Five Questions with…
Q&A with comic greats regarding Wonder Woman

Aaron Lopresti

Gail Simone: “This one is a particular delight for me. Aaron is a little bit media shy, I think, and I haven’t seen many interviews with him.

But a more professional and talented and dedicated artist I have never worked with.

Let me set the scene. I had just gotten the writing gig for Wonder Woman, and I was incredibly excited, because I’d been a big fan of Terry Dodson’s (among many other reasons). I’ve mentioned it before, but not only do I love Terry and Rachel’s work, but by incredibly odd coincidence, we were all three born and have returned to live in the same small, tiny coastal town in Oregon. We went to the same schools, we shop at the same stores, I mean, it’s a tiny town of 8,000 and yet somehow the entire writing/pencilling/inking team all lived in a town smaller than most big city blocks contain. Weird.

It seemed like a match made in heaven, but word came down very very shortly after that that Terry had to leave the book, not because we didn’t work together well, but he had been on it for quite some time (due to delays, it wasn’t that many issues, but it was a long time for one assignment for him) and felt it was time to do other things. I had a couple replacements in mind and I was pushing hard for them, then I get this excited call from the editor, “We got Aaron Lopresti!”

And, because I was WAAAAAAAAAAAAY behind on my Marvel reading, I didn’t know who he was, I’m sorry to say. So I was still pushing for the art team I had in mind. And I looked up some Ms. Marvel art online and it WAS nice, but wasn’t the tone I was hoping for, specifically. But it was a done deal, and so we communicated a little by email, and he did some sketches and there was definitely something there.

Then I got the first page in my email box.

I wrote Dan DiDio and my editor both immediately, and was probably yelling like an idiot…THIS IS THE GUY. Never mind my pushing for ARTIST X, THIS GUY RIGHT HERE IS THE GUY.

You might remember that first page–it’s the first page of the Ends of the Earth arc, with Diana, in barbarian armor, in the snow, being hunted by wolves, with an incredible border detail of swords and dragons.

It’s hard to explain how happy this page made me. Lots of artists can draw superheroes. But here he had to recognizably draw Wonder Woman, and on the FIRST page I ask all this stuff of him, he has to draw her in a costume that REMINDS us of WW’s, but isn’t, there’s suspense, snow, tension, all this stuff that many artists simply can’t deliver.

I didn’t know Aaron at all, but I wrote him and said basically the same thing, “YOU’RE THE GUY. YOU ARE THE GUY.” 🙂 More than that, I did something I never do, which is I begged him to sell me that exact page, because it was so beautiful, but ALSO because I strongly felt it was going to be the beginning of an amazing collaboration for me, and I was right, I was right, oh, boy, was I right.

I love the way Aaron draws. He thinks about layout and design, and he draws a WW who is strong, but somehow vulnerable and human. He draws great gorillas. He draws great zombies. He draws AMAZING monsters (my son is always trying to talk me into putting more monsters in the book). I love his Hippolyta, I love his Etta, he simply draws whatever crazy thing I ask for beautifully, and I respect him to pieces.

I have so many favorite scenes he’s drawn…Wonder Woman with the heads of her enemies on pikes, Wonder Woman’s defeat of D’grth, his first page with Donna, the incredible sea monsters in Rise of the Olympian, his double page spread with the Wonder Family all in the ‘screaming chicken (and falcon, and dove) armor, just on and on.

I have two pieces of Wonder Woman art drawn by Aaron; One is an astonishing color headshot that poster Michael D’Alessio unbelievably commissioned for my birthday, and the other?

Well, it’s that page, that page in the snow with the wolves. Aaron gave it to me at our first convention together. I carried that page around with me for the rest of the day like it was the most precious thing on Earth and it now hangs in my office where I can look at it every day.

Aaron Lopresti rocks.”

1) Okay, first, I have to say, it’s a little weird because although we live in the same state, have shared convention and appearance tables, and talk almost every day a little bit by email, we still have never really sat down and had a long chat, so there’s a lot I don’t know about you. I know you have a great family, and I know you have an excess of talent, but not much else. You told me once that you knew you were going to be an artist from age two, which I find amazing.

Can you tell me what drew you to comics art, in particular?

I used to joke that I was born spinning a basketball on a pencil. I loved playing basketball almost (maybe more at some point) as much as drawing when I was young all the way through high school. I think if I had been able to choose one over the other I would have either been a much better artist or a much better basketball player. Anyway, I am a firm believer that people are born with certain talents and abilities and then it is up to us to develop them. So I would say that I was naturally drawn to art. My mother had some artistic ability (although never fully realized) and I am sure that rubbed off on me as well.

As early as pre-kindergarten I have memories of writing and drawing stories and then stapling them together to make books. I always had more interest in cartoons then I did the natural world and my drawings reflected that. I would often copy drawings of the Flintstones or Popeye or whatever I happened to be watching as a kid. I do remember the very early Marvel cartoons and really loving them but I never got into comics until I got older.

