Dalibor Talajić and CM Punk give the martial arts hero a wild day off!

Even a true leader in his field needs a break. Of course, when someone throws on the sweats and hopes to relax, any number of problems can come up. For you and I, thought might mean a plumbing issue or noisy neighbors—but we’re not Shang-Chi!

With MASTER OF KUNG FU #126, writer CM Punk and artist Dalibor Talajić take Shang-Chi from lounger to fighter in one issue. For his part, Talajić drew on previous incarnations of the ferocious fighting hero to help give this more out-there tale a firm base.

We talked with the artist about balancing the wild tone of the story with more grounded art, working with Punk, and taking inspiration from artists like Paul Gulacy and Mike Zeck.

Marvel.com: In the wake of his initial series, Shang-Chi’s been a guest star and team player for the most part. Why do you think it’s important to showcase him in his own book like this?

Dalibor Talajić: Well, times do change. His initial series was during the “Enter The Dragon” Bruce Lee era. And even though Bruce Lee is still considered the king of the martial arts realm, his time did pass. I guess Shang had to redefine himself and find his place under the sun anew.

His own book was also a team book, so naturally various comic book teams wanted to place him within a [group]. So, yes I do believe it is important to give him a chance to breathe on his own—so to speak—even in a story like this, where circumstances are almost ridiculous, one might say to see him on his off side.

Marvel.com: Shang’s always been tough, but in the last few years he’s proven himself on a larger scale by working with the Avengers. Has that changed how he handles himself at all?

Dalibor Talajić: Well, I guess his self-confidence in what he does better than anyone is what places him among the heavy hitters. True, he has no special powers, but his focus, his stamina, and [his] philosophical depth make him a genuine super human.

Yet his philosophical depth is what keeps him constantly questioning both his actions and himself, and thus keeps him down to earth. He won’t allow himself any arrogance. But all these features combined open the doors for his endless growth as a character. This is something that reflects our own lives: the possibility of growth that only needs to be noticed by us. This is why I love this character; he is closest to us, to the best in us.

Marvel.com: What was it like figuring out his look for this series?

Dalibor Talajić: Well, given the nature of the story, I imagined him in his sweatshirt and stuff. You know Sunday afternoon stuff that you wear while watching TV and having a nap. The circumstances take him off guard and he stays dressed like that all the way through. He even loses his sneakers at some point. Here and there, through flashbacks, I would nod to Bruce Lee’s famous yellow jump suit. Or the fact that he ends up topless. But the idea was the everyday Joe looks. As I’ve said—one of us.

Marvel.com: Overall, how’s it been working with CM Punk on this project?

Dalibor Talajić: Well, fun! CM writes very funny dialogue. But the story is a slippery slope. In it’s essence it’s so pulpy that it’s close to ridiculous so I had to be very careful to keep it balanced. If I was leaning to a stronger stylization, as the story might trick you into, it would end up like a flat out crazy cartoon. Instead, I went for “realism” so that ridiculous part would serve as a crazy Bond-like villain comedy.

Marvel.com: How has it been digging into Shang-Chi’s history with this story? Are you looking back at a lot of his other comics for reference or possibly other mediums?

Dalibor Talajić: That was a difficult task. Because initially Shang-Chi is a serious character. So was the art depicting it. [Paul] Gulacy was treating him with an almost noir atmosphere, while I don’t think is possible to make him more badass than [Mike] Zeck did. Even I treated him seriously a few years back in [the] MASTER OF KUNG FU [limited] series. There, I wanted to mimic classic flashy Hong Kong action films.

So I guess I tried to combine all of that a bit and hopefully blend it into something that honors all those beautiful incarnations of the character that were already there long before me. I can only hope I did Shang-Chi justice.

CM Punk and Dalibor Talajić give Shang-Chi a less-than-relaxing day off in MASTER OF KUNG FU #126 on November 8!

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Dalibor Talajic illustrates CM Punk’s Shang-Chi story in Marvel Legacy!

Shang-Chi’s back in the game and ready to prove to all challengers that he’s the one-and-only Master of Kung Fu.

Writer CM Punk and artist Dalibor Talajic kick off a new era for the martial artist in MASTER OF KUNG FU #126, a one-shot in celebration of Marvel Legacy. Shang-Chi’s operated as secret agent, adventurer, and Avenger, but he’s on his own again and his artist’s vision of him remains clear and focused.

Marvel.com: Dalibor, what do you find visually cool about Shang-Chi?

Dalibor Talajic: Shang-Chi is essentially Bruce Lee. He was created during Bruce’s peak of popularity and was clearly based upon him. So visually, I guess his expression is what makes him unique. He is peaceful and calm, but beneath this calm there’s a deadly volcano. And if I manage to capture that in his eyes, I’ll be happy. This mesmerizing presence of his is something that must be felt throughout every panel.

