No, I ate
When you left the
Huntsville area for Atlanta in your early-20s to pursue your comic book career,
what spurred that decision?
I don’t know if I can quantify why I left. I just felt a
pull. Like that scene in “Star Wars” where Luke is looking at two suns in the
distance and you can tell he knows he’s got to go out there. That’s what it was
like for me. I kind of felt I needed to find the people that were doing the
kind of work that I wanted to do, and be around them and have them challenge
and influence me. That’s kind of why I came here and joined Gaijin Studios.
It was exciting. There were a bunch of people that were
around my age that were all talented. Sometimes I met that challenge and
sometimes I didn’t. You learn as much when you fail as when you don’t. More
maybe. But I still come back to Huntsville once or twice a year. It’s kind of
hard to grow up in Huntsville and not have your imagination fired by all the
space stuff that’s going on around town. I could never say that wasn’t a