Smash Pages Q&A: Claudia Aguirre

The artist of ‘Lost on Planet Earth’ shares some early character designs for the comic and discusses her process for creating characters, working with Magdalene Visaggio and more.

Claudia Aguirre has been working in comics for years as an artist and colorist on books like Morning in America, Hotel Dare, Kim & Kim and Open Earth. She’s one half of Boudika Comics with Eva Cabrera. Her new project is the comiXology Originals series Lost on Planet Earth, which she made with her longtime collaborator Magdalene Visaggio.

The slice-of-life science fiction tale launched last month and with issue #2 coming out on May 19, I asked Aguirre a few questions about how she works, and she provided some character designs to show how she thinks – and give a first look at a character appearing in the new issue.

How did you come to comics?

I was always a kid who loved telling stories, and a love for art, animation and the natural course for me was trying to make my own comics to tell my stories. I went to local conventions and one day I met my bestie Eva Cabrera, and long story short, started a little collective called Boudika Comics, got to work with Mags Visaggio on her small comic Kim & Kim – and the rest is history.

How did you first start working with Magdalene Visaggio?

A friend introduced us for Mags’ project. She was looking for an artist for her sci fi buddy adventure Kim & Kim, and Eva and I were looking for comic work, so we paired up, and became friends!

You’ve been working with Visaggio for years as an artist and colorist on different projects, and I’m curious about your relationship and what you like about working together

Mags and I became friends after we worked together on Kim & Kim, and she’s one of my favorite people to work with. We give each other great feedback and push our own growth and it’s really great. She’s the best.

Obviously, each story requires a slightly different approach to color, but what’s the difference between coloring your other work and coloring others?

Depending on every artist’s line work I try to pick a style that compliments the work that they did. Some don’t need the same amount of detail others do, so I think it’s, in my case, a judgement call. With my own work, I think I’m already used to bright, pinkish tones so it became my staple.

One of the comics I know you for is Hotel Dare, which is a very different subject matter, but it really showed off your sense of design and color. What attracted you to the project and what was your favorite part of the book?

I got invited to the project and the editor showed me some previous designs along with the pitch document, and they were STUNNING. I fell in love with the characters from the beginning, so I had to say yes! My favorite part was drawing the spaceships and space pirate family.

Visaggio and I have talked about the book and how we’re both huge Star Trek fans. Are you a fan? And knowing this, did you think about how the shows looks, the colors and styles they use as you were building this world?

I wasn’t able to watch Star Trek growing up, so I wasn’t a fan, but since it’s popular culture I definitely knew the look and feel I needed to get the utopian look for this story. Mags was super helpful because she could point at exactly what was working and what wasn’t in the designs, especially the earliest character designs.

You can see Aguirre’s character designs below:

So you and Visaggio have worked together for years. What was the process when she first came to you with this idea as far as designing characters and figuring out what them and the world should look like?

Mags usually sends me a list with a general idea of what she wants the characters to look and feel like, and I work from there, from sketches to colors, and check with the team to see if they match what they feel when they read the descriptions.

You mentioned that after doing those first designs, Mags came back and had some notes. What were those notes? And do you two normally have a back and forth at this stage and throughout the process?

For Basil, we had already done a different pass; she was more rebellious, a little more punk, like Velda. The idea changed a bit and we got a perfectionist, nerdy Basil, and the next pass was while I started drawing her, and I got to see her personality and change accordingly. We do these adjustments for all our characters because we want a first reference to work from, and then we adjust until we’re happy with the result. 

I’m curious how you think of Lost on Planet Earth. What is this series to you?

This story has a special place in my heart. Made me cry a bit! It’s a story about choice, and how it not always ends up where you expect it to. 

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