“Why not? We’re going to be there. It wouldn’t be that much trouble to print up a portfolio and take it there to have them look at it,” his wife told him, according to Wachter. “And I’m like, ‘Alright, alright. I guess. I guess I’ll do that.’”
It paid off. The Pittsburgh-area artist, most known for a years-long run on IDW Publishing’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic book series, was hired as a freelance artist for Marvel, and it turned out that the representative who reviewed his work already knew and enjoyed his art. “He said, ‘Thank your wife for me,’” Wachter says.
From the six-issue miniseries Iron First: Heart of the Dragon, which began in January 2021, to Spider-Man 2099: Exodus #1, released just two weeks ago, Wachter has been regularly creating art for Marvel comic books for over a year, and he’s got more coming. Just announced on June 1, Wachter will do the art for Jody Houser’s Ms. Marvel & Venom #1, which will be released on Sept. 14.
Wachter, a Forest Hills resident, has been a comic artist for more than a decade. Before his Marvel work, he also did the artwork for the webcomic The Guns of Shadow Valley; the mini-series Godzilla Cataclysm; Breath of Bones: A Tale of the Golem; and many issues of the ongoing Ninja Turtles series.
Iron Fist: Heart of the Dragon, written by writer Larry Hama, most known for writing G.I. Joe comics beginning in the early ’80s, is a thrilling and action-packed story that includes zombies, dragons, an excursion to Wakanda, the setting of Black Panther stories, and more. Wachter’s dynamic and detailed artwork transitioned perfectly from TMNT to Iron Fist, making it just about ideal for Wachter’s first Marvel project.
“It was pretty easy to go from martial arts to martial arts, actually,” Wachter says. “I think doing Ninja Turtles was good practice for doing Iron Fist.”
For this series, and every one of his Marvel series after, Wachter did both the pencils and inks for the artwork, something uncommon in mainstream comics. Individuals like Carlos Lopez, Giada Marchisio, and Neeraj Menon then provided the colors for his Marvel work. He did all of the pencils and most of the inks digitally, sometimes inking especially cool pages physically so he could sell the original artwork to fans.
He also did the artwork for the July 2021 one-shot Aliens: Aftermath #1, written by Benjamin Percy; the mini-series Star Wars: The High Republic - Trail of Shadows, which ran from October 2021 to February 2022, written by Daniel Older; the recent Spider-Man 2099: Exodus #1, written by Steve Orlando, and the upcoming issues of X-Men Legends #1 and #2, coming out in August and September, respectively, and written by the legendary Roy Thomas.
Wachter says he loved working on X-Men Legends because of the iconic characters he got to draw.
Hama and Thomas, former Marvel Comics editor-in-chief and co-creator of characters like Wolverine, Luke Cage, and Carol Danvers, are decades-long comics writing veterans, whereas Percy and Orlando are well-known contemporary comics writers, and Older is a popular prose writer newer to comics.
Thomas and Hama wrote for Wachter in the “Marvel Method,” a style credited to Stan Lee in which writers generally outline the story without delineating specific panels and visual perspectives and add dialogue later. Percy, Orlando, and Older, on the other hand, opted for a modern “full script” style, something more detailed and specific, according to Wachter. He says he had a lot of fun working with the writers and particularly enjoyed using the Marvel Method.
“I like the little creative freedom to it and little extra creative input that I get to add to it, where I’m basically a plotter as well as the artist,” Wachter says.
Wachter isn’t done working with Marvel and says he has loved the experience so far. His favorite moment in his Marvel journey came last December at a Chicago convention where Hama was sitting at a booth, signing comics for fans. Wachter and Hama worked together remotely on Iron Fist, a common practice in mainstream comics, so they had never met in person. And, since his childhood, Wachter has loved Hama’s comics work.
“I was able to walk up to the table and go, ‘Hi, would you sign this Iron Fist issue #1 for me? Because I drew it,’” Wachter says. “And then we talked for like 15 minutes straight, just standing at the table, both with our masks on, just yakking, yakking, yakking.”
Dave Wachter. davedrawscomics.com