Artist Profile: Gordon Purcell

Photo by Kevin Kramer, The Growler // Illustration by Gordon Purcell

Photo by Kevin Kramer, The Growler // Illustration by Gordon Purcell

The Incredible Hulk, in its human form as Bruce Banner, is a nuclear physicist. Chemistry lover Barry Allen, aka The Flash, works as a forensic scientist for the Central City Police Department. And in “Star Trek,” 23rd century adventurers take off in a powerful interstellar spacecraft to explore the far reaches of the galaxy, using advanced technologies like warp drive, transporters, and tractor beams.

Science fills the pages of comic books, just as it does the corners of our daily lives. And while Gordon Purcell may not be a nuclear physicist, forensic scientist, or a member of the starship U.S.S. Enterprise, he understands the science of drawing comic book art. He comprehends the logistics of line, shape, and form. He formulates panels of action-packed scenes. He calculates every single drawing detail.

“I always loved cartoons and comics books growing up, starting with Disney and Bugs Bunny, and moving on to DC and Marvel,” Gordon says. “I enjoyed the big emotions, big scale action, and often beautiful artwork. […] Comics are a great way to view art at your own pace for a low price. And these days, there are so many kinds of comics out there, from superheroes to biographies to slice of real-life stories.”

In 1977, Gordon began his artistic academia at the University of Minnesota, focusing on studio arts and theater. The theatrical studies proved to be vastly helpful toward his comic book career—Gordon says he learned how to direct characters, compose set and character designs, and execute costuming.

In his last year of college, a theater class sent Gordon out to New York. With the headquarters of both DC and Marvel there at the time, “I didn’t see any reason why I shouldn’t stop by,” Gordon remembers. Before he knew it, DC Comics called in the college senior, inviting him to participate in the growing publishing company’s New Talent Program, a creative effort to find new and aspiring comic book talent. Soon after, DC also gave Gordon the task of drawing a “bonus book,” a short story inserted inside another comic book. Nestled inside the pages of “The Flash,” Vol. 2, No. 12, was Gordon’s first DC comic, starring the villainous Doctor Light.

Gordon went on to build an impressive portfolio and network of industry connections. A full-time freelancer since the late ‘80s, he is perhaps best known for his work for “Star Trek.” From illustrating comic books and novels for the franchise, to coloring books and cards, Gordon’s drawings brings the series’ characters from the screen to the page. “I have drawn all the different Trek crews, from Captain Pike to Janeway, including the original series, ‘The Next Generation,’ and ‘Deep Space Nine,’” says Gordon.

He’s worked for all the major comic companies—DC, Marvel, Image, Dark Horse, IDW, and Dynamite. And comic book fans know him from titles such as “Silver Sable,” “The Avengers,” “Superman,” “Wonder Man,” “Justice League,” “The X-Files,” “Godzilla,” “Protectors, Inc.,” “Xena: Warrior Princess,” and many other licensed books. “It’s creative,” he says. “I make my own hours and I actually make something that people can enjoy at the end of the day.”

“It gives you a lot of pride, seeing your work out in public,” says Gordon. “I’d like to keep drawing until my arm falls off.” Luckily for the comic book world, he’ll continue to add to his 30 years of drawing expertise to stroke life into our favorite superhero scientists, menacing miscreants, and crime-fighting characters.