Tim Sale draws Heroes - Mania.com

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Tim Sale draws Heroes

By JENNIFER M. CONTINO     February 24, 2007

Heroes image
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If you've watched any of NBC's Heroes television series, chances are you've seen some of the work of artist Tim Sale. He told us how his paintings and other drawings came to be used to further the story and his take on this show. 

Sale said his work on Heroes began prior to the actual casting of the actors. He became a part of the team after his collaborator and longtime friend Jeph Loeb, suggested the artist to Heroes creator Tim Kring.  Kring had written the Heroes pilot script, and was looking for some art to give the script a little more pop. "Jeph and Kring have known each other for years - longer than I've known Jeph; and Kring is the creator of the long running NBC hit series, Crossing Jordan," Sale began. "As I understand it, Kring called Jeph with the pilot script for Heroes, and asked Jeph if, because of his background in comics, there was an artist he could suggest to do some illustrations for the script, as an extra selling point for NBC. At that point in time, Jeph wasn't officially working on Heroes, he was just helping two longtime friends, and Kring get all their ducks in a row.   

"Jeph suggested me, I created some art, and NBC bought the pilot," Sale continued. "Then Kring invited me up to his office where David Semel, director of the pilot, Dennis Hammer, Kring's longtime producing partner, and a few others were gathered. At that meeting we all talked about finding ways to utilize my artwork for Isaac's character." 

Isaac, as most followers of the show know, has the power to paint the future. Originally that ability only manifested itself when he was on a drug induced high. However, after spending time in Mr. Bennet a.k.a. Horn Rimmed Glasses' secret complex, Isaac is now able to use his ability drug free. However to make his artwork look convincing, the series needed a "real" artist.  This was something that immediately interested Sale and he was soon on board.  Sale confided he knew the first time he read the script that Heroes was going to be one of the breakout hits of this season. "I called Jeph right away and said, 'I think this is really cool!'" enthused Sale. "I heard a lot of Jeph's voice in it - I know he didn't write it.  But, because both he and Kring come from television and movies, I was familiar with the sound and rhythm of how things moved. I told Jeph, 'I'd watch this show and buy this comic book!'" 

Which is high praise, considering Sale doesn't read many "contemporary comic books." He told MANIA, he considers the characters in Heroes as archetypes, that just about anyone can relate to. He was quick to point out though, that Heroes creator Tim Kring isn't steeped in comic book lore, legend and knowledge. "Kring doesn't read comic books," Sale said. "So it's coincidence that some of the characters are similar to established characters. But just because you can fly, are super strong, can walk through walls or freeze time, that doesn't make you a good character. It's what you will do with the powers that will make each interesting." 

Something MANIA readers might find interesting is how Sale creates the huge paintings that are in Isaac's studio, that have helped unlock some of the clues to the "Save the Cheerleader, Save the World" mantra that ran through the beginning of the series. He explained his creative process for the artwork was similar to his sequential art process. "I don't actually do a painting," he clarified. "The images are produced like the work I've done on Daredevil: Yellow or Catwoman: When in Rome. I will do the drawing on a comic book page - so the 11x17 size - in inkwash and charcoal. That page is scanned, than it is colored on the computer by Dave Stewart, the coloring whiz familiar to comics fans as the color artist on Conan and New Frontier -- and my Catwoman story. Then the image is blown up, and printed on canvas to look like a painting. So, there isn't actually any paint per se on any of those paintings." 

Sale, who's colorblind, has worked with Dave Stewart several times before, so creating the artwork for Heroes wasn't too tough. "It was a familiar process for Dave to take the graytoned artwork and make it look like paint," Sale said. Their work has proven quite popular as evidenced by the amount of people who want to own their own artwork in that style.  "I get requests through my website four or five times a week from people asking how to get a painting like that. I have to just respond saying the original art and the paintings are owned by NBC." 

Along with those faux paintings, Sale has also worked on the artwork seen sprawling across the studio floor of Isaac's workspace. He said two of those gigantic images were actually based on pen and ink drawings that were originally just ten inches high. "They blew the art up and colored it," Sale said. "There were some different images from the original Pilot Episode that were colored differently. Initially, in the first script, Isaac cuts off his hand and draws an image in blood on the wall. That was one of the illustrations I did for the script. Then someone had an idea to put the big picture on the floor, so no one really knows what they are walking on until the camera pulls way back." 

Heroes images

Sale appreciates all the creative energy and effort put into the series.  "Heroes is a tremendous amount of work and imagination," Sale continued. "Like in any ensemble cast, you have your favorite characters and some people you don't like as much; so there can be ups and downs throughout the series.  But now that they are starting to pull some of the characters together and show how they are related, I think it's really becoming much more interesting and the plot is picking up steam. It don't hurt that there are so many great looking cast members. Ali Larter, Hayden Paniterre and Tawny Cypress, of course; but the boys are so pretty, too! Milo Ventimiglia, Adrian Pasdar and Leonard Roberts are different than the other two guys, Sendhil Ramamurthy and Santiago Cabrera, who are new to TV -- they learned acting in England on the stage. Milo has been a television actor for a long time. He's a very interesting guy. He has much broader interests than just acting. He wants to produce and direct. For as young as he is, he's been in the television industry veteran and is very bright." 

