Leinil Yu Interview

Marvel artist sits down with us to talk comics

10 September, 2012 by

Marvel artist Leinil Yu was one of the superstar guests for this year’s STGCC. The Filipino-based artist has many works under his belt, with his most recent being the Indestructible Hulk. We sat down with Leinil for a group interview, as he talked about working with people all over the world, the Indestructible Hulk and the Internet.

In the Philippines, there are a lot of fans. I’m sure they want to know what you’re working on right now, any new projects?

Most of my attention is devoted to Indestructible Hulk for Marvel NOW!, it’s a relaunch of a lot of Marvel books. One of them is my book, it’s written by Mark Waid. It’s coming out 2 months from now, I’m really looking forward to it. It’s gonna be great, I just finished the first issue.

Are you an anime fan?

I was a fan of anime back when it wasn’t called anime yet, I was watching Voltes 5, Mazinger Z, all the old Japanese cartoons, I don’t think it was referred to as anime before. Even the later ones, like Dragonball. But as a hardcore fan, I’m not. but I really appreciate it.

Is there any hint of inspiration from them [anime] when you do artwork?

Huge, a lot. I love Katsuhiro Ohtomo, I love doing speedlines. Recently I’ve been looking at Naruto. Because it’s just a really fun book to look at, and I love all the artwork. I’m looking at the manga, actually.

If you were talking to an absolute newbie, which Avengers books or affiliated titles would you recommend for someone who’s looking to really get into the fandom?

It’s been a while, but The Ultimates is really good, by Mark Millar. You can always also start with Civil War, of course I did Secret Invasion. Those are crossover books but they’re also self-contained stories, so they’re great jumping-off points for new fans. Then they would expand their reading by picking up the peripheral books. But I would say the crossover books are good. There are too many to mention.

Leinil Yu

Speaking about experiences working with people around the world.

Any message that you want to share with those budding artists who want to make it to where you are?

In a way, it’s easier than ever, because of social media and the Internet. There’s no way your art won’t be discovered if it’s good. At the same time you’re also competing with everyone else in the world, so that makes it harder.

The good thing is though, if you have the talent, the proper style that’s fit with Marvel books, you’ll eventually be discovered. Especially now that Marvel is actively looking for new talent, with C.B. Cebulski. Just keep drawing and people will eventually see your work.

From your past experiences working with other artists, what was it like, and were there any challenges that you faced?

It’s very rare that I’m challenged, or that I meet any hardship. The internet allows me to work with everyone in the world and these people I work with, I’m lucky to have. They’re very professional, and it’s very rare that I encounter someone who’s unreliable.

Everything just smooth; I’ve been working for 15 years now, and everyone’s just nice.That’s what it takes to work for Marvel and DC, because by the time you get to work with them, you’ve proven yourself. When you work together, everything’s good.

Leinil kopic marker

“I’m using a Kopic marker for this”

What do you do to make yourself stand out?

It’s really hard to answer, because I think I’m just doing my own thing, and it just so happens that people seem to like my work. You can’t control your style; you can’t control what you like, your taste is your taste. You can change your style, but it’s still your style. You can incorporate this anime aspect, but you still like it, that’s why you put it in.

I think the most important advice would be to really meet the deadlines and really make sure that you’re reliable. If you do that, they won’t be able to do away with you, they’ll definitely need you. And learn, keep adding new stuff to your style, and keep taking the good stuff from others, and fusing them with yours.

You did a Guiness Book World Record attempt last year, how was the experience? We know of the logistics, but how was it for you, personally?

It wasn’t that hard for me, because I only did the cover. Mark wrote the whole thing, different artists were there, including some of my favourites. Duncan Fegrado, Sean Phillips was there, Frank Quitely was there. I just did a cover for less than an hour. It wasn’t that complex; it didn’t have backgrounds and stuff.

It was [not a lot of stress] for me, but for the others, “Oh what am I doing here”. The Guiness people were really nice, and they were there to help us out. I feel more sorry for the designer, because he had to put everything together. So I think there was more stress on their part.

Did the Internet revolutionize your workflow, working on comics?

When I started out, we had to use Fed-Ex and faxes. All my references came in fax, and you know how fax machines are. It’s not clear sometimes, the scripts are being faxed, the printing’s bad sometimes. We have to rush, because the cut-off date for Fed-Ex is around lunchtime on Thursday.

So you really have to rush your work just to meet that deadline. Very stressful. But now you just email one page at your leisure. The Internet’s just amazing, it helped in so many ways.

Do you see any shortcomings of it?

No, absolutely not. Well, piracy *laughs*. I think there are more pluses than minuses. It’s a double-edged sword.

Live Sketch

Talking about the completed live sketch, as Andy Diggle looks on.

You worked on the Civil War series. Could you go a little bit into the ideological differences between the two sides in Civil War?

There were two groups. One where Tony Stark wanted every superhero to be unmasked, and be registered with the government. No superhero would be anonymous, they would have to be under someone’s control; a lot of the heroes didn’t like that. It also had some relevance in real life too.

If superheroes were real, would you really want them running around with masks, and be anonymous? Or would you rather have them being catalogued by the government?

It’s just really weird, in the comic books I’m for Captain America and the rest, who didn’t want to be on the list. But in real-life, I would want them to be [unmasked]. It was a great event, great comic book.

The comic book market is predominantly male, and of course there are girls who read comics. What would you say to a girl to get her into comics?

My wife reads a lot of manga. It’s the storylines. My example would be the WWE. It’s not really that girls aren’t allowed, they’re just not as interested as most men. I think maybe superheroes are not as interesting to the majority of women than other genres. If they want to enjoy comics, it’s easy to recommend Sandman, which is popular with girls.

I’m just not sure about superheroes. I don’t think it marginalizes girls, maybe it just doesn’t work for [female readers]. Maybe the appeal isn’t there – it’s guys running around in masks. Like Modern Warfare – of course there are some girls who play it – it really doesn’t do anything for my wife. Maybe it’s just the genre that’s more appealing. I’d recommend manga, really.

Do you have any personal projects on the side?

I really don’t have time. I do some paintings on Facebook, just for fun. But it’s really just an exercise, or just to procrastinate. Really, just to practice. But all my time’s devoted to Marvel comics, to making comics. I might do some artwork for a videogame, but it’s still illustration. I don’t think I’ll be drawing for myself that much.

Leinil Yu completed sketch

The completed sketch, with tagline by Andy Diggle.

If you had time, would you do anything?

I have a story I want to tell, I have my own story that I would love to publish myself. But the temptation to do monthly comics for mainstream comics is just too big. And I don’t want to lose the awareness of the audience, I have to keep myself visible.

As an artist, I’m sure you sometimes run into blocks. What do you do to overcome these?

It happens a lot, actually. You just do your thing, watch a movie, play a game. Enjoy, and eventually the stress of the deadline will get to you. Take a break, and if your deadline’s really looming, just stay at your drawing table and maybe force yourself to start. “I’ll just work for 5 minutes”, and you end up working for 2 hours.

We tend to get stressed if you don’t finish something. Sometimes instead of finishing 1 page in a day, I fool myself by doing 5 layouts or doing roughs of 5 pages, just to say I accomplished something without finishing a whole page. Do different things at the same time.

You can find Leinil Yu on Facebook and on Twitter.


Writer who also doubles as the photographer during event coverage. Mus' interests in Japan lie in the language, literature, popular culture and underground rock bands. Having an academic background in Japan, Mus is also particularly interested in the study of Nihonjinron.