“I Hope It’ll Be a Special Thing”: Russell Dauterman Discusses His Marvel Life and New Art Book

There’s something about Russell Dauterman.

I’m not sure what it is, but ever since I first saw his art in 2014’s Thor #1, I knew there was something different about his work. It just felt right. Whether it was Odinson, Jane Foster Thor, or any version of Dario Agger you might come across, there was an ineffable quality to the work that made you realize what you were seeing was special. Not every artist has that bit of je nais se quoi to them, but Dauterman’s work immediately seemed like an idealized version of these characters, even relative to his talented peers.

He’s given little reason for us to doubt him ever since either. Whether you’re talking about his work on that lengthy run with Jason Aaron on Thor, his extensive cover work at Marvel, or the designs he’s provided for characters like Storm, Scarlet Witch, and Jean Grey, Dauterman brings it to the absolute max, and continues to improve in ways both subtle and obvious — and always at Marvel.

The truth is, Dauterman’s lived a bit of a Marvel life, with the vast majority of his comics work 1 residing at the House of Ideas while much of his love of art and comics stems from the warm feelings he developed in his youth for characters like the X-Men and the Scarlet Witch. That’s why when Clover Press announced that the next edition of its “Marvel Art of (insert artist name here)” art book series would feature Dauterman, I just smiled and nodded. It made sense. Game recognizes game, and the teams at Clover and Marvel had to realize that Dauterman was snug of a fit for this concept as you could possibly ask for. The Marvel Art of Russell Dauterman is a 216 page coffee table book highlighting an artist who fits that publisher as well as just about anybody has over the past decade. Based on the over $270,000 that’s already been generated with eight days to go in the campaign, others seemed to agree.

As soon as I heard this book and its Kickstarter were coming, though, I knew I had to chat with Dauterman about it. So, the artist and I popped on Zoom a few weeks back to discuss the intersection of his love of Marvel and art, the creators and titles that inspired him coming up, the experience of putting The Marvel Art of Russell Dauterman together, the nervous feelings it inspired, 2 what went into it, the process of selecting what represented his career best, and a whole lot more.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity, and it’s also open to non-subscribers. If you enjoy this conversation and want to read more features like it, consider subscribing to SKTCHD to do just that and to support the work that I do.

Where does your Marvel story begin? It was X-Men: The Animated Series, right?

Russell Dauterman: I was introduced to comic book stuff probably with Batman Returns. That came out a few months before The Animated Series. I was obsessed with that. It’s still my favorite movie. Michelle Pfeiffer Catwoman…forever my favorite.

But then with Marvel, it was X-Men: The Animated Series that I was just completely obsessed with as a 7-year-old. From when Rogue punched the Sentinel in the face and Storm changed her costume with the lightning, I was hooked immediately. (laughs) I just loved those characters so much that I wanted more of them, and that led my parents to find me the comics. I probably had the tie-ins, The Animated Series ones. But the first book I actually remember owning was Uncanny X-Men… I want to say #302. It’s the one where Colossus is on the cover running toward the viewer and being held back. But the main thing about that is when you open it, I think the first page is a double-page splash that’s vertical. (John Romita) Jr. drew Storm, hair billowing with clouds and lightning everywhere. It looked incredible.

After that, I was hooked.

That doesn’t sound like something that you would be really into. (laughs)

Dauterman: Right?

It’s funny. That was such a unique moment in time. That was around when you were heisting placemats from Pizza Hut, right?

Dauterman: Around this time, yeah! That was a wonderful time when there were X-Men on everything from Chef Boyardee to Pogs to Pizza Hut, which, as we’ve talked about before, I was obsessed with. Going to the Pizza Hut lunch buffet was a regular thing for me and my mom anyway. So them having the X-Men was crazy. That Joe Madureira placemat from Pizza Hut is still my favorite X-Men art.

Was there something in specific about the X-Men and that moment in time for comics that spoke to you? Was it really just the characters that you were hooked on?

Dauterman: As a little kid it was probably the powers and the excitement and the theme song and the costumes and the action and all that. But as I got older, I always felt different from everybody else. And so then reading the X-Men as a metaphor for being different, that really sunk in with me when I was a teenager. They became important to me in kind of a deeper way. I don’t think I was thinking about that at seven years old.

But I definitely liked that they… even at that age, I felt different from everybody else. And the cool thing about the X-Men show and the comics, but the show really hammered home, was, yeah, these people are different and they’re awesome, and their differences are what makes them awesome.

Yeah, their differences are their strengths.

Dauterman: Yes.

Have the X-Men always been first for you or has there been flirtations with others throughout?

Dauterman: Catwoman was first because I saw Batman Returns first, but that sort of hit at the same time as X-Men. I think I became a Marvel kid partly because when I went to DC comics to get more Catwoman, she was very different. You had the Jim Balent design with the purple costume and the giant breasts and the big black hair, and the overall vibe of the comics was different. And I’m like, “That’s not the Batman Returns Catwoman I liked. And it’s not the Catwoman I liked from Batman: The Animated Series.” I’ve read that Balent series in recent years and liked it, and I like that costume now and think the black hair is great, but back then as a child it was a barrier.

