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Nikolas Draper-Ivey says 'Shadows of Dakota' is "gonna be a wild ride"

Comic Books

Nikolas Draper-Ivey says ‘Shadows of Dakota’ is “gonna be a wild ride”

The latest adventures of Static debut today (February 7).

Nikolas Draper-Ivey has come a long way from posting fan art on the internet. 

After a successful professional debut with Static: Season One, Draper-Ivey has graduated to the responsibilities of co-writer (with Vita Ayala) in addition to providing art on the upcoming Static: Shadows of Dakota. Before today’s release of issue #1, AIPT and other outlets were invited to speak with Draper-Ivey over Zoom to get some insight into, among other things, his creative process and influences, how Shadows is tonally different from Season One, the importance of Virgil’s character values (and how said values are similar to those of a popular Marvel hero), and how those values are challenged by the arrival of Ebon. 

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Throughout the roundtable, Draper-Ivey repeatedly stated his desire to avoid spoilers that would diminish the narrative of the story, replying to a few questions with a simple “yes” or “imma be quiet.” Attendees saw the latter answer when Draper-Ivey was asked about whether or not the series will show more of Virgil as a “science geek” and prodigy. “We’ll explore that,” said Draper-Ivey, before going on to elaborate later on how he and Vita work together to research scientific explanations for the things they want to do in the story.

One example Draper-Ivey mentioned was looking into how rubber reacts when heated by electricity, both in a scientific application as well as how that application can be best realized on the page, going on to say that it’s been “interesting to draw” the different ways that Virgil is able to implement his powers.

“Virgil is insanely powerful, his only real weakness is his ignorance of that power and how strong he is, because he’s young, he’s a kid.” Draper-Ivey said. 

Nikolas Draper-Ivey says 'Shadows of Dakota' is "gonna be a wild ride"

Courtesy of DC Comics.

Since Virgil is still young and learning the ropes, some fans would not be mistaken in drawing a parallel between him and another famously science-geeky hero.

“I love Spider-Man,” said Draper-Ivey. “I think my bread and butter…is Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2.” Draper-Ivey went on to describe how the film is built on beats of balance, with something good or funny happening in one moment before being immediately followed in the next by some kind of bad luck for Peter or Spider-Man, and vice versa. The chocolate cake scene in particular is a favorite of Draper-Ivey’s.

“(Static) is so similar to Spider-Man, that sense of community, of wanting to make a change in their community is something they have in common…,” Draper-Ivey said. “The main difference is that Spider-Man has a lot of experience, where Static is still young and learning and it’s just him.”

In another similarity to Spider-Man, Draper-Ivey believes the series should be pretty accessible to new comic readers and those who haven’t read Season One.

“I had my mom read it (issue #1) because she’s so far removed…and if the emotional beats hit with her, then I know I’ve done the right job because she’s so not involved in this world.” Draper-Ivey said. He added, “I think people will be able to jump into it, but if they have been reading it, they’ll feel the tonal shift immediately. Hopefully.” 

As a direct sequel to the events of Static: Season One, it’s important that readers understand that Virgil’s actions have direct and indirect effects on Virgil himself and those around him– not to mention Dakota at large. To that end, Draper-Ivey mentioned “community” and “consequences” as two of the big themes in Shadows of Dakota, along with an overall darker tone in comparison to its predecessor. On community, Draper-Ivey said readers will see a few of Virgil’s friends and their abilities (those that are Bang Babies, that is), as well as a few new villains, but reiterated that the focus would be on Static and Ebon. To that end, addressing the topic of consequences, he teased that Virgil will be in for a rough time this season.

“We’re challenging Virgil by asking ‘Is he fighting for something that could actually be a problem?’” Draper-Ivey said. 

Nikolas Draper-Ivey says 'Shadows of Dakota' is "gonna be a wild ride"

Courtesy of DC Comics.

That challenge primarily comes in the form of Ebon, one of Static’s primary antagonists from the 2000s animated series making his print debut in Shadows. Draper-Ivey described Ebon as “Virgil’s scary godbrother; older and more cunning”; Draper-Ivey further explained that, because the limitations of the cartoon medium simply do not apply to comics, they (him and Ayala) were able to expand his origin and lean into aspects of his personality, abilities, and family that could not be addressed in the cartoon. Draper-Ivey even went as far as to call Ebon the “direct opposite of Virgil.’ As for their confrontations throughout this season? “It’s gonna be a wild ride,” Draper-Ivey said.

