Luna Brothers conquer US comic book scene

Posted at 10/31/2008 8:18 PM | Updated as of 11/01/2008 2:50 PM

In 1884, Filipino painter Juan Luna captured the imagination of the Spanish art scene when he won the gold medal at the Exposición Nacional de Bellas Artes in Madrid for his masterpiece "Spoliarium."

More than a century later, another group of Lunas -- Fil-Am brothers Jonathan and Joshua -- are turning heads in the US comic book scene first with their original creation, Ultra, with its unique take on celebrity superheroes, and the horror series, Girls, about an invasion of  cannibalistic, alien women in Pennystown, USA.

In their latest limited series The Sword, the Luna Brothers take on sword, sorcery and mythology with a modern twist.  Recently, Image Comics partner Robert Kirkman singled out the Luna brothers as an example of successful comic book creators who are make a fantastic living by only doing creator-owner work.

In this e-mail interview, Jonathan and Joshua talk a little about their background, their love for female comic book characters and which comic book characters they'd like to work on next.

I read somewhere that you are Filipino-American. Is this true? Can you tell us a bit about your backgrounds? Have you been to the Philippines already? 

Josh:  Yes, it’s true—we’re Filipino-Americans.  Our parents were born in the Philippines, but we were born in the states.  We’ve visited PI when we were very little.

What do you think about Filipino comic book artists who have been doing mainstream comic book work in the US? Off the top of my head, there's Carlos Pagulayan (Planet Hulk), Leinil Yu (Avengers) and Image co-founder Whilce Portacio (Wetworks).

Jonathan:  As a teenager, I loved Wetworks.  I was a huge fan of Portacio.  I know he’s working on Spawn, right now, and it’s great to see he’s still drawing comics.  He kind of went away for a few years.  I’m also a fan of Leinil Yu.  He’s great.  I’m not too familiar with Carlo Pagulayan yet.  I’ll have to look him up.

What kind of formal training have you had?

Josh:  We both received BFAs [Bachelor of Fine Arts] from the Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia.

Looking through your portfolio, I see that you've done a lot of female characters in comics. Spider-woman, Red Sonja and your own creator-owned work Ultra, Girls and recently, The Sword. Any particular reason why you prefer to do female characters in comics?

Jonathan:  To simply put it, I think we prefer to concentrate on female characters because we’re men.  Women are beautiful, smart, and strong, and we like to work on characters like that.  It’s also fun to see women do amazing things like jump over buildings.

Girls has earned both praise (and revulsion) for being groundbreaking and unflinching in its depiction of nudity and gore in comics. Is there an underlying theme as to why you made the antagonists flesh-eating, naked women? What's up with the giant sperm monster? Also what scenes were removed from the final comic?

Josh:  The main theme of Girls is fantasy vs. reality, and the “girls” represent a warped version of a hetero male fantasy—naked, gorgeous women who simply want to mate with men and kill off the real women.  The flesh-eating is just a reflection of their primitive nature.  The giant sperm monster was basically our take on the standard alien spacecraft.  I can’t recall any scenes being removed from the final comic. 

Jonathan:  I don’t think we’ve ever been asked if scenes were removed before.  No, we just about had full creative control on our books.  It’s one of the blessings of working with Image Comics.  We don’t feel so afraid to censor ourselves.

Is Girls the most popular book (sales-wise) you've done for Image? What were the sales on the individual books? Were the TPBs better sellers? What was the fan reaction to this series?

Jonathan:  Girls is probably our most popular book.  But not by much.  And it’s probably too early to say, anyway, considering that The Sword is halfway through the series, and Vol. 1 is only out.  It’s also difficult to say whether single issues or trade paperbacks sold better than each other because they have different price points and thus, different demand.  As an “indie” comic book, Girls did very well.  The fans really enjoyed it, and we really appreciate them.

Is it true that you're getting a pretty good income from your creator-owned work as mentioned by Robert Kirkman?

 Cover of Girls issue 22 by the Luna Brothers

Josh:  Yes, it’s true that we make a pretty good living from our creator-owned work, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a risky business endeavor.  Every issue or TPB generates a different amount of income, so it’s difficult to gauge it that way.  Plus, I’m very money-cautious, so I didn’t start doing comics full-time until I felt very comfortable.  Though, I could’ve probably made the leap years ago.

Do you have any particular favorite horror comic book? How about horror movies? Novels?

Jonathan:  I don’t really consider it to be a horror book, but The Walking Dead is probably it.  As for movies, The Descent was really good.  I also loved I Am Legend.  I walked out of the theater speechless on that one.  I don’t get to read a lot of horror novels, but I wish I had more time for Stephen King.

You shifted from superheroes to horror to fantasy in your creator-owned work. Which genre do you feel suits your individual writing and drawing styles?

Josh:  As a writer, I enjoy pretty much all genres equally, as long as there is a good story with compelling human drama to tell.

If given a chance by the Big Two companies Marvel and DC, which established comic book character/s would you like to work on?

Josh:  We generally prefer to work on our own creations, but if given the chance, I think I would be interested in working on a Superman, Supergirl, or Batman story.

Jonathan:  Same here.  I like Spider-Man, too.