THE BOYS FROM BRAZIL
If you’re anything like me, you end up, at the end of each month – or even each week – with a stack of comics that you need to find space for. Sometimes my pile o’ recent comics ends up on the sideboard in the dining room, other times it ends up next to the couch in the living room, but usually it’s a stack of goodness on the floor next to my bed. And when the stack gets so big that it can’t help but topple over when you walk by, it’s probably time to find a place to shove it – somewhere out of the way where it won’t crush small children who happen to crawl by.
You may have a better comic book filing system than I do.
But it strikes me, as I look at my stack of comics from the past month, that most readers probably don’t realize how many of their mainstream American comics are actually made in Brazil. Or at least drawn in Brazil.
It’s a huge percentage, comparatively.
Let’s start with the cream of the Brazilian crop, the brothers Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba.
2010 may end up being the year of Moon and Ba. They’re already on their way to producing the best comic of the year (“Daytripper” was my without-a-doubt pick for Best Series of the Year So Far a couple of weeks back), their “BPRD: 1947” collection hit the stands last week, and the colorized and Icon-ized “Casanova” began its release last Wednesday as well. A new printing of their “De: Tales” is scheduled for this fall. And I just reread the first two “Umbrella Academy” arcs recently, because I can’t seem to get enough of these guys.
Moon’s style is a brush-heavy, laid-back Paul Pope riff, but with a distinctive humanity. Ba’s style is a pen-and-ink Mignola-but-fluid look, and he’s an artist with a flair for design. They are both superior comic book illustrators, and though I love my J. H. Williams III and Frank Quitely pages whenever I can get them (neither of whom are Brazilian, of course), I think the stuff that Moon and Ba have produced in the past few years could establish their case as Most Important Comic Book Artists Right Now. I described their work by comparing them to the likes of Paul Pope and Mike Mignola (also, not Brazilian, and also: no slouches), but I can imagine a future generation of artists just as inspired by Moon and/or Ba. And I look forward to just such a generation.
But until then, I’ll enjoy what Moon and Ba are up to, every single time they produce a comic. (And with new stuff and old, there’s plenty to enjoy from them this year.)
You know who else is from Brazil? And is a fantastic comic book artist? Why, Rafael Albuquerque, of course.
Albuquerque is best known now for his double duty on “American Vampire,” shifting his style in each issue to suit Scott Snyder’s jazzy lead story and the Stephen King weird western. He’s a major talent, and he can shift from comedy to horror to square-jawed superheroes without missing a step. His “American Vampire” work shows his range in each issue, but if you contrast that to what he did when he first hit DC comics in “Blue Beetle” or his work on “Superman/Batman” or on various striking covers over the past few years, you’ll see not only how much he’s grown as an artist, but how good he was to begin with. That he’s gotten even better, even more distinctive and confident in his layouts, shows that he’s something special.
It would be silly to compare him, at this point in his still-young career, to comic book legends like Gil Kane or Alex Toth, but you know what his style reminds me of? Some crazy chemical marriage of Gil Kane and Alex Toth.
And did you see the rejected pitch images Rick Remender posted on Twitter a little while back? He and Albuquerque on Aquaman? On some unknown and yet surely amazing team book? Wow. Albuquerque was good when those images were drawn in 2008. And he’s just getting warmed up.
Another Brazilian Rafael worth paying attention to is Rafael Grampa of “Mesmo Delivery.” Though he hasn’t released a whole lot of work in the U. S. yet, other than a few pin-ups, a “Hellblazer” short, and the twice-released “Mesmo” (worth tracking down in either the Adhouse or Dark Horse editions), Grampa’s distinctive style is a refreshing addition to any stack of comics.
If you’ve never seen his work – and you’re probably most likely to have seen his “Daredevil” pin-up, if anything – then let me attempt the impossible by describing it. It’s Geoff Darrow with the soul of Kyle Baker. It’s Moebius meets southern rock and dirty backroads and greasy burgers. It’s beautifully ugly, and, yes, get your hands on some “Mesmo Delivery” and eagerly await whatever he’s working on next. Because that’s the thing to do.
