"Family Guy" Animator Andrew Burrell Talks Black Comic Book Heroes With Shawn Martinbrough

In 1998, native New Yorker Andrew Burrell moved to California to work as a background animator on the animated series…

In 1998, native New Yorker Andrew Burrell moved to California to work as a background animator on the animated series “The Simpsons”. Then he moved on to do design work on the hit show, “Family Guy” where he continues to work. Burrell first encountered the work of Shawn Martinbrough while the two worked together at Milestone Media on popular titles, like “Static”, “Hardware”, and “Blood Syndicate”. Even though Burrell pursued a career in animation, he continues to follow the comics industry and Shawn’s work.

AllHipHop.com asked Burrell to interview Martinbrough about his latest project for Marvel Comics, “Black Panther: The Most Dangerous Man Alive” - check out their discussion:

Andrew Burrell: Shawn, you have previously tackled another iconic Black character in the Marvel Universe, Luke Cage. How does it feel to be drawing The Black Panther?

Shawn Martinbrough: Between Marvel and DC Comics, Black superheroes are in short supply, so it’s really great to draw one of the classic characters. Illustrating the mini-series “LUKE CAGE Noir” and having the freedom to give that character a more sophisticated edge was an amazing opportunity. As a kid, I really enjoyed reading the old Black Panther comics drawn by the legendary artist Jack Kirby. Drawing the “Black Panther: The Most Dangerous Man Alive” storyline allowed me to put my visual stamp on another iconic Black superhero.


Andrew Burrell: According to your bio in your book, How to Draw Noir Comics: The Art and Technique of Visual Storytelling. You are from New York. Do you use your knowledge of the city to make your art for Black Panther more realistic?

Shawn Martinbrough: As a native New Yorker, I spent a lot of time in Hell’s Kitchen during my high school years, so I really enjoy drawing the Black Panther operating in that neighborhood. The various rooftops, buildings, and water towers create an amazing landscape to illustrate. In regards to depicting Black Panther’s physicality, I’m alternating between having our hero use brute strength and sailing through the air gracefully. Since my style is very high contrast in terms of using shadow and light I’m playing with putting Black Panther in shadow a lot.

Another aspect is to make Black Panther move more like a cat and emphasizing the imposing visual of his costume. Using the darker aspect of my work, I’m visualizing the more cinematic elements of writer David Liss’s scripts and really heightening the drama and tension where I can. The coloring by Felix Serrano takes my black and white art to another level.


Andrew Burrell: Will you be adding anyone from the local Hip-Hop community into your art? To make it feel more like New York?

Shawn Martinbrough: No. Jay-Z and Jadakiss are already joining The Avengers. That’s a joke! Occasionally, I might draw a familiar face in the background but it really depends on what’s going on in the script. The script for this Black Panther storyline is full of heroes, villains, ninjas and dead bodies so there’s not a lot of room for extras.

Andrew Burrell: The writer, David Liss, takes Black Panther out of his native Wakanda. How does the king deal with being away from his throne?

Shawn Martinbrough: Following the Daredevil storyline known as "Shadowland”, Daredevil relinquished control of the ninja cult known as The Hand and fled New York. In the aftermath, Black Panther became the new protector of Hell’s Kitchen. Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin of crime, stepped in and took over control of The Hand while secretly rebuilding his criminal empire.

Now, Black Panther will battle the Kingpin in a multipart arc that begins in "Black Panther: The Most Dangerous Man Alive" #525 written by award-winning novelist David Liss, who also wrote the acclaimed “Mystery Men” mini-series. The main conflict for Black Panther is protecting is Wakandan citizens who have been targeted in Hell’s Kitchen while taking the fight to the Kingpin in Shadowland.


Andrew Burrell: How long have you been working in the comics industry? And, how have you survived the ups and downs that have affected the industry these many years?

Shawn Martinbrough: I got my first professional job from Marvel Comics back in 1992, and fortunately, I’ve been working ever since. With any profession, the best way to survive is be professional and do good work. There’s an old saying in advertising that editors usually live by which is, “I don’t want it good, I want it yesterday.” It’s not exactly true because editors want good work, AND they want it yesterday. Usually, if you do right by your editors, they will continue to hire you. On the flip side, if you screw an editor, they will talk and it’s a VERY small industry.


Andrew Burrell: Can you give us any information about other projects that you’re working on?

Shawn Martinbrough: I’m really excited about my new graphic novel series, Thief of Thieves, with Robert Kirkman creator of “The Walking Dead”. Thief of Thieves hits stores this week and the first arc is written by Robert Kirkman and Nick Spencer. These are two really talented writers, and it’s been great working with the folks at Skybound Entertainment. I’m also developing an animated series based on a website I co-created called www.expoweekly.com with actor/producer Boris Kodjoe of J.J. Abrams’s "Undercovers" and Showtime’s "Soul Food".

Andrew Burrell: Well, thank you, Shawn, for taking time away from your hustle to talk everyone and me at AllHipHop.com. We anxiously look forward to more of your work!

Shawn Martinbrough’s recent graphic novel projects for Marvel Comics include Luke Cage Noir and Bullseye: The Perfect Game. He is also author of How to Draw Noir Comics: The Art and Technique of Visual Storytelling, published by Random House.When Burrell isn’t working on "Family Guy", he is researching a tiny island in the Caribbean for a future graphic novel.