Artist Valerio Schiti Takes Us Inside ‘Empyre’
Valerio Schiti shares his insight about Marvel’s latest crossover event!
WARNING: There are spoilers ahead for EMPYRE #1!
This week, a new age began in EMPYRE #1! Artist Valerio Schiti is illustrating the epic tale by Al Ewing and Dan Slott, which finds Earth in the crosshairs of another intergalactic war. The Kree and Skrull empires have united under Emperor Hulkling, but there’s an even bigger threat on the horizon as revealed in the closing pages of issue #1.
To celebrate the release of EMPYRE #1 – you can also place your pre-orders for EMPYRE #5, on sale Wednesday, August 12! – Marvel.com spoke with Schiti and learned how he became involved with the comic event of 2020.
“I was working with Dan Slott on TONY STARK: IRON MAN when editor Tom Brevoort asked me if I was interested in being the artist of EMPYRE,” recalled Schiti. “Of course I was, this is the greatest thing you can do as a Marvel artist! I was about to leave for a vacation when he wrote to me, so I just had the time to say ‘yes,’ and the next day I left. I had to try my best not to think about EMPYRE for the whole holiday!”
For Schiti, the prospect of reteaming with Slott and working with Ewing was very enticing.
“I was very excited about it, of course,” admitted Schiti. “They teased me with a lot of ideas: a new super enemy, cosmic empires, epic battles, and the opportunity to do the new designs for a lot of vehicles and characters; which is one of the things I love the most. Definitely an offer I couldn’t refuse!”
Schiti also noted that he was particularly eager to draw the entire Fantastic Four roster for the first time.
“The Fantastic Four are one of my favorite teams, so I was very happy to draw them,” said Schiti. “I drew the Thing in GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (2015) and a few years ago I worked on MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE, so I had the opportunity to draw both the Thing and the Human Torch. [Before now], I never had the chance to work with the whole family. In particular, I’ve had a few ideas about how to draw Susan and Reed for a long time. It was fun to finally unleash my creativity.”
As readers of the first issue already know, the Cotati play a huge role in EMPYRE, and Schiti relished the opportunity to create new plant-based life forms for the series.
“The Cotati have been around for a very long time,” related Schiti. “Once they were a key element in the Celestial Madonna Saga and in the Kree/Skrull War. So when we decided to bring them back it seemed important to update them to show how they changed their civilization since the last time we saw them. I started from their original form, but I imagined an evolution, a ‘growth,’ as if they changed to adapt their bodies to different functions and survive in the universe. At the end of the day, they’re plants!”
“There are a lot of great artists involved in the EMPYRE saga,” continued Schiti. “So I also thought it was interesting to use this body diversity to leave them the opportunity to have fun and invent their own Cotati: strong, tall, short, green, red, males, females… everything was possible, I just gave them a starting point. Once the Cotati were just naked plants, but we needed them to be more evolved, so I thought to give them armor, weapons, dresses, and objects to show clearly how they changed and to give them different roles and personalities.”
According to Schiti, his wife also played a role in his depiction of the Cotati.
“While I was talking about this with my wife, she suggested that I draw inspiration from the pre-Columbian civilizations,” admitted Schiti. “That was a great idea, because the indigenous American iconography brings immediately to mind, architecture, religion, hierarchies and the complexity of a real culture. The Cotati are more than just plants, they are a society.”
Schiti also shared a few Marvel classics that inspired his work on this series.
“My main inspiration for the general mood of the saga are the Fantastic Four stories by John Byrne, John Buscema’s Avengers, and a lot of Alan Davis’ comics for the group scenes,” said Schiti. “Maybe the style influence is not evident, but I had to read these stories again even just to understand how to handle the characters. Of course I also studied the pages of some recent Marvel events, like Stuart Immonen’s FEAR ITSELF, Olivier Coipel’s SIEGE, HOUSE OF X, Steve McNiven’s CIVIL WAR and they all have great answers to the question ‘Okay, how will l survive this page today?’”
Additionally, Schiti found that history was also rich with inspiration for the costume designs in this series.
“This is the first time we see the new Kree/Skrull alliance, so we need a new design for almost everything,” said Schiti. “This is a new intergalactic empire, two great warrior civilizations united. I took inspiration from both the Roman Empire and the ancient Greeks. Some of that influence was already there, mostly in the Kree Empire, so it felt natural to highlight those traits. It is pretty clear in the additions I made on Hulkling’s classic uniform; now he should look more like a mix between a Roman emperor and a space version of Alexander the Great. They also should be dangerous and aggressive, so the spaceships are triangular, with long wings pointing ahead. They should appear very quick and lethal.”
“The command had to be aggressive too,” continued Schiti. “I started from the design of the smaller spaceships, but I made it bigger like a flying fortress. I also added the three wings around, like a huge buzz saw or a shuriken. I really hope it looks massive and powerful!”
Schiti was happy to say that the big reveal of EMPYRE #1 was his favorite moment of the issue.
“My favorite pages are the ones where Quoi finally shows his true self,” said Schiti. “Dan and Al gave me the opportunity to use a free layout, where I mixed establishing shots with details of the opening of the Death Blossom and Quoi’s transformation. It’s like he’s flourishing in front of us. His outfit changes, and then we see this huge shot of his real appearance – the new character we created is finally here! I had great fun with that page.”
“I also love drawing the Thing, when he talks, when he smiles and when he fights,” continued Schiti. “And believe me he will fight A LOT!”
Finally, Schiti dropped a few hints about the upcoming issues of EMPYRE.
“There are a lot of important characters around, some of them will show up later, some of them are not what they seem,” noted Schiti. “I can only say this: Trust nobody and keep an eye on Black Panther and the Thing.”
Schiti added: “Now that issue #1 is out, I think it’s clear that this is not the story we teased so far. Everybody was expecting another Kree/Skrull invasion and, surprise surprise! The kind and sweet Cotati are not who we thought they were. There are more surprises here and there for the readers – something good, something bad, something very bad. I can’t wait to read the reactions after EMPYRE #3 and #4. I've been waiting for months!”
Pre-order EMPYRE #5, on sale Wednesday, August 12, at your local comic shop!
You can pick up EMPYRE #1, written by Al Ewing and Dan Slott with art by Valerio Schiti, at your favorite local comic book shop or digitally today! Be sure to ask your local comic book shop about their current business policies to observe social distancing or other services they may offer, including holding or creating pull lists, curbside pick-ups, special deliveries and other options to accommodate. Find and support your local comic book shop at http://comicshoplocator.com or by visiting http://marvel.com/lovecomicshops.
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