Now, if I were to rank my Top Brazilian Artists Who’ve Cracked the American Mainstream, Moon and Ba, Albuquerque and Grampa would certainly be my Top 4. But in the intro to this week’s column, I mentioned that a large percentage of your stack of monthly comics are made in Brazil, and you might be looking at your stack right now (or fondly recalling what it looks like, from the safety of the internet), and thinking, “okay, maybe I have a Ba or Moon comic in there, and maybe an Albuquerque, but that’s not such a high percentage of the stack. That’s like 1% of this mighty tower of comics I have piled up over here in the corner.”
We’ll how about this: do you have any issues of “The Shield?” Not Hickman and Weaver’s “S.H.I.E.L.D.” because those guys are not Brazilian and are therefore no use to us this week. But “The Shield,” published by DC, and drawn by Marco Rudy? No? Well, you might want to check that comic out, because Rudy (who filled in a bit with “Final Crisis” before working with Ivan Brandon on “Final Crisis Aftermath: Escape” for a few issues) is doing some crazy kind of Steranko/Williams III pages in “The Shield.” Is the comic good? Not so much. But it looks pretty great, and if it’s not something you’ve checked out, you’ll probably be surprised by the visuals. Marco Rudy, Brazilian.
How about Mike Deodato? “Secret Avengers?” That’s in your stack, right? Deodato is a veteran comic book artist, and he’s been a major presence in the Avengers line ever since he teamed up with Brian Michael Bendis on “New Avengers” all those years ago. He’s from Brazil, of course.
How about what is widely referred to as the “DC House Style.” I’ve certainly used that term, and it’s vaguely described as some kind of post-Jim Lee approach to drawing comics. You know what I’m talking about, right? That baseline DC style that you’d expect to see if you picked up a random issue of “Teen Titans” or “Brightest Day.” That kind of artwork, that looks like it was drawn by Ivan Reis, or someone who was trying to draw like Ivan Reis but couldn’t quite pull it off.
Here’s the not-at-all-secret secret: all those “DC House Style” guys are from Brazil, and not only are they from Brazil, but they all work for the same talent agency. Here’s the story: Joe Prado, artist of the Hawkman section of “Brightest Day” each and every two weeks, is also the talent wrangler for an organization called “Arts & Comics International.” Basically, it was a studio that turned into an immense talent pool, and Prado has been the middle man, the agent, who facilitates the work of a huge percentage of mainstream comic book artists.
The aforementioned Ivan Reis, who has been so good on “Green Lantern” and “Blackest Night” and “Brightest Day” over the past few years? A Prado guy from Arts & Comics International. So is Jose Luis, who draws “Teen Titans.” And current “Birds of Prey” and former “JLA” artist Ed Benes.
How about Yildiray Cinar, artist of the Levitz relaunch of “The Legion of Super-Heroes?” Turkish, but still a member of Brazil’s Arts & Comics International.
Roger Cruz of “X-Men: First Class,” from Brazil, repped by Arts & Comics International. And Joe Bennett, and Diogenes Neves, and Paulo Siqueira, and Carlos Magno. So many of the guys who do the meat-and-potatoes mainstream comics. All from Brazil. All from Arts & Comics International. Just like Renato Guedes, soon to be gracing the interiors on the new “Wolverine” series. Just like Eddy goshdarn Barrows of the JMS “Superman” run.
Now go back and look at your stack. Lots of Brazilian artists, proportionally, right?
I just find it interesting that so much of the look of mainstream comics is dependent on a single talent agency in Brazil. And I also find it interesting that some of the best artists working in comics today are also from Brazil, even if the existence of the former does not necessarily relate to the latter.
So. Brazil. Goldmine of talent? Fertile ground for comic book artists? Or machinery of the mainstream? You can decide that. Meanwhile, I’ll just be reading my Ba, Moon, Albuquerque, and Grampa comics, and wondering what will happen if everyone at Arts & Comics International really does figure out how to draw as well as Ivan Reis.
In addition to writing reviews and columns for COMIC BOOK RESOURCES, Timothy Callahan is the author of “Grant Morrison: The Early Years” and editor of “Teenagers from the Future: Essays on the Legion of Super-Heroes” anthology. More of his thoughts on comics can be seen regularly at the Geniusboy Firemelon blog.
Follow Tim on Twitter: TimCallahan