Death and the Warror, Part 2: Juan Jose Ryp on "Lady Death/Shi"

As we learned yesterday in our interview with Brian Pulido, this February two of the most popular female characters in comics meet for the very first time via Avatar Press. Pulido scripts as his Lady Death takes on Billy Tucci's Shi in "Lady Death/Shi." Bringing to life these two beauties is artist Juan Jose Ryp and CBR News spoke with the artist about this project.

CBR News: When taking on a new series, what are the steps you take prior to starting the pages? Do you sketch out the characters? Thumbnail the pages?

Juan Jose Ryp : I am accustomed to working very quickly. I make some simple sketches of the main characters, I usually identify them in my mind with actors or famous characters, sometimes with people I am close to. This way I can visualize not only their expressions, and movements, but also the details of clothes, hairstyle, make-up, etc. This is all useful later with the final pencils. To put the panels in the pages, I make a small sketch. I usually make several tests for each page, but these they are very quick sketches, something that I only understand, how I quickly imagine it in my mind and then begin the page.

CBR: This story takes place in Classical Japan; how much research did you need to do to get the look of the series right? What were your best sources for reference?

Ryp: The usual references: books, picture magazines, pictures from trips, some encyclopedia and a lot of time navigating the Net. I am a designer that needs many references to draw. Really this gives me security, although I only sometimes use it, I need to have tons of papers with pictures above my drawing table.

CBR: In the script, Brian asks you to vary your art style by character: detailed for Lady Death, clean and sleek for Shi. Was this a challenge for you to draw in two styles in the same book?

Ryp : All my work is a permanent challenge, my friend! I try to satisfy the writer's ideas. When I begin a project, I try to identify myself with the script, to make it mine. Of course the story is the story that Brian wrote, but I cannot be a simple printer. This would be torture for me and not very interesting for the readers.

CBR: When you are working on characters that have an established look, like the Steven Hughes version of Lady Death and the Billy Tucci look of Shi, how much does that effect how your draw the characters? Do you try to stay true to what came before or do you prefer doing your own interpretation of the characters?

Ryp : I try to make it that my Lady Death and Shi are easily identifiable with me, but also be faithful to the original characters. Before this, I drew dozens of covers of Lady Death and a small series of Shi and covers. Naturally I have my opinion about the original designs, and there are some things that I would like to change, but I respect the first design.

CBR: You are working from a 'full-script' where each panel is described for you. What is the advantage to working from this kind of script? How much freedom do you have to vary from what's written on the page to what you end up drawing?

Ryp : This is really good for me, this way I know the detailed ideas Brian has for each image. Then we avoid annoying corrections for bad understandings. I think that this is the best form of working as a team. I usually have freedom to include new pics or to suppress some things if I consider them unnecessary. There is no problem with this.

CBR: A few times in the script it calls for panels with multiple points of action. This is something made famous by Frank Miller during his "Daredevil" run. Most readers only see the end result of a panel like this, but how do you make that work from an artistic standpoint?

Ryp : I like pages with many action panels! In fact, I usually include small parallel stories in the details of my panels, although the writer doesn't request it. I think that this is a "gift" for the reader, and a form of rewarding a second reading of the comic book. I believe that everyone knows that I adore detail, but not only the graphic detail, also the historical details. I'm sorry; I am a Baroque artist!

CBR: You are known for not only your detailed art, but also your incredible covers. How do you approach designing a cover? What do you feel are the key elements to a successful cover?

Ryp : I don't know! I am still looking for it! I suppose that I try to sell a product in the most attractive, spectacular and elegant way that I am capable. I continue investigating this, learning from the teachers (Frazetta, Boris Vallejo, Moebius, Kirby, Windsor -Smith, Bolland…) I hope I will never finish learning, when I think that I cannot learn something new I will throw my pencils away and I will change occupation.

CBR: Standard artist question time: What would be your dream project? Is there a character out there you really want to draw? Do you want to take a turn at writing?

Ryp : As I have told you, I want to continue learning, and enjoying with my work. To continue working with these great writers, and seeing my work printed and exposed, this is a privilege for me. It is a great luxury, the dream of a child that filled their schoolbooks with scribbles of super - heroes to be fulfilled.

Thanks to Ryp for his time to discuss this project. The zero issue ships in February with covers by Ryp, Billy Tucci, Matt Martin and Rafa Lopez.

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