But with the X-Men, when I went over to the main comics, not even the tie-ins, they looked like that. That was pretty much the same team. The stories felt the same, the vibe was the same, the colors were the same. And that’s how I became a Marvel kid. And that’s how the X-Men took over for me. And they really did remain my number one. Scarlet Witch is one of my favorite characters too. I started to read Force Works back then and especially the George Pérez Avengers, which I loved and she was a big part of.

Chris Bachalo’s cover to Generation X #1

Were there any artists that you were drawn to at Marvel initially? Or were you not really thinking about that?

Dauterman: Chris Bachalo was the first one. I remember knowing his name and following whatever he did. Generation X…I feel like most X-Men fans have their class. And Generation X was definitely mine. We’re about the same age, so I’m sure it was yours too.


Dauterman: He’s gone through so many wonderful permutations of his art and I love them all, but that first Generation X run where it was still sort of Vertigo-y is foundational for me. I love it so much. One of my favorite books outside of Marvel is Death: The High Cost of Living that…You’re not a Sandman guy, if I recall.

No, I’m not.

Not yet.

Dauterman: I only just read it for the first time this past year so there’s hope for you. (laughs) But I would recommend… I started with Death: The High Cost of Living that Chris Bachalo draws and read that without knowing any Sandman many years ago. I loved that so much.

I loved Joe Madureira. Around the time that the X-Men went to space in the Joe Mad comics is when my child brain figured out that comics come out every month and on Wednesdays. And so that’s when I started collecting and going to the store every week. And then in high school, Frank Quitely’s New X-Men was mind-blowing to me.

You mentioned earlier about how Gen X was our team. It was the first class that was really ours. Similarly, I always loved Jim Lee. I was obsessed with Jim Lee. I thought he was the coolest artist I’d ever seen.

But Joe Mad was mine.

Dauterman: Exactly.

And it’s kind of funny how that works. When he came on, I was like, “The previous generation had Jim Lee. Joe Mad is for my people.”

Dauterman: Yes.

And I remember when I first saw that, I was like, “Oh my god.” I’m even feeling it right now. I was like, “Oh my God, this is different than anything I’d ever seen before.” It was so cool.

Not to get too far ahead, but I was looking at some of the comments on your art book on social media, and not to put too much pressure on you, but I bet there’s people out there where you are their artist. They came to Marvel comics, and you were the one who spoke to them. I’ve been putting together this feature on art books and the influx of them through crowdfunding, and yours has so many people following it, it seems like there’s this pressure building that is desperate to get this book. It’s kind of fascinating.

Dauterman: Thank you for saying that. That’s very kind. Prior to last week, I was really nervous that nobody would want it, if I’m being very honest. (David laughs)

I totally understand.

Dauterman: I told my husband that he would have to buy a whole bunch of the Kickstarters because no one’s going to want it, which may still happen. (laughs) It’s not launched yet, so we don’t know. But anytime somebody leaves a nice comment on any work I post about the book or otherwise, it really means a lot to me.

My main goal with my work or when I’m drawing something or doing a design or anything is “what’s something that I would want to see?” I’ve said this before, but when I was a kid, my mom worked from home and she had one of those big copy machines in our house. She would let me photocopy comics so that I didn’t have to cut them up.

Oh my God.

Dauterman: So anytime there was a really cool image of Jean Grey or Storm or Cyclops or anybody, I would photocopy it and cut it up and put it on my wall and that kind of thing. So whenever I’m doing a layout, I think, what’s something that young me would have taken to the copy machine? Or what’s something that somebody would get excited about?

So a big goal for me is trying to do the work I would love and hope other people love it too. So when they say they do, it means a lot.

I talked to Mike Del Mundo once, and he said that he kind of draws for the kid inside of him, the one that got as hyped about this stuff as humanly possible. And that’s not to say that comics are only for kids or something like that, but there’s something that is so potent inside us that once you tap into that energy…that’s kind of what you’re trying to tap into.

Dauterman: Yeah. I forget the exact quote or the exact numbers, but someone said that the stuff you love when you were 11 or 12 is going to be the stuff that you love the most for your whole life just because the way your brain is forming, the stuff you take in at that age is going to feel the strongest to you. So I try to draw to that feeling.

A comparison of Russell Dauterman’s art from throughout the ages

I really love your Instagram posts where you would show your childhood drawings of X-Men compared to recent ones. I went to a local event where a bunch of aspiring artists were meeting, and my friend who was an artist was talking to them and giving them guidance and everything like that. And people were talking about it just like, “Could I become good from this?” And some of them were young, so I brought up your Instagram and showed them those posts. “Look at this. This is where one of the best artists in the world was and this is where he is now.” It’s not to say that you were so horrible back then. I have sketchbooks I could show you that were abysmal.

Dauterman: Those are not good drawings. (laughs)

Hey, give young Russell some credit. (laughs)

It is interesting though because you can easily just pull out these drawings of Storm and Jean Grey and they were there. Do you feel like in some ways your art has always been inseparable from Marvel?

Dauterman: Yeah, I would say that. It was Marvel and Catwoman and Disney and Gargoyles. Oh, and Masters of the Universe and She-Ra were big too. So those things are all in my old drawings in my old sketchbooks. But X-Men, far and away, the most. I really kind of pursued that. I interned at Marvel when I was in college. When I was trying to break into the industry, I was doing portfolio reviews and submitting to everybody, but with an eye on Marvel for sure.

