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Marvel Comics Superstar Leinil Yu Shares His “Secret”

Hot off the heels of New Avengers, Marvel artist Leinil Yu chats with Brent Sprecher about the comic world’s newest smash mini-series: Secret Invasion!
Yu got his start in comics working for Whilce Portacio at Wildstorm. After things at Wildstorm fell through, Yu rebounded with stints on Wolverine, X-Men, Ultimate Wolverine vs. Hulk and Fantastic Four for Marvel, and Superman: Birthright for DC Comics. Yu also supplied art for and co-created Silent Dragon with Andy Diggle for Wildstorm and High Roads with Scott Lobdell for Cliffhanger, an imprint of DC Comics’ Wildstorm Productions. While a fan-favorite for several years, it has been Yu’s work on New Avengers that has earned him accolades from fans and colleagues alike, ultimately landing him the coveted Secret Invasion gig. Yu is known for his incredibly detailed, linear style, but his linework has loosened up over the years, giving his art a sense of vivacity and immediacy that is unmatched by his contemporaries. Evocative and emotional, yet bursting with kinetic energy, Yu’s style is a perfect fit for the type of dramatic action-adventure stories Bendis is famous for.

According to a recent interview, Bendis began planting the seeds for the Skrull’s Secret Invasion as far back as Avengers: Disassembled. However, the first indication that the Skrulls were involved came in a shocking reveal, pencilled by Yu, showing Daredevil’s former paramour, Elektra, to be a Skrull. The image supplied by Yu haunted fans and electrified debate over which Marvel characters were Skrulls and just how deep the conspiracy goes.

BRENT SPRECHER: Hello, Leinil. Let me start off by saying that I am an enormous fan of your art. There's nothing on the stands quite like your work on New Avengers.

LEINIL YU: Thank you!

BRENT SPRECHER: Your style has loosened up considerably over the past couple years. Your current work almost appears unfinished, giving it a very dynamic quality. I can see the influence of Travis Charest—another of my favorite artists—in your work, but what other artists influenced you growing up and who are your inspirations today?

LEINIL YU: I started out as a Whilce Portacio clone, a poor one at that. I've also incorporated a bit of (Todd) McFarlane and Jim Lee and there was a time I tried desperately hard to copy Adam Hughes with some Kevin Knowlan. Travis (Charest) is obviously a genius and is just mind-blowing. Although I've failed to copy them, I was lucky enough to have selected those masters and (they have) shaped me into what I am today. I guess having the right kind of influences is important.

I have to also stress the fact that I got John Buscema and Stan Lee's How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way when I was 11 so John is definitely one of the most influential, though I have (forgotten to) credit him in my past interviews since his influence became so subliminal.

BRENT SPRECHER: The revelation that Elektra was a Skrull took me completely by surprise. It immediately became apparent to the readers—as it did to the members of the New Avengers—that anyone could be a Skrull. At what point were you made aware of the Skrull invasion and did it affect the way you drew certain characters? For instance, did you change the way you drew Elektra when you learned she was a Skrull?

LEINIL YU: Um, this is embarrassing…I didn't know she was a Skrull until reading the plot of that very issue! I've been aware of others who are Skrulls and have kept my mouth shut, but Elektra was a surprise to me. If I chatted with Brian (Michael Bendis) more often then I wouldn't be so clueless!

BRENT SPRECHER: Your edgy, kinetic style has become as much a trademark of New Avengers as Bendis' writing. A collective groan was heard across fandom when it was announced that you would be leaving the title. Your next project, Secret Invasion, looks to be like a huge hit. Did you pursue the project or was it assigned to you?

LEINIL YU: I absolutely did not pursue it; it fell into my lap. I was extremely flattered, of course, and I think it's mainly because of my relatively faster pace, which made them happy. Speed is quite important to them and I guess I'm one of the faster artists…and I believe a lot of folks like my style pretty well, too. One thing I realized (along the way) is that there is absolutely no need to kiss ass and be overly friendly in comics, especially at Marvel. Just do the best job you can do and do it on time and you'll get rewarded for it. It's a great industry and (Marvel) is a great company to work for.

BRENT SPRECHER: From the title, it appears as if the paranoia over Elektra being a Skrull was justified. Bendis has indicated that hints about the Skrulls' influence go as far back as New Avengers #1. What are you allowed to tell us about Secret Invasion?

LEINIL YU: Not much, but what I know is that crossover events are planned waaaaay ahead of time. If I'm not mistaken, some are even conceived 2-3 years prior to publication. Bendis already planted his clues everywhere.

BRENT SPRECHER: What's next for you after Secret Invasion?

LEINIL YU: That's too far away to see for now. I'm guessing I need to finish Ultimate Wolverine vs. Hulk. My contract with Marvel will end just in time to finish Secret Invasion, so I really have no idea.

BRENT SPRECHER: Do you have any dream projects? Are there any writers you are dying to work with or characters you would like to illustrate?

LEINIL YU: The problem with breaking into comics and jumping straight into Wolverine, the fourth-highest selling book at the time, is answering this question. It's like being asked what other car you'd want to drive after getting off a Ferrari. This seems to be narrow-minded, but I seriously am happy with what I've been doing the past few years and without hesitation, working with Brian Bendis on Marvel's biggest books is more than what I could've imagined a few years ago.

But, I'm just 30 and I know I'll feel the need to do my own stories, do more concept art for movies and games and other illustrations.... There's so much stuff I can do but it doesn't make comics any less important to me. In a perfect world, I'd like to direct a movie.... and also win the lottery!

BRENT SPRECHER: You're on top of the comic world right now. Your DeviantArt page shows you practicing purely digital art quite a bit. Is that the direction your art is taking?

LEINIL YU: Not really a new direction, it's a different medium, but it's still basically the same thing. I'm amazed at speed painters and how they can produce photo-realistic results with just sketchy lines and fuzzy impressions. I'd love to do more concept art since it's fun to do and flexes my imagination.

Would I do a completely digital comic? Maybe! Not anytime soon.... maybe on the side.

BRENT SPRECHER: Does animation hold any appeal for you?

LEINIL YU: Of course! Though I wouldn't want to be involved in the animation itself but more into the designs and I guess key shots.

BRENT SPRECHER: Is there anything else you are working on that you would like to mention?

LEINIL YU: Everything outside comics requires some sort of secrecy, so, no. SECRET INVASION is THE EVENT to watch out for in 2008. It's insane!

BRENT SPRECHER: Leinil, thank you so much for taking the time to answer our questions.

LEINIL YU: Thank you!

New Avengers #37, Leinil Yu’s final issue on the series, hits comic shops December 12, 2007. The first issue of the eight-part Secret Invasion mini-series will be a whopping 38 pages and will be dropping sometime in April. Check it out!

To purchase ORIGINAL ART by Leinil Yu, click HERE!

For cool unpublished sketches by Leinil and to read his journal, click HERE to go to his DeviantArt page!

For more of Leinil’s Marvel work click HERE!

Click HERE for my review of Leinil’s work in NEW AVENGERS #31!

Click HERE for my review of Leinil’s work in NEW AVENGERS #34!
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Brent Sprecher
Earth's Mightiest

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