He went on to add, “I think people will really be torn between who to side with…I think that’s gonna be the more interesting part to see, who sides with Ebon and who sides with Virgil.”

Draper-Ivey also mentioned that, because of the tone that he and Ayala were aiming for, Shadows is certainly not the cartoon.

“…The tone is very much in line with the original comics, y’know, a little more mature, a little more real…I think the audience has grown up as well, so (the question is) how do we bring more mature, young adult and adult themes to this story and not keep it so ‘kiddy’…?”

Those who have watched the 2000s animated series are likely to remember how the series would have episodes dedicated to addressing social ills like racism, domestic abuse, and gun violence, but due to the aforementioned limitations of the medium, only so much could be shown on-screen. With Shadows, it’s clear that Draper-Ivey (and Ayala) are looking to push Virgil in some uncomfortable directions to really show that things are getting serious this Season.

Shadows of Dakota

Courtesy of DC Comics.

However, as with any adaptation, there are those who are fans of the original material that decry deviations from the source material. Draper-Ivey made it a point to say that he (and likely Ayala) set out to make the best Static he could — not necessarily the best Static comic ever.

“You can’t please all of the fans, but we can try to please 80% of them”, Draper-Ivey said. And citing his own status as a fan as a source of pressure, he added, “It’s one thing to say you’re a fan of it and say ‘Yeah, I get to draw Static.’ It’s a completely different thing when you’re being asked to live up to the legacy of people who have passed away and you can’t talk to them, can’t get any guidance. It’s hard, but I’m doing the best I can.”

Draper-Ivey went on to elaborate on the absence of legendary creators like Dwayne McDuffie, Robert L. Washington, and John Paul Leon, saying, “It’s rough…especially when Reggie (Hudlin) and Denys (Cowan) are busy doing their things.” In fact, when discussing how he happened to land the job on Static: Season One, Draper-Ivey noted it was tied heavily to Cowan.

“I drew my own version (of Static), and people really liked it,” he said. “I guess Static had been announced and they were still tryna find the artist. Denys Cowan had commented on something, and then he had said, ‘You should check your inbox.’ …I kinda had a Scott Pilgrim moment where I got an email but it didn’t say, “Do you want to draw Static?’ It was something DC FanDome, Milestone blah blah blah, would you be interested XYZ. (And I was like) ‘free work? Nah, I don’t wanna do that. ‘ Then Denys had commented on Instagram like, ‘Hey! you should check your inbox!’”

Shadows of Dakota

Courtesy of DC Comics.

Draper-Ivey was then brought in to do some Milestone pages with Reginald Hudlin writing and Denys Cowan on layouts, after which they wanted him to do Static “for real.” Needless to say, he was shaky at first.

“(I asked) ‘is (Olivier) Coipel not available?’” Draper-Ivey said.

Speaking on his own style, Draper-Ivey wears his anime influences on his sleeve, rattling off the likes of Studio 4C, Studio MAPPA, and Madhouse as influences, along with the likes of icons Shinichiro Watanabe of Cowboy Bebop fame, and both animated and live-action films.

“I am obviously an Akira fan, as you can see from the posters behind me,” Draper-Ivey said, “but when I’m coming up with ‘shots,’ I’m leaning into live action; I love Roger Deakins, Bill Hope, or going into nature rather than watching anime.”

Draper-Ivey also discussed working with Ayala and how both of their experiences influence and inform how Static and Ebon exist on the page.

“We’re very different but very similar in some ways,” Draper-Ivey said, describing their working relationship as “sibling-like” (before mentioning in the same breath that Ayala would hate that comparison). He added, “It’s been fun. Vita’s been great.” He went on to say that the series often feels “like a conversation between us (Draper-Ivey and Ayala)…Virgil is more like the better part of, maybe myself or humanity, that you want to exist, that you strive to be, a better person and a light to others around you, but there’s a lot of me in both Virgil and Ebon.”

Nikolas Draper-Ivey says 'Shadows of Dakota' is "gonna be a wild ride"

Courtesy of DC Comics.

As for what Draper-Ivey will be doing next? For now, he’s pretty content where he is, though he would like to get back to his own work at some point.

“It’s tricky because I think what I’m doing with Static I know that I would never be able to do with Spider-Man; Marvel would never let me have this much say over how the story goes. And I’m grateful for Milestone and DC to trust (sic) me and be like, ‘OK, you can tell this story.’ Still, he added, “I’m pretty spoiled right now…so I’m happy…maybe Ghost Rider.”

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