That is one of the interesting things about looking at your career. Based on my count, only five of your projects have been with publishers beyond Marvel and two of them was Supurbia so it’s kind of like four in that way. I hate to make your career so Marvel centric because it’s…

Dauterman: But it is!

Yeah, I know. But was that by choice or just how things kind of worked out?

Dauterman: I mean, I’ve been under contract with them. (laughs)

I know that. But was that your goal?

Dauterman: Oh, my number one goal was to draw X-Men and also Scarlet Witch.

There’s one way to do that.

Dauterman: Yeah. (laughs) So that’s not to say that I didn’t want to do other things or that I still don’t want to do other things, but to fulfill that lifelong dream, it was that.

The cover to The Marvel Art of Russell Dauterman

Let’s talk about this new art book, The Marvel Art of Russell Dauterman. It’s a 216 page 9 x 12 high-end coffee table book hardcover. Now, I assume it’s a hardcover. That’d be weird if it’s a high-end coffee table book that’s a softcover.

Dauterman: Yes, it’s a hardcover.

How did this project first come together?

Dauterman: There was a wave of these announced… I think it was David Mack.

And Alex Maleev.

Dauterman: Yes. So then I asked Marvel, “Oh, would you consider having me do one of these?” And they’re like, “Oh, absolutely.” And then they put me in touch with the publisher, and then it kind of took off from there. I’ve been working on them with Clover Press, who are doing these art books. And then the cool thing about it, not only am I picking all the art and I’m writing commentary and all of that sort of thing, but then they’re like, “Oh, we can do all these extras. So do you want to do prints?” And I’m like, “Yeah!” And then they’re like, “What about a puzzle?” And I’m like, “Oh, yeah.” And then I was like, “You know, I’ve been doing all of these trading card variant covers for X-Men that look like the nineties cards. Could we make actual cards out of them?” And they’re like, “Yeah, let’s do that! We’ll ask Marvel.”

And then Marvel was very excited and enthused about everything we’ve been sending them because they obviously have to sign off and they have input on everything, really. So yeah, it snowballed into this much bigger project that I’m thrilled to finally be able to put out prints and posters and the cards especially. That’s huge.

One of my questions was, did you personally demand that there were trading cards as a reward?

Dauterman: I politely asked. I did not demand it. (laughs)

You have to put your foot down and say, “This is what we’re getting Clover Press, let’s do it.”

Dauterman: Clover’s been amazing. I wanted to add some extra characters that didn’t get to be in the cards. So I’m adding a few more, and then I probably shouldn’t reveal what they said, but they’re like, “Oh, what if we do this thing that’s like the old cards?” And I was like, “Oh, yeah, let’s totally do that!” And then I would work on it and send it back to them. And we have to redo a lot of the lettering because it’s much smaller than on the comics, so they’re handling that bit. It’s just been wonderful to get to put all this together.

From the outside, you would think that one of these comes from an artist being pitched and then working collaboratively with the group on what to do. But it seems you were like, “I want to do this, and I have a bunch of ideas on how to do it, and I would like to feature all this stuff,” and then they pitched you on some more stuff, and you’re like, “Let’s keep adding.” It seems like this is something you were passionate about.

Dauterman: Oh, I am beyond thrilled about it. Just to have the book and have all my work in it and presented, knock on wood, so nicely, and to celebrate this thing that has been what I wanted to do for my whole life, and to have it out there. And then to have the cover with…I didn’t design the Thor costume, but I did design the Jean and Storm and Wanda costumes. To have that on the covers… designing those costumes is probably my proudest moment. So to get to celebrate that is phenomenal. But yeah, I’ve been very involved and they’ve been really receptive to that while adding a lot of wonderful ideas.

I hope it’ll be a special thing.

What was the appeal? Was it just about seeing all your work in one place and having this celebration of your career?

Dauterman: It was kind of that. I generally love art books. I have a JC Leyendecker art book that I really love. I have the Chris Bachalo one. I have a Cliff Chiang one. I just love seeing that and I love having all of that work in one place. And also, I think for some of these things, if you don’t follow me online, you might not know that I did this design or I did this variant cover, so having it all in one place I think is really nice. So I think that’s pretty cool to have it all in one place.

That’s one of the things that’s interesting about your career. You have interiors. A lot of people are going to know you for your Thor work. And then on top of that, you also have the design work you’ve done for a bunch of characters, but also the Hellfire Gala, as we’ve talked about before. But then on top of that, a lot of your covers, I saw somebody comment about this, you have all those covers where it shows all the different costumes for the characters. And by nature of supply and demand and some of those being incentive based, some people don’t have access to those because they get bought and then they’re very expensive on the resale market.

And this is putting everything you’ve done, whether people know about it or not, whether it’s accessible or it isn’t, in one place so you can see just how broad your career really has been. I think that’s cool because you’ve done a lot of different things, probably more than on average than most artists because you’re having to fill so many different roles.

Dauterman: It helps that I’ve stepped back from interiors because that just…

Eats up time.

Dauterman: Yeah. And I don’t have any control over whether these variant covers become incentives or not. So I feel bad when people tell me like, “Oh, I couldn’t get this one,” or whatever. I can’t fit everything in the book, but I am fitting in all the costumes covers, so you’ll be able to see them all there. And as I’m putting all this together, I get excited to see them all together, so I hope other people do too.

How did you and the Clover Press team go through the process? What was the process for deciding what was included? Because 216 pages sounds like a lot, but I’m guessing you quickly ran out of room and were like, “What do we really want in there?”

