Welcome, X-Fans, to another uncanny edition of X-Men Monday at AIPT!
Guardians of the Galaxy, Tony Stark: Iron Man, Empyre — artist Valerio Schiti’s been making waves in the Marvel Universe for some time now. But it’s Valerio’s recent work with the X-Office that’s really got readers eXcited. I mean, just look at this spread from S.W.O.R.D. #1…
Or this instantly iconic moment from S.W.O.R.D. #6…
I could go on and on, but it’s pretty clear it was time for Valerio to make his X-Men Monday debut. So without further ado, here’s Valerio!
AIPT: Welcome to X-Men Monday, Valerio! Let’s go all the way back to the beginning. What was your first X-Men eXperience as a fan?
Valerio: I started reading the X-Men as a kid in the ’90s. Here in Italy, it was right before the “Australian era” of the team, during the “The Fall of the Mutants.” I loved them immediately because they were very different from the other superheroes: they were weird, almost freaks, diverse and super tough. I still remember clearly Uncanny X-Men #225 — a panel by the great Marc Silvestri, with Wolverine getting riddled with lasers to protect his friends. I said to myself, “Wow, these guys are insanely wild, I love them!”
AIPT: Certainly an accurate assessment of the X-Men! Speaking of Silvestri, which artists would you say have influenced your artwork the most?
Valerio: There are a lot of artists actually, I really can’t name just one.
When I was younger, my references were Alan Davis, Rick Leonardi and Todd McFarlane. I also like some great masters from the past like Sergio Toppi, Jorge Zaffino, Gianni De Luca or Alex Toth.
More recently, my biggest influence is definitely Stuart Immonen. His pages are just perfect in every way. I think he’s one of the greatest artists of our days and, if you ask around, you’ll find out that his work inspired a whole generation of artists.
AIPT: X-Fan Luis Flores was wondering if you could talk about your technical process. How do you approach a page?
Valerio: At the moment, my work is 100% digital. I do just my covers on paper, because I need to be as quick as possible.
I always start with some simple, rough layouts, to set up the page, focusing on storytelling and emphasizing what’s really important to communicate. Sometimes it is just one or two panels in every page.
Starting from those layouts, I look for the references that I need, to make sure that what’s on the page looks credible: places, objects, anatomy and poses. I also do my 3-D models and a lot of weird selfies.
Then I do the digital pencils, always struggling to make them more simple, but ending up making them pretty detailed, because I am not so confident in my inking process.
I send the pencils for approval to the editorial team and, after their green light, I start inking.
Lately, I’m finally having more fun with my inks, trying something new, more detailed and more exciting. This is helping me to fight my fear of making mistakes. Now I just have to remember to breathe every now and then.
Valerio: They’re both very clever, clear and flexible writers. You can always understand what’s happening and what’s important to tell in every single page.
I worked with Al for a longer time, though, so he trusts me. When he wanted me to go wild with my imagination, he just left some pages in “Marvel Style” (not a complete script but just the plot of what’s happening in the page). For example, we did the whole space sequence at the end of S.W.O.R.D. #1 and some of the fight scenes using a “Marvel Style” script.
Jonathan and I are not so “synchronized” yet. Nevertheless, he gives me a lot of freedom and I am very grateful for this, because this way I can work at my best.
What’s certain is that they both have a lot of great ideas and a deep knowledge of the Marvel Universe. I feel galvanized and a little bit intimidated at the same time when I read their scripts!
AIPT: Looking back on your time illustrating S.W.O.R.D., what are you most proud of as an artist?
Valerio: I really enjoyed the world building for the series. S.W.O.R.D. was the right place to show my passion for design and concept art — this is definitely one of the things I like the most in my job.
I had great fun designing new costumes, vehicles, characters and setting up the entire mood of the series. I tried very hard to do something cool, believable and new, and my biggest joy was when people started to react to my design sheets saying that they wanted to wear my S.W.O.R.D. outfits in their everyday life. I couldn’t ask for better feedback.
AIPT: Well, while we’re talking about those stunning designs, X-Fan The burning heart asked if you could describe how you created Khora’s look in S.W.O.R.D.?
