Unplug Avengers A.I. Pt. 1

Artist André Lima Araújo opens up on his influences and shares his work from sketch to final!

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Avengers A.I. #1 sketch by André Lima Araújo

By Paul Montgomery

In the fallout of Ultron’s demise, the very virus employed to defeat him continues to launch attacks on once secure data systems around the globe. Now, troubled tinkerer Hank Pym hopes to halt Dimitrios and right his own legacy with the next generation of mechanized heroes. Vision, Doombot, Victor Mancha, and the newly activated Alexis represent the world’s most advanced automatons, the last line of defense against the machinations of Dimitrios.

Sam Humphries and André Lima Araújo assemble AVENGERS A.I.

This week we gain access to the sketchbook of André Lima Araújo, an artist with a vested interest in biotechnology and artificial intelligence to rival Hank Pym’s; today, he comments on his background and influences as well as his surprising approach to depicting mechanical beings.

Marvel.com: The first work of yours I saw involved anthropomorphic animals. So I've associated you with drawing the natural world. I was pleasantly surprised when I saw your name attached to AVENGERS A.I., a series devoted to the mechanized heroes of the Marvel Universe. Your approach to rendering these inorganic characters is fascinating because they appear, largely, organic. Was that a conscious choice on your part? 

Avengers A.I. #1 inks by André Lima Araújo

André Lima Araújo: The work you mention is a short story from an IP I created a couple of years ago called Crux Et Gladius. It's actually set in medieval times, the 1140’s to be precise, with a realistic background—no fantasy—of historic events—crusades etc.—but with anthropomorphic characters. We could say it's alternate history. It deals with many topics of the medieval era—and of today, unfortunately—like class segregation/racism etc., all under the roof of the title main topics: Religion and War. Hence the title Crux Et Gladius - The Cross and the Sword

Now, answering straight to your point, yes, it is a very conscious choice of my part to treat technology as an organism. I'm an architect and on my master’s thesis I studied the idea of architecture as a prosthetic device; rather than an object, more of an instrument. The argument was focused on architecture because that was the main subject, but it really was about technology as whole. It implied a vision of the technological artifacts that we create as extensions of ourselves instead of exterior objects. 

So I started transposing those ideas to my works, in some cases as a subtext—like on AVENGERS A.I. in my designs—and in other cases it's not only in the story itself but it even comes with the title, as in my still-to-be-published creator owned work Man

Avengers A.I. #1 art by André Lima Araújo

Plus. In this case, I'm using an expression of John McHale—whom I studied for the thesis—where "man plus" refers to what Man, according to the author, really is: he is more than whatever he is born with, man is man plus his extensions, as he extends his being throughout his tools, both the physical ones—clothing, houses, cars—and the mental ones—language, symbols.

So the idea of technology as an organic system is an absolute obsession of mine. And if you pay attention to what's starting to surround us, you'll see that's the path we're heading as a society. We already have prosthetic limbs that connect to the nervous system and work as an integrated part of the body, as well as other devices. We build houses and buildings with full electronic nervous systems that mimic the way our body functions. Cyborgs are now a reality. And many more things will come.

Marvel.com: Which technological concepts do you hope to showcase in your work?  

André Lima Araújo: It's still a bit early to go into details on Man Plus, but I can tell you the basic idea of technology as an extension of the human being is one of the basic concepts. The limits of the human body and the boundaries of humanity—both physical and mental—will also play a big role.

Marvel.com: Were there any things you had to unlearn in the transition from architect to storyteller?

Avengers A.I. #1 inks by André Lima Araújo

André Lima Araújo: I've always loved comics and I've been reading since I can remember, so the storytelling instincts have been growing on me since I've been holding a book. When I started studying architecture I had already a strong desire of creating comics, so that knowledge and tools that came from the architectural background were all incorporated and never got in the way. The fact that architecture is an extremely embracing discipline also helped with that.

Marvel.com: I spied an Akira-style Kaneda jacket in the arcade from issue #1. The Kilgore Sentinel also shares a passing resemblance to Eva Unit 001 from Neon Genesis Evangelion. Would it be fair to say anime has informed some of your work? What are some of your primary influences, on this project and overall? 

André Lima Araújo: It would be more than fair to say as those are two big influences for me.  I talk a lot back and forth with Sam Humphries about references for various aspects of this book, from character designs to layout choices, storytelling sequences, etc. Whenever we're talking and solving the more tricky bits we pull a lot of ideas from everywhere, not only other comics, but movies, books, news etc. We have some common ground over a lot of sci-fi things, which helps us to understand each other pretty quickly even if this is our first collaboration ever. It's no secret we've talked a lot about Akira for the layouts for example; design-wise the look of the Evangelion robots was one of the main references. There's also a layout with an infinite pattern that I took from Moebius on issue #2 and others. The important thing here is that whatever it is that we're using is there to help the story and not just because we like it. 

Avengers A.I. #1 art by André Lima Araújo

Then there's always room for some little references that you insert for fun, like the jacket you mention. The rule for me is that it can't get in the way of the story and must work as an easter egg for the readers that pay close attention to everything and nothing more. I'm one of those obsessed readers myself, so the idea of leaving small details to see if people pick it up is a lot of fun.

Talking specifically about my references, I can say that my biggest inspirations come from Moebius/Jean Giraud and Katsuhiro Otomo. I love everything about their work, from the style, the designs, the layouts, the narrative/storytelling sequences, ideas, themes, everything. Moebius works from the Metal Hurlant—Heavy Metal in the U.S.—Blueberry and L'Incal, or Otomo's Akira or Domu are absolute masterpieces that I love with all my heart and soul. I also love Masamune Shirow's comics work, in particular Ghost in the Shell or Appleseed. And it's not only comics, of course, as some movies are also huge references for me: “2001: A Space Odyssey” and a lot more from Stanley Kubrick, probably everything he has ever done; “Blade Runner” and “Alien” by Ridley Scott, the anime versions of “Akira” and “Ghost in the Shell,” Quentin Tarantino's universe and even music. Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin or Genesis, they all provide a lot of inspiration.

Get more art and thoughts from André this Wednesday, and read AVENGERS A.I.

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