Dauterman: Yeah, it sounds like a lot, but it really isn’t. Especially once I got down to 230 or so. I’m still over, so I’m going to have to talk to them as we put all the finishing touches on it, some more things are going to have to get cut, and then I’m going to rely more on what they have to say for a more objective opinion because I definitely have my favorites.

But I’m still trying to make sure the Thor fans get that and that the X-Men fans get what they would want. But then even within X-Men, there’s the Emma Frost fans and there’s the Cyclops fans and there’s the Jean fans and you have to try to give something for everybody and also try to highlight all your best work. So it’s a struggle. And it’s going to get worse when I have to cut more good stuff.

Yeah, that’s a tricky thing. It’s much easier to drop from 300 to 230 than it probably is from 230 to 216 because then you’re really killing your darlings. You’re having to chop 14 things you really wanted to fight for. I guess there’s always the option of, “Clover Press, could we really just do more pages?”

Dauterman: I did ask about it, but that raises the price, and I don’t want to do that.

Yeah, that’s tricky.

Dauterman: But also, I finished a new Scarlet Witch cover that isn’t out yet, and I’m like, “Oh, well, this one’s going in.” (laughs) So now I’m over even more. So it’ll be tough.

You have to stop doing work. Every time you get a new one, you’re going to be like, “This is my best yet. I have to put this in here,” and then something else has got to go.

Dauterman: Or I can just start doing bad work and then I won’t have to worry about it. (laughs)

That would be an unconventional route. I don’t know if I advise it, but it is an interesting take.

As far as the narrative write-ups are concerned, I didn’t know that that was going to be in there. So what exactly are the narrative elements? Is it just going to be you talking about your work, where you were when you were doing this, or what is it?

Dauterman: It’s not a lot of narrative. It’s just a little bit to kind of introduce each project or say a couple sentences or paragraphs about each project. And I don’t know how much of this is going to get cut eventually, but I wrote an introduction that talks about how I got hired and what all this means to me and then I talked about Thor and how that all came to be. I go through a bit of the process for the costumes covers because people tend to ask me how I put those together, so I break that down a little bit. Just stuff like that.

But the vast majority of the book is going to be art.

A look at the interiors of The Marvel Art of Russell Dauterman

You’ve already talked about this, but there are people you want to satisfy who are Thor fans. There are people you want to satisfy are X-Men fans. And then even within X-Men, there are the individual character fans. That’s always a complicating factor with X-Men. Does this book feature work from throughout your career? I know Cyclops was your first project. Is that something you featured as well?

Dauterman: Cyclops is definitely in there. Not as much as some of the other things that were bigger projects for me, but strangely, looking back at that, I look at that work pretty fondly, even though the style’s a bit different than what I’m doing now. There isn’t a ton of War of the Realms in it because I don’t love my work in that as much as my other Thor work. But that’s still represented too and the best stuff from that is in there.

But I think with some more distance, it’s easier to appreciate things. Right after I finished the first volume of Thor and we went into The Mighty Thor, the style evolved a tiny bit, and I didn’t like to look at that first volume because, “Oh well, this is looser than I’m doing now.” And then after War of the Realms, I was like, “I should go back to being a little looser like I was at the beginning of Thor.”

The farther back you go, the easier it is to look at it and appreciate it.

Do you feel like you’ve learned anything about your own art in the process of looking through all this and having to be immersed in it as you’re putting this project together?

Dauterman: I think looking back at things like that Cyclops book and the looseness of it kind of inspired me to do more of that. Again, I think for a while toward the end of Thor and especially in War of the Realms, my work got very tight. I always take reference photos of myself for pretty much every character. And in that period, if the anatomy of the hand was not perfectly realistic, I would need to fix it.

Whereas with the Cyclops stuff, it was just sort of more there. It was more… I wouldn’t say representational because that stuff isn’t abstracted in any way, but there was more freedom to it then. And so as I moved into doing X-Men work, I tried to incorporate that more, and now I am pretty happy with where I’ve settled. But there’s always little things that I can look back at and say, “Oh, I should do that again.”

It seems like you sometimes have to fight a perfectionist side of yourself.

Dauterman: Yeah. (laughs) I am very meticulous about my work, and I’m not the fastest, which probably explains why I don’t do many interiors nowadays. But yeah, I am constantly fighting that. And I’m sure my editors laugh at me when…I am trying to get better about this now, but for a while, I’d send, “Oh, I made a revision to this.” And they’re probably like, “Where’s the revision?” (laughs) It was probably the tiniest thing that only I would ever notice, but that was bothering me so much that I had to fix. It’s perfectionism for sure.

They may not notice it, but I think part of the reason why people love those, the character costume covers, the ones where you have an infinite number of Rogues flying and everything like that, and all the different costumes she’s wearing. I don’t want to toot your horn too much, but when you look at it, everything just looks right. And you can tell that so much love went into this. When I see that bomber jacket, that 1990s look, I’m like, “This is the best version of that look since Jim Lee did that card in the 1990s.” And no one can compare to that besides you and him. I think that that perfectionist side of you, I think fans see that.

I think that’s part of the reason why something like the X-Men ’97 variant cover you did that people are now obsessed with, the original version of that art, was so essential to your career. That’s part of the reason why it works so well. It does two things. It feels perfect, but also it has the right energy, and that’s a tough line to walk. But I think in your perfectionism, you managed to walk that.

