Leinil Francis Yu started his career in the world of work-for-hire comics, illustrating several Wolverine stories in the late '90s. In that environment, he became a superstar, drawing high-profile stories including Superman: Birthright for DC Comics, plus major Marvel miniseries Ultimate Wolverine vs. Hulk and Secret Invasion.
In recent years, he's primarily paired with Wanted and Kick-Ass writer Mark Millar, on two Ultimate Comics: Avengers miniseries and the creator-owned "Millarworld" series Superior. Their latest collaboration, released through Marvel's Icon imprint, is Supercrooks, a creator-owned, four-issue miniseries about a group of supervillains who flee to Spain to cause trouble in a country devoid of superheroes.
With the first issue now in stores, Newsarama talked with Yu about Supercrooks, his partnership with Millar, and the importance of finding time for occasional mainstream Marvel projects, like this month's Avenging Spider-Man #5. [Newsarama note: The following preview pages from Supercrooks #1, scattered throughout the article, contain some decidedly not-safe-for-work language; full preview here.]Newsarama: Leinil, you're coming onto Supercrooks just a couple of months after the end of Superior, another collaboration with Mark Millar. As the artist of both books, how do they compare in terms of tone and your visual approach to the story?
Leinil Francis Yu: Mark wanted an atypical, non-superhero feel. He wanted the shots to be closer to movie stills than the usual comic book action poses. A bit closer to reality.
Rendering wise, I try to avoid any cross-hatching as much as possible, something that I've heavily utilized on my recent works, specifically the Ultimate books.
Nrama: The series introduces an entire group of original villains — what was the process like developing that many new characters? How much development time goes into a book like this?Yu: The hardest part is definitely the design phase. Superior took a long time to get the costumes and individual looks right, involving dozens of design variations and spanning weeks. Multiply it by 5-8 times and you'll get the idea of how much work that went into getting the look right. Mark has a solid vision of what he wants and needs in this book, that's why they work so well in the actual comic.
Nrama: Of course, the hook of Supercrooks is that villain group relocating to Spain. How much research did that involve for you, in term of getting the setting "right"?
Yu: I've only been to France and the UK, so my personal photo collection is limited to those countries. Spain is quite unique, but thankfully we have Google and Google Earth. There is really an abundance of reference material and in fact, too much of it is detrimental. I also have movies that are set in Spain, so really, the research material is tremendous.Having said this, I don't strive for geographical accuracy and may combine elements/buildings from different Spanish cities to form our Supercrooks setting. Spain is extremely beautiful so just about any place could be utilized as a backdrop.
Nrama: There has been discussion recently in the comic book industry about the role of artists in creator-owned books. Obviously you've worked multiple times with Mark Millar at this point — what do you like about that partnership?
Yu: I love that we split everything in the middle on the business side, and that he never fails to promote me and include me in important discussions on business deals involving the book. I have absolutely no problem if we do not have equal billing on advertising, for obvious practical reasons. When selling to mass audiences, more people will recognize his name and projects than my resume, which is mainly known to comic book fans.Creatively, Millarworld books are primarily brainchildren of Mark. He really should be given a lot of credit for it. Ideas have to be written before it can be fleshed out into images. I'm just proud to be involved in the creation of these characters and — universes. His ideas are filtered, or even amplified through me, and the other artists.
I'm never worried about the role of artists in a visual medium like comics. Different projects vary in how much influence the artist is able to exert.
Nrama: A Supercrooks movie is currently being targeted for 2014 — it's early still, but how involved have you been in that process?
Yu: I'll be an executive producer on the movie and, just like Mark, shaping the story. That means I get to shape the visual look of the picture and have been working on some set designs recently. But I'm mainly concentrating on the comic book since that is what we're in the business of working on day to day. Hopefully, when actual production begins, I can further provide concept art, but it's early days. Mark and Nacho [Vigalondo] only just finished the script a couple of months back.I'm brimming with excitement for having Nacho Vigalondo at the director's seat. I've seen Timecrimes and it blew my mind. It's amazing in so many levels and, I can't wait to bring that same brilliance to Supercrooks. He was there from day one.
Nrama: Even though you've been focusing on creator-owned projects of late, you've still made time for work-for-hire Marvel books here and there, like an issue of Avenging Spider-Man out later this month. Is it important to you to keep a hand in both worlds?
Yu: Absolutely. Creatively, it's necessary to vary my workload to keep myself fresh and excited. It's fun to do my favorite mainstream characters.
It's also important to reach out to a wider audience, and make sure I'm visible to the fans. You can't expect everyone to follow me wherever I go. It's me reminding them that I exist, and perhaps introduce them to our creator-owned projects.Supercrooks teaser, directed by Nacho Vigalondo: Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!