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We Talk Suicide Risk with Elena Casagrande

While still a relative newcomer to the comics industry, Elena Casagrande has already made some impressive contributions to the medium.  She has worked on Spider-Man and the Hulk for the Marvel, but has also gotten her hands on some impressive properties from the independents such as Cassie Hack, Doctor Who and Angel.  She is also the main contributing artist for Suicide Risk, having drawn 13 out of the 20 issues thus far.

We got a chance to talk to her about her work on Suicide Risk, about designing heroes and their unknown alter egos and ancient goddesses.

sr002Graphic Policy: You have been involved throughout without the series Suicide Risk, which tells a story of superheroes but in an uncommon setting.  What are some of the challenges when coming up with a world full of new characters?

Elena Casagrande: Well, I had several challenges so far on my way during Suicide Risk… the first was to create supervillains who had costumes not so eccentric but like they’re made in a real world by normal people, so I focused on a simple but cool design, using here and there nice textures, sport tracksuits or uniforms, peculiar accessories. Then I had to create a parallel universe where our world had a more futurist aspect, but at the same time was different from our own first idea of the future. I took inspiration from Final Fantasy’s world and the 18Days artbook, where fantasy lives alongside high technology or there are very iconic, ultra-detailed, mystic figures and costumes, so on Ultramar the “bad guys” have a more linear and technological style, while the supers are more elaborated, fantasy in a classic way.

The opportunity to create so many characters, so different and so interesting, (and sometimes in two versions) was the most fun part of the work, but I really liked (and found strangely easier) to realize the way they use their powers: how they fly, or destroy, or move, or blast, or fight just came in my mind while I read Mike’s script… I really enjoyed having the “freedom” to move people with superpowers right from my mind…!

I think the hardest challenge was to let them be “real” or at least plausible, both in their marvelousness and for sure to ensure that the fight scenes were very very spectacular.

sr 001GP: How does it work for the character design?  Does Mike just say “there is a telepath named Dr. Maybe” and then you come up with the design, or are you involved with the backgrounds and names of the characters as well?

EC:  Usually I received a short description of the power of the character and sometimes a few notes about his/her aspect (beautiful, age, big, thin, race, etc.); the coolest thing was that reading the description I had in a short time an idea of the character, of his/her face, and the step after was to create the clothes, where I tried to include some features to suggest the nature, the power or the attitude. Diva, for example, in her white and sexy dress is a sort of ice queen for her indifferent disposition and total opposite to her sister Aisa, in the colors and in the lines of their Ultramar dress; Cage has a very painful attitude, hunchbacked, often sweaty, weary and with the hood and the esoteric symbols to emphasize the idea of his power.

GP: The action in the series has been a little bit all over the place, between a fair bit of action on our own world, the other world and inside the minds of all the characters.  Is it challenging jumping between different settings, sometimes numerous times in one issue?

EC:  Actually no, as I said before the main thing was and is to be as spectacular as possible, readable and flowing in the fighting… it was interesting to change the setting and jump from one world to another. I think that it’s something really TV-style; just one time I had some difficulty distinguishing a real world from a mental one from the script but I asked Mike and he helped me out.

sr 003GP: Just as in the story, Leo and Requiem are one and the same, but also not.  How did you go about depicting the same character but in different contexts?

EC:  I always loved in some way characters with a kind of dual personality, good or bad; it always fascinated me to see how they change depending on the situation they finds, so work on Leo was very intriguing. I didn’t know before issue #9 that Requiem would be predominant and how much (I don’t want spoilers from one issue to the next, I read the series month by month like normal readers), so from issue #10 I had to study how to let him move and act; he’s totally different from Leo, so first of all I made him more rigid and grave, haughty and self assured. His eyes are often faint with eyebrows a bit wrinkled, his mouth opens thinly, his posture straight back and often with clenched fists. On the contrary Leo has a different attitude and also in his stern moments I tried to make him a little more gentle, so his eyes are a bit more open, his expressions more emphasized and natural, his movements more open, he feels panic and pain… he’s human like us, not a superpowered leader. It’s just during the moments where both of them stay with their family (Leo with all of them and Requiem above all with his daughter) that they become more similar.

Only in the last issues Requiem and Leo have equally the same time, and this is more difficult to represent, because I have to be sure not to let one personality predominate than the other.

sr 004GP:  Who are the standout characters so far in the series for you?

EC: I think Tracey/Terza is the most surprising, in every sense. I think Gride could tell us more than we have seen yet and Minu-i is very terrifying; Leo/Requiem is absolutely the one to whom I am most attached, but strikingly Dr. Maybe became one of my favorites, I like his character development a lot.

GP:  The wide variety of characters are of your design.  Is there one that you enjoy drawing that isn’t in the stories as much?

EC:  Yes: Sockpuppet. Damn! XD

GP: Can you describe your inspiration for the Goddess?

EC:  From Sumerian and Egyptian art, like Mike suggested on the script… the main thing had to be the duality. The two faces were in the script, too, I just added the gestures of the hands; I didn’t want it to be too complicated, so I tried to do something linear but majestic.