Exclusive Interview with Matt Haley

[Date: November 2006]

By Steve Younis.

Matt Haley is the artist responsible for the "Superman Returns" comic book movie adaptation and the USA Weekend promotional poster. Matt also drew Superman for the Jerry Seinfeld American Express TV commercials.

The Superman Homepage would like to thank Matt for agreeing to do this interview, and for fitting it into his busy schedule.

Matt Haley Artwork Q: Can you please tell us a little about yourself and what you do?

Matt: Well, I'm a creative consultant, character designer and comic-book artist. Basically, corporations like Nike and entertainment companies like the SciFi Channel hire me to create characters for them to be used in advertising, merchandising, that sort of thing. In addition, I create and design characters for use in videogames, and I also keep my hand in comics, though these days I prefer to pencil, ink and color my comic art if I can. The folks at DC and Marvel have been very good to me, so I try to work with them whenever I can.

Q: Can you describe your backround in art? Can you name some of your creative influences?

Matt: I don't have the benefit of a classical art education, I'm sorry to say, just couldn't afford it. Being self-taught can have its disadvantages, I feel like I have to relearn things every few years. As for influences, how much time have we got? There are so many, it's hard to know whom to mention for fear of leaving somebody important out. Most of the Golden- and Silver-Age comic artists are influences, obviously, but I guess I have always gravitated towards more naturalist artists like Lou Fine, Mac Raboy, Gil Kane (specifically for his mastery of the human form), Jose-Luis Garcia Lopez (my hero!), Jerome Moore, Steve Rude, Eric Shanower, Alan Davis, Kevin Nowlan... the mind boggles, there are so many. Once I got out of college, I really started looking at painters, travelling and looking at paintings close-up. Dean Cornwell, Bob Peak, JC Leyendecker all became fast favorites. Then when I finally made it to London, I went to as many galleries as I could, and discovered Pre-Raphaelite artists like Lord Leighton, Alma-Tadema, Waterhouse, John Singer-Sargent.... like I said, we could be here all day!

Q: Did you read comics as a kid? If so which titles?

Comic Adaptation Matt: Absolutely, like most of my friends who still work in comics, I think a lot of us did. I grew up on DC's "Legion Of Superheroes" title, when it was drawn by Jim Sherman, he was brilliant. Also the X-Men, which I rediscovered in high school when Paul Smith and John Romita Jr. were pencilling it. I loved '80s Marvel comics, even the silly toy tie-ins. But once I discovered indy comics like First, Eclipse, Dark Hose, and the like, they really opened my eyes to the wide variety of comics that could be done. NEXUS is still my all-time favorite comic, bar-none.

Q: When did you first decide you wanted to work on comic books?

Matt: I basically made the decision to become a comic book artist when I was a wee lad, I had no interest in 'getting a real job', that just seemed like death to me. I figured there was no reason why I couldn't draw them and make a living at it, though I did have to learn the importance of meeting deadlines!

Q: How did you go about becoming a comic book artist? What was your first big break in comics?

Matt: Well, again, like a lot of us who got into comics professionally, I had been drawing my own stories and creating my own characters since I was in short pants, and once Marvel published their first "Try-Out Book", I finally learned what the actual tools of the trade were, how big to draw the art, on what kinds of paper, etc. Up to that point, I had been drawing my comics on green lined computer paper! My first break in comics was an unusual one - I was hired to draw a "Star Trek: The Next Generation" annual for DC in 1990, when I was 20. I had done some Trek samples and just sort of sent them in, not thinking I'd get the call, so I was thrown off the deep end right away!

Q: Where did you go to college?

Matt: Eastern New Mexico University, in the busting metropolis of Portales New Mexico. It's where I met my former inker Tom Simmons, we were the longhaired heavy metal kids who were convinced they would be doing comics before long. Fortunately, we proved ourselves right!

Q: How did you land the job as artist on the "Superman Returns" movie adaptation comic book? Who contacted you?

Matt: Richard Bruning at DC Comics called me, we've known each other for years but never worked together on a project. He's always been really nice to me, complimentary of my art, but knew I wasn't a monthly-comic guy, and I think he was waiting to find the right project for us to work on together. I was a little reluctant to work on it at first, knowing how difficult doing movie adaptations can be, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized I couldn't say no to Superman!

USA Weekend poster Q: Can you explain the process for working on that comic? How does it differ to your work on regular DC Universe comic books?

Matt: It's only different in that I had to match likenesses of the actors, and I hadn't done a licensed comic since that first Star Trek comic. Plus, I had to spend almost a month drawing character model sheets of all the principal cast to get their likeness approval, so that kind of ate into the time I had to actually draw the book. Plus, I had 72 pages, as opposed to the 64 the Batman Begins adaptation had, and I was inking it myself, so it was a ton of work. I also got to illustrate the USA Weekend promotional poster for the film, and that sort of stood in for my doing the cover.

