RAFFAELE IENCO ANSWERS 15 QUESTIONS WITH JULINDA MORROW
Raffaele Ienco has been part of the comics community for many years. It is with his breakout series Epic Kill, published by Image, that Rafael has found an eager and voracious audience for both his work and his beautiful fictitious assassin, Song.
A gallery of Raffaele’s epic art follows this interview.
Julinda Morrow: What path led you to comics and sequential art?
Raffaele Ienco: Well, I always loved reading comics when I was a kid, like Donald Duck and Scrooge McDuck [stories], then I drifted to DC horror like House of Secrets and Unexpected which [then] led to superheroes like Superman and Spider-Man. I always tried to draw the comic panels; and through my teens I was always trying to improve my artwork. I wanted to become a comic book artist but didn’t think I had the skill set to get there.
JM: What schooling or training did you receive?
RI: I graduated from a three-year college program called Illustration, which was a general all around art course. It didn’t specialize in sequential art, though.
JM: Who, in your opinion, are the pioneers of sequential art?
RI: Well, I will personalize that question and say a pioneer of sequential art – to me – was John Byrne. He was very prolific when I was a teen in the 80s and I tried to study his technique and excellent story-telling ability especially his work on Fantastic Four, Alpha Flight and his X-Men. Now, I know there were giants of the industry before him (Kirby, Ditko, Neal Adams); but he, specifically, had a lot of influence on me in the beginning.
JM: How do you define sequential art?
RI: A sequence of panel-to-panel artwork that tells a story.
JM: Do you find that sequential art provides you with near-limitless possibilities for storytelling or do you experience it as constraining? Please elaborate.
RI: I don’t find the medium too constraining but there are some drawbacks. One disadvantage we have in comics is lack of music soundtrack. Some movies or TV can move an audience to tears from the music alone. And if you were to subtract the audio from a number of movie scenes the emotional effect is diminished by a huge factor. We don’t have audio in comics. We must move the reader with words and the panels of artwork. [But] we do have the ability to conjure up anything we can think of – limited only by imagination.
Oh, but another constraint is page length. My comics are generally twenty-two pages and I like to move the story forward at an entertaining pace so I may have to drop certain redundant panels and skip ahead – but this is usually a good thing, as the panels that are dropped are the ones that can be dropped, leaving only the most important panels to tell the story.
I wouldn’t describe comics as having the quality of “near-limitless possibilities for storytelling” I’d say movies have that quality.
JM: What qualities or resources do you believe are most important for a sequential storyteller to have?
RI: Being able to tell the story from one panel to the next is really important. I’ve seen great artists do great panel-to-panel work but sometimes they miss the continuity from the previous panel. It’s more like a great showcase of panels instead of a story.
Perspective drawing, variety of angles, human expressions, and exciting color work are also important.
JM: How do you approach your work process?
RI: I do many, many pencil thumbnails of panels to get an idea of a scene. I think visually first. Plot first. My comics usually have twenty-two pages, and a scene in the comic can be one page or five – maybe six – pages; usually not longer. Sometimes I’ll switch around panels from one page to another to create a richer storytelling experience.
Dialogue is an ongoing process. I’m always writing down dialogue ideas and will always improve on what I have right up to the deadline to submit the book. Since I letter my own comics this works out well.
For art, I layout my figure and perspective work on the computer in blueline. I print that out and ink over the layouts. I scan that back in and then do the coloring. I’ve got the process down so it’s a pretty optimized stream.
JM: How many hours a day do you work? Are you uniformly productive on any given day or more productive on some days than others?
RI: Comic creating isn’t nine-to-five. I find I spend a lot of hours per day at the craft – usually twelve. But the advantage is my day starts whenever I want it too. I can sleep as much as I want. No commuting. I can skip the day if I feel like it. Take a super long lunch. And I dig what I do.
I’m more productive when it’s dark outside and in the cold winter.
JM: Was it a struggle, at the start of your career, to find work and make ends meet?
RI: Yes and yes. In fact I stopped doing comics for ten years and took a job in the video game industry. With that came a steady paycheck that didn’t illicit despair in your heart when you saw the amount. But the great thing about having your own comic series is that you can decide the story direction single-handedly. All the choices are yours to make. But it still needs to sell to make money so you can survive the monthly bill monsters.
JM: What has been your most valuable professional experience?
RI: Probably working in the video game business. I learned a ton of technology that helps me make my comics faster and better. I learned to be more professional and approach the comic industry with more business sense and timeliness.
JM: What inspires or informs you creatively?
RI: Other creators inspire me. Especially from Image Comics. They are doing the same thing I am – creating comics – and will solve problems sometimes in a way that will trigger a solution for my own needs. Robert Kirkman is especially inspiring with his success on The Walking Dead.
JM: What is your position on digital comics? Are they a good thing or a bad thing?
RI: I think they are proving to be a good thing. With all the new technology around to read comics from anywhere I think the market can only grow as a result. Retailers will benefit, too, as new readers come to their stores for the actual paper product which has special and unique attributes that can’t be reproduced by digital.
A graphic novel I created is being released in digital very soon. If not for this opportunity in digital the material may never be available to anyone.
JM: If you were to make any changes to the industry or the market what changes would you make?
RI: The price of comics needs to be lowered. But I don’t know how this could be arranged. Maybe publishers need to print their own comics. Epic Kill is 2.99 for 22 pages and a cover, and I don’t ever want to go above that price point.
JM: If you could apprentice under any artist at any time in history and anywhere in the world who would it be?
RI: Michael Golden is my supreme high lord. Marvel Fanfare #47 and Avengers Annual #10 are my art bibles for a level of craftsmanship I could only aspire to ever reaching. Also Jose Luis Garcia Lopez, who probably is a robot, ‘cause he’s so incredible too.
JM: What, in the future, would you like to accomplish creatively?
RI: I would like to just continue improving as both a writer and artist and create amazing characters that truly move the reader…be known, hopefully, as a name in the industry.