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Marvel: Inside the Pages of Excalibur with Aaron Lopresti
by Benjamin Ong Pang Kean
Reported: 01/04/2004
Source: Newsarama

Marvel Comics and Excalibur artist Aaron Lopresti have provided Newsarama with a preview of the new series written by veteran X-writer and upcoming Uncanny X-Men scribe Chris Claremont. Also provided are two character sketches.

In an earlier interview with Claremont, the writer revealed that the new Excalibur kicks off with Professor Xavier in the ruins of the island of Genosha to deal with ramifications of the massacre that happened during former New X-Men writer Grant Morrison’s “E is for Extinction” arc.
[Image: Excalibur16_t.jpg]“I suspect he has a far more graphic and literal sense of the consequences of failure, which in turn leaves him that much more committed to the ideals of his dream,” Claremont said. “To my eye, this is Xavier very much as an active, action hero, regardless of the fact that he’s a functional paraplegic. This is - I hope - where we get to see the reason why teenagers were willing to commit to him, and his dream, so wholeheartedly that he became, and remains, the defining thrust of their lives. What is there about him that makes him so irresistibly charismatic and admirable? But at the same time what aspect of him allows him to place children in positions of such ongoing peril? To me, these are questions that have never been addressed much less answered. This is where I’d like to start. Basically, it deals with Charley’s first days on the island, introducing the setting, certain characters, certain adversaries, stuff like that. There’s a moment with Unus the Untouchable that I really can’t wait to see.”

When we last got in touch with Lopresti, the artist had just been offered a chance to draw the series following original artist Igor Kordey’s departure from the book. And he mentioned that he was just “three pages into it” at that time. The first two issues were originally solicited for a May release, but the second issue has since been resolicited for June. “I am progressing at the slow rate of one issue a month,” Lopresti told Newsarama. “I have finished the first issue and I am currently knee deep in the second. I should have close to three issues complete when the first issue comes out. That is not a huge buffer, but its certainly workable. As long as I never get sick, I will be just fine.”

Lopresti has worked on the Rogue limited series, Uncanny X-Men and Ultimate X-Men #1/2. How different is Excalibur from the previous X-projects? “It is a little more intimidating because I am working with [Chris] Claremont who is the co-creator of the [All-New, All-Different] X-Men and the original driving force behind the franchise,” he admitted.

[Image: Excalibur20pg18_t.jpg]“Probably the hardest thing about working on Excalibur, though, is all of the design work involved. It is easy to work on someone else's characters because if they look stupid or silly it's not your fault. But when you have a hand in creating or designing things you're the one who is responsible for it. I didn't look at anything Igor did [when designing the characters]. I don't think it is the appropriate thing to do.”

The team members on the core X-titles, namely Astonishing X-Men, Uncanny X-Men, X-Men and New X-Men have sort of been confirmed on the covers shown in the recent previews. However, with Excalibur, only Professor X and Warren Warthington III aka Angel have been confirmed. Who else is in the new series?

“I'll let you know when I find out. Actually, it is a combination of new characters and some older characters that might have an interest in Genosha. Again, I am not really supposed to say. However, I will say that the new characters in the book are really cool. I think it can be really hit and miss with creating new characters, especially [the] X-Men. A lot of times characters are repetitive or just plain stupid but I really believe that some of the new characters in Excalibur can have staying power. What Chris, Mike [Marts], and I are trying to do is create iconic characters like the original "new X-Men". In other words, characters that not only are interesting people but also have unique looks to them. There is no mistaking Storm or Nightcrawler or Wolverine no matter what they are wearing. That is the type of sensibility we are trying to bring to our "new mutants" in this series.

As for who’s on the cover that accompanied the solicitations for the June issue of Excalibur, Lopresti said: “I believe you are referring to the cover to issue #3. I don't believe there is a cover for #2 yet. (As odd as that may seem) If you are speaking of the girl that is part human and part robotic, that is Karima. They tell me she is a juiced up mutant killer. I will say that there are a few - well at least one - surprises in this book that will make it a must read for all X–fans.”

Other images:
Reported 22/04/2004
Source The Pulse
BY Jennifer M. Contino

[Image: 1exc1_th.jpg]After doing some fill in issues on Captain Marvel, it didn't take long for Aaron Lopresti to land a regular penciling gig on a top notch Marvel project. He's the artist of the May launching Excalibur series written by Chris Claremont. We got a few comments and a few pieces of art from the first issue.

THE PULSE: Before you got offered Excalibur, what was on your artistic plate and did you have to do some quick juggling or turning down of projects to take the monthly reigns on Excalibur?
AARON LOPRESTI: I was originally scheduled to draw six issues of Captain Marvel. I finished four of those when Marvel decided to move me over to Excalibur., It is a shame too, since Doctor Doom appears in the last two issues I was supposed to draw! I was finished with my commitment at CrossGen a few days before I finished my last issue of Captain Marvel, so there was no conflict there.

