Lie to me: Pepe Larraz and the mutant renaissance

Lie to me: Pepe Larraz and the mutant renaissance
Concurrently with the Italian release of the first issue Xouse of X, the first piece of the mutant renaissance by Johnatan Hickman, we had the opportunity to interview Pepe Larraz, penciler of the entire miniseries and guest of Lucca Comics & Games 2019.

Sic parvis magna, the designer of the 2019 miniseries event, Pepe Larraz tells us about his first steps in the American comicdom and his passion for Magneto, all through Jonathan Hickman’s scripts, a few lies and many sketches for the audience of the Lucca event.

Hello Pepe and thank you for…
No, wait! I’ve had may interviews these days, let’s try something different: sometimes, I’m not telling you when, I’m gonna lie while answering your questions. It’s a kind of quiz, if you’re capable of finding out which are the lies, you’re gonna win a sketch.

Ok, let’s start with this game of questions and lies, then! Starting from Spain you ended up working with . How did you move your first steps in the US market?
My first work for Marvel is Marvel Adventures Super Heroes #21, a one-shot they gave me because I’ve been a pain to the editors, I’ve sent TONS of emails, one every Friday (and believe me, this is not a lie). They finally gave me this issue, but it’s still unpublished, probably because my art is so bad they don’t want anyone to see it. Then there’s the worst part of the job: the moment you want to work with Marvel so bad and they’re not calling you back, so you start thinking “They don’t know how good I am!”, but when they’re not calling you once in 6 months the answer you give yourself is “they know EXACTLY how good I am and they don’t want to work with me anymore”. Luckily, Tom Brennan called me anyway and I had the chance to work on my first published issue, a fill-in of Eric Canete on New Avengers: Luke Cage #2, and since that day I’ve never stopped working.

Your style had an enormous evolution since your first works looking your House Of X panels. Which artist do you look up to as a source of inspiration and which influences and inputs you had during the years?
This evolution wasn’t intended, let’s say it just happened! Talking about artist, I follow a lot of them, Sara Pichelli for example (I still can’t believe I’m doing a signin’ session right next to her), Stuart Immonen is one of the biggest influences I’m having beacuse he’s such a great artist. But I’m a son of my time, so I look up the biggest star working nowadays, even to friends like Carlos Pacheco, Rafa Sandoval – to me a real surgeon of the pencil – and Pasqual Ferry. Anyway everything I read is leaving a print on my works.

You are one of the 2018 Young Guns, what did this recognition mean to you?
You know, Marvel with the Young Guns decide to promote some artist during the year, and of course I feel honoured because, I confess, I wanted to be a YG so badly! Somehow, I felt it was beyond my reach because all of the other artists who were recognized as a Young Gun are super good! Just think of Sara Pichelli, Marco Checchetto or my friends, as I said before, Olivier Coipel, Pasqual Ferry and Rafa Sandoval… I’m so lucky and honoured to be in the same “team” of Mike Del Mundo, Javier Garron, Aaron Kuder and Russell Dauterman. 

You drew almost every character of the Marvel Universe, I’m not asking who else you’d like to draw, but which character OUTSIDE the MU you’d like to handle.
Conan has always been my first choice, but now he’s Marvel too and probably I’ll have the chance to draw him. Outside the Marvel Universe there’s plenty of DC and Image characters that I love, I’d kill for a Hellboy or a B.P.R.D. story, LOW by Greg Tocchini… Speaking of some italian stuff, I’d say Nomen Omen, i’d like to draw something for this guys, maybe a cover. After this interview I’ll definitely talk with them!

Let’s talk about House of X, with a focus on your “relationship” with Jonathan Hickman. Looking both at the script and your original pages: sometimes the script is very detailed and specific, some other times you’ve more freedom to experiment.  What was it like working with an author whose trademark is meticulousness?
It’s not about meticulousness, it’s more about ideas. Jonathan works with brilliant dialogues and ideas, he’s wide open to the interpretation of the script, giving me and R.B. Silva a lot of space to move into. We’ve got some guide lines, of course, but even the freedom to create all of this organic-kraoan-stuff which is one of the focuses of the X-world. He’s an inspiring writer and I love how with just a single line he’s able to describe an entire setting or an emotion, making you empathize even with the deadliest villain.

