Today we’re talking to Max Dunbar, comic book and concept artist extraordinaire. Max is known for the incredible work he’s done on IDW Publishing’s Dungeons & Dragons comic books, and now he’s teamed up with Hasbro to bring two fan-favorite D&D characters to life in glorious 6-inch scale: Drizzt Do'urden, and his faithful companion Guenhwyvar.
Behind the Design: D&D Drizzt Illustrator, Max Dunbar
Q: Max, tell us a little about your history with Dungeons & Dragons. Were you a player before working on the comic book series?
A: My first real exposure to D&D was back in 2014 when I first started working on the comic “D&D Legends of Baldur’s Gate”. I didn’t know much about the game at all at the time, but had always loved fantasy as a genre, and was very keen to work with Jim Zub, so I was eager to work on it. A few years later I got to finally play 5e and I was hooked instantly.
Q: What’s your fondest memory of playing the game?
A: My favorite thing about playing D&D in general is the huge swings in emotion at the table the group can experience in the span of a few hours. I’ve never laughed harder, or been more tense and worried, or scared in a short span of time like I have playing D&D. Our group just finished Curse of Strahd, and there were some amazing moments where we thought we were done for, surrounded by undead, but just managed to escape. Those moments are the best.
Q: What’s the D&D character equivalent to Max Dunbar?
A: I think I’d be a Halfling Druid, Lawful Good. I love nature, I love animals and I think Druids would probably like to sit around and draw in their spare time. I think I’m generally a happy, jovial person, so a Halfling fits. Lawful good because I’m always scared to break rules.
Q: What were some of the challenges you encountered with this particular piece of art? Is there a different approach to illustrating comics versus art for a toy product?
A: I think the biggest challenge I ever have is trying to capture what I imagine, and put it down on paper. It never actually works out the way I saw it in my head, but I try to get it to a point where I’m satisfied with it.
In comics, there rarely is enough time during the process to give the art too much of a second look, which can be a good and bad thing.
Q: You have a really distinct style that encompasses the details of your subjects. What were some of the things you wanted to focus on with Drizzt and Guenhwyvar, or with the monsters on the cards?
A: I always try and get as much character across in the faces that I draw, as well as energy into the poses to try and convey movement and keep it as exciting looking as I can. Drizzt and Guenhwyver are such well-known and storied characters, with so much incredible art depicting them. I wanted to try and capture the qualities that people love about those two.
Q: For aspiring illustrators out there, what tools/software did you use to create the artwork?
A: I do a mix of traditional drawing with digital coloring. All the line work is done with technical pens, the coloring in Photoshop. My advice would be to experiment with a whole bunch of different materials to see what works for you best, and never be afraid to try new things. You might stumble across a way of working that makes the whole process easier or more fun.
Q: Dungeons & Dragons is the most popular roleplaying game on the planet. If you could draw any Hasbro brand in a D&D crossover, what would you do?
A: I know there has been some crossover with Magic: The Gathering with Guildmaster’s Guide to Ravnica, but I think that would be really fun to explore even more. I absolutely love the art in MTG, so getting to draw anything from that universe would be incredible.
Q: What other D&D products have you worked on?
A: Aside from the initial comic book miniseries I worked on “Legends of Baldur’s Gate” I’ve been involved in one way or another with each of the 4 subsequent miniseries starring the same characters, doing covers and/or character designs. With the 5th and current D&D comic book miniseries “Infernal Tides” I returned to work on the interior art as well as covers, which has been so much fun. The arc is based off of the recently released adventure “Baldur’s Gate: Descent into Avernus” which I was lucky enough to work on with the crew at WOTC as a concept artist. (Which was a dream come true)
A lot of amazing D&D experiences in the past few years.
Q: What can fans expect to see from you next?
A: D&D Infernal Tides is currently being released monthly into comic book stores and online, and I’ve re-teamed up with Jim Zub to do a second story arc of our creator-owned comic STONE STAR with colorist Espen Grundetjern and Letterer Marshall Dillon, which will be released later this year!