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Need a hero? Call Shane Johnson.

Sorry kids, Superheroes are for grown ups now. From movies to ads to magazine covers, it seems we can’t get enough of these powerful do-gooders. And that’s just fine, in illustrator Shane Johnson’s opinion.

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Destro’s Plan book cover
Destro’s Plan book cover
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Swamp Thing versus Arcane blog entry
Swamp Thing versus Arcane blog entry
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“Superheroes are a reflection of the best and worst of us,” says Shane. “Anger, nerdiness, outsider status…they reflect our own struggles in outsized ways.” Shane is more often called on to capture the ‘best’ side of the heroes. He’s been creating characters for ad campaigns, editorial and personal projects for over a decade.

Book Cover for 47 Ronin: The Betrayal
Book Cover for 47 Ronin: The Betrayal

And this trend isn’t going anywhere. According to Thomas Frey, Senior Futurist for the Davinci Institute, “Super heroes are serious business.” Among other reasons, brands align themselves with caped wonders because (unlike celebrities) there’s no risk of scandal, they transcend race, ethnicity and gender and highlight timeless values with endless story lines.

Collateral for Minds On, Inc., depicting their team as pro-wrestlers
Collateral for Minds On, Inc., depicting their team as pro-wrestlers

Indeed Shane has partnered with clients as diverse as Smithsonian Magazine, the Chicago Marathon and Coca-cola, and even turned regular employees into heroes for Minds On, Inc. He got his start the traditional way: doodling on his book covers in grade school. But he soon found his way to Pacific NW College of Art, and from there landing illustration gigs doing the thing he’d loved all along.

“Superheroes…reflect our own struggles in outsized ways.”

Shane begins each project with a pencil and blank sheet of paper, sketching rough thumbnails and gathering references for poses. After come two more pencil stages before he scans a tight drawing to his computer for ink and shade in Manga Studio. Finally he optimizes color in Photoshop.

Comic based on physicist Francis Halzen for Smithsonian Magazine
Comic based on physicist Francis Halzen for Smithsonian Magazine

“My favorite job was illustrating a four page comic based on the life of physicist Francis Halzen and his massive particle detector,” Shane says. “I love comics, and I love science.” Still, if he had to pick his own Superpower, he nods back to the classics. “I’d take Super Strength,” he says. “because my daughter already thinks I have it.”

You can check out more of Shane’s truly super heroes here.

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