THE PULSE: How did you feel when you learned another artist had one and a half issues done for the series and was being fired?
LOPRESTI: I do feel bad for Igor, But I didn't know anything about his situation until after I took the job. It is a bit awkward coming into a series that was originally developed by someone else, but Mike Marts and Chris Claremont have been great about welcoming me aboard.

THE PULSE: Have you ever been in a situation like that before - where you were working on something, thought you had the assignment in the bag, then were fired from it?
LOPRESTI: I have had so many bad things happen to me throughout my career it is ridiculous. It is easy to get angry and hold a grudge, but in my case if I did that there wouldn't be anyone left to work for. Ultimately, I look back and realize that the reason I got "screwed" out of jobs was because I wasn't as good as I thought at the time and really didn't deserve the jobs anyway. You have to understand that this is a commercial industry and if the fans or editors don't like your style you need to either adapt or you'll be gone. It's not nice or particularly fair all the time, but that's simply how it is. It was those unfortunate situations that made me work harder to be better so I could avoid those pitfalls in the future.

THE PULSE: How long did you think before saying "yes" to drawing Excalibur?
LOPRESTI: Um...5 seconds.

THE PULSE: What were some of the things - besides the security of a steady monthly - that influenced your decision to say yes?
LOPRESTI: This is easily the highest profile project I have ever worked on. It is the X-men, it's Chris Claremont and I like Mike Marts. I do feel bad about not finishing Captain Marvel because working with Peter David and Andy Schmidt was a real pleasure. But it's not like I was leaving the book to do a DC project, so hopefully they will forgive me.

THE PULSE: How does it feel to be relaunching a title like this and working with someone who helped build the Marvel X house, Chris Claremont?
LOPRESTI: Talk about exciting! I feel like I am involved in something important (in comic book terms) and lasting.

THE PULSE: You've been working in comics for over ten years. What do you consider some of your art highs?
LOPRESTI: SLUDGE(Malibu) because it was my first real break and the first competent artwork I did. Being named to WIZARD'S "Eight to the Fore" list along with the likes of - J. Scott Campbell, Travis Charest, Mike Weiringo, Rags Morales, Doug Mahnke, Mike Parobeck, and Darryl Banks. That's pretty good company! GEN 13 BOOTLEG #11,12 because even though my art has changed since then I still think it looks really nice. DEADPOOL #-1 because Marvel made the cover into a T-shirt! Ultimate X-men #1/2 because my style was finally becoming what I wanted it to be (and great inking by Danny Miki) MYSTIC, because I got great inking and coloring (and writing) and it rejuvenated my career. It is easily the best art I have ever done in comics. I am really happy with the Captain Marvel work, especially the last three issues!

THE PULSE: What are some of the lows?
LOPRESTI: Uh...everything else. Takion was a big disappointment. I got singularly blamed for the failure of that book and it nearly destroyed my career.

THE PULSE: How do you think a project like Excalibur is really going to put you in the spotlight and open up your work to a whole new audience?
LOPRESTI: Just more readership. More people are interested in the X-men than any other character(s). The associating with Chris Claremont isn't going to hurt either!

THE PULSE: How was working at CrossGen different than working as a freelancer?
LOPRESTI: The convenience of having your entire creative team under one roof. Problems were easily resolved and it created a great environment for doing your best work. As a freelancer you have more control over your professional life but less control over the finished product.

THE PULSE: How tough was it to be back out on your own as a freelancer after doing the 9 - 6 for a while?
LOPRESTI: It is easy, I am very self-motivated so I don't need someone cracking a whip over me. Plus, I was freelancing my Captain Marvel work while working at Crossgen for five months. Talk about a grind!

THE PULSE: What's your work schedule like now? Are you still working in the 9 - 6 timeline or do you find yourself feeling more creative at different hours now?
LOPRESTI: It doesn't change. Whenever I have a fee moment, I am working on some project. I will work 9-5 and then in the evening after everyone is in bed.

THE PULSE: What's it like working with people who aren't in house anymore? How much do you communicate with Chris Claremont?
LOPRESTI: Instant communication is a thing of the past. Problem solving will require more work I'm sure. So far Chris has been terrific!

THE PULSE: When problems arise or plot points are confusing, how long does it take to get things like that resolved?
LOPRESTI: Things have gone pretty fast so far. I usually get responses the same day. It still isn't as convenient as walking down the hall and talking to someone.

THE PULSE: How is working with Chris different than the other writers you've worked with in the past?
LOPRESTI: He is a lot like Tony Bedard in that he seems very excited about the project and makes the time and effort to open communication lines.

THE PULSE: How is this version of Excalibur going to be different than the previous incarnations?
LOPRESTI: I think it will mostly be new characters rather than combining a bunch of existing ones. In a lot of ways I think it will be a lot like the original X-men in the sense that Professor X will gather some mutant teens together and form a new team.

