Talking with The Spanish Inquisition

They came. They saw. They signed a whole lot of comic books and drew tons of exclusive made-to-order sketches.

As previously reported by Comic Book Resources, The Spanish Inquisition tour brought Spanish artists Manuel Garcia (penciler, "Strange Adventures"), Fernando Dagnino (penciler, "Teen Titans"), Pere Perez (penciler/inker, "Adventure Comics"), Carlos Rodriguez (penciler, "Batman & The Outsiders") and Javier "Bit" Bergantiño (inker, "Vixen") overseas to New York City. In a week marked by business meetings with the Big Two and other comic book professionals, the five artists finally had a chance to meet and greet their American fans on March 7 at Midtown Comics' Time Square location.

Before the signing, CBR News caught up with the members of The Spanish Inquisition for breakfast. You wouldn't have guessed it based on their expertly drawn superheroes, but the European illustrators expressed a shared sense of anxiety about the impending event.

"It's a feeling I'm not very happy about - I'm nervous," laughed Garcia.

"The Spanish audience is pretty different than the American audience," Perez described. "Most of the people who come to signings in Spain expect funny drawings from me. Here, they want a good shot of the well-known characters. It's very hard for me to do a quick, good drawing. So doing a quick sketch and talking at the same time? This is not a good time for me!"

Inker Bit revealed a more laidback attitude. "I'm just going to have fun and meet some fans," he said. "No more, no less."

Garcia, whose first issue of "Strange Adventures" debuted days before the signing, ultimately admitted that these events aren't always doom and gloom. "I'm proud that everyone seems really happy to have a sketch from us," he conceded. "At the end of the day, it's a really nice experience."

Despite their fears, the artists described their overwhelming appreciation for the opportunity to be in New York. While some had traveled to Manhattan in years past, this was the first trip to the Big Apple for Dagnino and Rodriguez. "I had big expectations of the city and they've been totally surpassed," Dagnino said. "I like how huge the city is, but at the same time, it's very human."

Rodriguez, who has previously won CBR's COMIC BOOK IDOL, was trying to balance his enjoyment of the city with his need to work. "I've tried to proceed from a perspective that [being in New York] is a part of my job," he said. "I've taken a lot of pictures of the city, of course. There are some things that I've focused on, like the newspaper stands, street lamps and the rooftops of the building in particular."

Perez agreed that visiting New York proved incredibly helpful as an artist. "When you try and recreate New York in comics, you always think about the huge buildings and rooftops," he said. "What surprised me [during this visit] is that there's a contrast between very old buildings and very huge structures. When you haven't been here, you tend to draw too many of the skyscrapers and you lose some of the life of the city. After coming here, you can turn the city into a character in itself."

In addition to enhancing their skills as artists and meeting their fans, one of the goals of The Spanish Inquisition is to find more work with publishers. "It's nice having a chance to meet the editors," Garcia said. "These are the guys that we'll work with for the rest of the year, so it's a good experience getting to know them."

Getting consistent work in the American comic book industry is an important priority to these artists. When asked about working for Marvel or DC as opposed to publishers in Spain, the artists all agreed on one major difference: the money. "It's all about the money," Perez explained. "If an American editor pays me a lot of money to do a story and then tells me to change a page, that's okay. If a Spanish editor is paying me shit and then tells me something's wrong with a page, I'll say, 'Fuck you!'"

Perez's words, though said with a laugh, rang true for the other artists as well. Rodriguez concurred that the difference in pay is astronomical, and Dagnino went as far as to say, "In Spain, there's no such thing as a comic book industry. Not in the same way as America."

As they continue to affix themselves in the American market, the artists proclaimed that their interest in comic books rests solely on the illustration end rather than writing scripts. "I have enough problems drawing things the right way that I don't ever really think about writing anything," laughed Garcia.

Dagnino, who wrote and illustrated a Spanish children's book titled"Kasandra," seemed the most interested in the idea. "My kind of writing is pretty far from my drawings," he said. "Maybe I'd fare better at a place like Vertigo."

"I know the [mainstream] characters more or less, but I don't know the history or continuity," Rodriguez chimed in. "It would be difficult for me to write a script for them. Right now, my main interest is to draw comics. I'm just starting out in the comics industry, so I am happy just drawing for now."

Even though they recognized their excursion to New York City as a professional matter, the trip provided plenty of enjoyable non-business moments. "The food here is great!" Garcia exclaimed, which Bit agreed with wholeheartedly.

Perez, who had been in town longer than the rest, was thrilled to witness a massive snowstorm. "Going to Central Park afterwards, full of kids sliding and playing, it was like magic," he said with a grin.

"For me, it's the tiny details in the middle of this huge landscape that are special," Dagnino revealed. "For example, I saw a couple getting engaged in the middle of Rockefeller Plaza. It's those small moments in a really big city that I'll take with me."

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