Rafael Albuquerque knows his way around comics. Although he’s best known for his years working on titles like Blue Beetle and American Vampire, the Brazilian artist got his start with an Egyptian company, but was quickly recruited by BOOM! Studios and DC Comics. His style is one that people quickly take notice of, for its gleaming individualism but also its sound base in composition and storytelling.
With his long-running series American Vampire (with writer Scott Snyder) going on hiatus this year, Albuquerque is ready to branch out. I talked with him just as the new year began, and he revealed several interesting morsels, including a stint writing and drawing Batman, the first official look at an American edition of his Brazilian comic Tune 8, and he teased a new project he’s doing this year at Vertigo.
Chris Arrant: Rafael, what are you working on today?
Rafael Albuquerque: For the first time, I’m starting a year not drawing, but writing comics. I’m working in a special thing for Vertigo, to be announced really soon. Couldn’t be more excited about it.
This month is a big one for you: American Vampire goes on hiatus right at the highpoint of the series so far. First off, why did you and Scott Snyder decide to take a hiatus?
There are many reasons. First of them is because the storyline will change considerably. If we compare American Vampire with a music album, we would be finishing Side A and getting ready for Side B. Things will get darker in a really cool way. We ALWAYS thought the story this way. However, we’ve chosen this moment due the parallel projects that Scott and I are handling now. We just felt it was the right moment for the break.
Scott said one of the reasons was so you could do more of the American Vampire issues moving forward and have less fill-in artists. Are there certain issues or scenes from previous fill-in stories of American Vampire you wish you would’ve drawn?
Yeah. Don’t get me wrong: The roll of AMAZING guest artists we had is something I’m really proud of, but (call me selfish if you want) if I could, I would have done all the issues. I envy runs like 100 Bullets, where Eduardo Risso drew all of the 100 issues, and I hope I can do way more in the second cycle.
What’s your plans during the six-month break?
Working on this Vertigo thing, basically, and move some other projects forward.
People know you’ve been working on Batman with the back-up stories to Scott’s Batman run, but I also hear you’re doing a story for the digital-first series Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight. Can you talk about that?
Definitely. I couldn’t be prouder of this short story I did for this book. It was the very first time I could write and draw a story for DC. And starting with Batman isn’t bad at all!
My DC editors (Ben Abernathy at first, than Hank Kanalz) couldn’t have been better on this, respecting my own vision and giving me all the direction and freedom I needed.
And it’s a twisted story.
When will this story come out digitally or in print?
Not sure exactly, but I think February or March it should be out digitally.
One thing I’ve been excited about, and pestered you about, is the possibility of bringing your Brazilian webcomic Tune 8 to America. Any news on translating and putting it online or having it published?
Definitely. Tune 8 will be published in USA, hopefully this year. We’ve found the perfect place for the book and it should be announced soon. I’m really excited about it.
For those of us who can’t read Portuguese, can you clue us in about what Tune 8 is about?
Tune 8 is a sci-fi adventure story. It’s about Joshua, a crononaut who ends up in a really odd and different place, due to an apparent malfunction if his time-traveling device. His radio can’t connect any frequency, except the forbidden frequency 8, where a mysterious voice, who seems to know more about Joshua’s future than himself, helps him to survive. Expect the unexpected!
One thing I had in mind when asking you to do this interview was to talk about your cover work. I loved your run on Superboy and your recent Resurrection Man covers have likewise been great. Could you be doing more of this kind of work in the future?
I love doing covers, but I think I’m more and more finding my own style doing this. I hope I can do more cover work, but always finding the right book for it — a book where my art style would fit. I love to create covers, but the excitement ends when I have to do a piece I just don’t believe in, you know what I mean?
Exactly. Of the covers you’ve done, which of them do you think you most enjoyed doing?
I love all the process of American Vampire covers. The story allows me to play with different art styles and compositions. I specially like the ones for “Death Race,” where they were macabre ’50s advertising.
Looking over the course of your career, in American comics you’ve primarily stuck with DC – with a couple small but memorable exceptions at Marvel with some Bucky covers and an issue of Uncanny X-Force and Wolverine. What makes DC such a place you’d stay with them so long?
DC gave me my first big opportunity, and I was lucky that I didn’t draw a lot of fill-ins like most of the new guys. They have trusted me with a regular gig when I started, and since then I have always been drawing monthly books. That’s really cool, and I really respect them for it. Also, it’s really hard for an artist to do more than an issue a month, so I think the opportunity to completely “experience” Marvel will take a little longer to happen. But who knows, right?
Looking at those sparse Marvel gigs, what was it that attracted you to those? The characters? The creators?
A bit of curiosity to work with them, I guess, and definitely, the creators. Rick Remender and I were trying to work together for years! It was just one shot, but i think it was cool enough to make us to work together again. (and we have plans!)
Speaking of the future, what do you ultimately want to do in comics? After American Vampire ends – if it ends – what other stories do you want to tell in comics?
I want to expand horizons. I want to become a better storyteller. I think I’m confident enough to draw comics but it really scares me the idea of writing. So that’s exactly what I want to do! Do more and more writing. Finding a balance in between creator-owned and commissioned work. But, specifically, work on projects I’m passionate about, and with the best creators I can. That’s the best way to get better, I guess.