Leila del Duca has been balancing the lives of two travelers: Wanda Maximoff in Marvel Comics' Scarlet Witch and Kate Kristopher in Image Comics' Shutter. As she and Joe Keatinge count down to the final issue of their long-running creator-owned series, the writer/artist next journey involves astral projection.
After the twin releases of Scarlet Witch #11 and Shutter #23 late last month, Newsarama spoke with Del Luca about dropping in on a Big Two book, revisiting Shutter's first issue to wrap up the series, and that sci-fi astral projection OGN, Afar, which she's writing for Kit Seaton.
Newsarama: Leila, what are you working on today?
Leila del Duca: Today I'm working on layouts and pages 4 and 5 of Shutter #26.
Nrama: October was a big month for you, between the release of your Scarlet Witch issue and then Shutter’s final arc beginning. What's it like to have two books - very different books - on shelves so close together?
del Duca: It's rare when I have two new books on the shelf at the same time, but having that much out is a proud reminder of the work I put in and the fun I had while making those books. I just love seeing the projects I've worked on out in print and ready for readers.
Nrama: Scarlet Witch #11 continued its run of standalone stories featuring standout artists. What's it like to be able to drop into a Big Two book and do an issue and it not be a fill-in, inventory, or some scheduling fix?
del Duca: It's amazing! I've wanted to work with Marvel on something short, and this was a perfect fit. Drawing a monthly book makes it really hard for me to schedule other work without sacrificing my social life, health, and sanity, but in the case of Scarlet Witch, I was able to fit that into my schedule since we were a couple months ahead with Shutter. I did have to work overtime and work quickly, but it really paid off and I'm happy with how the whole thing turned out.
Nrama: I really enjoyed your impressions of Serbia and the church grounds. Did you have specific reference for those? How did it all come together?
del Duca: I did have some amazing reference. James included a lot of imagery in the script that helped out immensely. For every scene he took the time to pick a bunch of pictures and embed them in the script which made it easier to visualize in my head. I wish more writers would include pictures in the script! It's nice to have links to those pictures online, but it saves me time when I can see the images there, right next to the script descriptions and dialogue without having to get on the internet and switch back and forth between the script and pictures.
Nrama: For this you were paired with colorist Felipe Sobreiro, which I believe is a first for you. Felipe's coloring seems to ground your work more than Shutter’s Owen Gieni, with some heavier contrasts. What's the pairing been like for you?
del Duca: Felipe was amazing, especially on the flashback scenes! I loved the retro comic book colors and textures he ended up using. It's always interesting to see how different colorists handle my linework.
Owen tends to render a lot and add a ton of textures, which elevates my work to a whole new level where it would look completely different without him. And let's not forget his versatility in style! Whenever I draw a different style in Shutter, Owen comes up with a unique way of coloring those, too.
As much as I adore everything Owen does, I also really like seeing when people pull back and use more flats, less shading and rendering, because then my linework is more evident, and as you said, grounded. Felipe was able to come up with two distinct styles that showed off my linework and successfully set the mood for this issue and I think he did a stand-up job.
Nrama: And Shutter is back with #23, after a four-month break. People are really buzzing about the re-use of the layouts from issue one to tell how far Kate has come in the 22 issues. I know Joe Keatinge's visually minded, but where did the idea come to do this?
del Duca: Good question! It constantly amazes me how the inner-workings of Joe's mind creates such imaginative ways to tell stories. But I do remember him mentioning he wanted to juxtapose the passage of time and the changes in our characters by directly contrasting it to the very first issue we put out. It was a really clever way to show where the characters came from and where they are now.
Nrama: And how was it when it went from an idea to actually doing it?
del Duca: It made doing page layouts really easy! But on the flipside, I don't like drawing the same thing twice, and a lot of the panels in Shutter #23 are almost all the same angle and have the same details as #1, so I was basically copying myself which I find incredibly mind-numbing. I could have saved myself a lot of time by digitally copy-and-pasting instead of re-drawing everything traditionally, but I felt like my style has changed enough over the last 2.5 years that I'd be cheating myself if I didn't redraw everything. Overall, I'm really happy with how the issue looks since Owen and John and Joe nailed everything perfectly. I just hope I never have to draw that double-page spread of New York City again! And if I do, I'll probably do the whole digital copy and paste thing if I can get away with it.
Nrama: How do you feel like you've changed as an artist and storyteller since issue #1?
del Duca: I've changed so much I feel like I could write a whole essay on the matter! For one, Joe has taught me so much about storytelling. Between his stylistic choices, subject matter, storytelling devices, and overall comics business know-how, I've learned what kind of writer I want to be, what kind of comics I want to make, and how to think outside of the box. I recently told Joe that Shutter was like a comics boot camp for me. I also feel like I've learned to worry less. There's less fear and worry associated with drawing comics than there was when I first started this project because I have more experience and faced more creative fears. As for personal style, I still struggle with finding a happy balance between sleek and messy, but I'm also less afraid of taking potentially catastrophic chances in my art.
Nrama: And while this is going on, you're also working with Kit Seaton on Afar - an OGN coming out in March. How did you and Kit connect to do this?
del Duca: Kit and I have known each other for years. We both attended the Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design and I've always adored her work from the first time I saw it hanging on the campus walls. I hired her as a colorist on The Pantheon Project years ago, but always wanted to see more of her beautiful sequentials because that's where she truly impresses me. When Joe first started encouraging me to write, Kit was instantly my first choice and I'm so glad she said yes because her work is so incredible and gorgeous.
Nrama: Reading the preview, I feel a little bit of A Wrinkle In Time in this. How would you describe Afar?
del Duca: Afar is a story about a fifteen-year-old girl, Boetema, who starts astral projecting to other planets when she sleeps. While she's on a planet in some other girl's body, she gets a young man hurt, but wakes up before she can help fix the problem. The book is about her trying to get back to the same planet while she and her little brother have to make it on their own, getting into trouble and traveling through a dangerous desert to a bustling city. It's a family adventure set in a science fantasy post-industrial wasteland as the main stage, but also on a variety of other worlds with a lot of amazing humanoids.
Nrama: How does it feel to be able to step back and work with another artist in this and focus just on the story and dialogue?
del Duca: It's terrifying! With art, I feel like I know what I'm doing. But with writing, I still have so much to learn. In most ways, writing is much harder for me than drawing. I learned a lot from writing Afar, failing a bunch of times, getting invaluable feedback from my editor, Taneka Stotts, and then re-writing tons of times... But on top of all of that, I love working with Kit and it made me so excited to see every piece of art she turned in. Working with her made all the anxiety of writing Afar worth it!
Nrama: So 2017 - Afar and, presumably, the end of Shutter. How do you see 2017 shaping up for you?
del Duca: I have another series in the works that I can't talk about yet, but I'm really excited about it. I also want to see how Afar does, and if it does well I'll be asking Image if they'd let us do a sequel, so best case scenario, I'll be doing more writing next year, too.