Thursday, 4 December 2008

LADRÖNN interview [1]

Interview by smoky man & Antonio Solinas. Conducted in May 2008.
Originally printed in Italy on Scuola di Fumetto magazine (N. 61, July 2008, Coniglio Editore).
Presented here in English for the first time.
Above: Cover for the Final Incal T. 1 deluxe edition.
Final Incal
published by Les humanoïdes associés.

1. Let’s start talking about your last project. It’s recent news that you are currently at work on Last Incal, the sequel of the famous saga created by Alexandro Jodorowsky and Moebius, written by Jodorowsky himself. How did it happen? What can you reveal about the story in itself and about your collaboration with the great visionary writer? If I remember well you two already collaborated in the past on a short story printed on the last version of Metal Hurlant magazine.
Ladrönn: It is not easy to explain sometimes how things happen in life, I always say. I met Alexandro Jodorowsky three times: first when I used to read his books, the second time in 1997 at the San Diego Comic Con, but it was only in 2000, in the headquarters of the Humanoids Publishing, in Los Angeles California, that I was officially introduced to Alexandro in a more formal way by the Humanoids owner, Fabrice Giger. It was during that meeting that Alexandro thought that I could do a short story for the Metal Hurlant magazine. One month later I got a sadistic script written by Alexandro, "Tears of Gold". I think that was the work that allowed me to show Alexandro my artistic skills. After that short story was published, Alexandro talked with Moebius and they both agreed that I could be a good candidate to continue with the final part of the Incal saga. Then, some time later, Alexandro contacted me and in a few weeks I had the first script: this time the story was real and not a dream like in the Moebius' Incal. Now I only know the Final Incal book is done and John Difool is back again with a fantastic story. 2. Were you a bit intimidated by this work? I mean, it’s Jodorowsky, you have on you Moebius’ shadow, it’s one of the most acclaimed saga in comics…
You feel intimidated by the unknown but for me the Incal has been part of my life for many years. I was very young when I saw Incal Noir, that beautiful book that Jodorowsky and Moebius did many years ago. I can say that in that moment I thought for the first time that I should become a comic book artist. Many years later I started to work for USA mainstream publishers and after some years in the business I had the opportunity to meet some people from the Humanoids Publishing in Los Angeles. They invited me to do some covers for the USA edition of the Incal: I think those cover works were very important, because I was able to show Alexandro and the Humanoids my personal vision of the Incal.
3. Previously you focused you activity on making covers for DC (The Atom series), Marvel (The Incredible Hulk) and Image Comics (Elephantmen). What’s your approach in creating a cover? Do you usually read a preview of the story or any sequential art samples? What about your interaction with the editor?
I love to do covers. I usually ask for a small synopsis of the story so I can have an idea of what the story is about or I ask the editor to tell me a couple of ideas about what he think could be great. At the end of the day I start doing a couple of sketches, and after the design is approved I start drawing. All kinds of references are always welcome so I can have a neat idea of the characters. At the very beginning I prefer to work quite traditionally but I always end up doing the important retouches and adjustments by using the computer.
4. What does it mean for you to be a cover artist?
Being a cover artist is a great thing. Your art becomes the face of a book, and because it's always a single image you can do - if you want - not one but two or three covers every month. The best thing is that you don't get stressed as much as when you are painting a comic book page which is a really hard job.
5. Let’s take a step back. The first time I saw your art was on an Amalgam book starring Spiderboy, a funny mix of Marvel’s Spiderman and DC’s Superboy. It was 1997, wasn’t it? Long time ago… I was delighted by your style so fresh and at the same time an instant classic. It was your first work for the USA market, wasn’t it? In the same period, I also remember a short black and white story in Marvel’s Shadows and Light. At a first look your art revealed - especially in your past Cable’s run - a deep influence, maybe a legacy, from Jack Kirby. How much Kirby is in your style? Which is the most important lesson, the big secret, you learned from The King?
Spiderboy was definitely a very funny work, quite silly though. It was a strange mixture of the DC and the Marvel Universe, what a mess!... My very first work was a short story featuring "Blade", the vampire hunter for the "Marvel Shadows and Light" book. I remember very well: it was a book only with black and white art. I think that was very nice to me because I love comics in black and white only. My style has always been more European but when I started to work for Marvel I had to adapt it to something more commercial. It had to be in a language which could be easier to understand for US readers and I thought immediately about the books that I used to read when I was just a child: Kamandi, The Demon, Mister Miracle, The Fantastic Four, all works by Jack Kirby. When the time allowed me, I put a lot of details on my pages but a monthly book is an insane way of working. I think Jack Kirby is one of the greatest artists, not only because he drew a lot of comic books but because he fought with the big companies in order to get very important rights for USA artists; his legacy is extremely important. I think I have learned from him a lot of things: he was a master of the sequential art and the dynamics of the characters but there are many others things. One of the most important things I learned is the way he used to add such great energy to every page and how to place elements in order to achieve an efficient artistic composition.
6. Apart from Kirby, I see in your art a certain passion for details (such as in Geof Darrow’s works), a touch of manga and ligne claire (especially Moebius). What are your influences and artistic references, not only in comics medium?
My biggest influences are from the European artists, but I grew up reading books by Jack Kirby, John Romita… I also saw books by Will Eisner and Buscema… but my style always pointed to a more sophisticated direction. I think the works of Moebius, Druillet, Boucq, Bilal, Manara inspired me a lot. I love manga, artists like Otomo, Masamune Shirow and Naoki Urasawa are so brilliant. I also love movies. My favorite movie director is Ridley Scott and in recent times Guillermo Del Toro.
7. Your style then moved into painting more than just pencils. I think this approach started on the wonderful and powerful Inhumans miniseries and on a brief Thor story. Absolutely stunning with its Gimenez’s Metabarons and Bilal look! And this continues today even if I suppose now you are also using a bit of pc coloring programs such as Photoshop. Was this just a creative change that you wanted to go toward? Is this “painted Ladronn stuff” the “real” Ladronn?
I'm not an artist married to only one technique or media. It is the work, which always demands what kind of tools you need to use. When I was working on Cable, I was only using a pencil; for The Inhumans book I started to ink my pages but when you move to the color stage things change a lot because you always draw keeping in mind the way you are going to color it later. Sometimes you don't need to draw many things if you are going to paint those specific areas. My covers and my pages use all kind of media. I employ what I think will work better. I think you can see the real Ladrönn in all the Hip Flask books, but especially in the Final Incal.
8. What kind of tools or techniques do you use? What about your standard work day and your average daily page production? Do you work in a studio or at home?
I work at home, that is great for me because I have all my tools and books always with me. I think it helps me to feel comfortable. About my work: it is very difficult to say how long it takes to do this and that. It changes all the time. I have done two pages in a day but there are pages which take 4 or 5 days, the same thing happens when I paint a cover or a single page. I work with many traditional tools: my drawing tools are the same used by manga artists, the paper and all my pen line markers are Japanese. I prefer them for their quality. I love to paint with watercolors, acrylics and gouache but the deadlines are more and more tight every time so I work a lot with an Apple computer and a Cintiq tablet, that is the only way I can meet my deadlines.
9. I know you come from Mexico. When and where did you start your career in comics?
I started drawing comics books in the United States for Marvel. Before that I worked in a design agency in México City, in a newspaper and in a broadcast company doing all kind of promos and TV commercials for the station.
10. Did you attend any art school? Which was your artistic training?
I studied graphic and technical design but I learned to draw and paint by my own. Schools don't teach many things so you need to have some skills and a lot of patience to learn to do the things in the way you want.
LADRÖNN interview [2]

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