Jedi News Interviews: Luke Ross

Back in March 2018 we launched our ‘Jedi News Recommends…’ feature and the subject of that first article was the illustrator and artist Luke Ross.

Better known by his pen name, Luciano Queiros was born in Brazil in July 1972. He has recently completed his work on the Star Wars: Age of Republic series where the lead artist alternated with Cory Smith each issue. With a vast wealth of experience in comic book illustration since early ’90s for Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, Image, etc. Since 2008 Ross has been an exclusive artist to Marvel Comics working on ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ adaptation, ‘Star Wars: Darth Maul’, ‘Star Wars: Thrawn’, ‘Star Wars: Age of Republic’, ‘Captain America’, ‘Avengers’, ‘Amazing Spider-Man’, ‘Dark Tower: The Gunslinger’, ‘Secret Avengers’, ‘Iron Man’, ‘Hercules’, ‘The Totally Awesome Hulk’ and ‘X-Men Gold’.

Olá Luke, welcome to Jedi News!

Olá! Thanks for the opportunity!

How big a part did art play in your childhood?

I always liked drawing, even at school, I think I was 11 years old when an art teacher invited me to represent my school at the school games that happened in my town by that time.

What are your first comic book memories?

My very first comic book was Spider-Man, my parents didn’t like comics, but once when I was sick I asked Mom to buy it for me, I think somehow I convinced her and it worked. I got my first comic ever, and I didn’t imagine by that time that would spend my whole life involved with it.

What titles were readily available to you and did being brought up in Brazil influence which types of comics you read?

The Brazilian “Turma da Monica,” Disney comics, Marvel and DC super heroes, some European albums and few manga too. I like reading Marvel trades and indi comics.

What types of art or illustrations did you create when you were younger?

I always liked drawing comics and pin-ups for some Brazilian fanzines.

Can you tell us how you got into the industry?

For a short period of time, I worked as a trainee at an animation studio in Sao Paulo that used to produce comics for the biggest companies in Brazil, Editora Globo and Editora Abril. Once a week I also had drawing classes with the owner, Cesar Sandoval. He’s an exceptional animator and I could learn a lot from his classes. One day I was reading an article in a newspaper about how the Brazilian artists were being well received by the American Independent companies, I decided to create a portfolio showing my recent work. After three months I was doing my first job.

Which was the first title you worked on?

It was “Blood is the Harvest” for the defunct Eclipse comics. Yes, it was a comic about vampires.

You can’t be interviewed by Jedi News without talking Star Wars and the work you have done recently. Out of all the Star Wars titles you’ve worked on, 2 have been adaptations. What type of preparation and process do you have to go through to adapt from a novel to comic format?

On ‘The Force Awakens’ I had to pay more attention of the likenesses, Lucasfilm wanted an artist that could keep the accuracy on the characters faces. So I did a lot of image searches to create a good reference stock to help me along the process and I also drew repeatedly the faces of the main characters. On Thrawn, since it was an adaptation from the novel by Timothy Zahn, I had more freedom with the characters, so I could draw them my own way. Actually, I had the opportunity to create most of the characters.

Thrawn has always been a favourite of mine and he has become an iconic character with a strong fan base through the books of Timothy Zahn and the animated Rebels TV series. What were your thoughts when approached to illustrate Thrawn?

I had to take the Rebels version into consideration, but when I was initially drawing Thrawn I liked the version I did where his forehead was a bit shorter and the eyes were more highlighted because of darkened, almost black, eyelids. I also decided to include attached earlobes on him, what I think matched well with his long face. 

Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ must have been a great project for adaptation with it being the first standalone film to be released. Did you feel any added pressure with the fact that there was already a visual representation of the story?

When I accepted doing the adaptation, I thought about the people that may have the comic book as their very first contact with the Star Wars Galaxy, and also on the true fans that want to have all kind of versions of that story they love. Besides, there are always people wanting to remember the story without having to re-watch the movie.

What was the process you used to create the illustrations for this title?

