Italian comic book artist Dike Ruan is feeling nervous. He’s working on the fourth volume of Mark Millar’s Magic Order, and his predecessors on the book are some of the greats. "There was Coipel, Immonen— my God,” he says to Popverse in a crowded New York Comic COn Artist Alley.
It’s only been a couple years since Ruan debuted on the scene, penciling and inking two pages for October 2019’s Spider-Verse #1 and then the full third issue. And though he’d been trying to get noticed for some time, posting illustrations online, emailing the Big Two, when opportunity struck it came completely out of the blue. “One day I got an email from the Marvel talent manager asking if there’s anything I can send to them.”
After drawing a number of individual issues and covers, Ruan got picked to join Gene Luen Yang in launching a new Shang-Chi title, just as the character was about to make his Marvel Cinematic Universe debut. Though Chinese himself, Ruan found drawing Asian characters an unexpected challenge. Because most characters in superhero books are white, he explains, “we’re used to drawing that kind of facial structure.” The result, he says, “is that when many artists draw Asian people, they keep the white facial structure. They’re used to it. But the Asian facial structure is different.”
Ruan, who lives in a small town close to Venice, cites both manga and American comics artists as influences, with Oliver Coipel being one of the biggest. “When I started trying to do American comics, I learned a lot from him— how to light a scene; how to do panels; the texture, the lines. Everything, basically.” And in a book like Spider-Verse, you can see that influence in the dynamism of the action and his delight in the shape of characters. “I like the shape you can get with Spider-Man,” Ruan says. “He’s not a normal super hero with hug muscles. There’s a lot of stuff you can play with.”
High on his dream list at this point is another character with an interesting profile. “Daredevil would be absolutely amazing,” he admits. But his top choice? “Probably Thor. I like the epic battle stuff. When I drew the sixth issue of Shang-Chi, and he was fighting Thor, that was amazing. I loved that.”
But for now he’s got to finish Magic Order. Ruan laughs, shaking his head. “It’s crazy.”
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