Since you talked about organic-krakoan-stuff, which were the main inspiration for this breathtaking setting?
A LOT of stuff, my interest was on how everything was gonna look like, I dindn’t want to draw the classic caped superhero story. Let’s take Magneto as an example:he has a cape, but he’s a politician,a senator, so his cape is more like a toga. Marlon Brando was my main inspiration for him, his Jor-El in Superman. For the orgnaic stuff I had to do tons of researches on the new waves of architctures, green-design and biomimicry architecture. I wanted the buildings to look non-human and linked to nature, not only for palaces and mansions, but for control rooms and tools too, everything had to be merged with natural elements.

 Talking about Magneto, let’s talk about chara-design: how much freedom did you and R.B. Silva have in recreating the look of some characters?
None. Really, none. Jonathan has a very clear idea of what he wants: the best version of every character, so we browsed all of the costumes to find which one was the best and then, if it was necessary, add some slight  alteration. I think there’s a point in doing this and by the way I’m happy because I didn’t have to redesign dozens of new suits!

to me my x menAll along the six issues of House of X there’s plenty of iconic scenes. Since in Italy we could only read issue 1 I’ll avoid any kind of spoiler, considering the first appereance of the “new” Xavier and his iconic “To me, my ”…
… Which is probably the worst panel of the entire series. I’ve redone it many times and I’m still not satisfied with it, with the figures in bottom… Believe me, I hate this panel. But in every issue I draw, I always have a crisis on the third page I’m doing, a kind of crashdown. If I’m capable to overcome this crisis, then the issue’s gonna look good, if I don’t… Well, then everything I do’ll be crap!

At this point I want to know which panel left you completely fulfilled!
Page 8 with Magneto, no doubt about it! I enjoyed the very first panel with the tree, because I tought of the readers and their reaction, but the very first time I could draw Magneto was awesome. I’m a X-nerd, I can’t help it!

Magneto is a recurring character in this interview: you’ve sketched him several times, we talked about his costume, about Marlon Brando as a source of inspiration… Besides an X-Nerd, are you a fan of Erik Lehnsherr too?
He’s super important and he has a main role in the series. I don’t have his ideas, of course, but he has a point. Maybe he doesn’t do things the way you’d want, but he definitely have a point, you can relate to him. When the villain is obviously evil he immediately lose grip to the audience and both in Spain and in Italy we’ve politician for that. But let’s talk about funny things, let’s talk about comics!

gods

We have arrived at the end of the interview, unfortunately, there’s only one question left. House of X must have been a fulfilling job but a demanding one too, maybe you won’t answer but I have to ask: is there a new X-Men related project in your future? Or will you leave for other shores?
Ok, since this is the last question I’m telling you I din’t lie a single time during this interview because I had a lot fun. But you’re right, I cannot answer beacuse there could be Rickey Purding listening. He’s officially a talent scout, but secretly he’s a hitman and we could both be in danger. Indeed, you’re in danger, I believe that in Marvel they still need me!

Then I can only thank you for the time you’ve spent with us, we look forward to your next projects!
Thanks to you, I repeat, I really enjoyed this interview!

Live interview from Lucca Comics & Games 2019.

Pepe Larraz

Pepe Larraz (born January 23, 1981) is a Spanish comic book artist, illustrator for press and advertising, and character designer. As of 20140, Larraz has been working in Marvel Comics for four years, in titles that include The Mighty Thor, Wolverine and the X-Men, and Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man. Larraz was the main penciler for Marvel’s comic series Star Wars: Kanan, written by Greg Weisman. He has also provided a variant cover to the first issues of the Vader Down crossover event, the Poe Dameron series, and the Han Solo miniseries, as well as to Star Wars Special: C-3PO 1.

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