You might not know it yet, but artist Kenneth Rocafort is going to be Top Cow Productions' next big breakout star. That's what Top Cow Publisher Filip Sablik and many others in the company believe, anyway
The Puerto Rico-based artist has been making waves as one of Top Cow's most reliable illustrators, as evidenced by his previous work on Mark Waid's "Hunter-Killer," Paul Dini's "Madame Mirage" and Jonathan Hickman's "The Core," one of last summer's Pilot Season books. Those projects paved the way for Rocafort's latest and biggest job to date as the artist on "Cyberforce/Hunter-Killer," Top Cow's major summer release. The book, written by Mark Waid, is a hard-earned reward for an artist that has received great praise within Top Cow.
"Kenneth has been impressing all of us internally for years. He's one of those rare artists that emerge fully-formed from their first published work," Top Cow Publisher Filip Sablik told CBR. "[Top Cow founder] Marc Silvestri has said on a number occasions that he thinks Kenneth is one of the most original artists he's seen in years. He loves Kenneth's sense of design and was thrilled when he started redesigning the original Cyberforce characters. I think Kenneth's artwork will be the definitive vision for these characters for a lot of fans moving forward."
Sablik points to some of the subtler nuances that Rocafort uses on the cast of "Cyberforce/Hunter-Killer" - there's one scene, for example, where Damper, an Ultra-Sapien, wets himself during an interrogation with an on-the-run Ellis - as just one reason why the rising artist is the right man for the job. Another part of it, of course, is Rocafort's own self-avowed fandom for the Cyberforce characters. When Rocafort told the Top Cow brass that "Cyberforce" was his favorite series, the wheels began spinning and the torch was passed to the artist and Mark Waid, who has declared that Rocafort's involvement was one of the main draws for working on "Cyberforce/Hunter-Killer."
"Mark has worked with such a wide range of artists and spends part of his day behind the [BOOM! Studios] editor's desk as well [and] it gives him a great insight of how to write for the artist he's working with," said Sablik. "He's really writing the scripts in a way that allows Kenneth to have fun with layouts and story-telling. Kenneth in turn, I think, gets Mark excited to come up with the most visually compelling scenes he can. Mark knows he can throw anything at Kenneth and Kenneth is going to deliver."
While it's true that a picture is often worth a thousand words - and you can check out many of Rocafort's pictures in the pages of "Cyberforce/Hunter-Killer Preview," Top Cow's Free Comic Book Day offering - there's something to be said for hearing from the artist himself. In light of all the praise being heaped upon Rocafort, CBR News spoke with the talented artist and learned his views on the Cyberforce and Hunter-Killer teams, what makes them work together so well, what he enjoys about working with Mark Waid and what else he'd like to do with his career.
CBR: Kenneth, drawing Cyberforce and Hunter-Killer on their own would be compelling enough for any artist, but you get to illustrate them both in the same book. Has the experience been fun or stressful?
Kenneth Rocafort: It's more than a challenge, but it's also fun and exciting for me to see these two groups come together. They harmonize very well in the same book.
Because you're dealing with two superhuman teams, the cast is naturally going to be huge. As a result, do you find that some of the characters get lost in the shuffle?
Yes, there is going to be a certain approach in some characters more than others - but that doesn't bother me, because everything has a reason and a purpose. And when Mark Waid writes you cannot underestimate him. You always leave the book feeling pleased.
You've been an outspoken fan of Cyberforce for a while. What is it about these characters that you find so fascinating?
The impact is in the first impression, and for me it was love at first sight. [laughs] The bad thing about being a fan is that I still visualize Cyberforce with the art of Marc Silvestri. But it's a real privilege to draw. I'm definitely enjoying it.
Do you find yourself wanting to draw the Cyberforce characters more than the Hunter-Killer team? Or are they equally compelling?
I am giving the same importance to both teams. If someone notices something that contradicts that statement, then it was unconscious on my part. There is no reason to favor one group - they are both wonderful.
"Hunter-Killer" really kick-started your career in many ways. What's it like coming back to these characters? Has anything changed with them since you left?
I feel comfortable because I've already worked with them. Although, now there's a slight change in the form or drawing technique since the last time. But as far as the concept goes, it's basically the same with some minimal modifications. In addition, three years have passed in the story line from the last events of "Hunter-Killer" and it's possible and logical that the characters might change a bit in some ways, even in their attitudes.
In your Free Comic Book Day interview with Filip Sablik, you mentioned that Ripclaw and Ellis are your two favorite characters to draw from Cyberforce and Hunter-Killer, respectively. What makes each of them so much fun to work on?
Ellis from Hunter-Killer is simple in appearance, but he's complicated in his mood. He has so many facial expressions and different kinds of body language, and that's the way I like to draw him. Also, as an Ultra-Sapien [with mimic and mirror abilities], he's a lot like Pandora's Box.
On the other hand, Ripclaw on Cyberforce, I consider him intimidating. He imposes a real threat when he's aggressive and he's got a peculiar thing about his way of thinking... it's usually in rhymes.
Let's talk about "Cyberforce/Hunter-Killer." Without giving too much away, why the members of Cyberforce and "unter-Killer are about to fight one another? Will they be at odds throughout the series, or will they eventually unite against a common foe?
Actually? I really don't know! [laughs] To tell you the truth, I'm in the same position as the fans. I'm always eagerly awaiting the next script. They don't let me know what's happening in the next issue until I finish drawing the previous one. [laughs] So, sorry guys, I can't give you any inside knowledge. It's not because I don't want to, it's just because I don't know either!
So you can't tell us if there's a badass Wolf versus Ripclaw showdown? There's gotta be!
I believe that's something that everyone is hoping for, and I hope Mark Waid doesn't ignore that either!
Speaking of Mark Waid, he's said that one of the biggest draws for working on "Cyberforce/Hunter-Killer" was your attachment to the series. Does that compliment inspire you or terrify you?
I think it's a little bit of both. It's inspiring for the fact that those words came from him... wow! But I'm nervous because of the pressure. There's a demand as far as the expectations to see an excellent result from us as a team.
What's the creative process been like between you two?
My job is to illustrate and interpret the script, panel to panel. In other words, I receive the script and do my job. But I like it better that way because then Top Cow makes sure I won't damage or alter something. [laughs]
Are you drawn to work with any particular writers that you haven't illustrated for, in the same way that Mark wanted to work with you?
Sure, I have a wish list. Eddie Deighton, Joshua Fialkov, Phil Hester, Rob Levin, Ron Marz... there's plenty more I'd like to work with.
How about any franchises or characters you'd like to work on, now that you're finally fulfilling a dream with "Cyberforce?"
I'd love to get the chance to illustrate DC Comics' Lobo! And I've already had the opportunity to work on Wolverine, which I wanted to do.
When all's said and done, what has been the best part about working on "Cyberforce/Hunter-Killer?"
I like it because it not only unites two groups in a crossover, but it also unites two diverse generations of readers - those that saw the beginnings of Top Cow, and those who are with us now. I hope everyone enjoys it as much as I'm enjoying it.
"Cyberforce/Hunter-Killer" #1 hits comic stores on July 22, 2009 from Top Cow and Image Comics.