Valerio: All I knew about Khora was that she’s lethal and that she has a burning chest. That’s all Al said.
I wanted her to be different in age, ethnicity and body type from the other women in S.W.O.R.D. A young, small, dangerous, smart Middle-Eastern-ish girl.
She’s also a proud Arakki mutant, showing her mutant power with no shame — that’s why her chest is always out in every study I did.
Pepe Larraz, who is a great artist and a real gentleman, helped me with the Arakko version of Khora, sharing with me all his references for the Arakki mutants.
But there’s also another final design I did for Khora: her S.W.O.R.D. uniform as a new member of the six! You’re going to see that in S.W.O.R.D. #7.
AIPT: And because we love our eXclusives here at X-Men Monday, here’s your first look at that uniform!
Looks great! So, something I’ve noticed about your art — your Abigail Brand has a beauty mark and your Jean Grey has freckles. Most comic book characters tend to have flawless skin. As an artist, do you enjoy the chance to make your characters look a little more unique than they might in other books?
Valerio: The beauty mark on Brand was not my idea, actually. John Cassaday did her like this when she first appeared in Astonishing X-Men. I studied a lot, nothing is random… except Random himself! Anyway yes, I always love to do this kind of thing when I can: making characters unique makes them more human and therefore more believable and relatable. So Abigail has a beauty mark, Risque’s nose is a little bit bent, Frenzy is very tall, Magneto has wrinkles, Mentallo is losing his hair… and so on.
Fun fact: I already did the freckles on Jean when I drew the younger version of her in the Black Vortex Saga, when I was the artist of Guardians of the Galaxy, so it just seemed logical to me to keep the freckles also on adult-Jean.
AIPT: Now, a three-part question. First, who was your favorite character to draw in S.W.O.R.D.?
Valerio: My favorite character to draw in S.W.O.R.D. was Fabian Cortez — lots of funny poses and faces.
AIPT: Second, X-Fan Ron C asked which X-Men character have you never had a chance to draw that you want to illustrate?
Valerio: I always loved Chamber, as I love every “freak mutant,” but I never had the chance to draw him.
AIPT: And finally, who are you having the most fun drawing in Inferno so far?
Valerio: It was great to draw Illyana Rasputin in Inferno.
— 🔥Valerio Schiti🔥 (@ValerioSchiti) May 22, 2021
AIPT: Speaking of the highly anticipated Inferno, how far into drawing it are you and how’s it coming along?
Valerio: Things are going great. We’re working together, every artist is drawing his chapter and Jonathan is writing for all of us at the same time. We’re sharing references, pages and everything that could be useful to tell this great story and keep it consistent.
Actually, I started a little earlier, so I’m about to complete the first chapter.
— 🔥Valerio Schiti🔥 (@ValerioSchiti) June 5, 2021
AIPT: Finally, without spoiling anything, what can you tease about the visuals readers will encounter in the pages of Inferno?
Valerio: Readers will find some new cool places and new corners of Krakoa, but also a lot of familiar things. But this time, you’ll see those things from a different point of view, adding pieces to the big puzzle that Hickman has been building since House of X and Powers of X.
AIPT: Well, now you have me even more eXcited to read it! X-Fans, if you feel the same way, here are two eXclusive Valerio panels from Inferno, courtesy of X-Men Senior Editor Jordan D. White!
Uh oh, now everybody’s even more eXcited! But Valerio, I’ll let you get back to work. Thanks so much for stopping by X-Men Monday at AIPT, and keep up the eXtraordinary work!
One more treat for you this week, X-Fans. As you know, Valerio’s providing covers for The Trial of Magneto. Here’s your eXclusive first look at the cover for the third issue, along with its solicitation!
X-MEN: THE TRIAL OF MAGNETO #3 (OF 5)
Leah Williams (W) • Lucas Werneck (A) • Cover by Valerio Schiti
JUDGE, JURY AND HEXECUTIONER!
- The truth won’t stay buried.
- Nor will other things…
- Who lurks in the shadows, and what do they know?
HEXECUTIONER… that’s good. Note to self: add “HEX-Men Monday” to the ideas list.
Until neXt time, X-Fans, stay eXceptional!
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