I was in 5th grade when I started buying comics regularly and from that point on that is all I drew. I loved the heroic escapist fantasy and creating new characters and worlds that I could call my own. I originally wanted to be an animator but as I got older and was exposed to Frazetta, Wrightson, Barry Windsor-Smith, Neal Adams, Steranko and all the other illustrative comic artists, I began to think that drawing like that was more of a challenge than drawing animated characters. I just felt there was more creative possibilities and opportunities in comics than in animation.

I also went through a stage where I thought comics were silly and instead pursued a film career. But that’s another story….

2) I remember you said you went to film school. Me, I’m just glad you didn’t end up playing pro basketball!

I have several of your convention sketchbooks, and there’s a wide variety of portraits, cartoon characters,monsters, babes, dinosaurs, but not a huge number of superheroes, really. And I remember you saying that you weren’t hugely familiar with Wonder Woman when you got the job. Can I ask how you ended up working on the book?

I was always a superhero fan (still am) but I always seemed to enjoy drawing monsters and barbarians and fantasy more than superheroes. A lot of that had to do with my early exposure to Frazetta, Wrightson and Windsor-Smith. To me, that type of subject matter seems less restrictive to me. That explains the content of my sketchbooks.

When I came over to DC it was to do another book. I don’t know if it is proper etiquette to say which, so I won’t. But shortly after I signed my contract, Terry Dodson left Wonder Woman and Dan Didio called me up and offered me the book. At first I wasn’t going to take it because I didn’t want to follow Terry Dodson. Not only because he is hugely popular but because Terry and I are so closely associated, I didn’t want it to look like Terry was throwing me his left-overs. But everyone I talked to (including my wife, Shelley, and Mike Marts) told I would be stupid not to take it. So after initially turning it down I called up Dan and said I would do it. After all she is one of the big three and an american icon.

3) That may be part of why we work together so well, I love all those influences, too. I’m a big fan of the barbarian/adventure strips and comics.

So, as a relative Wonder novice, how did you familiarize yourself with the cast? I remember you said you talked to Terry Dodson, the previous artist, about the character several times. And can you tell us about your artistic choices with Wonder Woman–the smaller bracelets, the inverted point on the tiara, that sort of thing?

For about the first six months on the book I was constantly calling Terry and asking him, “now who is this character and where did you draw her/him?” I think he started feigning memory loss so I would quit calling him. I mainly looked at what Terry did before me and tried to stick with his costume design. Although, I really struggled getting the eagle on her chest consistent. It seems like a stupidly easy thing, but in some ways it is like Superman’s “S”. It is not as easy as it looks!

As far as her tiara goes, I saw an Adam Hughes sketch he did of Wonder Woman and the tiara in that drawing looked like I am now drawing it. I just like the way the top of he tiara follow her hairline and it is easier to maintain the contour of her head/face with smooth top edge. The bracelets are just my interpretation of what Terry was doing. You own style or how you see things personally always gets interjected, so even though I am trying to copy what Terry did it still gets filtered through my lens.

4) Well, Terry’s wonderful, I adore his work, but you have long since made it your own, in my opinion.

One of the things I like to do when I work with a new ongoing artist is ask them what they like to draw…Terry wanted to draw Nazis and WWII stuff, which I’m still sad we didn’t really get to, and by amazing coincidence, because that was the next arc coming up, you said you liked to draw monsters and barbarians, just in time for the Ends of the Earth arc, which I thought you slayed on.

Most issues have a mix of crazy action along with some smaller human emotional scenes…do you have a preference on which you prefer to draw?

Not really. It depends on the scene. I would say I am not always the best at action sequences but am probably better at the more subtle emotional stuff. That being said, I would much rather draw a fight scene then to characters sitting in a restaurant crying about their tragic lives and relationships.

5) I think that stuff is fine in moderation, but the book IS called WONDER Woman! Finally, do you have a favorite issue and favorite page you have drawn for the book so far?

I would have to say issue #21 is my favorite. It has the big splash page of barbarian Wonder Woman and Beowulf battling the demonic hordes in the norse lodge. It also has the splash page of the megalodon (one of my favorite real life monsters) at the end. Although, issue #33 is a close second with all of the sea monsters. Although issue #32 has some really nice pure Wonder Woman pages in it, I would say that the afore mentioned barbarian Wonder Woman splash from issue #21 is my favorite page. I kept it so I must like it. ( for those nit-pickers out there, if you check Wonder Woman’s right thigh you will see that I forgot to finish her knife sheath tied to her leg. Unfortunately it got inked that way too!)

I have to say I also really like the Wonder Woman manga splash page from issue #34. That was really unusual for me to draw.

Before I go let me shamelessly plug my website, www.aaronlopresti.com where can find all sorts of art you probably haven’t seen before as well as my sketchbook and fantasty/ humor creature book (how’s that for a sub-genre?), “Fantastical Creatures Field Guide”. Thanks for having me!

Image: http://assets.gearlive.com/comics/blogimages/AaronLoprestiSD_thumb.jpg

The CBR Board link to comment on this interview is here.

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