Marvel.com: You did a MASTER OF KUNG FU four-issue series with Haden Blackman in 2015—what kinds of research might you be doing to prepare for this new one-shot?

Dalibor Talajic: I might say that this is a familiar territory. However, I always try to complicate things for myself artistically.

Marvel.com: How so?

Dalibor Talajic: Sometimes, I decide on a different lay-out design, sometimes it’s more blacks, sometimes no blacks at all. Last time I was concentrating on fight choreography and the clarity of the art itself. This time I might be playing with shadows—maybe? A humble nod to [artist Paul] Gulacy’s legacy?

Marvel.com: Given that this is a Marvel Legacy project, that’d be entirely appropriate.

Dalibor Talajic: Right, but all this depends on a story, of course. I’ll see where the story takes me and work from there. I always try to tie myself to the story. Comic book artists are often compared to movie directors, and there is a saying: the best directors are those you don’t even notice. So story comes first. What I’ll be doing emerges from that.

Marvel.com: How do you feel about working with CM Punk on MASTER OF KUNG FU?

Dalibor Talajic: I honestly can’t wait to see how he deals with this. He is also a professional fighter, so he’ll know what he’s writing about. I myself am a kung fu practitioner and I know what’s humanly possible during the fights. So we’ll see whose kung fu is stronger!

Gather your fighting spirit and look for MASTER OF KUNG FU #126 from CM Punk and Dalibor Talajic coming this November!

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Artist Dalibor Talajic discusses drawing Greg Salinger’s offbeat adventures!

Balancing the personality of Greg Salinger with the reality of his Queens neighborhood in the pages of FOOLKILLER can be no easy task. Veracity collides with a warped view on the world in every page.

Difficult or not though, artist Dalibor Talajic finds himself equal to and excited about the task. We discussed the inherent conflicts of FOOLKILLER and the artist’s enthusiasm about his newest gig.

Marvel.com: Given how versatile the character and concept of Foolkiller can be from a tone standpoint, how did you approach the title? What kind of tone were you aiming for with your art?

Dalibor Talajic: Well, the first thing you need to know is I’ve never heard of the character before. At first I thought it was a brand new character, but after I read the script for #1 I’ve learned he has quite a history.

This puts me in a rough spot because there is always a very devoted fan base for these kinds of characters. They may be less known, but they are respected.

The script itself is a lot of fun and quite humorous. This is something that can be a slippery terrain. It may lead to parody. That would not be a good call, because there is just one character that can withstand this without being considered ridiculous: Deadpool.

I didn’t want to do a “Deadpool light” type of story. It would be just a gimmick and make it a one-month wonder. So I approached it from an angle of “ordinary man in extraordinary circumstances” point of view. Make Greg someone who is a troubled soul and just wants life to be what he wishes life was, but he just can’t stand the pressure and…well…you’ll need to read the rest.

In short, I decided to play with the light, almost comedic tones of the story and then just crush this illusion down with the grim aspect of Greg’s own personality.

Marvel.com: How would you describe the world you have drawn around Foolkiller? Where have you looked for inspiration to create it?

Dalibor Talajic: The world around Foolkiller is very well described in the script itself; maybe not fully described but strongly suggested.

It’s a bright hopeful world, but it’s clearly fake. It’s make-believe. So in the end I guess it’s a sad place.

And this is something you can’t really draw. So I try to convince you in other ways. My weapon of choice for that is Greg himself. He lives in a clean hopeful and bright world, but his face is quite melancholic.

We’ll see if I’ve succeeded.

Marvel.com: Any particular challenges or delights you have encountered in drawing the title so far?

Dalibor Talajic: I believe I’ve accidentally answered this already.

The greatest challenge for me is always is creating a convincing world. Everything else comes from that quite naturally. Luckily [writer] Max [Bemis] wrote a fluid, joyful script and at the moments I feel that I can lay back and ride along.

It was quite easy for me to “see” the story. The rest is just work.

Marvel.com: How is the collaboration with Max? How does his writing fit with your approach to the art?

Dalibor Talajic: As I’ve said, Max’s script is very fluid and very artist friendly. He doesn’t describe much but he uses just the right words to hit the right buttons with me. He leaves a lot of room for me to choose from this pool of information he suggests.

It’s a very comfortable position for an artist to be in.

And the rest of the gang are the people I know well and they know me well: Jose Marzan Jr. on inks and Miroslav Mrva on [colors].

So I hope we’ll all provide something you guys will enjoy for a long time.

Explore the depths of FOOLKILLER from Max Bemis and Dalibor Talajic this week with issue #2, and #3 coming January 11!

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