This was one of many DC Comics panels that Niagara Falls Comic Con hosted over the weekend and this one featured Rafael Albuquerque, artist for the acclaimed American Vampire series and veteran artist Dale Eaglesham currently doing Secret Six over at DC Comics. MIA was Ken Lashley who was still signing at his table but the other two artists provided more than enough wisdom during the panel.
Rafael began talking about breaking into the industry doing work for an Egyptian comic book publisher which lead to work at BOOM! Doing several things including concept art for 2 Guns which has since become a major motion picture and interiors for many books. From there he moved to DC and did work on Blue Beetle than Superman/Batman before moving on to American Vampire which suited him perfectly. Dale talked about loving comics and deciding to work in comics without actually knowing what he was doing on the drawing side of things. He started drawing pin-ups and sent them off and that lead to work at Marvel where he did Savage Sword Of Conan, Guardians Of The Galaxy and a ton of Punisher comics. He said the most difficult thing was learning to draw while having to accomplish paid work but back then they kept a lot of inventory so he’d be given an assignment but they’d tell him that it was needed sometime this year so that allowed him to work on it and massage the details.
When questioned on their favourite character to draw Dale was quick to point to Conan since he can do more with fantasy characters versus say Batman who has his limitations since he’s got a rich history and fans expect to see certain aspects in Batman or Gotham, but mostly it’s that type of world that most interests him. Rafael says he doesn’t care too much about characters, he mostly likes to be able to draw a good story with a good collaborator, those are what he looks for when taking jobs. He goes on to say everyone wants to draw Batman and The Joker but it all comes down to story. When asked if he prefers quirkier books, outside the main stream superhero stuff he said he does but it’s mostly to have a sense of accomplishment that they were able to rework a B or C grade character and make them relevant is a good feeling, a notion which Dale agreed with.
When asked how they like to work with writers, both men agreed they like collaborating with their writers at the beginning but both prefer to be given the freedom to add things as they go and not work with “tight” scripts, though Dale pointed out he’s happy to do it if the writer required it but he often finds himself thinking certain things work better and he’ll ask his writer if he can do it his way instead. Rafael then asked if he always checks with the writer or if he just makes changes on his own and Dale said no but if it’s a serious change he’d try to clear it with him first see if he can get him on board. Rafael was quick to remark that he doesn’t, he just makes the changes and then hands it in by the deadline and then they’re stuck with it. A fan then asked if there is a difference working for the big publishers versus smaller publishers, Rafael said the smaller publishers leave you to do your own thing for the most part but at DC and Marvel they want to control their characters outcome so you need to work with them, but they give you a lot more money. Dale did not answer since he’s worked solely with big publishers.
This was a con so of course there was a question about cosplayers and Rafael said he was impressed by an American Vampire costume he saw a couple of weeks back at a con and that they were making an American Vampire short film and he was happy to see that. When asked how Rafael’s art has changed over the years, he said when he started on Blue Beetle he wanted to follow-up the previous artist’s work and didn’t want to alienate the current readers but he wasn’t comfortable drawing that way so he eventually started experimenting and liked what was coming out and was comfortable doing it in that manner and that’s what has stuck. Dale advised he’s a very consistent artist for the most part but he changes his style based on how each project speaks to him, he said currently on Secret Six he feels he needs like a 70’s type style so he goes with that where his past work has not swayed in that direction. Dale was then asked if he feels the need to follow an art style that an artist on the same title has used, the fan specifically mentioned Secret Six that both Dale and Ken Lashley are working on and Dale said he does not, both he and Ken do their own thing and he doesn’t believe writer Gail Simone writes differently depending on whose drawing that particular issue.
A fan asked how long it takes to draw an issue, Rafael said a month and Dale said he asks for 5 weeks, the latter added that it’s mostly to do with where he is at this point in his life, they later went further with Dale admitting he’s usually working 16 hours a day but Rafael admits he’s a fast artist and that depending how he feels he can do a day’s work in 4 hours or could take 12. The digital marketplace was brought up and Dale questioned how prevalent pirating is in the marketplace. Rafael talked about how publishers are doing digital comics which helps cut down on piracy, although he is not completely against it since he thinks that if a fan in India can only get his work by pirating it then he’s okay with that. Dale asked to clarify if he meant as initial exposure to his work and Rafael said no, ultimately he likes getting paid but wants people to enjoy his work and if someone can’t pay to do that he’s happy there’s another way to access it.
The role of a colourist and inker was brought up and how much control they have over that side of the industry. Dale said he generally tells the colourist what he’s looking for and they’ll talk it over so he’s happy to work with a colourist, he then stated he does his own inks now because he was unhappy with how much inkers were drastically changing his art. The conversation came around to the big two and Dale spoke about all the different ways that they get work on specific books. He said sometimes editors or writers will hand-pick you, other times you have to lobby to get on a certain book you want and even in some cases you’re not working and the publisher will say “You’re doing this”. Rafael also talked about the difficulties of working on a pre-established character like Batman, he said sometimes you want to push him in a certain direction and the publisher will come back and say that Batman wouldn’t do that which is why he prefers working on characters he created so no one can say what they would or would not do.
When asked if they do anything outside of comics both men admitted that drawing feels like work and that on their down time they’d rather do something different. Dale went as far to say he’s more likely to study art when not working so he can further his style than to draw for fun. Talking about prefered art supplies both artists admit they use cheap stuff and that’s what they’re used to. Dale even recalls using HB#2 pencils in his early days. When a question came about using digital tools to do art both men accepted it as a viable tool if it’s your thing but both prefered pencil to paper, though Dale did state he uses digital tools to do his inking. When pressed further on the subject about whether it takes away from the art style by using digital instead of by hand Rafael quickly pointed out what’s it matter if you use a digital stencil to do a straight line or a ruler?