Raising Hell(cat): Lafuente Draws "Patsy Walker"

Alaska, America's 49th state, gets its own superhero in July thanks to Marvel Comics' five-issue miniseries "Patsy Walker: Hellcat" by writer Kathryn Immonen and artist David Lafuente. CBR News spoke previously with Immonen, who first wrote the plucky heroine last year in a well-received story featured in the anthology "Marvel Comics Presents," and we speak now with illustrator David Lafuente about the new Hellcat project.

Lafuente's artwork was last seen in the "X-Men: Divided We Stand" anthology. Stylistically, "Patsy Walker: Hellcat" is consistent with that work, but the artist is adopting a different narrative approach for the miniseries. "[The X-Men stories] were very dramatic and tragic, so I tried to translate all that sadness using certain shots and panel grid designs," Lafuente tld CBR News. "The tone in 'Hellcat', while dramatic, too, is more about adventure and magic. And I have found Kathryn's script so inspiring that I'm feeling compelled to push myself to try to capture that magical atmosphere.

"I believe that Kathryn's strongest point is her characterization, how she gives a unique voice to every one of them. Her dialogue is as powerful as, say, Joss Whedon's," Lafuente continued. "You know that strong personality in the way Nico [Minoru of the "Runaways"] or Kitty [Pryde of the "Astonishing X-men"] talk? That cool portrait of their feelings--right before punching bad guys? That! Also one of the things that I enjoy the most when I'm working with her scripts is the way she plays with the background action and elements. You have the characters in the foreground talking but you have more details going on here and there. These bits and pieces command me to push myself a bit further."

Lafuente wanted to make sure the alluring elements of Immonen's scripts came through in both his depictions of the book's action and of its title character. "I think that Patsy has this x-factor (canned laughs!) that 'Runaways' has too," said the artist. "That 'something charming' feeling that keeps you reading and interested in the characters. I guess that this book could be labeled as its older sister since it has magic, action, it's tied to that marvelous universe and the character is saving the day--in style. But without Molly's hats! Hmm, I have to ask for more hats. Patsy was also a little hard to get right. The character is different from other kitty-heroines or female-powered-chicks. She's not Catwoman or Black Cat and I have to make her sexy and stylish taking care of not making her move or look like these other cats. I think of Hellcat as a charming and glamorous kick-ass woman-mixtape."

Designing and depicting the supporting cast of "Patsy Walker: Hellcat" proved to be an equally enjoyable experience for Lafuente. "Kathryn wrote a character named Ruben that I based -- partially, very loose, no one is going to recognize him -- on my friend Sanjay," the artist stated. "He only appears in a couple of pages but I had a remarkably good time with him. There're also the Neo-Siberian witches, key characters in the story that were very tricky to design."

There was one supporting character, though, that Lafuente found a little intimidating to draw. "Iron Man. Aw, man. I didn't design anything with him, but--you just can't ask an artist to draw the Iron dude after Adi Granov," Lafuente laughed. "Don't misunderstand me, I enjoyed a lot drawing him, though I was thinking all the time that Adi was sitting in my shoulder, very serious, saying, 'No, that's wrong. Repeat that helmet. Dude! What's going on with the gauntlet?'"

For Lafuente, one of the biggest appeals of "Hellcat" was the story's unusual setting. "I've been wanting to do a story taking place in a cold, snowy environment for a couple of years," the artist confessed. "I'm a huge fan of 'Tintin in Tibet.' After 'Flight 714,' it's my favorite of Herge's books. And 'Whiteout' or movies like 'The Thing.' And Cliffhanger,' I love 'Cliffhanger!'"

Lafuente continued, "What I enjoy the most as an artist is urban stories, drawing cities, sci-fi--so this is a chance to open a window, breath, and draw other places; I like that. And thanks to this, during the research stage, I discovered the work of Japanese photographer Michio Hoshino over Alaskan wildlife and landscapes. His work has been a great help to get the feel of Alaska."

Meeting Marvel's C.B. Cebulski at the Dublin City Comic Con resulted in Lafuente landing the "Hellcat" assignment. Cebulski was in the midst of his ChesterQuest talent search and contest, and while Lafuente was ineligible �" having worked for Marvel previously on "Spider-Man Family" #2 �" the industrious artist availed himself of the opportunity to present Cebulski with some samples.

"He seemed to like the work I showed him," Lafuente said. "Though at the time, I was working on a project for a Spanish publisher that tied me up for a couple of months, so we exchanged contacts to see if there could be something for me later. Luckily (or tragically) my project with the other publisher faded and luckily again editor Nick Lowe, who saw my stuff thanks to his buddy C.B., thought that I would be a nice fit for the Hellcat miniseries that was on his desk."

Illustrating "Patsy Walker: Hellcat" means Lafuente has the difficult task of following in the footsteps of fan favorite artist Stuart Immonen, Kathryn's husband, who illustrated her Hellcat feature in "Marvel Comics Presents." But working with Mrs. Immonen and editors Nick Lowe and Will Panzo have made the assignment a blast. "They are super-professional and very, very nice people, which is really important," Lafuente said. "Add that to the project itself with Patsy and it makes for a complete joy. And also the monthly rhythm of 22-pages-pencil-and-inks. It's hard but cool at the same time because it keeps you focused, artistically speaking. I'm not going Neo here; this is just something that relates to my own working experience. I worked as freelance illustrator for a few years and it was okay but very unstable. There were moments of work 24/7 and moments of **wait** for the next project. Very stressed periods that are now gone."

"Patsy Walker: Hellcat" #1 is on sale July 2 from Marvel Comics.

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