Francesco Francavilla Looks Back On Ten Years In Comics [Interview]
Over the past 10 years, Francesco Francavilla emerged as one of the most unique and prolific artists of this generation, with a slew of credits at almost every major publisher and fans clamoring to see his gorgeous style on their favorite characters. Earlier this year, Mondo hosted a special gallery show celebrating his milestone. A frequent collaborator with the Austin art house, Francavilla will also be appearing at this weekend's MondoCon. ComicsAlliance caught up with Francavilla ahead of the event for a retrospective of his first decade in comics.
ComicsAlliance: Among some of your earliest comics work was with Matt Wagner on Dynamite’s Zorro series. What was it like working on an iconic character with a legendary creator so early into your career?
Francesco Francavilla: I’ve been so blessed in my now 10 year long career in comics, not just because I’ve had the chance to work on such iconic characters like Zorro, Batman, and (upcoming) The Spirit, but because I’ve had the opportunity to work with so many legendary creators of the medium.
Working with Matt on Zorro was a blast. He is a super talented artist too, so getting his feedback on my layouts/pencils definitely made me a better artist. And regarding Zorro, I got to draw one of my childhood heroes (I watched the Disney TV series back in the day). Good thing I was good with drawing horses and historical settings already by the time I started on it.
CA: After working on creator-owned work and licensed properties, you joined Scott Snyder and Jock on Detective Comics for “The Black Mirror”. At the time was there a sense of how groundbreaking and memorable that story was going to be?
FF: I don’t think any of us thought how big that story was gonna be among fans and critics. We knew the story was good, really good, and thanks to a collaborative approach (we were all emailing/talking to each other about the pages) we were all quite invested in the project. We all gave our best and I think it shows and probably that’s what made the arc shine. It was definitely a career defining book for all of us but especially for Scott who went on to become the Batman star that he is. Luckily we were able to bring the band together again for All-Star Batman so hopefully we will try to replicate that team magic.
CA: I was a big fan of your work on Black Panther with David Liss which came out around the same time as Detective Comics. When going from one superhero universe to another do you adjust your style to suit the tone of that publisher?
FF: Usually when a publisher approaches me for a project it’s because they think my style fits the project. Specifically for Detective and Black Panther, both stories had a huge noir/pulp feel to them so I didn’t really have to change or adjust my style. After all that’s what the publishers wanted from me and I don’t think I can change my style that much even if I wanted to.
CA: You won the Eisner for Best Cover Artist in 2012, do you have a favorite cover that you’ve done from that time?
FF: Aww man, that’s like asking “which of your kids is your favorite?"
Can’t pick just one, but I’d say the covers I did for Lone Ranger, Dark Shadows, and Archie Meets Kiss are some of the best I’ve ever produced, so I’m glad they got recognized by such a prestigious award.
CA: With creator owned work such as The Black Beetle, how does being an artist lend itself to scripting a comic story and vice versa?
FF: Since my thinking is more visual, I tend to script “visually”, meaning I will go straight to layouts and then work dialogues once the pages are done. That helps me trim all the unnecessary info that is already in the art and keep the story flowing more naturally. I used that approach on "No Way Out", Black Beetle’s first arc, and people really liked it, so I’m using it again for the new Black Beetle tales, like the "Kara Bocek" story that will start in Dark Horse Presents in November.
CA: You did a couple of issues of Matt Fraction and David Aja’s Hawkeye, when coming in on a book with such a distinct visual style does that affect how you approach your own work?
FF: As I mentioned earlier, I’ve got my own style that luckily industry and fans seem to enjoy, so I didn’t change it for Hawkeye (actually Matt Fraction loves my style so he wrote those two stories with that in mind). In part because of Matt’s scripting style and to fit with the overall story, I did have a slightly different layout approach, but my inking style stayed in the pulp/noir tradition.
CA: Afterlife With Archie has been a massive hit and has helped prove how versatile the classic Archie characters are. What can we expect from upcoming issues of the series?
FF: Can’t spoil this for the readers --- all I can say is expect more craziness and more "oh my they went there" moments.
CA: With The Spirit on the horizon, how do you tackle such an iconic character linked so closely to its creator?
FF: Will Eisner, Darwyn Cooke, and Matt Wagner (among others) are the giants who have worked on The Spirit so far. Will Eisner himself is such a legend in our industry that there is no way I can measure up to him. So my approach is to do my own thing while respecting the nature and the history of the character and hope readers will enjoy the experience. I’ve gotta say this is truly something I’m most excited for about what’s coming from me in 2017.
Francesco Francavilla will be in attendance at MondoCon 2016 in Austin, Texas on October 22nd - 23rd. Visit Mondo's website for more information. Check out the two new prints he'll have available at the show below: