Dennis Calero: Offering His Fresh Take on Supergirl's Legion

A comics interview article by: Tobey Cook
Having been a fan of Dennis Calero’s work over the last several years, I was excited to hear that he was announced as the artist for Tony Bedard’s run on Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes. I had a chance to talk to Dennis recently and find out more about his work on the book, as well as discuss the story he did for an issue of JSA Classified.

Tobey Cook (TC): I was reading through some of my comics from the last month or so, and I remembered that you had done a JSA Classified story with Tony Bedard prior to being announced as doing the art on his Legion run. Was this something arranged around the same time?

Dennis Calero (DC): Oh no. That was purely a one off that Michael Marts needed and he knew I was looking for work and that all worked out, and that was really fun. Tony did a genuinely fun and moving script (and I think the pretty much 100% positive fan reaction to the issue bears that out) that was fun for me to work on. I like to think that Mike saw something good in our working together and as Tony (I think) was already slated to work on Legion, that MAY have given him the idea to pair us up again on a longer project. And based on the first Legion script which I'm just getting through, I'll be happy to work with Tony for a long time to come.

TC: Did you have a lot of fun drawing the H-Dial transformations?

DC: Oh yeah, I'm glad you picked up on that. I wasn't a subscriber to Dial H for Hero as a kid, but I did pick up a few issues here and there and thought they were very fun and a bit wacky and doing those crazy transformations in the context of this serious story was extremely weird, but interesting.

TC: I’ve collected all the H-Dial appearances over the years, and I really thought that was a nice touch with the discovery. Now, getting back to Alan Scott… what did you enjoy most about getting to draw such an iconic character in your first DC story?

DC: I've always liked Alan Scott since I read The New Age (The first storyline in the current Justice Society of America series by Geoff Johns). Tony picked up on the idea that Alan Scott was the most Supermanesque of the original Golden Agers. He's older, but he's like this powerful force that can’t be contained, except if you get him to doubt himself. I like the idea of power coming from your own force of will.

TC: Alan Scott's one of those to me who is really a role model for a new generation, and you can definitely see that in the way he's presented in recent stories. So I think you've definitely got it there. Now the other thing I notice is you inked and colored your own pencils on this story - is that something you'll be doing going forward on your Legion run?

DC: Well, doing a monthly book is different animal than a fill in. Hopefully, you have some extra time on a fill in and get to flex all your muscles. And I've always been a colorist, so to me, as I've said elsewhere, I see coloring as a vital part of the process, just not an enhancement or (as some see it ) a necessary evil. I am inking my own work, and I will be coloring or rendering portions of the work and working closely with the regular colorist, who did a great job on Barry Kitson's stuff. Hopefully, we'll have time to set up a sort of back and forth, so that rather than a straight assembly line, Nathan (Eyring) will feel free to color over my work, I can color over his and vice versa until we get something that will be more than the sum of what we bring to it.

TC: You mentioned before that you'd just gotten Tony Bedard's first Legion script that you're working on now. It's already been established that his story picks up after the Dominion War arc from Mark Waid's run. Is there any particular thing about the upcoming story (without going into spoiler territory) that you're excited about drawing?

DC: Well, I think Tony is bringing a change of pace to the book, it's going to a little less of the frenetic zipping around the universe or BIG GIANT wars (for a while, at least) and more about the characters, which I think will be a welcome change for the time being (and saves me from having to draw 50 characters a panel - which has never been my strong suit, even though my only two regular books have been TEAM books - odd). And then things will get crazy again, in a very fun and interesting way.

TC: Have you always been a fan of the Legion?

DC: Frankly, no. The Legion has always been to me a very niche book that I just didn't get, and honestly, now that I've been working on it, and seeing how passionate the Legion fandom is about these characters and this setting, I've been reading the Levitz and Giffen run and Cockrum's work and just having a ball, and in a way I'm glad that I waited to discover this work when I'm actually working on it because I get to come to the actual drawing of this title without any preconceived notions. I don't have an agenda other than to represent Tony's script and these characters the best that I can.

TC: That's really the best way sometimes is to come in fresh and look at the script, then do your own take while staying true to the characters. Had you read any of the Waid/Kitson run prior to starting work on your arc?

DC: Oh yeah, the last ten or so issues up until Tony's first issue, and then I'm going back and reading it from the beginning. The biggest challenge, no surprise, is keeping up with the constant costume changes. I'm hoping to get to change somebody’s costume for no other reason than to keep the tradition up (readers, any thoughts?).

TC: Barry Kittson did some fantastic costume designs over the course of his run. I think Invisible Kid could use a redesign, myself - I was always a fan of the old Lyle Norg costume but I'd love to see it done with a modern touch.

DC: I'll keep that in mind! I think Invisible Kid should always have to have SOME part of him invisible.

TC: I think that would be great as well. What can you tell the folks to look forward to with your upcoming run?

DC: Well, #1- I'm busting my butt drawing it! #2- I hope we get to present the Legion visually in a different way than ever before. I hope to combine elements of comic book art, conceptual art (in a style like that used for film and video games) and computer rendering. We're on for 5 issues, that's it (for now), so we're going to try something fun and different and (gasp!) a little experimental and hey, if it doesn't work, I'll be off in five issues anyway!

TC: Well, here's hoping for more than 5 issues - I'd really like to see you have a long, successful run. Thanks again for taking the time out to do this interview.

DC: Not at all, thank you and thanks to the Legion fans who've been nothing but great!

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