Comic readers may know Mark Millar as the mind behind hits from "The Ultimates" to "Civil War," but a look into the life of his latest artistic collaborator shows that the Scottish scribe is also – at least partially – responsible for series such as "Secret Invasion" and "Ultimate Hulk Vs. Wolverine."
"Mark Millar was one of the reasons I went back to Marvel," artist Leinil Francis Yu told CBR News while discussing his work on October's "Superior" from Icon Comics. "I had just moved over to DC when he'd first called about working with me. Then he'd been e-mailing me and convincing me to go back to work at Marvel. I wanted to work with him six or seven years ago, so it's amazing to be working with him now. All's well that ends well."
Yu also told CBR that he's followed Millar's work from "The Authority" to "Red Son" with an eye towards the writer's sense of action. "There's a bonus that his scripts have turned out to be really easy to draw. The panels are very well-paced, and he gives me a lot of space to shine and do really pretty pictures. I'll work with him on anything." That "anything" became a recent run on Marvel's "Ultimate Avengers 2," which the artist described as "a good training exercise for me. It helped me to learn Mark's style, which is very useful in doing a creator-owned book. He's very specific, and all the scenes are fully imagined in his mind, so he has a very specific way of writing them. As an artist, I have to make sure that that inspiration is put onto paper how he imagined it."
However, while the shoot 'em up action of the Ultimate world may have let the Millar/Yu collaboration grow, the challenge of "Superior" came in hitting a tone for which neither creator is immediately thought of. "The truth is that it's a tad bit lighter than the usual stuff I draw. I tend to draw gritty stuff, and Mark has really crazy violent stuff, but this is different. It's straightforward in that the hero is really a hero – a good guy. There are lots of twists to it, which are going to be a surprise, but this appeals to me because I get to draw this premise of 'Big' meets 'Superman.' I love that movie! It's a good combination."
Of course, Yu has had some direct experience with the Man of Steel before – drawing the origin-redefining "Birthright" series for Mark Waid in 2003. So when it came to working up another caped wonder to step into the shoes of a boy with M.S. in "Superior," the artist was up to the task. "I didn't have a conscious effort to make it look too different than Superman. I accepted that it was a Superman-like character and that what makes it different is Mark's story and the source of his power, which will be revealed later."
Yu went on to explain that many of the finer touches of Superior's look came from his writer. "He has a very specific image of Superior. He sent me a lot of images from the 1940s to help make this a retro superhero. That was our tag. Not only is he Superman-like, but he came from the '40s. I looked at several designs for Flash Gordon and a few of those retro characters, and they definitely played a role in the design. I sent Mark a ton of preliminary designs that we'd change and then go back to again, with a lot of back-and-forth. He really had a specific image in his mind, and I was trying to read his mind because when we were starting out, I was trying to impress him with my design sense – throwing in modern looks and stuff. Mark really kept it to a specific look, and I'm glad we came up with the design that we're happy with."
One major aspect to the book will be it's sepia-inspired color pallet. "Mark asked me in the design to do earth tones in the costume. He's been around for a while, so [Superior's] costume doesn't look new."
Overall, Yu's work on "Superior" presents the next phase in the artist's on-page evolution. "They style itself is a natural progression from my 'Ultimate Avengers' style, hence the cross-hatching. Honestly, it's still my style, and whatever changes it has compared to 'Superman: Birthright' is an inevitable thing that happens to an artist who's been drawing for years. My style naturally changes."
For Yu, the release of a creator-owned series is an even larger change as it's been a number of years since the artist drew an original creation, the last for DC's WildStorm imprint. "I really enjoy creator-owned stuff, and I think I do my best work there. I'm really proud of 'High Roads' and 'Silent Dragon,' and I still look at those comic books and reminisce. The thing that stopped me from doing more creator-owned stuff before was that the sales were a bit underwhelming. It's sad that the effort we put in isn't rewarded with an ideal readership. But now, with Mark Millar who's a huge name and a huge draw, I can't go wrong. I've always loved creator-owned, so this is the perfect time to do this."
While the sales numbers aren't in yet on whether or not "Superior" will be a hit and whether or not it'll head to a Hollywood option like so many of Millar's other titles, Yu said that thinking about the book's chance as a movie is "always in the back of your head. It's something that everyone dreams of, and with Mark it's a definite possibility. But the thing is, we've just got to focus on the comic book. If we actually have a successful comic book, that would be a huge, huge thing for me.
"Superior" #1 is in stores on October 6, 2010. Check back with CBR tomorrow as SUPERIOR WEEK continues with an EXCLUSIVE preview of interior pages from the book.