Artist Pepe Larraz is one of the most important artists in the 'Dawn of X' stable – according to X-Men group editor Jordan D. White, if Larraz is drawing an X-Men comic book, it's a sure sign that story will be pretty significant.
To that end, Larraz, who helped launch of 'Dawn of X' drawing the House of X limited series, will draw a series of one-shots in the upcoming 'X of Swords' crossover, starting with September 23's X of Swords: Creation #1.
Newsarama spoke with Larraz ahead of the one-shot's release to get some perspective on what it's like being a go-to artist for the X-Men, how his working relationship with writer Jonathan Hickman has evolved, and all the work that's gone into designing the characters and world of 'X of Swords.'
Newsarama: Pepe, you helped launch the 'Dawn of X' era. How does it feel to come back to help kick off the next big X-Men crossover in X of Swords: Creation?
Pepe Larraz: It feels really great, in fact. I always feel at home in Krakoa and also I couldn't wait to draw some of the new places which appear in 'Dawn of X'!
Nrama: What's it like working with Jonathan Hickman now after working with him on House of X? How has your working relationship evolved?
Larraz: Well, Jonathan is not a writer who is looking over your shoulder to check every line you do, he gives you some hints of what he wants - very precise but also very open to interpretation, really inspiring, and leaves you enough space to work.
Also, this project is much bigger in size than House of X / Powers of X was, so Jonathan had to coordinate with several creative teams. Editors Jordan D. White and Annalise Bissa have been doing a fantastic job coordinating us all. It wasn't easy, especially in these difficult months. It has been a bit crazy, I can tell you that.
Nrama: Without being too spoiler-y, what's your favorite thing you drew for this one-shot?
Larraz: Every story has its own challenges, a Hickman story especially, and this one is not an exception. I had to draw things that are incredibly big or formed by thousands of small parts.
This forced me to find new graphic solutions to represent those things in a credible way, and fast enough. I've been playing a lot with the grey tones and textures, much more than I did in House of X. Also it has lots of new places and characters, it has been a great trip creatively!
Nrama: The solicitation for X of Swords: Creation doesn't reveal much about the story. What can you tell us about what's going on in this issue?
Larraz: It's a story that commenced thousands of years ago, which still resonates and will have consequences now and in the future. I can't really tell anything else because everything is a spoiler!
Nrama: How has your approach to drawing the X-Men evolved since House of X?
Larraz: A friend of mine says that working in Marvel is like playing with another kid's toys, at the end you have to return them to their owner.
But after House of X, having collaborated to create something that is going to stay, at least for a while, I feel like I'm a part of it in some way. That is a really comfortable feeling, and makes me more confident when I draw the pages.
Also working with the same characters a long time helps to become familiar with them. The way they talk, the way they move seems more natural.
Nrama: You're also drawing X of Swords: Stasis #1, another one-shot in the crossover. How much design work did you do for the Swordbearers of Arakko, who are on the issue's cover? What is your thought process when depicting these characters?
Larraz: Ah, If only it was just the Swordbearers! These pages have a lots of designs, new places, new characters... It was fascinating to help Tini and Jonathan give shape to all that.
The Swordbearers have to inspire fear and threat at first sight. But also tell a story of ancient times and savage lands. I had to put all that in the designs. I wanted something alien, antique but futuristic, savage but sophisticated. The Egyptian motifs provided a link between the designs.
And, well, Pogg is the result of my obsession of drawing giant animals. The description just said "a monster" so I brought the Nile crocodile to the table. There's no scarier monster on Earth!
Nrama: After X of Swords, can we expect more X-Men work from you?
Larraz: Drawing the X-Men is the reason I wanted to draw American comics. I prefer to leave project announcements to Marvel, but I can say that I'd love to stay with these characters as long as possible.
Nrama: Bottom line, what can fans expect from X of Swords: Creation?
Larraz: A trip, a revelation, fantasy, battles, schemes, all mixed in the most heavy metal way, magic and swords included. We have gone as loud as we could with this one.
If people have to describe it in a word, I hope that word would be 'epic.'