The Mary Sue Interview: Captain Marvel Artist David Lopez On Kelly Sue, Carol, And Comics
Captain Marvel is one of the best female-led comics on the market – and not just because of Kelly Sue DeConnick’s fantastic writing. Carol Danvers is brought to life by David Lopez, an incredibly experienced comic artist who draws the Avenger respectfully and imbues her with great strength. We sat down with Lopez to talk about his history in the industry and his time on Captain Marvel.
jman (TMS): You were born and raised in Spain. When did you get involved with drawing and art? Are you classically trained or self-taught?
David Lopez: I’ve always been drawing, since I was a little kid, but all kids draw a lot. The point is that there are some of us who never quit, I’m one of those. The point is that at a certain time, don’t know, when I was eleven or so, I decided consciously to keep on doing it and take it a bit more seriously.
It wasn’t until I was fourteen that I found out that there were people whose only work was drawing and chose it as a professional career. I went to art school and began doing my own comics, first photocopies, later fanzines, and all of a sudden I was a professional comic book artist!
TMS: How did you get your start in comics? Not living stateside, do you think it was any more difficult for you to break into comics than someone living in New York?
Lopez: My first paid work came out with an amazing underground publisher here in Spain – La Cúpula, the spanish editors of Daniel Clowes, the Hernández bros, those guys. With that, I made myself a name in Spain, but [the] Spanish market is quite small; I had to choose between the French market or the American one if I wanted to make a living out of comics. I chose [the] American one because I read more superhero stuff, and I’m a quite productive artist; in France you work in a 48 page album for one year, [whereas] in the US you work on a 200 page basis. I chose the guys with capes.
I had the great fortune of beginning working when the Internet began to have reasonable bandwidths (year 2000, I’m an elder!) so I could communicate with my editors the same as if I was in… [I] don’t know, Cleveland or Tulsa. The point is that if you’re a NYC-based artist you can go to visit the offices to talk to people every once in a while, but most of the communication is via email.
TMS:Before getting hired by DC, you drew AND scripted a few different Spanish comics. Did you write those books out of necessity, or do you enjoy writing as well as being an artist?
Lopez: Yes, I do love writing comics – in fact, I still write some. The point with this is that I’m good enough an artist for the American market, but not as good as a writer. I have to improve my writing [and] maybe one day I will pitch something, who knows. Lately we’ve seen artists writing comics at DC and Marvel – Dave Gibbons, Francis Manapul, Cameron Stewart, Becky Cloonan just to say a few. They are AMAZING artists and they’re doing great as writers.
TMS: While at DC, you co-created Fallen Angel with Peter David. How did you get involved with that project? It’s been rumored over the years that David took some of the ideas he wanted to use on Supergirl and incorporated them into Fallen Angel. Is there any truth to that?
Lopez: I got involved in that mostly because I was lucky enough to had been working in a project that got cancelled before it started, and because Lysa Hawkins saw something I didn’t know that was there. She offered me [the opportunity] to work with Peter David and I said yes; I’m a huge fan of his style, I like his writing and his public personality, [and] he’s never afraid of a fight – that’s something I admire. Well, I didn’t know too much [of] what he wanted, I expected something with a lighter tone, something like his Young Justice, but it was something totally different to what he had done before. It was dark and gritty and my natural style was the absolute opposite to that, so I had to learn a lot. I would like to thank Jesús Saiz who was an amazing teacher on the tricks of illumination and terror.
TMS: DC cancelled Fallen Angel after 20 issues or so, but then upstart IDW picked up the book. While the book was being published at IDW, you only provided the covers. Any particular reason for not doing the interiors?
Lopez: Mostly money. IDW didn’t pay [anything] near what DC did, and after twenty issues I was feeling like doing other stuff. Catwoman came in a few months after. I loved working on Catwoman. I love what we did there.
TMS: Over the course of your career so far, you’ve worked for a number of publishers; DC and Marvel to name a few. Are there any differences in the creative/publishing processes between comic book companies?
Lopez: They’re basically the same; in fact, most of the people have worked at both big companies. so the dynamics are the same. I have no complaints at all. The people working at those companies are very professional and serious, never had a problem.
TMS: You’ve been penciling for Marvel on miscellaneous books and runs for the last 6 years or so. How did you get involved with Captain Marvel?
Lopez: It was because very professional people told me that I had to do it. Jeanine Schaeffer told me that I had to do it, Sana Amanat told me that I had to do it and Stephen Wacker told me that I had to do it. Those are people very talented, people that know what they do, so I could only say yes. I had heard a lot of buzz about Kelly Sue’s last run on the book, so I read it and loved it – I loved Emma Ríos’ part particularly. And then I met Kelly Sue and it was all perfect. I came in and can only say thank you to those who gave me the good counseling.
