In artist Mauricio Abril's world, DC's superheroes want nothing more than to play in Marvel's cinematic sandbox. In one particularly memorable piece of fan art from Abril, a tiny Superman, decked out in his DCEU onscreen best, pleads with the MCU's Kevin Feige to let him and his fellow Leaguers in on The Avengers' fun. Off to the side, Thor and Gamora take a selfie with Wonder Woman, and Spider-Man, understandably, geeks out over Diana Prince's mere presence.
"Growing up, I just loved absorbing anything superhero, superpower, anything that was extraordinary," Abril told SYFY WIRE. "It didn't have to be only Marvel or DC. It could be the Ninja Turtles. Anything like that… I joke that I'm not a parent, but I'm still a kid at heart."
That kid-at-heart mentality guides Abril's style in both his personal, fan-driven art as well as in his professional work. After graduating from UCLA with a degree in molecular biology and realizing he wasn't necessarily passionate about the subject, Abril went back to school at the ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, California. Since earning a more fitting degree, Abril has worked as an in-house artist for Disney Interactive, designed for the likes of Coca-Cola, Universal Creative, and Hasbro, illustrated children's books for Simon & Schuster, and, right now, spends a majority of his time working with Walt Disney Imagineering, helping to design Disney's iconic and ever-growing theme parks.
Outside the realm of the professional illustration industry, Abril has been attending conventions and developing his personal style as well as his "family-friendly superhero blend" for about five years. When taken in as a full body of work, Abril's art is overwhelmingly positive, but not tooth-achingly so — it's smile-inducing, reminiscent of childhood dreams of flight in which the good guys always win. Clark Kent stretches out on the couch for a nap with Krypto and Streaky; Steve Rogers, Sam Wilson, and Bucky Barnes head out for a road trip; Flash is unfairly fantastic at tag; a cosplaying kid and his black cat are joined by the Black Panther and a Panther spirit; Sonic the Hedgehog readies himself to race Superman and Flash.
"It's funny because I love Game of Thrones, I love really dark, gritty crime shows, but with my art I can't help but do something very positive. Without trying to sound too esoteric, I do think that art really can be more than just entertainment," Abril says. "I don't believe my art is gonna change the world, but it's the little things. [If] you open the door for somebody, that might make their day. They open the door for somebody else and on and on. When I was a kid I really, really enjoyed the positivity that watching something like Batman: The Animated Series made me feel or any of the really well-done shows that were geared towards kids. So I think I just instinctively want to try to push that forward."
New ideas most often come to Abril while he's in the middle of reading, watching, or listening to something else. If a song on the radio hits just the right chords, Abril might have to pull his paper-packed clipboard out of his bag and scribble out a rough sketch. Right now, he's working on an Avengers: Infinity War-inspired piece that will utilize over 30 characters and, he explains without giving too much away, depict a kid's birthday party. How Thanos and that snap will fit into the mix is yet to be seen.
Abril has brought a similar aspirational positivity to his self-published children's book, Small Dogs, as well as his comic book-based short films. For Abril, his style isn't so much of a personal brand as it is a subject matter he wants to stick with. There is, as he points out, enough darkness in the world without our heroes standing in anything but the brightest light.