In conversation with Cian Tormey, the Irish DC artist who brought Superman to Dublin
He told us the OTHER Dublin landmarks Superman almost saved, the reaction to Superman's bisexuality, and if we should expect a big screen adaptation from Warner Bros. any time soon...
A few weeks ago, we covered the news of a new issue of the Superman comic which showed the superhero travelling to Dublin, attempting to save a family inside the GPO after the Spire had collapsed on top of it.
Following the issue's publication, JOE reached out to Cian Tormey, the Irish artist who works at DC Comics and is currently the man behind all of those eye-popping images in the current run of the Superman comic.
We asked Tormey all about Superman's visit to Ireland (apparently this wasn't his first time!), how he landed a job at DC, the reaction to Superman's bisexuality in this comic book run, and if Warner Bros. has discussed a movie or TV adaptation of this comic.
How did you get started in this career?
It took a couple of attempts! I had gone to various portfolio reviews at different conventions over the years, and did test pages for Marvel and DC but nothing came of it. I had a successful advertising career going and initially didn't want to leave it, but I felt I had to make one last attempt before I gave up entirely. So in the last four years or so of my job as an Art Director, I spent the evenings and weekends writing and drawing some of my own stories, and over those years I managed to get the attention of the editors in Marvel and DC one way or another and eventually the work started coming in.
How did you land a job at DC?
I had found a studio of comic artists called the RAID studio in Toronto, Canada. Having spent about ten years working in art departments of ad agencies, the idea of a department of comic artists sounded amazing, so I contacted them to see if I could come and spend time working there. I asked my Creative Director John Kilkenny would they let me go for a couple of months and he said absolutely, and so off I went. While I was there, the Toronto Fan Expo was on, and the writer Kyle Higgins asked me to call down and talk to him. He told me he was writing a ten page story for DC and asked if I would pitch for it, and they accepted me as the artist on the story. That was my foot in the door, and the rest came from there.
There was a lot of talk about Superman being in Dublin following the most recent issue, where did that idea come from?
I've worked with the writer of this series, Tom Taylor, on a couple of other projects before. He's extremely considerate of his creative partners on his books, and knowing I am Irish, he asked if I would like to do a scene here. We talked it through a couple of times and ultimately we settled on the scene you see in Issue 10 - the flooding of the Liffey, and the collapse of the Spire.
And when it came to the particular story elements that involved Superman in Ireland, was there any other alternatives in mind at all? Superman saving the Guinness brewery, maybe?
Haha, no, I wouldn't want myself and Tom to be the villains of the story. We had talked about the Poolbeg chimneys collapsing, but ultimately they're too beloved of Dublin as a landmark, and from a story telling stand point, because they're decommissioned, if they collapsed they wouldn't endanger as many people. Ultimately Tom suggested the Spire and I don't think anyone has been too sad to see it come down!
There was also a lot of conversation lately over this particular Superman, being the first to come out openly as LGBTQ+. What has the reaction been like to that, overall?
The response in the States was typically polarised - some disingenuous headlines like "Superman is Gay!" garnered the outrage they were designed for, but on the other side of the conversation, the news was wonderfully and warmly received. It has lead to a tremendous outpouring of gratitude from the fans, who often reach out to me to let me know how much the representation means to them - the whole thing has been a truly amazing experience.
When you're drawing those images, the first time Superman has kissed another man, are you fully aware during the time drawing those images that you are effectively creating history and breaking big barriers?
I think in my mind that it has less to do with the overall historical impact and more to do with representing the importance and intimacy of the moment with respect. These things will make their mark in history or they won't, but how they're handled is the enduring point. Even if there was no great cultural ripple caused by scenes of Superman kissing his boyfriend, those scenes can have profound effects on the lives of an individual reader, and that's what I keep in mind when I'm drawing them.
Now that you've brought Superman to Dublin, any other DC characters you'd love to see hang out around Ireland? Batman taking a mini-break from Gotham to spend a weekend in Galway, maybe?
Hahaha, not too many things to brood on top of in Galway, perhaps. The DC archivist had a look to see if Superman had been to Ireland before, and there was a brief moment where he met a character called "Jack O' Lantern" - it was a different time back then - so rather than bring another character to Dublin, maybe old Jack could do with a refresh?
From your run of Son Of Kal-El so far, are there any particular outstanding single images that you're particularly proud of?
With the kind of scripts that Tom sends, there are multiple moments per issue that I tend to fall in love with while I'm drawing them. If I could instagram each one I was happy with the moment they were drawn, I'd leak the guts of each issue before the release! I've been particularly proud to draw a lot of Lois Lane in Issue 10, and some quality Batman moments too... I don't know that I could pick any particular panel or page, but each time I get to draw another one of these legacy characters, it's absolutely fantastic.
Has there been chat around DC/WB to potentially bring this version of the character to the big screen?
Honestly, I don't know. I've been thinking a lot about it recently, and it's a perfect character to be given the studio treatment. Hopefully when the DC Cinematic Universe gets the next wave of movies out, we'll be involved in bringing Jon to life over at the WB lot in Burbank.
Any advice for anyone who might want to get into the world of drawing or writing for the likes of DC?
The advice tends to be the same but it's always true - make your own stories. Write and draw your own comics, find your voice and your style by figuring out what doesn't work for you, and you'll become a stronger storyteller with each finished project - and don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Get your project finished and move on to the next one, it's the greatest way to grow as an artist.
Main image via Twitter/@TomTaylorMade