Dauterman: Thank you very much for saying that.

Funnily enough, there was an error on the bomber jacket on that Rogue cover. (laughs)

You’re ruining my argument. (laughs)

Dauterman: I have since fixed it.

Of course you have.

Dauterman: The X on her shoulder, I forget now which way it was, but it’s either a black X with a red inside or a red X with a black inside and whichever way is the right way, I did the opposite.

Yeah, the one I’m looking at has a black X with red inside.

Dauterman: Does the one you’re looking at have the Hellfire Gala one in the bottom left with the sunglasses on?


Dauterman: Okay, then that might be the wrong one.

Well, it looks great to me. (laughs)

Dauterman: The right version is a red X with black interior.

Okay, sure.

Dauterman: Yeah. X-Men fans, as I am sure you know…

They are particular.

Dauterman: Yeah, we can be very particular. So maybe someone else noticed that too. But the cover was out, it’d been published, and then I noticed that.

A look at the interiors of The Marvel Art of Russell Dauterman

I do feel like there is a…I don’t want to say a generation. A generation is overstating it. But there’s a decent portion of your fan base that is particularly into your design work and how you redesign characters and their costumes. And it seems like that gets a lot of shine in this book, both because it’s big part of your career and because it’s such a big focus for you.

Dauterman: All my big designs are going to be in there. And I think especially since I’m not doing as many interiors these days, doing the design work is a way that I can contribute to whatever character it is. And so I feel really proud of that stuff. And I think the Hellfire Gala, since it put such a spotlight on design, and since my stuff for that came out first, even though I was one of many artists doing the designs, people responded, and really positively to most of them. Not all, but most of them.

I was very grateful that people liked those designs for the most part. And seeing the cosplay of that, seeing the custom figures and the fan art…was hugely exciting, it makes me so happy to see that.

You love doing that design work though, right?

Dauterman: Oh, absolutely. Doing the design work and doing the covers, especially now that I’m doing my own color work for covers, is just really rewarding. Those are my favorite things to do.

You mentioned the front cover already. It’s the one that has Jean Grey, Jane Foster Thor, Storm, and Scarlet Witch. That’s a new piece for this book, isn’t it?

Dauterman: Yeah. That was done just for the book.

So, what made that the defining quartet for the book?

Dauterman: I thought of adding more characters but I think those four, if we’re taking my work so far, those are the characters that I would hope I’ve had the most impact on. Obviously Jane Foster Thor was a huge thing for me that I really loved being a part of and I’m really proud of that series. And then Jean, Storm and Wanda, those are my three favorite characters ever. So getting to draw them at all was huge, let alone getting to design their costumes. So that was a no-brainer to want to put them in there.

But also I think those are representative of the projects I’ve been doing because I’m on Scarlet Witch, doing the covers and a little bit more for that. And then the Jean costume is derived from the Hellfire Gala stuff. And then the Storm costume I did for X-Men Red when I was doing those covers. So I think those four sum up my decade at Marvel if I had to choose.

Yeah, it’s the character you’re most known for when it comes to interiors, and then your three favorite characters that you also did new designs for. Were the other ones you considered characters you had done designs for or were they somebody else?

Dauterman: No, I had considered Cyclops because of the Cyclops series and I considered Rogue just because I like her.

I would’ve supported that.

Dauterman: As I was playing around with adding them, it was starting to get cluttered, and I thought it would make more of an impact if it was just these four and better representationally for me.

The slipcase to The Marvel Art of Russell Dauterman

And then you also had the slipcase, right?

Dauterman: Yeah.

And then there’s a dust jacket, and so you have other places to put different characters. So you have multiple levels of representation of your favorites and things you’re most known for.

Dauterman: Yeah, the slipcase is what I’m most excited about.

I love slipcases. I don’t know why. I just love them.

Dauterman: I’m so thrilled about that. But really, they sent me the mock-up for that, and I was just…all caps, many exclamation points, heart emoji, very excited. On one side, it has an X-Men piece I did a few years ago that has the X-Men from different eras. So you’ve got 90s Cyclops, Frank Quietly Wolverine, Outback Storm, Dave Cockrum Phoenix, and 60s Iceman. And then on the other side is probably my favorite piece that I’ve ever done, which is the cover of the new Scarlet Witch #1. It’s very witchy and supernatural. And then the dust jacket has the costumes covers, and then… I don’t know if they’ve… I don’t think they’ve released this yet, but…

There’s a secret to the dust jacket, isn’t there?

Dauterman: Yeah, it’s reversible. So, on the inside of it, it’s the X-Men ’97 cover.

Oh my God.

Dauterman: So you can turn it around and wrap that around the book, and then it’ll be the wraparound cover from X-Men ’97.

How the hell do you do a reversible dust jacket?

Dauterman: That’s all Clover Press. They came up with that. Because I had wanted to do the X-Men ’97 as the dust jacket, and they’re like, “Well, we want the spine to show,” which made a lot of sense. So then they had the idea to put it on the inside, and I thought that was just so cool.

I love that. I clearly get really excited about reversible things when the jacket I am wearing on the call is also…

Dauterman: It’s reversible? (laughs) You’re on brand.

