Hailing from the landscapes of Turkey, Atagun has recently made quite a mark in the world of illustration, impressing audiences with his awe-inspiring work in sequential art, fantasy realms, and book illustration. Most of all, Atagun worked on ‘Knight Terrors: Poison Ivy’ among other popular works. The issue has been praised for its originality, bizarre setting, and terrifically illustrated nightmare sequences.
We got the opportunity to chat with Atagun regarding his inspiration, his creative process, and his upcoming projects, which we eagerly await!
Comic Basics: ‘Knight Terrors: Poison Ivy’ #1 received acclaim for its incredible, unusual, anxiety-inducing visuals. What was your inspiration behind the artwork?
Atagun İlhan: Numerous captivating films and television series have delved into this particular theme, providing a wealth of inspiration to draw from. As I read the script, a sense of amusement washed over me as my mind instantly transported back to the time I watched ‘Cat in the Hat.’
That movie held a special place in my heart, and even after all these years, its elements remained firmly etched in my memory. Alongside that cherished memory, a flood of other influences emerged, such as ‘Wandavision,’ ‘Truman Show,’ ‘Stepfordwives,’ ‘Happy Place,’ and more.
These remarkable works have collectively shaped my creative perspective, making the process of drawing inspiration an enjoyable and rewarding experience.
What led you to mix horror with elements of Americana and suburbia? How did you approach designing the nightmare landscape in the comic?
I’m really into art history, and when I work on my comics, I love making connections to art history. It’s not just about adding visual clues to give readers a sense of that rich history; I also enjoy using classical storytelling techniques from old paintings where a whole story can be told in just one image.
For this project, I drew inspiration from Edward Hopper’s ‘Americana’ – you know, those suburban landscapes with cookie-cutter houses and picket fences.
But what really fascinated me was the underlying feeling of alienation. I knew I wanted to weave these topics into my comic in some way.
Oh, and it wasn’t just about replicating the old vibes; I wanted to add a touch of spookiness and suspense, all while keeping that fun comic-like style.
So, I tried my best to blend all these elements together, and I’m pretty happy with how it turned out. Hope you enjoy it too!
Harley Quinn’s design in the comic has been praised for its unsettling appearance. How did you achieve this effect while still keeping her signature charm?
I’m totally fascinated by Harley; she’s such an intriguing character. What makes her both challenging and fun to work with is that delicate balance of her unpredictability and awareness. She’s this mix of weird and crazy, yet she’s fully conscious of it all.
It’s like exploring the ingenuity within anarchy, which had to be subtly conveyed, and let me tell you, that was no easy task! I really wanted to capture her essence through various elements, like her messy lipstick and makeup, which mirror her inner chaos.
Her unique way of walking and gesturing also plays a significant role in showcasing her character. And her hair, oh, it becomes this symbolic pendulum, swaying back and forth with her instability, adding to her charm in the later part of the story. Her outfit symbolizes the main theme of the story.
Thankfully, my dear editor Arianna gave me the creative freedom to design everyone’s outfits. Of course, I wanted Harley to shine, so I went all out with her costume. Picture this – garish, 60s housewife aesthetics, all fluffy and vibrant. It truly reflects her eccentric personality and makes her an unforgettable icon. To add that extra layer of suspense and rhythm, I played with colors.
I incorporated red and black in a tick-tock pattern on her costume, like the sound of a clock ticking away. It’s a way to keep her fashion consistent while capturing that edgy, timeless essence.
In the end, bringing Harley to life in the comic was a blast, and I hope readers find her as captivating as I do!
‘Knight Terrors: Poison Ivy #1’ is part of a larger DC storyline. Is it possible to maintain consistency in the art while also keeping your originality?
Absolutely! As an artist, my main goal is to become a skillful storyteller. I believe that stories can be expressed in countless ways, and it’s essential to challenge yourself by exploring genres beyond your comfort zone. Of course, that doesn’t mean neglecting your expertise in a particular area. On the contrary, mastering specific genres is valuable, but it’s also crucial to remain adaptable and open to exploring other artistic realms.
