Emanuela Lupacchino - The Girl behind Supergirl
Emanuela Lupacchino started life as a biotechnologist, until one night a laboratory experiment went wrong, turning her into the super-talented artist we know today! Okay, so it didn’t really go like that, but the Rome-born artist really does have a degree in biotechnology. Here, she talks to The Red Bulletin about making it into the big league, re-inventing Supergirl and what a normal day in the comic book industry looks like.
THE RED BULLETIN: What made a successful biotechnologist want to become a comic book artist?
EMANUELA LUPACCHINO: After three years of working in that field I felt that my life was missing something. I realised that it was art because I loved to draw as a child. So I quit my well-paid biotechnology job to attend a comic book academy and learned how to draw comic books. I was 24 back then, which was quite old because at that age you are already supposed to be a professional in the field. But my advantage was that I knew what I really wanted and I was aware of the fact that I had to work extra-hard to get there. Which I did.
How did you break into the industry?
I did different jobs for small publishers in Italy. After that I ended up working for a French publisher. That was my first proper job. Marvel Comics became interested in my work and they put me on X-Factor. The rest is history. As soon as I started working with Marvel, DC Comics contacted me. I was able to show them my portfolio and they immediately gave me a story to work on with Superman. So my first character was Superman. Then came a Batman/Catwoman love story for Valentine’s Day, Starfire and Supergirl.
You made some fashion statements when working on Supergirl.
I always try to give the character a personal touch. People have to believe the character is real. So when working on Supergirl I got a bit of an advantage, because I am a girl. I know how to draw that character to make it look real. It’s classic girly stuff: nail polish, the hair, the costume. I made some changes to the costume as well and people liked it. That is the good thing about DC Comics. They trust my work and let me decide what is the best thing for the character.
Besides Supergirl you worked on Starfire as well, which is interesting because she is a nymphomaniac superheroine …
The thing is: authors sometimes treat women like objects. They try to sexualise them. They give them huge boobs and make them pose in a sexy way. It is totally wrong, because a woman is sexy herself in the way she moves, the way she turns her head etc. I tried to make her sexy with little, subtle things. It is all in the details. She is sexy and naive at the same time.
How does a normal work day for a comic book artist look like?
I live in Rome, so I scan the pages and send them to my inker, who lives in New York. Then we ship everything to DC Comics, who are based in Los Angeles. It works this way: I get the script and do some layouts. Once they get approved I go ahead with the definite page and clean it up. Then it comes to the inker and then to the colourist and then to the editor and it is done. So it is a long process from the script to the final page.
Are there a lot of European artists working for the US comic market?
Yes, there are a lot us.
What’s your advice for artists who want to break into the industry?
I think the key to success is to look at your stuff with the greatest criticism possible. When you look at your stuff and you think it is well done and perfect, you are not doing a good job. You always have to look at your errors, not at the stuff you’ve done well. And you always need to look at other artists, because today art evolves quickly on different media. Tumblr connects all the artists in the world. You have to be up to date on what the current state of the art industry is at the moment. You have to catch up with the quality of other artists. You have to be very critical of your work.
You are an video game addict. What are your favourite video games?
Bioshock is my favourite video game ever. Besides that I like Batman, Mass Effect, Assasin’s Creed. I collect all the art book comics from video games. They are important to catch up with the design and to see what’s cool at the moment.
Where does your love for superheroes come from?
I think it comes from the way I was brought up. My life wasn’t easy at all when I was a kid. Superheroes per se are normal people that can do extraordinary things. And in some way I did that too, because starting out with nothing I achieved a great goal in my life. So I hope I am demonstrating that everything is possible, if you want it strongly enough. I feel superheroes are very close to my attitude of facing problems in life.
Who is the best storyteller in comics for you at the moment?
I have many. But my favourite is Dave Stevens, who passed away too young. The first time I have seen his stuff, I decided that I wanted to work in that direction. I found the way he drew and the way his storytelling went perfect. His storytelling is elegant and clear and powerful. So Dave Stevens is my north star.