Q: What contact (if any) did you have with Bryan Singer or any other people involved with the film?

Matt: None, everything came through my editor on the project. I wish I'd had some contact with the producers, but there was a lot of licensed material for the film, and I think they were really busy just getting the movie done, you know? I'd love to meet Bryan and see what he thought of the art I did, yes.

Q: The comic book version of the movie's story differs somewhat from the actual film (i.e. scenes were cut from the movie that you drew for the comic, and scenes were in the movie that weren't in the comic). Can you explain why this happened and did you know that it would?

Matt: Oh, I think they just changed their minds about some things while they were editing the film, like the first two pages in the adaptation are how the film was originally going to open, those sort of Siegel/Shuster comic pages, but ultimately they got cut in favor of a more action special effects credit sequence. Likewise with the Krypton sequence, it just got cut for time.

Q: What reference material were you given for designs, sets, costumes, etc... to draw from?

Matt: Very little, really. I'm not unhappy about it, that's how these things go, the studio and the production are naturally very concerned about security, so what little photo reference I did get was heavily watermarked, so I just dove in and hoped for the best. They didn't complain about the final product, so I guess we did all right!

Q: Is there anything about the comic book adaptation that you're particularly proud of?

Matt: Getting to work with Nathan Eyring, he and I went to high school together in New Mexico, and when I was asked which colorists I wanted to work with, his name was top of the list, he did an outstanding job.

Q: Is there anything about it you're disappointed with?

Matt: Well, I was really rushed on this book, so the actual pages are only done in pencil, I did the inks digitally. I wish I'd had the time to ink it all by hand. I was very pleased that my friend Mike Collins was kind enough to take time off doing the BBC Dr. Who strip to lend a hand in several crucial areas, we couldn't have done it without him.

Q: What did you think of the movie once you got to actually see it?

Matt: It's hard to put into words. Like Bryan, I'm an unabashed fan of the first Richard Donner "Superman" film, and I could see that Bryan wanted to carry that feeling forward in this film. That said, having lived with my version of the movie for five months, I couldn't really sit and enjoy it, you know? I already knew what was going to happen, so I found myself overanalyzing it. I really loved Parker Posey, I wish she'd had a larger role. Kate Bosworth was way better than I expected, and Jim Marsden deserves an Oscar. Everybody was great, really the roster of actors is what sold me on doing this book, a lot of them are my favorites. I mean, Eva-Marie Saint? She worked with Hitchcock, come on!

Superman & Seinfeld Q: What version/era of Superman is your personal favorite?

Matt: Honestly, I'm a sucker for the Curt Swan-style Superman from any era, it's why I was so thrilled to be asked to work on the Seinfeld meets Superman commercials, because Jerry is such a huge Curt Swan fan, and wanted to interact with that version of Superman.

Q: What are you working on at the moment? What plans do you have for the immediate future?

Matt: Right now I'm designing all the characters for a new XBOX game called CODENAME: LIBERTY ROCKET. I'm also back working on G.I. SPY, and gearing up for the second season of "Who Wants To Be A Superhero" on the SciFi Channel. I'm also working on a how-to draw fantasy female character book aimed at girls, should be out spring of '08.

Q: Will you be working on any future/up-coming Superman-related projects?

Matt: None I can talk about.

Q: What do you think of the Superman Homepage website?

Matt: Love it, I visit it whenever I have time to surf.

Q: Thanks for allowing us to interview you.

Matt: Anytime!

This interview is Copyright © 2006 by Steven Younis. It is not to be reproduced in part or as a whole without the express permission of the author.



The Superman Homepage has had the pleasure of interviewing various Superman Comic Book creative people about their work.

Question and Answer Interviews:


Krypton Club Interviews:

Lois When “Lois & Clark” started production in 1993, there was an obvious relationship between the comic book people and the Hollywood people.

A trade paperback “Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman”, was published, with Dean Cain and Teri Hatcher on the cover. It included reprints of comic book stories that were the inspiration for “Lois & Clark”, helping to define the characters. Comic's included are: The Story of the Century (Man of Steel miniseries #2), Tears for Titano (Superman Annual #1), Metropolis - 900 mi (in SUP #9), The Name Game (SUP #11), Lois Lane (in ACT #600), Headhunter (AOS #445), Homeless for the Holidays (AOS #462), The Limits of Power (AOS #466), and Survival (ACT #665).

A number of comic book writers and artists had roles as extras in the episode “I'm Looking Through You” (Season one, episode 4). Their presence was immortilized in the Sky Trading Card #34.

Craig Byrne, president of the online “Lois & Clark” fanclub The Krypton Club, carried out a series of interviews with comic book writers. The interviews are reprinted with permission of the Krypton Club.

Check the Television section of this website for some “Lois & Clark” Interviews conducted by The Krypton Club.