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Pakbuzz interview with Aaron Lopresti, penciler for “Planet Hulk: Anarchy”

A Monster Guy talks Hulk
Aaron Lopresti is penciling the “Planet Hulk” story in “Giant Size Hulk” #1 as well as the “Anarchy” arc of “Planet Hulk” (beginning with “Incredible Hulk” #96). “Incredible Hulk” writer Greg Pak interviews Lopresti about everything from what’s fun to draw to the collaborative process to Michael Golden’s advice. Also featuring two of Lopresti’s gorgeous new preview pages from “Incredible Hulk” #96 (click on the images to see the full pages).
Greg Pak: I seem to remember “Incredible Hulk” editor Mark Paniccia telling me that you were hungry to draw the Hulk. What do you find so compelling about the character?
Aaron Lopresti:
There are two ways to look at a character. One is from the writer’s stand point the other from the artist’s. My desire to draw the Hulk is purely from the artist’s standpoint. He is a big muscular monster! At heart I am a monster guy, who also loves superheroes. The Hulk is the perfect combination of those things. If I were writing the Hulk, I would say that his dual personality, his struggle with his own humanity, and his struggle to find his place in the universe would be what attracts me to the character. But since I am only drawing, I will stick with the simple visual appeal the character has for me.


GP: Which characters in “Planet Hulk” do you have the most fun drawing and why?
AL:
Tough question. The obvious answer is the Hulk! However, I am guessing you want me to pick a supporting character. Meik the bug guy is probably the most interesting to draw. Although, those four arms make life a lot more difficult 🙂 Korg is probably the easiest.
GP: I’ve been astounded by how productive you are — a page a day, every day.  How do you maintain that kind of schedule?  How many hours do you work every day?  And what are your strategies for avoiding carpal tunnel syndrome?  
AL:
When I was first trying to break into comics every editor asked me the same question, “How many pages can you draw a day?” Now the question is, “how many pages can you draw a week?” I guess I am a bit of a throw back due mainly to my commercial art training. I am pretty fast, but I also will spend as many hours as needed to per day to finish a page. I usually will spend between 6-10 hours on a page depending on what’s on it. Then I will work on other non comic projects at night after everyone is in bed 🙂
Mentally it is very draining but I have kids and bills to pay, so I don’t really have a choice. I just make myself work. I rarely work Sundays and I try and work only two Saturdays a month. That allows me to get 11 pages done every two weeks. Actually, I wouldn’t be working this much if Marvel was more lenient on their invoicing policy 🙂
My hand does hurt sometimes but I think it is also used to the work load. So overall it really hasn’t been a problem. My computer mouse causes me more pain than drawing does!
GP: What’s your favorite kind of script to receive from a writer?  For example, how much detail do you like to be given about framing and panel layout?  What kind of themes and subject matter and action and settings do you most enjoy?
AL:
With full script you have less thinking to do. With a plot it takes a lot more time to layout a page but it can be more liberating artistically. I have grown to like full script, however, because I know exactly what is being said where and it allows me to draw the correct expressions for a given scene. Usually I will go ahead and add panels or change the visual design if I think it needs to be done anyway.
GP: I’ve really enjoyed our working relationship on “Planet Hulk” with the almost daily emails exchanging notes about layouts and design and whatnot.  Do you enjoy getting feedback from writers throughout the process like this?  Does it ever get to be too much?  Am I driving you insane yet?
AL:
I don’t mind getting feedback from writers unless it is after I am done with the page 🙂 ! If the suggestions make sense and work for the betterment of the story I welcome it. When the suggestions turn into superfluous micro managing then I have a problem. Rarely has an instance occurred where you and I did not agree on a change whether you instigated it or I did. As long as it is in the best interest of the story or my art, I am all for it.
GP: Who are your heroes in the comics and film world? Any particular inspirations or influences?
AL:
When it comes to film influences, I am going to sound like everyone else. Spielberg, Hitchcock, Orsen Welles, and I have a soft spot for Frank Capra and Elia Kazan. My favorite movie of all time is “Jaws,” and the movie that got me interested in going to film school and actually pursuing film as a career was “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” What can I say? (Later, “Rear Window” and “Citizen Kane” were very influential.)
My comic art influences art many. Frazetta, Wrightson, Neal Adams, Steranko, John Severin and a little Barry Smith for good measure.
Others who have influenced me in ways other than just visible style would be: William Stout, Michael Golden, Mike Ploog, Adam Hughes, Kevin Nowlan, Travis Charest, Brian Bolland, and Dale Keown. I am sure their are others that I am forgetting.
GP: I read an interview in which you mentioned that Michael Golden’s art advice helped you break into superhero comics.  I’ve been a huge Michael Golden fan since I was a kid and I’m dying to hear what advice he gave you — can you spill the beans?
AL:
I will cut to the chase since this is a long and involved story. I was fortunately able to spend a week with Michael in the early 90’s when I was trying to break into comics. He clearly (at least to me) articulated what storytelling and dynamics in comics really meant. Ignorance has always held me back artistically. I have always felt like I had the ability to be good I have just always struggled at how to apply it.
Michael told me and showed me (literally on paper) where I was coming up short. He showed me how to exaggerate body language and expressions to get a point across more clearly. He also showed me how to really push the dynamics of a particular action of pose to get maximum effect. There is no secret formula, he just put things in a way that improved my eye, so I started seeing things that I was unaware of before. Is that vague enough?
GP: I know you went to USC for film school.  Do you find yourself more inspired visually by films or comics — or the natural world or other art forms or something else entirely?
AL:
Film school taught me how to be a better writer and storyteller and how to stage a scene in terms of visual clarity. But a lot of how I lay a page out I owe to Neal Adams and Steranko and all of the other countless artists whose work I looked at and read while growing up a
comics fan.
I do a lot of what you might consider deep focus shots in comics with a extreme close up (facing camera or the reader)in the foreground and other characters standing in the background looking at camera as well. This is pure Orson Welles influence.
 
GP: You’re a writer as well as an artist.  What’s your current dream project as a comic book writer/artist?  How about as a filmmaker?
AL:
I have a Man-Thing project I am desperately trying to get someone at Marvel to let me do even as we speak. I have a Night Nurse proposal that is about to be thrown into the mix as well 🙂 These are both projects I have been working on for a while.
I also have a horror western superhero (is that a new genre?) comic I will start working on as soon as I am finished with my Creature Book for Watson-Guptil publishing (that’s another story).
Film-wise I have a couple of half finished screenplays I would like to finish (where have you heard that before?). At one point I really wanted to direct, but now that I am married with two kids that seems quite unlikely:)
But I do have that 16mm camera sitting over there in the corner…..
GP: Where should fans go to buy your art or sketchbooks?
AL:
Go to my website — aaronlopresti.com! It is brand spanking new and fully updated. There is info on what I am working on, where I am going to be and tons of artwork. Anyone wanting to contact me about buying art getting sketches or books can also email me anytime at aaron@aaronlopresti.com. How easy is that?
GP: Pretty darn easy! Thanks, Aaron!

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