Unlike movies, television or animated work where artists are expected to adhere to a house style for the series itself and not step too far out of bounds, comics allows its creators a relatively large amount of leeway to bring their own style, storytelling and tastes to it. One of the most distinct and arresting artists to come up in mainstream superhero comics recently has been Spanish artist Emma Rios. But her journey to this point is quite surprising, and not want she herself could have planned out.
When Rios graduated college, it wasn’t comics on her mind. Rios graduated from Spain’s University of Coruña with a degree in Architecture, and worked as an architect while toiling after work on her hobby of comics. Rios’ first professional comics work was doing short stories for various anthologies and self-publishing a series called APB. After pushing her skill and her drive, American publisher Boom! Studios offered her first major project — illustrating the series Hexed, which debuted in December 2008. Rios’ work quickly caught the attention of Marvel, which offered her a back-up story in July 2009′s Runaways #10 before putting her to work on a Doctor Strange miniseries with Mark Waid simply titled Strange. Rios balanced that with one last major Spanish work, adapting a classic European 16th knight novel called Amadis de Gaula.
After finishing Strange and Amadis de Gaula, Rios bounced around Marvel doing anthology work (Girl Comics #1), one-shots (Firestar, Shadowland: Elektra) and fill-ins (Amazing Spider-Man, Heralds) before jumping into one of her most memorable titles so far: the five issue Osborn series with Kelly Sue Deconnick. It’s there that Rios really came to the attention of discerning comic fans, and she followed that up with the three issue Spider-Island: Cloak & Dagger series before returning to the Sorcerer Supreme in the standalone graphic novel Doctor Strange: Season One. After that she did her first bit of writing and drawing in American comics with the back-up to June’s Prophet #26, and was recently announced to do an arc of Captain Marvel starting in November. Although the length of that stint is undetermined, she and her fans are already looking towards her next big project: a creator-owned series called Pretty Deadly with her Osborn collaborator, Deconnick.
Rios’ illustration work prompts comparisons to Paul Pope, but she betrays a more lithe figure ala under-rated 80s artist Steve Lightle. Beyond her surface linework, it’s her panel composition — especially in single and double-page spreads — that really sticks with you upon deeper reading. Review these selected pieces of work, and think of previous Rios comics you’ve read, and tell us what you think of the artist’s work and potential for the future.