Comics Anonymous

March 30, 2012, 8:05 am
Filed under: Interviews | Tags: , , , , , ,

Occupying a fair amount of much sought after shelf space in my book case is Marvel’s X‑Factor. The 3rd volume in the series caught my eye last summer and I’ve been a faithful devotee of the Multiple Man’s detective agency ever since. Peter David’s excellent story telling combines exciting immediacy and a willingness to embrace the events of the larger Marvel Universe with slow burning character drama. X-Factor is the Coronation Street of the comic book world, with added fighting, mutants and lycanthropes and I’m not ashamed to admit that I love it.

The first issues that I picked up from ‘A World of Heroes’ in Dacula County, Georgia, featured the ridiculously talented art team of Emanuela Lupaccino, Guillermo Ortego and Matthew Milla. Their issues really stand out as part of the overall run and convey so much of the emotion, tension and humour that make X-Factor such an essential book. I caught up with Emanuela and Guillermo at London Super Comic Con last month to learn more about them as artists, their partnership and their plans after X-Factor.

Both Emanuela and Guillermo have taken interesting and individual paths into working in comics. Guillermo originally studied history and Emanuela left behind a career in science, she explained,

‘I worked in Italian comics, French comics and then I moved into American comics and here I’ve stayed for two years of X-Factor. This was actually what I was looking for so I was very happy to start my career at Marvel on X-Factor because I love the title, I read the book long before I got to work on it.’

Emanuela has provided cover art for Italian series The Secret and contributed to DC’s JLA 80 Page Giant where she got to draw Superman. Whilst working on X-Factor she found this took up virtually all of her time.

‘I need many hours to work on a page, I actually have no time for any other work. In my opinion, it is better to take on only one project at a time. I prefer quality over quantity and see some artists that do too many books and I can’t do that. Sometimes I need to spend 2 or 4 hours just for an expression or a hand position and it’s crazy, because if a page has six or seven panels it’s too much, it takes all day.’

Guillermo agrees that the amount of time they spend working on X-Factor viewed against the fortnightly publishing schedule makes things a little frustrating. ‘You might be working on a book or story arc for four months and in two weeks it’s going to be out and that’s it, it’s done’.

The pair managed to remain tight lipped throughout the interview and would not disclose what their next project would be. Instead they slotted several cryptic clues into conversation, all revolving around ‘chairs’ and Ikea catalogues. Regardless of this cleverly planned deception, Marvel announced yesterday that Emanuela would be drawing the next volume of the Castle graphic novel, written by Brian M Bendis and Kelly Sue DeConnick. Ortego and Milla will of course be joining her.

Of working on Castle, Guillermo says ‘it’s pretty different to what we’ve done so far and it’s been taking forever. Literally, the pages have been the worst I’ve inked ever’, where Emanuela advises ‘We are in a different world, we can just say that. Totally different”

Before we see their work on Castle, we shall see them featuring in Ghost Rider which Guillermo says, ‘despite only being an 11 page fill in, was pretty cool. There is a lot of fighting involved and demons’. Working on a title like Ghost Rider could be seen as a nice progression from X-Factor, especially when considering recent story lines.

‘This wasn’t very different to the last story arc in X-Factor, how Madrox travelled through a different universe. The last universe he travelled to, where you see New York City all destroyed, there is a lot of magic and weird bugs and dragons so it made sense, in a way, to jump on to Ghost Rider.’

Double shipping is a controversial issue, with fans, retailers, pro’s and others involved in the industry regularly rejoicing or bemoaning it. X-Factor is regularly one of these books and often finds art teams alternating issues in order to meet the gruelling publishing schedule. Whilst this ensures fans get a regular fix of characters, Guillermo wonders about the overall impact,

‘The thing with X-Factor, with so man artists working on the book and each and every one of them drawing their own impression of the characters, I honestly don’t know how the fans manage to make any sense out of it, as the way we draw them is completely different to the way De Landro used to draw it and completely different from the way Sook used to draw it.’

