Whether it be Cloak and Dagger, Spider-Man 2099, or members of the Uncanny X-Men, Rick Leonardi’s distinct style is instantly recognizable. The fan favorite artist answered questions about all three series and what it is like working with a wide variety of prominent writers at this year’s Rhode Island Comic Con.
What are your memories of working on Cloak and Dagger and helping solidify what we associate with the two characters?
Rick Leonardi: The two biggest things about Cloak and Dagger are one: the writer Bill Mantlo, throughout his writing, not only in Cloak and Dagger, tended to come with an agenda and wanted to make a statement with every plot that he wrote. In essence, you had to fly the same banner that he did, and that was fine with me.
And the second thing was that illustrating Cloak and Dagger became sort of a design exercise, specifically, a study in contrasts. Obviously you have Black and White, male and female, short and tall. You had her being ballet trained, specifically French ballet, so she’s concave in that way and he is convex, hunching over and curling. Her light knives are straight lines and his cape is all ropes and curls, so it became fun to see all the ways that we could contrast them.
As you said, the look of each character is very unique, so did you get to be experimental with the art because of that?
Leonardi: Oh yes, and even down to the present day, I’ve figured out how to draw them only laterally well after I was done with the book. I think I do them better now than I did then.
Spider-Man 2099 has recently come back onto the scene. What are your memories of creating that character and working on the comic?
Leonardi: The thing that was interesting about it was that on the corporate side, Marvel had to overcome their reluctance to tell a story set in the future. You wouldn’t worry so much about Peter Parker having a fight to the death with the Green Goblin today if you knew that he was going to have a grandson that we were going to read about in 2099. Marvel had to very clearly firewall off everything in the future from present day continuity and once they were comfortable with that, they were able to tell what were basically science fiction stories set in the future.
How did you design the character’s signature costume and look?
Leonardi: Peter David and I went off to an off-site meeting of all four 2099 teams, and Peter said I want our guy to climb walls, but not because he has sticky stuff coming out of his hands. So the first art I did for the characters was a hand with barbs coming out of the tips. Miguel O’Hara has Mexican heritage so he had a costume left over from a Día de los Muertos celebration, and that holiday is associated with skull motifs, so that had to be on the costume. Skulls, plus the spider; it took care of itself pretty much.
How did you enjoy working with Peter David?
Leonardi: Guys have different styles. Like I was saying about Mantlo, he is very agenda driven and takes the storylines very seriously. With Chris Claremont, every plot is a phone book because he wants you to get into the backstory of each character. Peter is more about laughs, he likes being clever, and he will drag the story in that direction to tell a joke.
Was it difficult working off of a highly detailed script with Claremont on the Uncanny X-Men?
Leonardi: Not really. I mean, people will complain about Chris’ density, but it’s only because he wants full value for your money on every page. If your idea of a doing a comic book is a splash page every second or third one, you and Chris are just not going to see eye-to-eye. But if you want a solid six panel grid where every panel has story content in it, he’s your guy.
Any upcoming projects that you can discuss?
Leonardi: Yes, Ron Marz and I just wrapped a 160 page graphic novel from the U.S. Naval Institute Press, which has a sub-imprint for graphic novels called Dead Reckoning, and apparently you can preorder it now on Barnes and Nobles and Amazon. It is called Blue Angel. All we need know is to get it to the letterer!
Look for Leonardi’s Blue Angel graphic novel in stores in February 2023.