Getting Closer (Part 4): Giuseppe Camuncoli talks "The Intimates"

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Some say that his name is as unique as his art.

In the final part of CBR's focus on the new DC Comics/Wildstorm series "The Intimates," CBR News caught up with artist Giuseppe Camuncoli, better known as "Cammo," and while the artist is no stranger to American comic book work, this is his first big project in the American market. Hailed by some as the next big thing from Wildstorm, CBR News spoke with the artist about his style and about his new project, "The Intimates."

"…'The Intimates' is above all a series that deals about growing up," explains Cammo. "All the main characters are teenagers with superpowers that go to a school in order to learn to use them and thus become the heroes of tomorrow, but who still remain and in the end are - teenagers. So it's about angst, frustration, romance, winning, losing, dealing with one another, with teachers, with their own problems and everyday life in general. It is basically the story of what would've possibly happened to all of us at school if we had powers."

Though the team of Cammo and writer Joe Casey (who spoke with CBR News recently) may seem a bit unusual, the artist says that there is definitely a creative synergy between the two comic book aficionados. "[Jim Lee] asked me almost one year ago, if I was interested in illustrating a series that he created with Joe Casey, but which he couldn't find the time to draw - he just happens to be one of the busiest guys in comics, I kinda knew it but after sharing a studio here in Italy with him (Studio Gioco Duro), I really do know. Then he showed me the character design he did for the main characters, and got in touch with Joe who provided me with all the info about the setting, the story outline and the tone of the series, and I definitely got caught up in the whole thing. Not to mention the fact that this would've been my first work for WildStorm, a company that I have greatly admired… being a fan of a lot of the books they have - 'Planetary,' 'Wildcats,' 'Authority,' 'Top Ten' just to name a few."

Along with Casey and Lee, Cammo has a specific vision for each character in "The Intimates" and explains how his perspective on each character has influenced the art.

"Punchy thinks he's the ultimate badass, and he has a very devious and complicated personality. He's the guy with the puppet creating energy blasts, and this - together with his attitude - allows me to play the most with him, in terms of facial expressions, body language etc, etc. He's always fun to draw.

"The Duke is a Captain America- kind of hero with an American Football- inspired costume. He's what people would think to be the cool, strong leader, but in the end he's one of the most insecure characters in our cast. He gets menacing only when he gets angry and that has happened very rarely (I just finished pencilling issue 5 at the moment).

"Destra is the ice queen of the group, always acting like the bitch and having a mysterious agenda of her own about her life inside the Seminary (that's the name of the school). She's also very hot, and since I love beauty in a girl, I get my fill of it every issue.

"Empty Vee on the contrary is a heavy girl whose power is to become visible, since invisibility is her natural state. She's kinda shy and reserved, but with a lot of personality and this helps her a lot going through some of the issues she'll have to deal with during these first issues. I love working on her expressions, she's a very interesting character.

"Sykes is the ultimate mystery: a guy with a force field who hasn't spoken a single word since page one, no one really knows what he thinks or what are his motivations when he acts. His force field is constantly changing, and this is fantastic because I'm trying to draw it differently in almost every panel, sometimes reflecting what's going on in that page, and sometimes just going randomly with my mind.

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"In general, though, what's so intriguing about all these guys is that all of them are surrounded by mysteries and secrets. As raw material, being so young and inexperienced, they are ready to explode and change and grow throughout the series which is a facet of the series that I really dig."

The unique blend of European and American sensibilities in Cammo's art has made it hard to quite describe the nuances of his style, even for the artist himself. "I guess I could say I started with a big Jim Lee influence back in the early nineties before I broke in as a pro, and then went through a lot of changes and twists (which are still going on)," said Cammo. "A lot of inspiration came from many different, seemingly random sources…they include Alan Davis, Carlos Pacheco, Dave McKean, Mike Mignola, Chris Bachalo, Ted McKeever, Marc Hempel, Duncan Fegredo, Frank Miller, Hugo Pratt, Teddy Kristiansen, Eduardo Risso, Marcelo Frusin, Frank Quitely, Egon Schiele, movies, painters etc., etc. Too many to even recall all of them. What really interests me is to play with emotions, facial expressions, body gestures, drama in general, and to always try to keep it dynamic and intense, but to capture it all with as simple and clean a line as possible…reducing it to the essential. But then, as I told you, it's constantly changing and I kind of try to adapt my style to the kind of story or book I'm working on."

