Gonna Party Like It's Yer Birfright (Part 4): Leinil Yu talks 'Birthright'

Mon, August 18th, 2003 at 12:00am PDT

Comic Books
Arune Singh, Staff Writer

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"Superman: Birthright" #5
Waid. Alanguilan. McCaig. Superman. Need we say any more?

Well, maybe Leinil Yu.

CBR News wraps up its look at DC Comics' twelve issue maxi-series event of the year, "Superman: Birthright," with a spotlight on it's popular artist, Leinil Yu, who's no stranger to big name heroes and to acclaim. "Birthright," which is meant to be a modern day re-telling of the Superman mythos and the first comprehensive introduction to the Superman world, has attracted a lot of attention lately and Yu explains why he had to be involved with this project.

"No comic book artist would be complete without Superman," explains Yu. "It's as simple as that. It was just a question of which point in my life will I take on the big guy. Mark Waid writing it really made it a no-brainer. It's like hitting 2 birds with one stone. When he called me up, there's just no way I can say no."

The passion that Yu exudes is a result of a genuine love for the character of Superman. "Superman is the quintessential Super Hero. He is eternal because he embodies mankind's best qualities even in the most dire moments. And he's not even human!

"If there can only be one Superhero in the world, I'd wish it to be him."

Still, as has been mentoned previously, Superman just isn't connecting with fans- if sales are to be believed- outside of "Birthright" and the recently launched "Superman/Batman" series, but Yu feels he may know why. "He's been around for so long…that he got married, died, grew a mullet. People figured that there's nothing worse that could happen to him," Yu pauses and adds, "All I can say is that I am doing the best work I can at this stage of my life and I hope it translates to revitalizing Superman."

"Superman: Birthright" #4
Every creator enters a comic book project with some goal in mind beyond simply getting the job done and in Yu's case, "Birthright" presented him with the opportunity to potentially put the Last Son of Krypton where he belongs- on top. "My major goal is to draw the best comics coming out this year. I'm not sure if I accomplished it but I sure as hell tried. I also think that this is the project that I will be remembered by for years to come….being a collaboration with the mighty, Mark Waid."

If you're one of the fans of "Superman: Birthright" who've been amazed by the work that Yu's producing on the series, he explains that his inspiration was two fold. "Just the thought of Superman and Mark Waid was more than enough! It's inspired by all of my six years in comics. I've been learning throughout the years and this project is the culmination of my studies. The visuals are all things that inspired me since childhood up to the movie I saw last week. I just pick and choose what's best for the page I'm drawing. I love movies. For visuals, I love Terry Gilliam's work but I'm not sure if it's apparent in this series. My vision of Metropolis is heavily inspired by the Animated Series. I don't think I can draw it any other way cause it's perfect as it is."

In the past, Yu's done work on "X-Men" and "Wolverine," two very high profile series, but he says it's different than working with Superman. "In 'Wolverine,' I was a rookie, There was less pressure. People accepted my work with open arms… There was a lot of room for mistakes and excuses to spare. In Superman, specially this being a special project, I think I have a heavier load to carry, but with a positive effect. I am having a great time. The editors gave me a lot of space to explore and it only brought out the best in me."

Some might wonder if with such a big project, Yu was forced to conform to other people's visions, but he says he's had a lot of freedom. "I had total control when Dan Raspler was editing. The book had autonomy apart from the DC books. I went crazy with the designs. I'm glad most of it were in the comics. The ships, the look. For me, I could change anything but Superman's costume, which is for me a sacrilege if changed."

And once again, he will not be changing Superman's costume. "No way! I didn't even bother to try to come up with solutions to his underwear problem. Won't change a thing."

"Superman: Birthright" #3
Various people have speculated that Yu's been trying to draw a more "realistic" Superman and he says that it's true to a degree. "There are more realistically drawn Superman's…. Mine is just more realistic than Ed's (McGuinness). I am not aiming for realism. In fact, I sneak in some cartoony stuff in it… but not Manga/Anime stuff… more of the Mad Magazine type."

At his core, Superman is about truth, justice and the American way, but conveying that through imagery is, as you might imagine, not so easy. "Well, I don't think I can draw him with extreme anger or rage," says Yu of the hardest aspects of the character to capture. "I've yet to try. I am known for drawing gritty characters. I've totally shed that part of me for this series. He should just be beautiful."

While you might assume that drawing Superman would be the hardest part of the series, Yu says the toughest part of all the illustrating was, "Buildings. Hehe… that's all. But hey, it has to be done."

The team of "Birthright" has been perfect and Yu gushes, "It's the dream team, baby! Yeah."

The second issue of "Birthright" has been receiving a lot of positive acclaim from fans and over on CBR's own Superman Forum, and Yu couldn't be happier. "It's overwhelmingly positive! I couldn't be any happier. I was surprised the fans dig it that much, actually."

There's some more Yu work that's been released recently and he implores you to check it out. "The 'Highroads' TPB is out!!! Please pick it up if you want to see more of my art. I'm very proud of it."

If you're a Superman fan or have any interest in the character, Yu implores you to pick up the series. "If you miss out on 'Birthright,' then you just missed out on a labor of love from yours truly and Mark Waid. See it for yourself and have fun. Let's just say that you guys haven't seen nothing yet. Nothing!"

 
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