Marvel's Leinil Francis Yu talks Pinoy Easter eggs and late-night work habits
MANILA, Philippines – Leinil Francis Yu is a hero to many young Filipino artists who want to make it in comics. After working on Wolverine in the '90s, Leinil has since worked on other Marvel titles like Secret Invasion, Avengers, Fantastic Four, and Ultimate Wolverine vs Hulk, among others.
"I'm very thankful. I never dreamed that I would end up where I am now," said Leinil in a press conference at Marvel's Creative Day Out on Wednesday, January 10.
"It's insane. I came from a small town in Mindanao, in Surigao. My dad was an employee and my mom was an employee, and to be sitting here with you, being interviewed in front, it's mind-blowing."
Rappler spoke to Leinil – currently a penciler for the publisher – after the press conference and he talked us through his typical 9 to 5 (or should we say 12 to 7 am?), his least favorite character to draw, and his thoughts on working Filipino Easter eggs into Marvel panels.
What is it like to be a comic book artist in the Philippines? Can you talk us through what your day is like?
I sleep at 8 in the morning, actually, and I'm supposed to be asleep now (chuckles). And then I wake up at around 3 pm, ideally, but sometimes it turns into 4 or 5 pm, it depends on how heavy my night was. And at 5 pm, I eat and I have Jiu-Jitsu class at around 7 until 10. So I really start working at 11, 12:30 am, until 7 am.
It's partly because I wanna keep up with the American offices, and American time, but it's really more the solace of being solitary and being forced to work because if I try to work in the morning, like I'll wake up at 8 am, there's so many stuff to do like have breakfast, wash the car, buy supplies, do groceries, there's so many stuff to do, and it's just so distracting, so I'd rather work late at night… so yeah, it's very solitary actually. Good thing I have my wife with me and our dogs. But it's almost anti-social actually.
You've worked on quite a lot of titles since joining Marvel. Do you have a favorite character that you've worked on? And also, who's your least favorite character to work on?
My favorite's Wolverine because that's the character I broke into [the industry with]. It's just enjoyable to draw him. I never get sick of drawing him with a mask, without a mask, older version, younger version – doesn't really matter.
The characters that I do not enjoy drawing, it's just new characters that I haven't drawn before because I have to adjust. It's learning the costumes. and even if I know the costumes, it still wouldn't look good unless I've drawn him or her for a couple of months before I get used to them. I think among the established heroes that I've drawn I think I don't enjoy drawing Hawkeye because – no, no, I like Jeremy Renner (laughs) – it's just that archery poses are quite complex and it's something that I have to get right and it's something that I have to check references [for] and it's not easy to draw an archer well.
Marvel editor-in-chief CB Cebulski earlier talked us through how a page in a comic is made. I don't think you get a lot of wiggle room, but have you ever put in a Pinoy Easter egg?
Before [I used to do it], when I started out, mostly because of boredom, when you're finishing a page and it's taking so much time, and you just add in a box of Ginebra [beer] there. And it's enjoyable you know, when you're starting out, but there's this blogger who complained about it, [saying] it's jarring for Filipinos too, when you're serious about reading the comic and then reading that there's a balut (fertilized duck egg). So your enjoyment is diminished because you're shaken from the moment... So I kinda stopped doing it. Also, because I think the pace that I'm working on now is a bit faster. Before, the pace was more leisurely, the comics don't come out weekly, now Marvel's coming out with weekly stuff, so there's lots more stuff to do.
What advice would you have given yourself when you were just starting out?
I'm very happy with where I am now, and if I change anything I might not be here. So I would just say keep doing what you're doing and maybe breathe a little bit. Live life a bit more... Be less hard on yourself, because when I started work, I was so consumed with the work to the point that it was just not healthy. So relax a bit and the editors will understand if you miss a deadline, just talk to them, be honest with them.
I know you guys also suggest artists to CB. What do you look for in the artists that you send in for review?
Being a comic artist is pretty hard. You need to learn how to draw before you can draw comics. That means that you have to be good at anatomy and cars and houses and perspective and storytelling, which are very different skill sets, so we're looking for different stuff from people. You could be an awesome portrait artist [who] could draw a picture perfectly, but you won't be a good fit for comics because you would need a picture [reference] to draw. So they have to be able to shoot from the hip and be able to draw quickly without references, and able to draw anatomy from different angles, and women, men, you have to draw your faces really well. – Rappler.com