Yeah, I clearly love reversible things. I’m looking at the slipcase and the dust jacket…it’s just so perfect. It just feels very on point. And I love that the X-Men ’97 piece is getting such a focus because in a weird way, I don’t want to overstate something, but it feels like such a defining piece of art for you because that was one of the pieces that helped you get hired at Marvel. The original version?

Dauterman: Actually, I credit it with getting me hired at DC!

Right. But I think (Marvel editor) Wil Moss saw that, and it was a big part of that, right?

Dauterman: When he was at DC, yeah. It was actually Darren Shan, who’s at Marvel now, who hired me at DC. But I had been trying for a few years to get hired at Marvel or DC. I had a portfolio from working at BOOM! Studios doing the Supurbia book. But the thing that brought people to my table at New York Comic Con that year was that X-Men print. And without that, I don’t know that a lot of editors would’ve even stopped by to look at all the BOOM! Studios work that was in my portfolio.

I totally credit that piece with getting me noticed and getting me hired. And so to be able to redo it for the new show, which I absolutely love, and for my 10 years and everything, and then to have it featured so prominently with the book, I’m overjoyed.

It’s also a very smart idea because it’s going to be a poster for the project.

Dauterman: Yes!

I think you announced that this morning. And that, I don’t want to overstate its impact, but there was a tweet you did where you re-shared somebody saying, “This should be a poster.” And you just shared the eyes emoji. with it as a quote tweet. That poster by itself is going to sell some books just because people are obsessed with that art. “I have to get that on my wall.”

Dauterman: The thought of anybody having my art on their wall is huge, so I hope people like it. I hope people want to get it.

I don’t want to overstate Jubilee’s power, but every time I see that piece, that’s the first place I look. It’s just got so much Jubilee energy. So much sass.

Dauterman: I’m very pro-Jubilee. But I feel like maybe until the ’97 show, a lot of people were anti-Jubilee. There was an anti-Jubilee sentiment that I’ve seen all over, and I don’t get it because…She was never my favorite, but I liked her and I loved her in Gen X.

Yeah, I was going to say, we’re Gen Xers, in one sense. If you grew up at the right time, it was kind of hard not to love Jubilee.

Dauterman: Right?

She’s the gateway character in X-Men: The Animated Series. She’s the veteran in Generation X. How do you not love her? She’s a badass.

Dauterman: I know.

And her powers are very aesthetically pleasing.

Dauterman: She’s so fun. The bright costume, the bubble gum, the sunglasses. So when I was doing the original, I wanted to feature her and let her be the point of view character like she was in the cartoon. She’s looking at the viewer in that piece like, “Look at these guys! Look what I get to do!” So yeah, I’m glad that comes through.

I feel like she’s getting popular again, both because of X-Men ’97, but also because there’s a 30-year cycle when it comes to popularity of things. And I feel like Jubilee’s look…in Anchorage, there’s these vintage markets, and when you go, there’s a bunch of really cool 20 somethings and late teenagers and then me shopping there. I just stick out a sore thumb. But when you go there, it’s a bunch of people who look like they would either be Jubilee or be friends with Jubilee, and I feel like her aesthetic is popping again in a real way.

Dauterman: Yeah, I’m always taken aback when I’m out to dinner or wherever, and I’m going to sound very old now, but the young people are dressing like how we did in high school.

I know you did some new X-Drawings for stickers. What kind of new work did you do for this project?

Dauterman: The cover was new. The full body stickers are derived from my costumes covers mostly. But then I did corner box headshot stickers. So on the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver mini-series that’s coming out now, I asked if we could bring back corner boxes so I could do the little headshots on the covers, and Marvel said yes. So the Scarlet Witch one is partly that with some added stuff. And then I did a Jane Foster Thor headshot, and then I did in the style of the John Byrne Dark Phoenix Saga era corner boxes, I did X-Men headshots for X-Men ’97. So you’ve got the main cast there, and that’s an all new piece.

Is the X-Men one just a super sticker?

Dauterman: The X-Men one is them all together. All the figures are separate, and then the little Wanda headshot is separate, the Thor headshot separate, and then the X-Men one is one piece.

You said you did some new cards too, right?

Dauterman: The new cards are remixed art. For example, I’m adding a Magneto card. And the main front of that is from a Scarlet Witch cover I did last year that prominently featured classic Magneto. It’s a big close up of him. And then on the back of it, I had done a Magneto drawing for a S.W.O.R.D. variant cover years ago. And so I took that, but then I changed the costume to be his classic one so I had to redraw that and the helmet, and then I recolored it to be the right colors. And so that’s going to be the headshot on the back of the card. So I’m doing stuff like that. And then there’s also a new piece in the book to kind of end the book that I won’t spoil.

A look at the interiors of The Marvel Art of Russell Dauterman

I always think of art books as celebrations of things that have already happened rather than new work, and I don’t know if that’s necessarily the reality consistently. It certainly wasn’t in your case, where it is a celebration, but you put in a lot of new work. How long has this project been coming together for you?

Dauterman: I think I probably started talking with them last fall (2023).

Whoa. Okay.

Dauterman: And I’ve been working on it since then. So it’s been a lot, but I’m really glad to have the time to work on it and make it great, I hope.

You said before that Clover pitched you on some of the rewards, you pitched them on some of them. What was the process for coming up with those? I don’t want to oversimplify these crowdfunding efforts, but sometimes people want the book, but what really gets them going crazy is the rewards. Those are essential. What was that process like?

