Comics artist Leinil Yu: ‘Practice is everything’

More than two decades of artistry with the comics books industry.

By Wendell Gaa

It’s not every day that one can claim the honor of being a full-time employed artist for Marvel Comics, but that is exactly who Leinil Yu is.  A penciller and artist by profession, Yu is responsible for designing Marvel’s newest superhero, a Filipina named Pearl Pangan A.K.A Wave. 

A statuesque beauty from Cebu who dons a black, gold and aqua-colored armor and wields a crystal sword, Wave has the unique ability to control water.  She is a character introduced in Marvel’s newly released “Agents of Atlas” series. Yu — together with other Pinoy artists involved in the design of the series – graced the official launch at the Comic Odyssey store in Robinsons Galleria Ortigas, and signed autographs.

A second launch will be held at the SM Seaside Cebu Mall, right at the very home province of Pearl Pangan.

The character of Wave was conceived by Korean American comic book writer Greg Pak and Marvel. The company’s editors soon pitched the idea of the Filipina superhero to Yu, who has taken charge of Wave’s visual design which he said were inspired by Philippine indigenous cultures. 

Yu pictured here with aspiring artist Maia Dumdum at the 2011 New York Comic Con.

He further shared some of his thoughts on what makes her stand out from all the other Marvel superheroes.

“It would be a bit presumptuous to say we came up with something unique from the hundreds of Marvel characters already existing,” he said. “Aside from her fins and sword and being water-based, I think her origin and background makes her a bit (more) unique than most Marvel heroes.”   

I purchased a copy of the first Marvel issue of “Aero,” which features the story of a Chinese heroine from Shanghai who possesses the power to control air and wind, but also depicts her encounter with Wave, who is given even further backstory to her upbringing.  I read in this issue how Wave acquires a love for the water as a young girl, and with the support and encouragement of her family, she grows up to become a competitive swimmer in a mold similar to Olympian legend Michael Phelps.  However, she soon becomes embroiled in an “experimentation” which goes awry, and results in her gaining superhuman abilities to control water at her will.  This is the beginning of Wave’s adventures.

Yu has been involved in the comic artistry business for over 20 years now.  Born in Cebu but having grown up in Metro Manila, he has pursued advertising and visual communication courses at the University of the Philippines in Diliman.  He began his career with Marvel Comics as a designer simply out of a love for drawing.  When the famous FilAm comic book writer and artist Whilce Portacio, who has worked on such Marvel heroes as “Iron Man” and “The Punisher,” visited Manila 25 years ago, Yu came to the realization that comic design was the lifetime profession he desired. 

Other Marvel comic projects he has worked on have been on stories on the heroes Captain America, Wolverine and various Avengers and X-Men books, among others.  He’s also had the grand opportunity to showcase his work at such international conventions as San Diego Comic Con, New York Comic Con, and Asia Pop Comic Con in Manila. 

With regards to future projects he’s involved with, he mentions he is working on an X-Men story with American comic book writer and artist Jonathan Hickman.                           

For aspiring professional artists seeking to pursue his line of work, his advice is: “Practice is everything.  Draw as much as you can (usually this doesn’t have to be said, as good artists have the compulsion to draw incessantly) and show your works through social media.  Also watch out for talent searches online and at conventions.  It’s easier than ever to be discovered.”                       

Yu and his team designed Wave, the Filipina superhero from Cebu.

© The FilAm 2019

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