Salva Espín

Heroes on paper

08/04/2023 · By Javi de Munck
Salva Espín, Marvel illustrator
Salva Espín has been illustrating Marvel stories since 2007, 16 years drawing the most renowned superheroes in the world. © Laetitia Plazas

Adventure, magic, and action flow from Salva Espín’s hands. Children’s fantasies fill the mind of this illustrator when drawing the feats of the most spectacular superheroes in the world. That boy from Murcia who dreamt of bringing his favourite characters to life has become one of the most prolific illustrators of the giant Marvel.

As if it were child’s play: from mind to matter thanks to the highly skilled hands and boundless creativity of Salva Espín (Murcia, 1982), superheroes relentlessly flow one after another onto the pages of his notebooks. This is the way Salvador Espín brings Marvel’s most spectacular stories to life, to satisfy fans’ unquenchable thirst for entertainment. Thanks to his growing exposure —being on several TV shows has turned him into someone who is recognised by the public at large—, this illustrator from Murcia has broadened his artistic scope and is already working on animation and video game projects. An Artist with a capital A who tells us his story the only way he knows how, in meticulous detail.

You’re a legend in the world of comics and superheroes, but for those who don’t know you, who is Salva Espín?
Formally, Salva Espín is an artist. I represent my own ideas in comic form through my art, turning ideas from the world of entertainment, especially action and fantasy (which are two of my passions), into images. In short, I’m someone who has managed to turn his passion into his job.

Where does your passion for drawing come from?
It’s closely connected to my parents. My mother has always loved everything to do with crafting: painting and watercolour classes are what she signed me up for. My father, on the other hand, has always been a fan of comics, action films, and martial arts. I grew up surrounded by art and creativity. Having those role models, as well as both their support when I became interested in the world of illustration, boosted my curiosity and skills since an early age.

“I grew up surrounded by art and creativity, which boosted my curiosity and skills since an early age”

A guy from Murcia becomes one of the most prolific illustrators of the Marvel universe. Easier said than done. When did you realise you could achieve something like this?
I’d say there were two key moments. First, during my adolescence when I discovered there were Spaniards drawing in the United States. Their names where in the headings. How do you achieve that? I found a sketch book by Carlos Pacheco where he explained his creative process. It was a reality I’d never even imagined, a magical world with a Spanish name. With that motivation, I always had in mind that I wanted to and could live off illustration. The second was when the editor of Marvel interviewed me to work with them when I’d just finished my studies. I showed him sketches of superheroes and an editorial project with three or four finished pages. The editor liked the project, style and narrative more than my sketches. That moment taught me more about the industry and illustration than everything I’d learnt up until then.

What is that process like from the moment you receive the script until you bring it to life with your drawings?
Artistically, I have the training and skills to do the entire creative process: initial script, sketch, inking and final texts. But Marvel is a very big publisher, with lots of characters and a huge commitment to its readers. There’s very little production time and they have creative teams in which each person is specialised in a particular phase. I’m in charge of sketching and inking, which is no small task. In the end, my job is being the director of the actors, photography, design, production and, in short, the film.

“Everything that happens to me during the day becomes part of my work. Even the flavour of my breakfast has an impact on my illustrations”

And how do you constantly feed and develop your talent? Is there a constant source of inspiration that boosts your creativity?
Everything that happens to me during the day becomes part of my work, both at a creative and productive level. If we focus on the first, even the flavour of my breakfast has an impact on my illustrations. Obviously, all documents, artistic references and new information about superheroes or videogames are the bulk of my source of inspiration, but there are times when external details make a difference.

In your opinion, which is the key for your creations to connect with the public?
Beyond having an artistic and professional eye, I’m a real fan of the characters I draw, so it’s easy to know what another fan would expect from their favourite superheroes. I’m always looking to create a comic I’d enjoy reading.

Is it hard to find the balance between the demands of the industry and being true to your personal style?
Yes, when I work on a Marvel comic, I’m aware that I’m part of a creative team. I have some freedom to do the part that I’m responsible for, but I always have to keep in mind strict professional codes and a deep respect for the screenwriter’s work. And it’s precisely because of these creative limitations that, when I want to explore all my abilities, I work on my own personal projects, like Sargento Resines and other initiatives I’m working on.

I’m a real fan of the characters I draw, so it’s easy to know what another fan would expect from their favourite superheroes. I’m always looking to create comics I’d enjoy reading.

Which are your upcoming projects? What are you currently working on?
The project I’m spending most of my time on at the moment is videogame production. I hope that, in about a year, I can launch a videogame I’ve been working on for two years. I’d also like to do some animation. And, lastly, I’d like to develop my own character to tap into more of that creativity that, sometimes, is limited by publishers or multinationals.

What would you say to those who are starting out and would like to turn illustration into their way of life?
It’s true that it’s hard to make a career in this world, but we also can’t forget that today it’s easier than ever make yourself known. The Internet makes it easier to access large publishers and also build your own career with smaller publishing houses. Therefore, taking this context into account, I’d recommend starting to work as soon as possible in your own style, your own work dynamic and force yourself to create final art. You have to spend a lot of time on it.

Finally, what is talent to you?
Talent is a gift that should be dealt with responsibly. It’s that innate skill to do something specific. I’m not talented at many things, but I am at drawing. But without hard work, it all comes to nothing. Talent is a muscle you have to train with hard work, this is the only way it can grow.