Dauterman: The puzzle, for example, that was something that Clover Press suggested because they wanted to do something a little different for each Kickstarter. And they were thinking, “What’s something that we haven’t done yet?” And they were like, “How about a puzzle?” And then I was like, “Oh, I love that.” And then I immediately thought to do the costumes covers for the puzzle. So I don’t think that’s been released yet, but what it’s going to be is I think is nine of the costumes covers all in a big rectangle. It’s a 1,000 piece puzzle. And so you’ll have all the little costumes from all the characters, and then you put it all together and it makes a big collage of the different covers. So then I said, “Oh, what about this?” And they were like, “Oh, we love that.” And then they sent me the template and dimensions, and I made it and I sent it to them, and we sent it to Marvel. Marvel had some notes that really helped it a lot. I implemented those, and then it’s good to go.

And they’re working with the printer to figure out how to actually make a puzzle which is exciting. So it’s been really collaborative like that, and it’s been exciting to have the opportunity to do these things.

I mentioned before that you’ve had this career where you’ve gotten to do a little bit of everything. You’ve done interiors. You’re doing covers. Actually, I should say, you’ve done interiors, but according to Twitter, you’re doing more interiors of some variety in the future, which I’m sure you can’t say anything about, but…

Dauterman: If you are paying attention to my current project, you can probably figure it out. Yeah, I’m currently drawing a little bit of interiors.

So, you’re doing that, you’re doing covers, you’ve done plenty of design work. You’re apparently doing puzzles. You’re doing a little bit of everything.

Dauterman: And stickers!

And stickers, prints, and posters. You have the perfect con presence being built right now. You have the con wall of all con walls coming up.

But I do think it’s cool because while I don’t know what your career by design would have looked like, as in what your idealized version of it is, but you’ve gotten to do a little bit of everything. And from the sound of it, it sounds like interiors can be a little overwhelming for you and doesn’t allow for a lot of free time. So instead, you’ve gotten the ability to build a career that fits you well, and I think that’s pretty cool. It seems like you’ve found the career that fits you best.

Dauterman: I think you said that perfectly. I love doing the design work. I love doing the covers. I love having done interiors. So I like to be able to do that. The interiors I’m doing now is so in my wheelhouse that I’m very excited to just do a little bit of it and to be part of it. I get excited about that. But yeah, I’ve been very fortunate not only to work for Marvel, but for them to be accommodating to offer me projects that I think I can do my best work on and that I can be excited about. I’ve been very lucky, and I’m very thankful.

That’s the thing that I think people forget about when it comes to interiors. People are like, “Why didn’t this person finish this arc?” Or, “Why didn’t this person do both arcs?” Interiors are hard. They’re hard. They’re exhausting. They’re time-consuming. And I think that the way you’re doing it where you can do the other stuff, but then you can intermittently parachute in on Giant Size X-Men or a Scarlet Witch issue or something like that…I don’t want to speak for you, but it seems like it recontextualizes something that is almost like the living representation of burnout into something that’s special that you get to do for yourself.

Dauterman: Exactly. After War of the Realms, I was really burnt out. That was a lot for me. And getting the ability to step back and to focus on covers and to be choosier with interior projects has been wonderful. I hate complaining about this because it’s a cushy job. I get to sit in my office, I get to draw, and I get to draw these characters that I love. So I don’t want to complain in any way, but it is time-consuming, and I get sad or upset when I see people… Not even my work, but colleagues’ work when they’re like, “Oh, what was this? This looks rushed. This looks terrible.” And I’m like, “It probably was rushed.” There’s no disclaimer on the comic that says this was done under duress.

I would rather put out quality than quantity. And that’s a luxury that I’m able to do right now and might not always be able to do, but I’m just trying to do the best with what I can do right now.

And War of the Realms is a perfect example because when you’re doing an event comic, first off, I think it was probably oversized, at least to some degree.

Dauterman: Yeah.

And then on top of that, event comics don’t wait for people. Those are getting done. No one else is getting it done. When you combine supersized with, you’re the artist and you’re a perfectionist and all that, I’m pretty sure if we had the ability to Truman Show you during that process, we would’ve seen a lot of hours at your drawing table or wherever you’re working.

Dauterman: Yeah, that’s all I did.

To close, I just want to do a quick lightning round of Marvel things. This is just whatever your favorites are. What is your Marvel project that you’ve done so far? It doesn’t have to just be interiors. It can be anything.

Dauterman: The superhero costumes for Jean Grey, Storm and Scarlet Witch.

So the ones that are on the cover?

Dauterman: Yeah. Designing the actual superhero costumes that are getting used in the whole line of books…that is the bucket list thing for me, I think in my career, to get to do that for those characters in particular. That’s my proudest Marvel work that I’ve done.

Because they’re your favorites?

Dauterman: Yeah, those are my favorites. Those are the ones that I’ve wanted to draw my whole life really. And then doing costume design and character design has been such a thing for me. I went to school for that and I love doing all of that. I used to doodle in sketchbooks when I was a teenager of the costumes that I would design for them. So that’s my favorite, or at least that’s my proudest thing I’ve done. My favorite piece of art I’ve done so far is the Scarlet Witch #1 cover, the new one for the volume that’s launching in June that’s a close-up of her with the witchy stuff in the background. The one that’s on the slipcase. And the X-Men ’97 piece is another favorite, Thor as a whole I’m really proud of, and Giant Size, the Jean and Emma issue is a career highlight for me.

