Shane Johnson’s Superpower is Character Design

If you grew up on comic books like Illustrator Shane Johnson did, you won’t be surprised by his approach to character design. “Superheroes are so compelling because they reflect our own hopes and flaws, on a magnified scale.”

Shane has lent his comic style to commercial and editorial illustrations for clients from Nickelodeon to Dreamworks, Smithsonian Magazine to the Wall Street Journal. And while he may not always draw literal superheroes, that classic raw energy and the dynamic struggle between good and evil is frequently the subtext of his work.
His latest series, created in black and white with a strong noir feel, was inspired by 1930s comics. “I’m a big fan of older films and radio shows and the original Bob Kane Batman,” says Shane. “I’ve always wanted to create something that harkens back to that, but I needed it to be in my own style.”

“Superheroes reflect our own hopes and flaws…on a magnified scale”

Per his usual process, he began with rough thumbnails, gathering reference materials once he decided on the layout. “I sometimes even shoot photos of myself for the character poses,” Shane explains. “Or, for more extreme poses, I create models on the computer using Poser Pro.” Shane’s next step is pencils, which are scanned and then inked and shaded in Manga Studio.

Shane continuously revises each of his illustrations over several days, always finding “just one more detail” he wants to perfect. It’s the kind of self-improvement his own favorite comic hero, Spider Man, would applaud. Come check out more of Shane’s character design and heroic artwork here.

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