Rafael Grampa: An Up and Coming Comics Superstar
Rafael Grampá debuted in the American comics market with 2008’s “Mesmo Delivery,” which is the kind of work that causes jealousy in veteran artists and rookies alike. Grampá’s fantastic lines, interesting layouts, and punchy script was enough to instantly make him a capital-N Name amongst those in the know, including Matt Fraction, superstar writer of “Uncanny X-Men” and “Casanova,” who has publicly sung his praises.
He’s made random appearances in comics since “Mesmo” — a cover here, a “Daredevil” pin-up there, a “Hellblazer” short story way over yonder — and quick look at Rafael Grampá’s bio on Comicbookdb reveals that he’s worked on around half a dozen books. When walking about the up-and-comers to watch out for, he’s one of the first hanging on everyone’s list. So who is this Rafael Grampá and where did he come from?Matt Seneca has pulled out several reasons why you should know and love Grampá’s work as part of his “Your Monday Panel” series. Seneca takes a single panel out of the groundbreaking “Mesmo Delivery,” pulls it apart, and manages to both find plenty worthy of examination and nail several reasons why Grampá’s work is so interesting.
Yeah, Grampa — his stuff hits like an atom bomb, rude and loud and sweaty, full of the banging rhythm that only comics can hope for. The guy’s a brilliant artist, as even a cursory glance up top will attest: his eye for composition, honed by time in the animation trenches, is formidable, packing a massive amount of information into the panel without crowding anything and managing to keep each visual element crisp and distinct, perfectly readable. What strikes you as a barnstorming moment of insane confusion, figures sloppy with body language and all squashed together, reveals a deep consideration once you pick it apart a little.
Seneca’s “Your Monday Panel” post is a fantastic way to get started and learn the appeal of his work. A nice companion piece is Sean Witzke’s Emma Peel Sessions 37, where Witze explains that the subject matter in “Mesmo Delivery” isn’t what’s so exciting, but rather it Grampá’s virtuoso execution that elevates it above and beyond the competition:
[“Mesmo Delivery”] is a gauntlet being thrown down, Stooges debut performance, Nasty Nas debut album sh-t. This is angry young man comics, showing how he can do this and they can’t. And it works. It’s legitimately an announcement of Rafael Grampa’s name being on something is automatically worth your dime… stories like this are always about execution. Which of course is the reason you buy comics for the art – the dream sequence page, the up-angle of the girl pissing herself, the shot of the devil, the inside-the-mouth zoom-in and cutaway, the lilting way the Elvis lyrics move across the page – this is the first time you can see anything like this and he knows it.
This intense experimentation is a large part of why Grampá’s work, scarce though it is, is so arresting. You’ve read comics before. You’ve seen fantastic art before. Maybe you’ve ever read comics that really push against the traditional idea of comics storytelling. Grampá is doing all of that, but pushing in a brand new direction. Grampá is working in a lane of his own making, rather than emulating someone else, and making the comics industry much more interesting as a result. We don’t know what to expect from him, except great things, and that’s exciting.
Finding fully-formed talents in comics is still a pretty rare occurrence. There are artists whose debut works display a shocking amount of promise, and others who stun at first sight. But, Grampá is something more than that. This is a guy who is in complete control of his pen, doing exactly what he wants to do, and knocking our socks off in the process. Being able to get in on the ground floor of Grampá’s comics career is something special, as he has nowhere to go but even higher than where he is right now.
You should absolutely get familiar with Grampá. “Mesmo Delivery” was recently reprinted by Dark Horse, as part of a push to publish more of Grampá’s work here in the United States. Up next is “Furry Water,” a six-issue miniseries. You can see the poster for it and take closer look at his work on his blog or Flickr page.