Speaking from my own experience, my first professional gig was in the horror-Western genre, so horror wasn’t entirely unfamiliar to me. However, in “Knight Terrors: Poison Ivy,” I had to approach horror differently. The challenge was to infuse it slowly and subtly, creating an eerie atmosphere. But going through this process was incredibly enlightening, and it helped me grow as an artist, refining my stylization and storytelling abilities.
Sometimes, as an artist, there are factors beyond our control. Like, if you become famous for painting dragons, you might get stuck being known only as a “dragon artist.” But that’s not the box I want to confine myself in.
I’m grateful that DC has given me opportunities to work on diverse genres, allowing me to showcase my versatility and skills in various artistic domains.
All in all, this journey has been informative and fulfilling, and I’m excited to continue evolving as an artist and storyteller. It’s wonderful to have the chance to explore different artistic paths and grow creatively!
What is your favorite scene/panel from the issue?
Harley’s introduction page was a blast to create! Seeing her holding that cake, with her iconic skirt and gestures towards Ivy, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of accomplishment. I remember thinking, “Oh, I absolutely nailed this page!” It brought a huge smile to my face, and I knew I could sleep well tonight, haha!
There’s just something special about capturing those perfect moments in a comic that make all the hard work and creativity truly worth it. I hope readers enjoy that page as much as I loved bringing it to life!
How did you get into illustrations and art in general? Are there any specific artists or creators who have influenced your style?
Being a part of the artist community has been a lifelong journey for me, all thanks to my artist parents, who ignited this passion within me from a young age. Art has been my constant pursuit throughout my life, and it eventually led me to the United States, where I decided to pursue my MFA in Illustration at Syracuse.
That decision opened countless doors and opportunities for me.
In this artistic journey, there’s a continuous dialogue within oneself, a constant exploration and growth until you reach a point of maturation in your style. And when that happens, your style becomes distinctively your own, a true reflection of your creative identity. I’ve made significant progress along this path, but I don’t believe I’ve reached the point where I can confidently say that specific artists have directly influenced my style.
It’s a marvelous and evolving process, and I’m eager to keep pushing the boundaries of my art, discovering new influences, and nurturing my own unique voice as an artist. I know that as I continue to create and explore, my style will further blossom into something even more exceptional and authentic. And that’s what makes being an artist so exhilarating and rewarding!
What is your favorite project that you’ve worked on so far and why?
Oh, absolutely! ‘Poison Ivy’ #8 holds a special place in my heart. I had a blast working on that issue because it perfectly combined all the things I adore – organic elements, a touch of body horror, and of course, drawing powerful and strong women characters. The cherry on top was that the story itself was incredibly heartwarming, making it an all-around enjoyable experience.
One of the highlights for me was designing Janet from HR. I really wanted to give her a distinctive and unique appearance, and I’m thrilled with the result. It’s a fun little factoid, but I envisioned her as a daisy amidst a gnarly habitat, and I infused that symbolism into her visuals. It’s these little creative touches that make the process so fulfilling!
All in all, I genuinely feel that I did a fantastic job on ‘Poison Ivy’ #8. It allowed me to tap into my creative zone and deliver a visually stunning and emotionally captivating comic. It’s those kinds of projects that remind me why I love what I do as an artist. I hope readers enjoy it just as much as I enjoyed creating it!
Any upcoming projects that you can discuss?
Oh, right now, my plate might not be overflowing with projects, but I’m super excited about what’s coming up! After ‘Knight Terrors: Poison Ivy’ #2, you’ll get to see my work in ‘Icon vs Hardware’ #4. It’s going to be a fantastic opportunity, and I can’t wait to dive into it!
And while I’m eagerly waiting for the next gig from DC, I’m keeping myself busy and creatively fulfilled by illustrating a mini story for AHOY Comics. It’s a perfect way to keep the creative juices flowing and have a ton of fun in the process.
Honestly, I feel incredibly lucky to be able to work on such diverse and captivating projects. It’s like a dream come true, and I’m enjoying every moment of this artistic journey. I’m thrilled to see where these opportunities take me, and I’m ready to pour my heart and soul into each one of them.