As I said the likenesses was one the most important factors of doing an adaptation like that, actually it was the most important criteria for choosing the artist who would work on it. At the beginning when I was doing the first and second issue I didn’t have a copy of the movie yet, so it was difficult because I didn’t have to much visual information about that. I had to work from what I had in mind from what I saw in the movie theatre, and also from a few images I found on internet like movie stills, interviews and galleries with the actors. My original idea was using more detailed illustrations on it, but as the deadlines for drawing the whole series was too tight, I thought that it would be faster to use a very clean style. It would help me to save some precious time. So I used a style closer to what I did on Hercules.

How do you decide what illustration is needed in each frame to tell a story?

Usually the script presents a description of what is needed on each panel, but sometimes I take the liberty to add some extra panels to give some more visual information to the reader, so that the reading can flow better.

Another iconic character is Darth Maul, who also has a lot of animated reference material for you to work from. You were involved with the 5-issue story released back in 2015, how did you approach the task of bringing him to life on paper?

I avoided to watch the animated series because I didn’t want to be influenced by them. What I did was study some of Maul’s movements and expressions in the sequences he appears on ‘The Phantom Menace’. I also collected all kinds of references to learn how to draw his face tattoos properly, but I confess that I forgot to draw a few horns on Maul’s head during the 5 issue run I drew of him, hahaha!

On this one as I had more time to work, I decided to go with a style heavier on details and shadows. I think it fits well the book, the use of shadows is a good resource to emphasize the dark side or even the dualism of the characters.

I also decided to include close-up panels on Maul’s sequences were to highlight his expressions and accentuate his anger.

And then, you get to go back to drawing Maul all over again with ‘Star Wars: Age of Republic’. Were you given a character choice on this series or were they divided up and handed out to you and Cory?

After drawing Darth Maul and Thrawn, my editors were so happy with my work with the villains that they suggested me to draw all the “bad guys”. The schedule for the issues would not allow me the time to draw the whole mini-series, because of it’s format with two issues in the same month. They gave me the list of the issues available for me to draw, but I decided to accept their suggestion and have fun drawing the “Dark Side” guys. What I think was a great choice was Jody Houser, she did some amazing work on those books and gave me fantastic scenes to draw.

The Age of Republic series was quite an ambitious and unusual format with it being a series of one-shot’s. I had my doubts about the format, but I was won over by the end of the series. Do you have any influence on the storyline during production?

No, when they offered me the project everything was established already, I only had to choose which titles I would like to draw from those available.

Do you have a favourite universe and character to work with?

I am very happy to be working with the Star Wars Galaxy, there is room to tell so many stories yet, so many interesting characters. Yes, my favourite character to draw is Darth Maul, for being a bad guy he allows me to work with a lot of shadows and I also can play with his movements since he’s a Sith warrior and a martial arts fighter.

You’re very active on social media and use it to showcase your work in progress. This is something I personally find very interesting, is there a specific technique which you feel is your trademark?

Actually I wish I could be more active on my social media. People enjoy seeing artists working, it helps to understand the process better. Hum, I don’t know if I have a trademark, maybe the way I work with the Zip-a-tone patterns mixing them with brushes on my digital drawings. But you know as everything in life, some people love it while others just hate it.

We know you are busy and you will be sworn to secrecy about some of your current work, but is there anything you can share with us about any up and coming projects to look out for?

Yes, I will be drawing a chapter of Star Wars 108, a special issue that’s part of the Marvel’s 80th Anniversary Celebrations.

Will you be appearing at any conventions in 2019?

I’m pretty busy this year. Perhaps I will attend a convention in NYC in November; if my schedule allows it.

Thank you for taking time out of your schedule to talk to us. It’s been a pleasure and we look forward to seeing all the exciting work you have that’s waiting for us!

Actually, I have to thank you for the opportunity!

On behalf of the team at Jedi News, we would like to pass on our sincere thanks to Luke for working with us and allowing us exclusive access to the pictures in this article from his personal archive.

I think you will all agree that comic illustration is a fascinating process and hope that Luke has managed to unveil a little about how that process works. Luke is at the forefront for promoting his work and keeping up to date with his projects is quite easy. You can use social media platforms; Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Instagram, Tumblr and his very own website to check out what he’s up to.

Please remember to let him know Jedi News asked you to stop by!