Hoewel Nederland relatief gezien een kleine naam is in het conventiewereldje hebben we met Heroes Dutch Comic Con natuurlijk ons eigen popcultuurfestijn. Zo nu en dan verschijnt daar ook een gast die een link met Star Wars heeft, zo verschenen dit jaar auteur Charles Soule en LEGO® Star Wars ontwerpers Hendrik Andersen en Jan Olesen. Interviews met deze heren zul je binnenkort op deze site kunnen lezen, vandaag ga ik in op het gesprek dat wij hielden met Pere Pérez, de comic artist van de gloednieuwe Sana Starros en Revelations Star Wars comics.
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What did you do for Star Wars Revelations?
I did about 8 pages for that, it’s about Darth Vader and his trip to the dark side. Every different artist focused on a different vision. Larroca and I focused on the Vader part of the story.
Can you tell us about which comics in the past have inspired you, and why?
It’s the movies, also I would say the Star Wars movies were the spark of my career. When I saw them as a kid, my head just exploded. I remember getting to the point where I was thinking: I want to be able to create something that does something what the Star Wars movies did to me. So that was definitely a big part of my motivation.
Do you have a personal favourite Star Wars movie?
The Empire Strikes Back and Revenge of the Sith are my favourite movies.
Do you also like the newer Star Wars movies?
I like the second one; The Last Jedi, but I am not very excited about the movies from Abrams. I think my least favourite is the last one (The Rise of Skywalker, red.). I’m getting more into Star Wars because of Andor, I’m loving that show!
So you wanted to create stories for yourself, you decided to start drawing. How did you get into the comics business?
In the beginning I was really focused on getting to paint American comics because I knew there was no way that I could publish and do that for a living in Spain. So recently, a couple of weeks ago, Carlos Pacheco died. He was my main influence in comics, because I knew his heart was amazing and he was also a Spanish guy who was making it in America, so he basically paved the way for guys like me. Very soon I decided to draw superheroes. I wanted to work for Marvel, Disney, etc. When I started publishing I became more interested in telling my own stories, so I created some smaller projects in Spain while also doing American work at the same time.
And how did you end up becoming a Star Wars artist for Star Wars specifically?
I am an exclusive artist for Marvel, and I recently renewed my exclusivity as well. So when I got the news that they wanted to renew my contract, I sent them my wishlist. And I clearly remember not specifically mentioning Star Wars, but I did say “anything with Jedi is cool!”. But now I’ve gotten to draw a Star Wars comic that doesn’t have any Jedi in it, so there’s that! It’s Star Wars anyway, so I’m happy with that.
So you’re an exclusive Marvel comic artist who has recently gotten into Star Wars, what’s your next goal, what would you like to achieve?
My list was this big. Pérez houdt zijn vingers een stuk uit elkaar. I want to draw Daredevil, I want to draw Wolverine. I would like to draw She-Hulk. Like, there’s so many characters. I especially enjoy drawing the action-scenes, the martial arts scenes. So that’s why I was more interested in Jedi. And also with more ground-level characters.
And why is that, why are you more interested in those scenes?
Because I’m a martial arts instructor myself, I’ve been a martial arts instructor for 25 years or so! So it’s a big part of my life and I discovered that there’s not that many artists that can contribute that kind of knowledge to the comic business. So I found out that could make me a little different compared to other artists, so I took more of my energy in depicting combat in a realistic way.
Also, a couple of years ago I started thinking about drawing lightsaber combat in a realistic way, so I did some series, like tutorials, and they went viral – I don’t know if you’ve seen them – on the MTV site. Since then I’ve seen some of those moves on the TV shows and the video games as well, even in the movies. In The Last Jedi, they did like 3-4 of the moves that I drew. I’m certainly not saying they copied me, because it is likely that someone else has thought of the same moves, but they were using the lightsaber in more creative ways for sure. Like switching the lightsaber on and off mid-battle.
Do you have to go to the USA often?
Sometimes I go there for conventions and stuff, I did that for about five years. But since my son is born, I am focusing more on European conventions because it takes less time to travel. So I haven’t been at a convention in America for like six years I think.
Have they invited you to Skywalker Ranch?