Sale said, "The other guys have been thrown into the fire here. They didn't have any idea what they were getting themselves into.  Santiago has come out to my studio to sort of watch me work and stuff. He was into learning how to be an artist, since he wasn't going to learn how to be a junkie. He's actually lost a fair amount of weight to look more 'junkie-ish' for the role. Santiago made a comment that has been very helpful for my work on Heroes. Spanish artist Francisco Goya, whom we both admire, went a little deeper inside his head - whether crazy or not - and painted amazing supernatural horrific paintings on the wall of the villa he was living in at the end of his life -- the Black Paintings. We both thought that sort of look and feel would fit for Isaac's character. I've been doing a lot more of that style of art lately. Working on Heroes is a nice collaborative experience for us all." 

Although Sale has talked with several members of the cast, he is mostly collaborating with the Prop Department of Heroes. The Prop Master of the Pilot, Gay Perello, has worked with Tim Kring forever on Crossing Jordan, but she couldn't come to the Heroes ongoing series, because of her contract," Sale explained. "She didn't know anything about comic books either, but knows a huge amount about her job -- that made it really interesting to me. It was a great collaborative process." 

"I think it's helpful that a lot of the people working on Heroes haven't read many comic books," Sale continued. "Again the characters are archetypical, so you don't need to have read comics to understand and everyone has had fantasies about flying and reading minds and stuff like that. Where this could have gotten in the way is if Kring had just coincidentally created something exactly like something in comics. At first he was concerned about doing that, but then he just decided to do what he was going to do, and wisely hired some people like Jeph Loeb. Jeph's perfect for this. He has a background in movies, TV and comic books; and, by the strength of his personality, he really enjoys the work, is really smart and talented. He's very helpful for all these guys, but Kring is the guiding light on the show. I think it's very helpful that he knows the characters, he knows imagination, and the way people intersect; but he really doesn't know comic books. Kring's enthusiasm may be more cynical if he had already read a million comic books." 

Sale said, "On my website message boards, those guys have read a lot of comic books, and they talk about Heroes very differently; and are much more pickier than someone coming to it fresh. When the creators come to this fresh, sometimes they are reinventing the wheel, but they also have a different kind of sensibility and enthusiasm for it. Most of the people watching the show are not comic book fans. They are responding to something else in Heroes." 

Sale told MANIA that one of the things that made him stop being a comic book reader was the amount of comic books on the shelf on a monthly basis. "Something that drove the fan out of me and drove me out of buying very many comics is the amount of things out there," he said.  "It also dilutes the talent pool. There are only so many talented people around, and it diminishes the great things when there is just tons of stuff out there. The companies have to make a living, but for me, it's driven me away." 

Sale as most comic book fans know, has some new work on the shelf with Darwyn Cooke. He considers Cooke one of the top five guys working in comics and is glad to be a part of the first Superman Confidential arc. "Darwyn is one of those guys who can do everything, and do it well," Sale said. "It's the first time he's written for someone else, though, so I think he's struggling a little with that, but it's a really fun comic. I'm trying to make the art stand out from the Superman For All Seasons project I did with Jeph." 

"I loved, loved, LOVED New Frontier,"  Sale continued. "Darwyn just really knocked me out with it, and I am not a DCU savvy guy.  Plus the work he did on the Absolute edition of New Frontier is astounding to me. DC is putting out an Absolute Long Halloween for Spring, but I did the work in that series long before I was computer savvy, so I don't have a lot of extra stuff to add in there. We found some stuff -- there were actually four pencilled story pages that we finally had room to include, newly inked and colored -- to pump up the volume, so I hope folks will be happy." 

Asked what makes him "happy" about Heroes and  for his favorite characters and bits to the plot, Sale admitted he likes the Clair Bennett, the Cheerleader storyline and character, but also has several other favorites. "Personally, I think the scenes between Clair and her dad are some of the strongest on the show. I never watched Jack Coleman on Dynasty, but I think he's terrific. They really have a nice chemistry together. Plus, they've made Clair a little less of the bitch she was at the beginning. Hiro (Masi Oka) is really the breakout star, though. He's the only one who really loves being powerful, and he's the only guy that's remotely funny. Since he's the only different beat in the show, we're drawn to his role. He and Ando are great together - they play well off each other. I'm having a great time watching this show." 


Heroes airs every Monday check your local guide for times and listings.  


Jennifer Marie Contino is a lifelong comic book fan, who is also having a great time watching Heroes. You can read her work daily at THE PULSE.


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kaybar 2/25/2007 12:59:26 PM
I always liked Isaac's character's artwork on the show. Very comicbooky but also very remeniscent of 1960s pop art like Lichtenstein, can't wait for the new episode tomorrow
jacobsteel 3/6/2007 12:20:34 PM
yup. nice pix. and if you like pop art check out this page http://davidbarsalou.homestead.com/LICHTENSTEINPROJECT.html to see all the original comics Lichtenstein - ahum - borrowed from.


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