Well readerfolk, it’s Wednesday. And you know what that means (no, not Hump Day) – New Comic Book Day (#ncbd)! NCBD has turned “TGIF” into “TGIW” by kicking those Wednesday doldrums in the butt.
In honor of this week’s NCBD, we wanted to highlight an artist whose Artist Shop we’ve been obsessing over: Leila del Duca.
Leila del Duca is the insanely talented illustrator lending her art skills to Image Comics’ SHUTTER, and her Artist Shop features some beautiful imagery from the story. But what makes SHUTTER unique is its inclusiveness. From the bi-racial main character’s trans best friend, to sentient robots who bent the definition of “human,” to anthropomorphic animals, the comic is nothing if not refreshingly diverse, in every sense.
We talked to Leila about her Artist Shop, originality and creativity in comics, and the poignant commentary of SHUTTER
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First things first – tell us a little bit about SHUTTER for those who might not be familiar!
SHUTTER is an urban fantasy adventure comic about Kate Kristopher – an ex-explorer who is shoved back into the adventuring lifestyle when she finds out she has an extended family who may or may not be trying to kill her. It’s set in a fantastic version of Earth where there are anthropomorphic bounty hunters, ghost ninjas, talking alarm cats, and dramatic surprises around every page turn!
I want to live on that version of Earth. Have you had a favorite scene to illustrate?
There are so many great scenes in SHUTTER that I’ve loved drawing! Joe Keatinge always writes in these great double-page spreads that I particularly dig.
There was one with the SHUTTER version of New York City, and one with Kate as a kid bounding across the moon, and then there was a quiet one with Kate sitting on a log in a beautiful Maine forest with her Alarm Cat asking her what her next plan of action is. Really, Joe writes anything and everything for me in this book, and it’s been a delight and a challenge every step of the way.
Favorite comics? (Besides “SHUTTER,” of course!)
Hellboy is one of my top favorites! I also love Invincible, Saga, and adore The Wrenchies, anything Mariko and Jillian Tamaki create, Craig Thompson’s Blankets, Asterios Polyp, among a ton of others. I won’t bore you with the long list!
I’ve been a fan of Threadless products for years now and wanted to offer cute, comfy shirts to our readers, and to anyone who likes the art I make with my colorist, Owen Gieni.
What’s been a benefit of having apparel for your comic? Is it something you would recommend to other budding comic artists/writers?
The main benefit is that we can now offer our readers some merchandise! I merely prepare and upload my images and then Threadless takes care of everything else, which is very hands-off for me and my busy schedule. I trust
the company to take care of sales on their website, and they’ve been super communicative and easy to work with. The people who have bought our shirts have been really happy to own something comfortable with SHUTTER imagery on it. I absolutely recommend Threadless as a shirt distributor for any creator. They take great care of us!
How did you get started as an illustrator?
As a teenager, my favorite book series was The Wheel Of Time by Robert
Jordan. He had so many beautiful and diverse descriptions of his world and characters that I wanted so badly to illustrate how I imagined them in my head, but I didn’t have the skills to put what I had in my head on paper. So I decided to go to the Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design to hone my skills and eventually be a book illustrator. Only after college did I realize I wanted to draw comics instead of paint illustrations, but my love for the Wheel of Time series still burns strong.
What’s it like working for Image vs other comic publishing companies?
I haven’t extensively worked with other publishing companies yet, but I can tell you that my experience with Image Comics has been nothing short of amazing. They are so supportive, communicative, and encouraging. Their print quality on our books is great, and their staff is incredible and hard-working. I love creator-owned comics and I think Image has the biggest part to play in why I love my job so much.
Do you think the comic book world provides a platform for more creative flexibility, story experimentation, and progressive ideas (especially at companies like Image)?
I do. People can draw insanely intricate and over-the-top imagery with a much smaller budget than television or film. It takes a lot of time and skill to reach that point, but I do think that sequential art poses interesting opportunities that are unique to comics.
At Image, individual comics teams aren’t told, “you can’t do this,” or “you have to change this,” and I find that extremely freeing. I know that I’ve created my best work when I’ve had absolute freedom to express things in the way I want to, and Image comics is a perfect home for that philosophy.
It seems that we’re all getting a little bogged down with superhero comic stories – has the superhero craze actually cleared a path for more independent and experimental comics to gain some traction and popularity?
I don’t know the answer for sure, but I suspect that yes they have paved a way. And this is my personal opinion, but superhero comics easily become really stagnant, regurgitating the same stories with minute variations, which gets very old very fast. Most of the superhero stories I have since stopped reading were more plot and violence-driven than character driven, and I lost interest quickly. Maybe other readers have had the same experience and found that there are so many other comics out there, and other genres that have excellent, engaging, and diverse stories.
On that note,from the mixed-race heroine to her trans best friend Alain, to a world of anthropomorphic animals and sentient robots, SHUTTER is easily the most inclusive comic I’ve experienced. Is SHUTTER, in a way, a commentary on our world by imagining a better version of it, a more tolerant one?
Thanks so much! We did want this to be a super-inclusive comic because Joe and I really care about doing something unique and relatable at the same time. We did want to present a more utopian society in the sense where being transgender, queer, multiracial, or just different from our typical Earth norm is completely normal and accepted.
We’re tired and frustrated about the inequalities and injustices that people are facing in real life, so we made it so our characters didn’t have to deal with it in their lives. Instead, they have to worry about avoiding secret societies and escaping dream worlds, among other dangers!
As a female comic book artist in an industry still considered somewhat of a boy’s club, how does it feel working on such a progressive comic?
It feels amazing! I love being able to portray characters in a more realistic sense. Luckily, my whole team is happy to cut out sexualization and other stereotypical things that mainstream comics have been known for. I’m happy to be part of this movement in comics where creators are cutting out the over-sexualization and extreme idealization of all of their characters. It’s refreshing and makes for a more believable story, in my opinion.
I want [female creatives] to know that there is so much opportunity with comics, that it’s a beautiful, amazing, rewarding, and challenging craft that takes years of ambition and hard work, but all the hard work is worth it.