No, no, haha. I’m very new to that, because my first issue hasn’t been published yet. Yesterday I was talking to Charles (Soule, ook een gast op dezelfde conventie, red.) and he mentioned that he’s going to Celebration next year. I didn’t even know that was a thing that they could invite you to, haha, I’m just new to all this.
Next year Celebration will be coming to Europe for the first time since 2016! Can we expect to see you in London?
If they invite me, I will definitely go. That would be great!
How would you describe the creative freedom that you have within drawing Star Wars comics, there’s probably a certain set of standard that you need to adhere to, but how does that work?
It depends really, because everything has to go through the Marvel editors and then the Lucasfilm people, there’s more people commenting on your work and Lucasfilm is trying to be protective about the stuff they own. So they try to make sure that nothing is outside of their boundaries. So there’s more control than working for just Marvel comics I would say, but at the same time I’m a huge fan and I know a lot of Star Wars stuff. Which makes it possible for me to be creative, for example in the Sana Starros comic there’s a scene with some droids and they wanted me to use the head of one droid and put it on the body of another droid, because they’re remodeled scrap. And I was thinking like, yeah, I could take the head of a B-droid and put it on the head of a protocol droid, and then, like, all the droids were in my head so I didn’t have to do a lot of research for that. When they want me to draw an alien in the scene, I think about what species would fit best for the part? Is it going to be a Gungan for example, or a Wookiee?
So you have a lot of creative freedom then?
In that sense, yes. Then after you’ve done that, they give you feedback like “no, we can not use this character” and then you have to change it. So it’s a constant tandem between freedom and outside control.
Do you get approvals or declines most of the time?
So far, I’ve done just one issue of Sana Starros, I’ve started doing work for the second one this week. So it’s hard to tell, maybe there will be more revisions for the first issue. When I finish my miniseries I will let you know!
Could you give an example of what feedback you’ve been given?
For example, they told me that Darth Vader’s lightsaber was a little short, it had to be a little longer. It really takes no time for me to fix that. But at the same time it’s also something I’ve never expected, I was like “oh, is it supposed to be longer? Alright, let me do it again!”.
You’ve talked about Sana Starros, can you tell us more about her character and in what way you’re co-developing her character since she was already established in Doctor Aphra and Star Wars?
Yeah, I was familiar with the character because of the previous comics. And in this series she’s coming back to her family, we’re meeting new members of the Star Wars family that I designed. And she doesn’t get along with them all the time. I’m trying to develop her in a bit of a Han Solo-way, someone that’s grumpy, but she really knows what’s going on. So, all the other characters think she’s just really annoying, but in the end she’s the one that’s been right. So with her body language I try to develop that. Also it’s hard for her, because it’s her family and she loves them. But they’re fighting each other, so you have to really get the sense that they don’t hate each other – it’s just the family dynamic.
What kind of advice would you give to young artists who aspire to become a Star Wars artist or make it in the comics business?
Like, draw a lot! Draw every day, and have fun. That’s it really. There’s really no other way, I could be more elaborate, but that’s really what it’s all about. Everyone has their own path, but the one thing that’s inevitable is that you have to put in a lot of work. I know maybe a couple of people that are geniuses; people who knew how to draw within the first minute of practicing, and they’re not the most succesful comic artists. They haven’t had the greatest careers, because sometimes they don’t value that skill, because that skill came natural to them. They didn’t have to work for it. But for most people, when you start drawing you suck. And then you have to start doing it again and again. And if you’re having fun, you’re more willing to do it again and again. And you do it for yourself, because you’re having fun. So it doesn’t feel as putting in hard work, even though it is actually hard work. Eventually, if you go to the way you need to go, – like, for example, if you don’t just draw what you know how to draw, but you try to draw everything, even when it’s painful because it doesn’t look like the way you want it to, you just do it again and again until you like the result. Then eventually you’re going to make it!
Pere Pérez, thank you so much for your time for this interview!
It was great fun, thank you! Also, I would love to do a Yoda book sometime, and I loved Tales of the Jedi – did you watch it? I would kill to draw a book about Dooku and Qui-Gon, that would be so awesome! So, if you’re listening, Marvel… (lacht).