The term “underrated” is thrown around way too often, but there are really very few cases when it actually looks the part and this is the case of artist Darryl Banks. The man has been one of the finest artists in the comic book industry in the last thirty years or so and contributed to the creation of the 90's Green Lantern, Kyle Rayner (who also happens to be my favorite character).
But Banks’ career doesn’t stop there, having created more characters, collaborated on very good runs and overall leaving his mark on the industry. I had the opportunity of speaking with him and he provided his insight on a variety of different topics.
Kyle Rayner by Banks. Copyright by DC Comics.
Kevin: First of all, thank for you taking the time to do this, Darryl. It’s a pleasure. I always like to start from the beginning in these interviews: How'd you became a fan of comics and what inspired you to become an artist?
Banks: Growing up I always liked drawing and I really enjoyed cartoons and comic books. Not necessarily superhero comics at first. I liked characters such as Popeye the sailor, Woody Woodpecker, and Speed Racer. Actually, there has never been a time in my life when I did not enjoy drawing even from early childhood. Dinosaurs, dragsters, sharks and the aforementioned Popeye.
Who were your major influences as an artist?
As I grew older I began to be able to differentiate between the different artist styles and associate them with their names. Initially, I was influenced by the amazing John Romita Sr. as far as comic book art goes. I would later be inspired by classic illustrators such as Andrew Loomis and Frank Frazetta. Of course, I was also a huge fan of Sal and John Buscema, George Pérez, John Byrne, Terry Austin, and Neal Adams.
What do you think are the aspects of being an artist that no one talks about? Something that you think is important that no one mentions?
Prioritizing the business aspect of being a professional should be mentioned a lot more. Important elements such as tax deductions, tracking supplies and their expenses. Having great communication skills and conveying (and comprehending) ideas are underrated abilities.
Hal Jordan as Parallax by Banks. Copyright by DC Comics.
A part of your career that a lot of people tend to skip is your time drawing the Legion of Super Heroes. How was the experience of working on that title?
That was my first published work with DC Comics. I always liked the character named Matter Eater Lad and I had the opportunity to draw him. His superpower was to be able to eat absolutely anything without consequence or even weight gain!
The Legion is obviously a team book. As an artist, is it better or worse to draw team books compared to books with just one main character?
Team books can be more difficult technically however they have the potential to have a wider range of appeal to fans. It also depends on the team. Fortunately, the Legion of Superheroes was a great team to draw.
Of course, your work with Green Lantern in the 90s is highly regarded. How did you end up working on that title, considering it wasn’t as coveted as it is today?
During my time working on the Legion, I would often mention ideas I had for Green Lantern. I had no idea that my comments would reach the Green Lantern office! The title was being overhauled from the ground up and change was in the air. Character, story and of course art. I was blessed with a great opportunity.
Parallax versus Green Lantern by Banks. Copyright by DC Comics.
You and Ron Marz arrived and you quickly removed Hal Jordan, turning him into Parallax and introduced Kyle Rayner. How was the creative process during the making of Emerald Twilight?
That is a complex question! To simplify, editor Kevin Dooley, Ron Marz and I were tasked to breathe new life into a book that was not doing well in sales. There were many concepts presented and a considerable amount of costume designs as I can certainly attest to.
This is a bit of a two-part question: How did you come up with the designs of Parallax and Kyle Rayner?
Hal Jordan was going to be renamed The Protector which was a name that did not suit him. I came up with the name Parallax and submitted designs for both Hal and Kyle. I always loved armor thanks to my Japanese anime interest so incorporating those elements was a no brainer.
Green Lantern and the Silver Surfer by Banks. Copyright by Marvel and DC Comics.
You worked on Green Lantern for several years. Looking back, how do you feel about that run and your legacy in the mythos of that franchise?
Green Lantern was definitely the highest point of my comic book art career. Years later, the GL franchise would attract top tier talent of the industry. Geoff Johns, Carlos Pacheco, Ethan Van Sciver, just to name a few. I was a part of a team that made Green Lantern a title to be desired by fans and pros alike.
Fatality by Banks. Copyright by DC Comics.
You not only created my favorite comic book character, Kyle Rayner, but also one of my favorite antagonists, Fatality. How did you come up with the concept for that character?
Well, Todd McFarlane’s Spawn had Angela to contend with so DC wanted Kyle to have a female foe also. I designed and named Fatality (you can tell I played Mortal Kombat!) and it was important to me that she be a black woman. At the time, no one could name two black female supervillains so Fatality was very unique. I had her originate from planet Xanshi which connected her to Green Lantern John Stewart (See "Cosmic Odyssey").
After your work on Green Lantern, you slowly moved from mainstream comics to commercial art. Was that by design or was it something that just happened?
I started with commercial art as a career and comics came later. Getting comics work became too inconsistent so a return to graphic design was necessary. I wasn’t computer literate initially so I returned with a much more versatile skill set.
For those that are not familiar with the subject, what type of stuff did you do in commercial art?
I do conceptual character illustrations for license properties, gaming character designs, and toy designs.
Harken’s Raiders. Copyright by Darryl Banks and Ron Marz.
At the end of last year, you worked with Marz once again with your own crowdfunded book, Harken’s Raiders. What can you tell us about that project?
Harken’s Raiders is a World War II story about a covert team of volunteers called the S.O.E. which means Special Operations Executive. The tale takes place shortly before the US was fully involved in WWII.
How do you feel about crowdfunding becoming such a prominent trend in the comic book industry these days?
More variety and opportunity is a great thing. Why wait for a publisher to pick up your project when you can do it yourself? However, it’s not easy at all and takes a lot of time and a whole lot of effort.
Kyle Rayner’s origin story by Banks. Copyright by DC Comics.
You have such a long career, you have created characters and worked in very important titles. What goals do you have right now?
I will continue to improve my art and inspire others to do the same. My dream is to learn the Japanese language and work with Tsuburaya Productions on the famous and iconic character known as Ultraman.
Do you have any advice for young artists that are starting out?
Don’t get discouraged when you get turned down or have an unfavorable critique. Adversity will show you how serious you are on this journey to become a professional.
Thank you for taking the time to do this, Darryl. It was great. Any last message for our readers? Where can we follow you on social media?