Art & Design

‘Star Wars’ artist Leinil Yu on drawing Darth Vader, working with Kieron Gillen, and who shot first


When you acquire head illustrating duties for a universally beloved — not to mention huge — franchise, logic dictates that you’ve really set the bar high for the rest of your career. But Filipino artist Leinil Yu doesn’t seem think about it too much.

“Sorry for the late answers,” Leinil Yu tells me in an email. I type in a short reply, that it’s okay and that I understand: the holidays — and the work he has, I presumed — were pretty crazy, after all.

Leinil Yu, 38, for the benefit of the uninitiated, is the newest artist to take over comicbook juggernaut Marvel Comics’ main Star Wars comicbook line — a huge leap for someone whose first professional work, Aster: The Last Celestial Knight, fell through after 3 issues.

But gambles and leaps have always been his thing, as any serious fan might note. After all, Yu was the guy who took his chances on Wizard’s Drawing Board Contest and won, catching the eye of no less than veteran comicbook artist Whilce Portacio, who, after hiring him to do some work for Wildstorm, passed on samples of Yu’s work to Marvel Comics, who then subsequently hired him to work on its premier Wolverine title.

Yu then went on to pencil Marvel’s New X-Men title in 2000, which was being written by Grant Morrison at the time, before continuing on to work on other Marvel titles such as The Fantastic Four, Ultimate Wolverine vs. Hulk and New Avengers, as well as Superman: Birthright with Mark Waid andSilent Dragon with Andy Diggle at DC Comics.

Leinil Yu signs copies of “Star Wars: Darth Vader Annual No. 1” for fans at Greenhills Promenade. | PHOTO via FILBAR’S

GIST got to chat with the superstar artist after the Philippine launch of Star Wars: Darth Vader Annual No. 1 — written by noted British writer Kieron Gillen no less — at the Greenhills Promenade, and as what we’ve learned, he really is quite strong in The Force.

GIST: Congratulations on landing the main artist role on Darth Vader Annual! When did you learn that you were going to be handling the issue?

Leinil Yu: Comics are usually planned months before it’s released and I think I learned about it about 5 to 6 months ago. Marvel is an organized, well-oiled machine and things are set in motion many months before the release date.

What do you think are the main challenges you encountered while drawing this very iconic character?

As with new characters, I had to learn how to draw him, something that’s significantly more difficult decades ago. Nowadays, we have toys and statues that can be used to achieve accurate shots that have never been seen before by readers especially since usually, for accuracy, artists would have to rely on using stills from the movies.

Aside from Darth Vader, who among the other major Star Wars characters would you like to illustrate and why?

The main cast: Luke, Leia, Han, Chewie, C3PO and R2D2. No reason apart from being the driving force of the stories.

Darth Vader, in the comics, never removes his mask. How challenging was it to convey emotions and moods on a seemingly static object?

I think one of the strongest aspects of his menacing look is his stoic, apathetic and robotic look. He’s not supposed to express emotion. I can pump up the level of menace by lighting decisions and angles. The Mask itself should remain sinister and indifferent.

What is your favorite part in the creation of this issue?

I just enjoy drawing Vader for 30 pages, a character I’ve been familiar with for decades as a fan.

What was it like, working with Kieron Gillen?

I certainly loved the script and the cool stuff in it. Generally, apart from a few emails, I mostly interact with our editors.

If you could collaborate with another artist and writer for any comicbook series, who would it be?

I think I’ve worked with a lot of awesome writers and It’s hard to pick favorites. Too many to mention but it also has to be a project that I find exciting.

You’re also going to take over as the main artist for the Star Wars comicbooks. Can you give us hints on what we should look forward to in the series?

More stories featuring the main lead characters of Star Wars, in canon. Jason Aaron has some cool stuff in store for readers and I’m really excited about how the art is turning out so far.

What’s the proudest moment of your career so far?

I’ve been put on Marvel’s best books throughout my career so it’s hard to choose. Maybe Secret Invasion if I had to pick one mainly because it’s a major crossover with me at the helm of the art chores.

A lot of artists have taken the jump and actually started writing stories of their own. Will we see you do the same sometime in the future?

Plans, but the determination is not there yet. I really just enjoy illustrating in itself. Also, I could spread myself too thin. I have some story ideas but I probably would collaborate with a writer to flesh it out and breathe more life into it. I do have lots of extra-curricular activities that it’s unrealistic at this time. Maybe in the future.

Last question, since you’re a lot more familiar with the Star Wars mythology compared to the rest of us, who shot first? Han or Greedo?

Han, of course. ☺

Special thanks to Jerald Uy

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