The Art Of Rafael Albuquerque
The American Vampire artist talks us through some of his favourite work
Albuquerque started his career working for independent US publishers such as Boom! and Image but moved onto DC’s superhero book Blue Beetle. This led to the title that made his name, American Vampire, co-created with writer Scott Snyder. Thanks to this hit Vertigo series, he is now able to pick and choose his own projects, offering him a luxury that not every artist is able to enjoy.
Comic Heroes: You first got noticed in America drawing teenage superhero comic Blue Beetle for DC. How did you find working for a US comics publisher?
Rafael Albuquerque: “When I started working on Blue Beetle, I was already working for foreign companies such as the Egyptian AK Comics, Boom! Studios and Image Comics. Before that, my only work for the Brazilian market was a few advertising pieces.”
CH: After Blue Beetle, you co-created American Vampire with Scott Snyder. Is horror something that you have always had a natural affinity for?
RA: “I’ve always tried to manage my style to fit in any kind of story. American Vampire is not different. As much as I like horror as a genre, it wasn’t the main motivation for this book. My research lay a lot more in the historical aspects than the horror itself. I was afraid that since that’s the core of our book, if I tried to mimic someone else on this, it would look fake and obvious.”
CH: On a related note, how liberating was it to move from a superhero book to a creator-owned Vertigo series?
RA: “A lot. Superheroes, especially DC ones, have a lot – a lot – of background. It’s hard to put your personal vision into huge franchises such as Batman or Superman. Don’t get me wrong, I love them, but publishers tend to be very protective about different approaches to their main characters. Vertigo is a place where you are working on your own stuff. You are
building something from the ground up, so all that matters is your personal vision. That made me grow a lot as an artist, and also, it let me show my vision to the readers. That also allowed me, at this point in my career, to explore my own vision even in big mainstream characters.”
CH: American Vampire has been one of the biggest hits at Vertigo of the past few years. How surprised were you?
RA: “Very much. We were very confident about the book, but that was also unknown territory for Scott and I. It was his very first big gig, and I was hired to do something completely different to what I was doing at the time. The story is amazing, but we can’t praise enough the work of our editor, Mark Doyle, as to how well it was received. Having Stephen King aboard also doesn’t hurt!”
CH: You have also worked on a Batman Black And White story which was published last year. How was it working
on such a recognisable comics character?
RA: “I did and it was great. The original Batman Black And White was one of my favourite miniseries when I started to get into comics, so being invited to be part of it, was first of all, a big honour. The other great thing is that Mark Chiarello, the editor, let me do the story my way. I could write and draw it the way I wanted, and again, showing the readers my own take on this huge character.”
CH: You’ve been lucky enough to work with Jeff Lemire on Animal Man. How did this come about?
RA: “Very lucky. Jeff is amazing. We’ve known each other for a long time and we both have a mutual admiration for each other. We were trying to work together for about four years, and for one reason or another, we never could find anything. Animal Man came up at the perfect moment, and it couldn’t have been better.”
CH: American Vampire returns in March. How does it feel to come back to the series that has cemented your name as a creator?
RA: “We’ve done more than 30 issues and right now, I’m as nervous as I was when the book was about to launch. We are doing our best. The script for #1 is phenomenal. Probably the best thing I’ve read from Scott up to now. We are really confident it’s gonna be bold, and people will understand why it took so long, and why we are restarting it from #1. The whole story will change a lot and a lot of questions, especially about Skinner, will be finally answered.”
CH: The series always feel very collaborative – and you’ve written some of the stories – so has it become more of a team effort as the series has progressed? How closely involved are you with the writing?
RA: “Every time Mark, Scott and I have the chance to meet, usually at conventions or something, we have a big American Vampire brunch. That’s where we pretty much discuss a year of stories. It’s a big brainstorm, where we have free rein to put our ideas out. Scott is a genius. He has this amazing skill to take all those ideas and make them work in the script. I was flattered when he let me write Long Road To Hell, an oversized tale that came out last year. We are always Skyping as well, so he always helps me out a lot every time I’m trying to write something myself.”
CH: It seems that South American artists such as yourself, and Eduardo Risso and Ariel Olivetti, who are both from Argentina, produce work with a very distinctive flavour that’s different from the American approach to comics. Do you think that’s a fair comment, and if so, why do you think that’s the case?
RA: “I appreciate that. I believe they are both amazing artists. I cannot speak for everybody, but I believe my style is a bit different from the usual because I have some unusual influences. Italian and Argentinean comic book creators are among my favourites and they definitely shaped a lot of my artistic approach.”
CH: Finally, now you’ve taken the leap into writing your own work, will we see more stuff that is both written and drawn by yourself?
RA: “Definitely. I’m working on another creator-owned book that will be announced soon. Something I’m co-writing and illustrating. I’m very positive about it.”
Brazilian comic artist with a distinct scratchy style and a penchant for the dark and gritty
Porto Alegre, Brazil
http:// rafaelalbuquerque.com/ blog