THE PULSE: How much of the designs are you doing for this? Were elements already in place or did you get a Tabla Rasa and get to just cut loose?
LOPRESTI: As far as I know, I will be responsible for designing and/or redesigning everything. Talk about pressure!

THE PULSE: When you hear Excalibur what were your thoughts artistically? How did you want it to look?
LOPRESTI: My first thought was, "Yes! Captain Britain!" Of course, he's not in it, oh well. I think I am going for a more traditional X-men superhero look as opposed to the more recent "vertigo" X-men look. I assume that is why Marvel wanted me on the book.

THE PULSE: When people are looking at the pages, what feelings are you trying to evoke as an artist?
LOPRESTI: "Wow, that's cool!" What else is there in comics? The last thing I want readers to say is, "so what?"

THE PULSE: How is Claremont writing - full script or plots? Which do you prefer?
LOPRESTI: The first issue is full script, that is all I have seen so far. I treat both methods like a work in progress. I will do what I need to do to make the story work the best.

THE PULSE: How do you just start to draw? When you have the script, how do you go from here's a blank page to here's the fully detailed/realized pencilled version?
LOPRESTI: I try and figure the page out in my head first. Then I draw a quick rough to make sure the story telling works. Then I move and change stuff until I think the page is as interesting and dynamic as possible( or as time allows) and then I start drawing and hope for the best!

THE PULSE: A lot of people have drawn Professor Xavier before. How did you approach the character? What do you think makes him act/feel the way he does?
LOPRESTI: I am going with the Patrick Stewart look. I mean the guy is perfect. As a character he is very complex. He has great power but has a moral code about using it. He cares more deeply for others than he does himself. He understands his physical limitations but has overcome them which makes him incredibly noble.

THE PULSE: What's the first arc about?
LOPRESTI: Redemption, Rebirth, and a couple of huge suprises!

[Image: 1exc3_th.jpg]THE PULSE: What have been some of the intimidation factors to working on Excalibur?
LOPRESTI: I think there is a lot expected of me. But I always expect a lot from myself. Designing everything is also a lot of pressure.

THE PULSE: What does it mean to you to be a part of the X-Men Reload event?
LOPRESTI: Everything! This is the biggest job of my career. Everyone is waiting to see what I can bring to the book.

THE PULSE: When you're working with all these recognizable characters, how tough is it to make them appear like everyone expects, but to also have a piece of yourself in the art and distinctions that make it unique while still staying "in character?"
LOPRESTI: You stay true to body types and character but interject your own drawing style over that.

THE PULSE: What's your work environment like?
LOPRESTI: Other than my two screaming kids its quiet and conducive to creating great comics. I have an upstairs studio in my home in Florida. Two drafting tables, a light table, a computer and a huge valuable comic collection. I other words, I need more space!

THE PULSE: A lot of creators seem to be moving into the digital age. What - if any - digital tools do you use to create your comics?
LOPRESTI: I am old fashioned. I do use my computer to move panels around during my layout stage of drawing a page.

THE PULSE: How far ahead would you like to be on this series when issue one comes out?
LOPRESTI: Three to four issues but I will only be two. Arrgggghhhhh!

THE PULSE: Who's working with you on Excalibur?
LOPRESTI: Greg Adams will be the inker and I have no idea who is coloring.

THE PULSE: What do you find the most invigorating about working on this project?
LOPRESTI: It is a new series with the biggest publisher in the industry and it is part of the biggest franchise in comics! Not to mention a somewhat legendary writer!

THE PULSE: How did you develop your storytelling technique - what are you doing different for this series?
LOPRESTI: Neal Adams and Steranko are a big influence on my story telling. I suppose you could throw in some Eisner as well. And lets not forget to always include some Jim Lee cool factor! I work really hard in not being predictable. Sometimes I am successful, and sometimes...

THE PULSE: Who or what are some of your current art influences?
LOPRESTI: Frazetta, Neal Adams, Travis Charest (my "eight to the fore" buddy), Jim Lee, Silvestri, Adam Hughes(perhaps the best draftsman in the business), Michael Golden, and I will probably be looking at some Shirow as well. I am also a big fan of Leyendecker, Bama, Stout, among many many others.

THE PULSE: What keeps you wanting to work in comics when there are so many ups and downs? Have you ever thought about getting out and just finding a non-comics 9 - 5 job?
LOPRESTI: I think often of getting out of comics, But I want to leave on my terms and that is why I continue to tough it out. I could never get a real job but I am stretching out into other areas. I am currently writing and painting a book on monsters for Watson-Gupthill publishing. Hopefully, more of that will come my way.

THE PULSE: What conventions are you planning on attending this year?
LOPRESTI: Heroes Con, Motor City Con, and San Diego where I will be sharing a booth with the red hot Terry Dodson!

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Great, so basically what this guy is saying is that he's going to tarnish the name of Excalibur in Grant Morrison "ala New X-Men" fashion.

I'll pass... *sigh*

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