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Whilce Portacio Returns to the X-Men

The celebrated artists returns to Marvel’s mutants for an exciting arc beginning in UNCANNY X-MEN #526

UNCANNY X-MEN #522 art by Whilce Portacio

By Marc Strom

Whilce Portacio made his triumphant return to UNCANNY X-MEN last month, helping series writer Matt Fraction bring Kitty Pryde back to Earth in issue #522; now he will usher the X-Men into a new, post-Second Coming era when he illustrates an arc on the series beginning with July's issue #526.

The artist, who first co-wrote and drew Marvel's mutants in a brief but definitive run on UNCANNY X-MEN in the early 90's that introduced the character of Bishop, attributes his journey back to the fans.

"Every time I go to a convention fans are constantly asking when I'm coming back to the book that sent my career into warp drive," relates Portacio. "I am constantly bombarded by stories of how one of those issues [I drew] was the first comic book they ever read and got them hooked into comics. So, for the last few years, it has always been in the back of my mind floating there: what would I do if I ever got the call to come back to my favorite book?

"Then one day [writer] Jeph Loeb would not take no as an answer [when he asked me] to draw an issue of HULK, so I did. He got me talking with [Executive Editor] Axel Alonso to draw an issue of DEADPOOL CORPS, and that got me on the phone with [UNCANNY X-MEN editor] Nick Lowe who asked if I would like to draw Kitty's return to the X-Men. I hadn't really drawn her in the past, but she is so important to [Colossus], and Peter is part of the team I cherish, so I had to say yes. And here we are. I am now drawing a 13-page story that leads [Cyclops] and his family of mutants

UNCANNY X-MEN #522 art by Whilce Portacio
into the aftermath of Second Coming and [into] my arc. Where that leads, time will only tell."

The team has gone through a number of changes in the nearly 18 years since Portacio left the X-Men, but the artist sees those differences as presenting a dynamic new environment for him to work with.

"Back then we wanted to keep the books fast paced and moving forward," he remembers. "Wolverine was only starting to draw the team into the dark side, [but] now the team has and is going through dark times. They are now banded together as a family of mutants and are used to the darkness. But it's time they took back some of the glory, time to do what they all trained to do and for the reasons they trained so hard to do it."

Portacio plans to reflect his view of the team and their present circumstance in his art style:

"I will alternately play with shadows-my natural element as an artist-and the light as [the X-Men] regain their heritage as heroes. Having said that, even though so much time has passed and so many events are now part of their collective past, [their character remains] the same to me. For instance Scott is still unsure of his right to the mantle of commander. He is still uncomfortable with it, but of late seems to be realizing he was born to [do] this. The only real major change is the inclusion of Emma Frost and Magneto into this hero society. That contrast [between] who they were and who they are now, or who they appear to be now, is very interesting to me. With these two characters I will be playing the most with shadows and

UNCANNY X-MEN #522 art by Whilce Portacio
light alternately when called for by the plot. Whether I use a lot of darkness or not with these characters will foretell a lot of who they really are now."

Portacio has enjoyed working with regular series writer Matt Fraction, whose scripts give the artist exactly what he looks for.

"I very much like working with Matt," he shares. "His knowledge of the characters explodes in every detail he instills into his plots. He respects these characters, he understands who these people are to the last detail. Detail, whether it be in pencil lines or character nuances, is what interests me the most these days. Artists, like actors, are constantly asking, 'How would this character react differently compared to another character?' We're constantly looking for differences [in the] details between characters, and Matt provides me with that info."

 

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