TMS: How does the process work for you and writer Kelly Sue DeConnick on Captain Marvel? Does she send you a tight, detailed script? Or are you open to pencil the script as you feel?
Lopez: Oh, poor Kelly Sue… she’s suffering a lot because of me! She told me that I could change stuff my way and I began doing so; she writes the thing, sometimes tighter, sometimes looser, and then I make layouts of the whole book. I change a panel here and there, and then she has to rearrange all her work for the book to make sense again. She’s a wonderful writer to work with because she’s always supportive, she’s always open to collaboration, and she’s always pushing the book to be better. She’s [just] plain perfect.
TMS: Speaking of Captain Marvel, if it’s okay with you, I’m going to break out my fanboy hat for a few moments and say that one of my favorite panels in recent memory is at the end of Captain Marvel #1. The last panel on the second to last page, Carol Danvers is looking off into the star filled, nighttime sky thinking: “…like taking a car out into the desert to see how fast it can go…” It’s a great piece of art, something I believe we’ve all felt at one time or another about ourselves. I would’ve loved to have seen that as a splash page.
Lopez: Thank you.
This is a good moment to think about storytelling: That scene, visually, it’s nothing out of this world, it’s just the back of her head and some stars. What’s important here, and that’s the magic of comics, is that it works only in the context, the dialogues, what the characters are going through and what it means -[that’s] what makes the magic. It’s nothing you can put on a poster. The magic of comics happens between panels.
TMS: Okay. Back to serious journalism. On average, how long does it take for you to pencil a page? How long does it take for you to do a whole comic? Do you still use references? Do you draw on a table/computer, or do you still put pencil to paper? What are your tools of the trade?
Lopez: It takes one month to make a book. If I have more time it takes more time; if I have less time… yes, it takes less. I try to do my best in the time I have. I do use reference, and 3D, and everything I can to make the book look better. I started using a Cintiq when I started Captain Marvel; dude, it’s amazing, I love it. I use Manga Studio, [and] they don’t pay me to say this, but it’s the only thing tool you need to make comics, it’s got everything, it’s amazing… And for less than $50! I don’t know if I would be able to make comics on paper again.
TMS: Who would you say your influences are? Have they changed over the years? Or do you still admire/emulate the same artist/people?
Lopez: There are lots of people out there that have influenced me, let’s make a list: Alex Toth, Jaime Hewlett, Duncan Fegredo, Jason Pearson, Paul Pope, Guido Crepax, Steranko, Darwyn Cooke, Marcos Martín, Jesús Sáiz, Javi Pina, Javi Pulido, Coipel, Imonen, Françoice Bouq, Ken Niimura, Otomo, Tezuka, Katsura, Rumiko Takahashi, Moebius… Don’t know, there are SO MANY people making great stuff. I do love what Tradd Moore is doing in Ghost Rider… There are lots and lots of people doing amazing stuff , and not only in mainstream comics, there are amazing artists on Tumblr and DeviantArt whose names are unknown to the big public.
TMS: You’ve worked on a number of books, and many characters in the last 15 years. Of everything you’ve done so far, which project are you the most proud of?
Lopez: I’m very lucky to be proud of most of the work I’ve done, I’ve worked with really talented people, great writers and colorists, and inkers… all of them amazing. I’d choose Captain Marvel, because it’s what I’m working in right now and I’ve got Kelly Sue there giving her best. I love the work I did with Will Pfeiffer and Nachie Castro in Catwoman, 30 issues in a row, no fill-ins… we told a great tale there.
TMS: Are there any stories or characters that you’ve got a secret desire to work on? How about writers? Any writer(s) you’d like to team up with?
Lopez: Kelly Sue DeConnick, G. Willow Wilson, Peter David, Brian Wood, Will Pfeiffer, Jim MacCann. I had the chance to work with Gail Simone for six pages in an issue of Birds of Prey, it was great, I’d love to work with her again, Kathleen Immonen is very talented too, Dave Gibbons wrote a very interesting part in Green Lantern Corps… I’m dying to work with Milligan in something crazy weird… You know, there are lots and lots of writers out there with great stories to tell, it’s a tricky question!
As an impossible dream, I think that Aaron Sorkin would write an out of this planet Superman.
Catwoman is a character I’m very attached too, and the X-Men, all of them are cool, and Spider-Man, and Batman, yes…
At the end of the day what makes a book entertaining is the story you tell, if you work with a writer you have a good communication with, and you work in a good story, everything comes easy.
Lopez: Pencilling Captain Marvel probably keeps you pretty busy. What do you do in your spare time?
DL: Spare time? What’s that? I have a five-month-old baby girl!
jman is your delightfully random emissary to most things pop culturish. For even more stimulus to your cerebral cortex, check out yfnjman.com. Before you head on out of here, don’t forget to check out the latest episode of the Almost Internet Famous Internet show. This week we’re talking about the 90’s classic crossover, DC vs Marvel!