Doug “Dougie” Braithwaite is one of a few comics artists who can make pencils look like the beautiful strokes of a paintbrush. This skill made Braithwaite a perfect choice for DC Comics’ 2007 Justice maxiseries, which was an homage to the old Super Friends vs. Legion of Doom. He pencilled the comic while Alex Ross co-wrote and painted over his pencils. Braithwaite has done a variety of work for Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, and most recently, Valiant. (He is doing the art for this week’s Imperium #1, a new concept with writer Joshua Dysart.) Braithwaite excels at depicting larger than life characters in fantastic situations with human flaws. This made him a great fit for the Asgardian side of the Marvel Universe where he worked on Thor with Matt Fraction as well as helping launch the Journey into Mystery series featuring Kid Loki with fellow British creator Kieron Gillen. However, before he was drawing gods, superheroes, or even giant alien robots, Braithwaite was kind of a teen prodigy.
According to venerable reference site Lambiek’s Comiclopedia, Doug Braithwaite showed his art to Marvel UK when he was 15 and then went to art school at the London Cartoon Centre where one of his teachers was David Lloyd, the artist of V for Vendetta. He made his comics debut at age 17 drawing an issue of Action Force, a British variation of G.I. Joe. Other early assignments for Braithwaite included G.I. Joe: European Missions, a four color action adventure comic and several strips for 2000 AD involving Judges Dredd and Anderson. His first American gig was drawing an issue of Doom Patrol during fellow Marvel UK alum Grant Morrison’s run. His story was a surreal and dark twist on children’s stories, like Wizard of Oz as Doom Patrol’s psychic Dorothy Spinner battles with her imaginary friends while being manipulated by the Brother of Evil. Braithwaite’s success on this comics led to other DC jobs, like pencilling a few issues of the Azrael ongoing series, a Legion of Superheroes annual, and a three issue arc on Legends of the Dark Knight. His story focused on a young Jim Gordon and Batman looking for a serial killer and showcased his skill with texture and shadow.
However, most of the work that I have enjoyed by Doug Braithwaite has been for Marvel Comics. His first big Marvel storyline was 1992’s Punisher “Eurohit” arc where Frank Castle goes to Europe and hunts down mobsters culminating in a big showdown against the Kingpin. Braithwaite’s action sensibilities fit this over the top, garish storyline well beginning with its first cover featuring The Punisher with the flags of several European countries behind him. A few years later, he even got to pencil Garth Ennis‘ Punisher Kills the Marvel Universe one-shot, a real bloodbath of a book ending in Punisher offing himself after finding out Matt Murdock was Daredevil. This issue allowed Braithwaite to hone his abilities drawing a large cast of (heavily muscled) characters, which would come in handy when he drew Asgard’s royal family, the Justice League, Legion of Doom, and even whole Marvel alternate universes. Alex Ross picked him to draw the Universe X and Paradise X comics, which acted as sequels to his Earth X series depicting a possible future to the Marvel Universe. In doing these comics, Braithwaite’s art started to show more of an illustration influence as he got to drew some crazy cosmic concepts and moments, including Thanos using the Ultimate Nullifier to take out Death and a team of Heralds to Machine Man, including “Days of Future Past” Wolverine. He also drew Loki.
By the time, he had an exclusive three year deal with Marvel in 2008, Doug Braithwaite’s art resemble fantasy book covers instead of traditional superheroes. His quick, blithe storytelling on Journey into Mystery fit its protagonist (Kid Loki) well, and his pencils to colors art style made sure no nuance or shading was lost in the coloring process. Braithwaite only drew five issues of Journey and four of Thor, but his art set the Vertigo/urban fantasy tone for Gillen’s run on both titles despite having to tie in with both the Siege and Fear Itself events. Braithwaite captures the power and follies of the Asgardians as Loki tries to save Asgard in a roundabout, trickster way and uses different levels of light and shadow to show the differences between Asgard, Hel, and Mephisto’s realm which blur together as The Serpent attempts to destroy it forever. And his work isn’t just hammers swinging, Hel-hounds snarling, and lightning falling, but Braithwaite creates tense chemistry between Loki and Hela’s handmaiden, Leah, using his photorealistic style to add detail to their faces.
Recently, Doug Braithwaite has become the go-to “event” artist for Valiant Comics as he did the art for the first arcs of both Unity and Armor Hunters. He has swapped fantasy for high concept science fiction, but his design sense has never been sharper as he created a unique team of badass warriors to hunt down X-O Manowar. Braithwaite’s current project is the new Imperium comic from Valiant starring Toyo Harada, probably the most dangerous man in the Valiant Universe. Whether superheroes, assassins, Joes, gods, or demons, Doug Braithwaite brings an eye for detail and a paint brush like line to his comics work. Go and buy the first trade of Journey into Mystery right now.