Since his breakthrough run on “Blue Beetle” for DC Comics in 2006, Rafael Albuquerque has become a big draw in the comics industry. While his superhero work on titles like “Superman/Batman” and “Uncanny X-Force” has generated great interest, the biggest buzz the Brazilian artist has enjoyed bleeds freely from his Eisner Award-winning series, “American Vampire,” co-created with superstar writer Scott Snyder.
With the “American Vampire” currently on hiatus, Albuquerque is set to return to the world of capes and tights — well, at least tights — with an upcoming run on “Animal Man” with series writer Jeff Lemire, beginning this October with #24.
CBR News recently spoke with Albuquerque, who shared his thoughts on collaborating with Lemire, the emotional strength (and weaknesses) of Buddy Baker and how the world’s most famous vampire is inspiring his version of Animal Man’s nemesis, Brother Blood.
CBR News: Rafael, congratulations on your latest assignment as new regular artist on “American Vampire.” How did this project come about?
Rafael Albuquerque: Thank you. In fact, I met Jeff years ago at SDCC and since then we became good friends, and naturally, wanted to work together. We’ve tried several times but somehow it never really happened for one reason or other. “Animal Man” was that project that just came up in the perfect timing and couldn’t have been better.
Were you familiar with the series and the character before signing up or was this more about working with Jeff?
I’ve heard of the character of course, especially due to the famous Grant Morrison run. I knew also that Jeff was getting positive feedback on his run, and every issue I’ve seen caught my attention due to how bizarre they looked, but I wasn’t familiar with the story or characters until I was hired for the project. I read all Jeff’s material, and I’m now reading the older material — Grant’s run —all in a row. They are both brilliant.
What do you feel Jeff brings to a series as a writer? Do you feel he shares qualities with Scott? Any major differences?
Jeff has some kind of tenderness in the writing, especially when he does bizarre stories, such as “Sweet Tooth” or “Animal Man.” He can bring the human levels of those characters to the top, which is really cool comparing with the weirdness of everything else. That’s why I think Jeff is such a unique talent. It can be odd to try to compare him with Scott, because Scott is perfect and unique in his own writing. That would be the same as comparing Elvis and Bob Dylan, somehow. I’m just lucky enough to work with the best writers in the industry at the same time.
Like you, Jeff’s also an artist. As a collaborator, does he give a lot of visual cues in his scripts?
He doesn’t direct me, visually. He lets me do my own vision of his story, so I have a lot of freedom. I think the fact that he is an artist, though, helps because naturally his scripts are visual and easier to understand.
The storytelling, drawn expertly by you, in “American Vampire” feels very raw and primeval. While Buddy Baker draws his strength from animals, I don’t necessarily imagine him quite so visceral. Will that change during your run on “Animal Man?”
“Animal Man” tastes different than “American Vampire” definitely, but I believe the same energy and emotion can be found in both stories, and that’s my playground.
What are your thoughts on Buddy Baker’s physical appearance? And what is it about the character that you are most intrigued by as his costume pales in comparison to more iconic superheroes like Superman and Batman?
Since Buddy was pretty well established by Travel [Foreman] and Steve [Pugh], I’ve just kept that in my take. Buddy has his own personality and that’s a good thing to explore visually.
He’s also a very emotional character. How will you bring that intensity forward through your art?
Buddy has his family connections really close to him, and I think that can bring even more emotional levels than working in Batman or Superman. Somehow, he is more human.
Brother Blood is the featured villain in your first arc, a character that I would assume is more challenging as an artist. What speaks to you about his look and feel?
Again, I wasn’t familiar with the character before this story. I like the Brother Blood new look, and tried to follow it, however, [I was] inspired by other references too, like Dracula, for example. Brother Blood will be scary, that’s for sure.
Will you be adjusting or modifying your technique from your work on “American Vampire?”
By now, I think that’s happening naturally. It’s a different story, so it should be told in a different way. I don’t think it’s that different than on “American Vampire,” but as I said before, there is a different flavor.
Will working on both titles intensify your work schedule or are you confident that you can manage both projects concurrently?
It was all worked out really well by my both editors Mark [Doyle] and Joey [Cavalieri]. I’m a fast artist so I’ll be able to draw “Animal Man” and “American Vampire” until the end of my assignment.
What tools/methods/techniques do you use specifically in terms of illustrating? What is your daily routine, meaning how many pages do you try to complete a day and when do you like working? Do you listen to music while you work? Watch movies?
TV distracts me too much, so it’s forbidden here in the studio. I like music when I’m inking. It also distracts me when I’m laying out, though. At this point I can do one and half, or two pages a day, depending on the detail levels, so in a regular day job I can pretty much do everything. As for tools, nothing fancy: Microns, regular and flat brushes, black and white ink is all I need.
“Animal Man” #24, written by Jeff Lemire and featuring art by Rafael Albuquerque,hits stores October 16.