I’d like to think that most fans of X-Factor are able to differentiate between different art teams and whilst it would certainly be my preference for the book to simply ‘slow down’ and allow one team to tell the story, more books should in theory result in more money. In short, I don’t see Marvel changing this practice anytime soon. However, even more important than this, is that each individual team is performing to the height of their abilities and working well together. This was not always the case on X-Factor, as Emanuela explains,

‘This was the problem with my first inker (on X-Factor) because he was actually good, but not good for my suff. He inks stuff in a different way, you know, not in a bad way, but just a different way. So when you are working on a comic book and you have an inker and a colourist and many people working together on the same page it is like an orchestra… You need an inker who can feel your work, a colourist too.’

We can all recall comic books where huge industry ‘names’ have come together and the book has ended up being ‘a bit off’ or worse. Both Emanuela and Guillermo were in the very early stages of their career when they began working together and were relatively unknown. There is a huge amount of synchronicity in their partnership and it’s obvious when spending some time with them both, that they get on extremely well. A similar sense of humour and artistic inspirations means that despite them living thousands of miles from each other, each can work to complement the other and produce some excellent pieces.

It’s comforting and refreshing to talk to comic book artists who not only aren’t afraid to admit they read comic books, but rather are thrilled to rhyme off the various names of artists whose work inspires them,

‘Every night before I go to bed I take twenty minutes and read books and study them, because I think that in our career as artists you never stop learning, so I follow some artists in particular, and when I have time to relax I try to read their books and study their storytelling, their page composition, the colours so that can help me to improve.’

Dave Stevens features on Emanuela’s nightly reading lists, as does Ryan Sook thanks to ‘the way he handles blacks and how his pages can be not busy and yet they are complete’. Jim Cheung, Adam Hughes, Eric Powell and Stuart Imonen are loved by both Emanuela and Guillermo.

‘We mostly like the same things, we have a lot of synchronicity and that’s why it’s really easy working together because we will look at the same books and I think we can guess each others references.’

I was also curious to get Guillermo’s thoughts on both digital and traditional inking.

‘I am old school 100%. I think that in the future true inkers are going to tend to disappear and only the best are going to survive, and the only way you can become the best is if you know how to use the tools even with these Cintiq’s all they do is imitate what a brush does. Why bother doing it digitally when you can do it in real life? Editors don’t mind as all they are getting is the .tif file. I need to make the artist happy, I need to make Emanuela happy and she likes the brush.’

Emanuela is not your typical superhero comic book artist. Why? Because she’s a woman. In an obviously male dominated environment I was curious to see how she feels she is received both by fellow professionals and the wider industry. She has a refreshing and positive outlook in things

‘I think the only difference is when people see you face to face, because when people read the comic book they have no idea of the face of the artist who is behind the book so a lot of them don’t know that I am a girl. When I go to have a look on some internet forums I read that they talk about me as if I were a man, so it is funny because when I arrive at a convention nobody sees me as an artist, and when they realise who I am they change their approach totally and completely because I don’t look like a superhero artist.’

Emanuela doesn’t whine about this situation. Instead she continues to push herself to be the best artist she can be and let her work speak for itself. Many fans of X-Factor have, in turn, become fans of Lupaccino and Ortego. You will be able to see the pair’s work in the next Castle graphic novel but you can also see work by Guillermo in his occasional collaborations with Canadian artist Gibson Quarter. Gibson is relatively well known in Scotland, where his illustrations have appeared alongside scripts by Alan Grant in the now sadly defunct Wasted magazine.

‘There is a passion for comics in his soul and being that I liked and the way he draws makes everything look fun, but not funny. Back to basics, like adventure, shooting and just having fun.’

The pair have produced a couple of excellent prints together, including a phenomenal Deadpool. They are also working on the Heroes of the North web series which promises to be quite exciting.

You can read a review of Emanuela and Guillermo’s most recent X-Factor here  and keep up to date by following them on twitter at @manulupac and @willortego

Linsay @softlyspokenlas

All photos courtesy of Fiona Watson Photography.

1 Comment so far
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Great insight into how Emanuela and Guillermo work with each other so well. Seem to compliment each other very nicely. Look forward to seeing more of their work in the future.

Comment by G.T.L.T.C.R.

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