I’m going to put a caveat on this one. Excluding Jean Grey, Scarlet Witch, and Storm, who’s your favorite Marvel character to draw?

Dauterman: I would say Emma Frost. I think drawing her on the Marauders covers and then drawing her in Giant Size…she’s very fun. She always has a wry expression and kind of a bitchy attitude. And I love the Frank Quitely and Grant Morrison Emma so much that I try to infuse as much of that in her as possible. She’s very fun, especially in Giant Size when I got to do a lot of her reaction shots to Jean. That was really fun.

And then for her trading card, the little headshot on the back, I did an homage to what I consider a famous Frank Quitely panel where she’s in a taxi, she got her diamond skin and went to the mansion and then was leaving and she gets in the taxi and the driver says, “Where to, ma’am?” And she says, “Van Cleef & Arpels. I want to have myself appraised.” (laughs)

Oh yeah, I remember that.

Dauterman: I redid that pose for her trading card cover.

I feel like a lot of people would guess if there was a Mount Rushmore of your favorite characters to draw, we would know the three, and a lot of people would say Emma.

Dauterman: Yeah.

There’s an aesthetic overlap, like a vibe to her that just feels right for you.

Next, you said Chris Bachalo earlier, but do you have a favorite Marvel artist?

Dauterman: It is Chris Bachalo, but also Olivier Coipel is huge.

I could see that.

Dauterman: His work is a huge influence on my style. I met him early on and he was really delightful to me. And also Frank Quitely. Frank Quitely’s layouts are really inspirational to me, the sort of creativity he can get in there.

I feel like Coipel is probably… I don’t want to say it’s not one for one by any means, but in a lot of ways, I can see the most of you in him and the way that he draws. I was rereading Avengers Disassembled recently and he does three pages in that. There’s this scene with Scarlet Witch, The Wasp, and Hawkeye at a swimming pool, and there’s something about that where I was like, “This is so Russell Dauterman.” I don’t know what it was.

Dauterman: Olivier is a master at body language. I know that scene you’re talking about, and there’s a brilliant panel where I think Janet just says hi to Hawkeye and Olivier frames it so that he’s head down, he’s just like this (waves hand up without looking) with his hand. And that conveys so much character. It’s wonderfully composed. Olivier is really a master.

What’s your favorite piece of Marvel art?

Dauterman: It’s that Joe Mad Pizza Hut art! That is my favorite piece. I don’t even know if Marvel still has that, but why isn’t that on a million variant covers?

That is a good question. Why isn’t it?

Last question, the one thing we haven’t talked about is actual stories. What’s your favorite Marvel comic or story?

Dauterman: My number one Marvel comic is New X-Men by Grant Morrison, especially the Frank Quitely issues. #121, which is the silent issue with Jean and Emma that we did an homage to for Giant-Size X-Men…that’s my favorite comic of all time. I couldn’t believe I was able to do that. Jonathan Hickman was like, “What do you want to draw?” I was like, “Jean and Storm and maybe Emma. And also I love this comic. Maybe we could do something like that?” And Jonathan was like, “Oh yeah, let’s homage it.” And then I was like, “Oh! Cool!” And then I got the outline and it was like, “These panels and these pages should be exactly the same and then all these ones will be different.” So that was just mind-blowing.

But yeah, that run. I won’t go into spoilers too much, but it’s incredible to see some of that being adapted for X-Men ’97. I feel like New X-Men is one of the best X-Men runs, hands down. Certainly the best modern one, post-Claremont’s original run. And it has a beginning, middle, and end. There are no crossovers involved. You can pick up that first issue and read it right through the end, and it’s just a wonderful run of comics. And the amazing Phil Jimenez and Chris Bachalo are in there too.

I don’t remember who did the Fantomex issues. I’m a big fan of Fantomex. I don’t know what it is about that character, I just absolutely love him. Getting his first appearance is one of my random comics that I really want to buy because I love it.

Dauterman: Oh, you don’t have it?

No, I don’t. I have this weird thing where I want to find issues. It’s a journey. It’s weird how it works like that.

Dauterman: Yeah, I collected all of those as they were coming out in high school. I think that came out when I was in college.

I have the New X-Men Omnibus. I remember where I was when I first read it. I love New X-Men so much that I remember where I was when I read it. My parents have a motorhome, and we went to go do motorhome things once. I remember I was reading it in this weird sleeping nook on top in the front, and the only way I could read it was flat on my stomach with it in front me because if I turned on my back and tried to read it, I would kill myself if I dropped it. And I just remember just sitting there and just being like, “Oh my God.” Every single issue is just another level of, “I can’t believe what I’m reading.” One of the things that’s amazing about great art and great comics is whether you’re 5, 13, 40, or whatever, when you read something that really hits you, it’s seismic and you just remember it forever.

Dauterman: For sure.

And New X-Men is that for me.

If you enjoyed this conversation and want to read more features like it, consider subscribing to SKTCHD to do just that and to support the work that I do.

  1. And even one project from his career in film in Captain America: The First Avenger.

  2. Here’s where we need to note that we put this interview together well before the campaign launched. It’s safe to say Dauterman is feeling a lot better about its chances of success now!