While every new comic book project presents its own challenges, Cammo says that "The Intimates" provides its own special challenges that enhance the joy of working on the series. "Every book is challenging and every page or character I draw usually gives me a lot of difficulty and fulfilment at the same time. I would say that the thing that makes illustrating 'The Intimates' so different to me is the fact that there is lot of characters to work with (and this is both a pain in the ass and a blessing, btw). On top of that, this is the first project in which I visually created most of the settings and characters in the book and got to add a lot to the project after Jim's contributions. Most of the other students in the background are made up just as I draw them, which is a real challenge to make up so many different costumes and looks on almost every page. But this allows me to play a lot with the genre of superheroes which was and has always been one of my favourites since I was a kid."

Though Cammo's name may be new to you, his experience in the European and American comic book markets has proven he's a dependable superstar-in-training. "I started in Italy self publishing with writer Matteo Casali, who will be soon making his debut in the American market with co-writer Brian Azzarello on 'Batman: Europa.' You will be hearing his name a lot more really soon. Together, we published this creator owned comic book called 'Bonerst - A World's End,' which should be published in the near future in the US as well. This got me to the attention of Heidi MacDonald, then an editor at Vertigo, who hired me to start drawing 'Swamp Thing' in 2000 (issues 12-20 of the series written by Brian K. Vaughan). Then I did two issues of 'Hellblazer' (168 and 169) with Brian Azzarello, recently collected in the 'Highwater' TPB and issue 14 of 'Tangled Web' for Marvel, again with Brian. I also worked on 'Batgirl: Secret Files' #1 and on the miniseries 'Vertigo Pop: Bangkok' with writer Jonathan Vankin. Recently, I just did an issue of 'Robin' (issue #129) with Bill Willingham for the 'War Games' crossover, and I'm going to get back to 'Hellblazer' with Mike Carey, filling in for Leonardo Manco with issue 206."

The promotion of "The Intimates" has been intense, from variant cover editions to Joe Casey taking over our friends at Newsarama and CBR's own Comic Pimp's "Intimates High School Prom" event in San Francisco. "To be honest, it's the very first time that something I've worked on has gotten so much promotion, so it's kinda hard to tell, but I'd say I don't feel any pressure - I'm just trying to do my best, as always," says Cammo. "Seeing the promotional posters and the gigantic one at WildStorm booth in San Diego was simply amazing. Plus, working in the same space with Jim is also helping me take it all in stride and allowing me to focus on what is important which is the work itself."

The pressure- or lack thereof- won't affect the timing of Cammo's art- he aims to be doing twelve issues a year. "We haven't talked about it yet, but I'm pretty ahead with my work so I guess we'll have to see in the following months. So far, I'd say I could handle it without fill-ins."

The chance to work with big names such as Jim Lee, Alex Sinclair and Joe Casey hasn't been a problem for Cammo- he says that all his collaborators on the series exude an infectious passion when it comes to comic books. "It's just great. There really only have been a few occasions in which I haven't clicked with the crew I was working with. The big difference so far has been a real attention to detail. For example, WildStorm is sending me the pages that Randy Mayor is coloring, so that I can give them my feedback about it, and that kind of involvement is seen at virtually every step of the process, from inking to creating the logo etc. etc. And it has remained this way even with Alex Sinclair jumping aboard as editor, replacing original editor Ben Abernathy, who did a great deal of awesome work on the series. But Alex is a good friend of mine, since he was my first colorist on 'Swamp Thing,' so the changeover was very smooth."

With the first issue of "The Intimates" hitting stands this Wednesday, expect many fans to be salivating for more of Cammo's work and guess what- you'll be seeing a lot of him in 2005. "'The Intimates' is pretty much taking all of my time. You can see, though, an illustration I did for the art gallery featured in the 'Spider-Man 2' DVD for Sony, and I will be working on a painted Batman project with Brian Azzarello, Matteo Casali, Jim Lee, Gabriele Dell' Otto and others called 'Batman: Europa' for 2005. My first painted work!"

The artist's excitement for "The Intimates" is apparent and offers one final word of advice to those interested in the series. "There's nothing I can say that could make people go and buy it if they don't want to, so I'd only recommend people to just check it out when it ships-to at least give the first issue a try: it's fresh, it's different, it's dramatic, it's funny, it's moving, it's desperate, and it's only getting better as we go on - and I'm only talking about the story! I'd be lying if I said I'm not looking forward to seeing what Joe pulls out of his hat for the next issue. Honestly, I'm so psyched by what's going on that I cannot wait till I see the next script! Actually now that you mention it…Joe, where is the next one?"

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