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Meet the comic book guy

Tigard resident Aaron Lopresti (formerly of Beaverton) will take time out from his work on DC Comics' Justice League International relaunch to greet the public at a local store Sept. 7
by: Jaime Valdez Artist Aaron Lopresti works in his Tigard studio on the latest DC Comics Justice League International, which he'll talk about Sept. 7 at the Things From Another World store in Beaverton.

This is what being a member of comic book royalty gets you.

Every day Aaron Lopresti climbs the stairs of his Tigard home, consults his computer for that day's script, scribbles out a quick sketch which only he can understand and then he settles in at his barn-door-sized drawing table and draws a page of whatever DC Comics assignment he's working on.

This week it's Justice League International No. 3, part of DC Comics' ('The new 52 relaunch'), and it's because of this project that he will be the guest of honor at a special after-hours party at the Beaverton comic book store, Things From Another World, 4390 S.W. Lloyd Ave. (located just west of the intersection of Cedar Hills Boulevard and Canyon Road).

The real comic geeks out there know that Lopresti has been drawing in the big leagues for the better part of two decades now. He has worked on such well known characters as Spiderman, The X-men, The Hulk, The Avengers, Batman, Plastic Man, Green Lantern, Superboy, Xena, Star Trek, Gen 13 and Mystic.

He has also self-published his own creation, Atomic Toybox, as well as an assortment of art-related books such as the 'Fantastical Creatures Field Guide' and ones offering behind-the-scenes peeks at drawing including 'Saved Trash' and 'Almost Finished.' He also founded the comic art studio, Studiosaurus, in 1995, and it survived until 1998.

When it's warm, like it was last week, Lopresti braves attic-like temperatures in his studio. It's just uncomfortable enough, he jokes, to keep the rest of the family out.

The daily routine is fairly consistent, explains the 47-year-old father of two: son Joshua, 18, and 9-year-old daughter Samantha. His wife Shelley, by the way, teaches math at Tigard High School.

A page a day

'How it works is, we get paid for what we do, as opposed to being on salary or whatever,' says Lopresti, eyeing the script for that day's page and scribbling some lines on a blank page, which, he chuckles, 'nobody but me can understand.'

'When you're on a monthly book like I am, you're expected to turn out an issue a month, which is 20 pages,' he explains, taking the rough sketch over to his big drawing board and putting up a full-size page where those early squiggles will eventually turn into Justice League International No. 3's page 6.

At that rate, he points out, you pretty much have to do a page a day.

'It's very much an assembly line,' he says. 'You have a separate writer - and I do write and draw myself - but in this particular case, I'm just what we call a penciler.'

His original art is done first in blue pencil (which won't show in the final copy) and then in regular pencil, and, he adds, 'those get sent to the inker.'

The full assembly line is writer, penciler, inker and then the color person.

'It's all overseen by an editor, or a group of editors.'

When he is assigned a cover, though, Lopresti will do it all and just send an electronic copy of the drawn, inked and colored artwork off to the publisher - in this case, the Big Apple.

'I'm working for DC right now, and they're in New York,' says Lopresti, adding that Marvel, too, is based there.

From the rough sketch beside him, Lopresti begins with a series of severely vertical boxes - three, maybe four of them - before he decides to ignore the plan altogether and switch midstream to one skinny frame that runs top to bottom down the left side, buttressed by four horizontals down the right side.

'That just wasn't gonna work,' he says, tossing the rough sketch aside.

'The young age of 0'

Lopresti was born in Portland ('at the young age of 0,' according to the bio on his website, AaronLopresti.com) and graduated from Beaverton High School. He spent a year at Oregon State, then a couple of years at film school at the University of Southern California before jumping to Tri-Star Pictures, where he read scripts for another year.

He and Shelley, a graduate of Hillsboro High School, lived for a while in Hillsboro, then they were off to Tampa, Fla., for 2½ years, where he worked on salary for an experimental comic book enterprise that eventually threw a wheel and ran into the ditch. They've been back in Oregon now for six years.

'Soon after returning to Portland,' his bio explains, Lopresti 'found work as a commercial artist in training at the now-defunct Art Farm Studio, and he spent the next three years learning there what he could've learned if he had gone to art school in the first place!'

The Sept. 7 event at Things From Another World was conceived to celebrate the Justice League International relaunch, and it's an after-hours event (7 to 10 p.m.) featuring complimentary food and beer (with valid ID, of course).

'We've wanted to do an event with Aaron Lopresti for a long time,' says TFAW Marketing Manager Elizabeth Forsythe. 'We love his artwork, and we're so happy to celebrate the debut of Justice League International with him in Beaverton.'

'It's like anything else'

'I think part of the reality now is, comics don't make a ton of money,' says Lopresti, surrounded by bookshelves full of comics, books on comics and every wall and desk and shelf surface covered with posters and action figures and assorted monsters, reptiles and, more books, comics and papers. 'Most of the money comes from merchandising the products.'

Is he still having fun doing this - especially now that he breathes the relatively rarified air of a big-name comic artist?

'Yes and no,' he says, not even looking up from the character's eye he is continually changing and shading and redrawing on the page in front of him. 'Sometimes you have to remind yourself how fortunate you are because you get to do this sort of thing.'

Then he stops and turns around to address the subject with more gravity.

'But it's like anything else,' he shrugs. 'After you've been doing it for 20 years, it loses some of its appeal.'

He pauses again, for just a second.

'You have to remind yourself, you're drawing comic books,' he says. 'You're not saving the world.'