DKN Exclusive Interview: Álvaro Martínez – Artist On ‘Detective Comics’

by Steve J Ray
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Álvaro Martínez Bueno is a Spanish illustrator, designer, musician and the current artist on Detective Comics. He has been working exclusively for DC since 2016 and is proving to be one of the greatest new talents in the industry.

I am very fortunate in my role here at Dark Knight News, as I’ve had the honor of interacting with someone who I am complete awe of, as both an artist and as a human being. The level of detail in his work is just astonishing (see the reflection in Bruce Wayne’s car window, and the scene at the Gotham ballet, for just two examples… wow!) and he can draw quiet domestic moments; emotion, sensitivity and kick-ass action… often all in one issue!

Upon reviewing Detective Comics #958, I was extremely impressed with the quality of Álvaro’s artwork. His collaboration with Raül Fernandez on the title is one of the finest examples of penciller/inker synergy I’ve ever seen. I rate this duo up right up there with Jim Lee & Scott Williams, and even the legendary tag-team of John Byrne & Terry Austin. Yeah… I’m really showing my age now.

There’s No ‘I’ In Team

After writing a review, I do the right thing and Tweet the post to the creators, to let them know their work is being read and appreciated. I regularly send the links to the reviews to the writers and the artists on each book. Where there is a penciller and an inker, I try to include both.

I have been extremely lucky in my responses from many creators, but Mr. Martínez’ reply was different to most. This man thanked me for the review, for my comments on his and Mr. Fernandez’ efforts, and paid tribute to his entire team. He called Raül Fernández – inker supreme in my opinion – Brad Anderson – Colorist – and Sal Cipriano – letterer – geniuses, and praised them for always making him look great.

He was right… they are geniuses. Pencillers and inkers tend to get the lion’s share of praise, and credit. For me the team of Álvaro and Raül is amongst the very best working in comics today.

Colorists and letterers, however, are sometimes overlooked, but they’re extremely important. Their work is both critical and very underappreciated. These two gentlemen have kept the look, feel and style of Detective Comics consistent throughout many changes in the art teams, and are excellent at their jobs.

Brad and Sal, and all the colorists and letterers out there – I will never overlook you again. Bravo to the unsung heroes of comics, and to Álvaro for his humility, and for recognizing these fine talents.

Álvaro Martínez Bueno – DKN Exlusive Interview

Dark Knight News: You’ve said that the colorists and letterers make your work better, so how do you feel when you see the print ready pages for the first time?

Álvaro Martínez Bueno: It’s one of the greatest feelings that this kind of work can give. You put something out there, and it comes back to you a thousand times better. I don’t have an explanation for how or why, but l’ve somehow managed to work with some of the best in business… l feel so lucky!

DKN: I know you’re a long time comics fan. What were your favourite comics growing up?

AM: I was more driven by the creators than the characters; so l was always chasing anything that was drawn by John Byrne, Alan Davis, Bill Sienkiewicz, George Perez, John Romita Jr. … those were my favourites. I loved Claremont’s X-Men, Excalibur and New Mutants, the Titans, Dreadstar, West Coast Avengers, Camelot 3000

DKN: Wow. So many excellent comics! Some of my favorite books and talents. So, who are your artistic heroes and influences? Comics and non-comics, if you prefer.

AM: That’d be a never ending answer. I’ve listed some in the last question but, aside from them? l’d say Frank Quitely, Katsuhiro Otomo, Juan Giménez, Carlos Pacheco, Olivier Coipel, Moebius, Edvin Bjukovic, Christophe Blain, Frank Miller, Jaime Hernández, Bill Watterson, Barry Windsor Smith, Chris Samnee… and many many more.

Shadow Of The Bat

DKN: Once again, that’s a heck of a list! So… are you a big Batman fan?

AM: Who isn’t? I wasn’t so much as a kid, because DC Comics were difficult to find where l grew up. l was more the Marvel Zombie kind. That all changed with Tim Burton’s movies, l became quite obsessed… just like everybody else, l guess!

DKN: Absolutely! Those films really brought Batman back into the public conscience in a huge way. So in the Batman stories you draw for Detective Comics; is there any one character or specific characters that you really enjoy drawing? Are there any that are particularly challenging, that you DON’T like drawing.

AM: My favourite is Cassandra, she is extremely expressive. She can go from totally cute to absolute badass… she’s fantastic! Batwoman and Batman are really fun to draw too. I love Clayface, but l don’t think I’ve quite got the gist of him yet, the same with Batwing. l think his uniform is cool, but I’d love to do a redesign of it.

DKN: Your redesign of the Azrael Batman is amazing!

Alvaro's "Azbats" re-dedsign
Alternate cover for the forthcoming #962 by Rafael Albuquerque, based on Alvaro's design.
Another #962 variant, drawn by Yasmine Putri

The DC Universe

DKN: You’ve drawn many DC characters over the last two years. Are there any you’d still like to work on?

AM: A LOT! Flash, Wonder Woman, Titans, Blackhawks. l’d love to draw Hawkman and Hawkgirl, and anything from Jack Kirby’s Fourth World… especially Mr Miracle and Big Barda!

DKN: Awesome. With the new Tom King Mister Miracle series, you may get your chance. Hawkman looks to be back in Metal, too.

As you probably know, Detective Comics is DC’s oldest title, and where DC Comics gets its name. Is that a lot of pressure? When I was given Detective Comics to review, I was both honored and terrified.

AM: I learned to put it aside but yes, it was quite a pressure at the beginning… but, on the other hand, l was thinking the other day that l have only drawn 1% of this almost millennial series. Yes. l feel as honored as you do.

Detective Comments

DKN: James Tynion’s writing is absolutely fantastic on Detective Comics. How do you find working with him?

AM: So great! I think we both have the feeling that this is our best job, and best work to date. We’re putting so much energy into it. He has a huge knowledge and love for the DC characters, especially Batman’s, and you can see it in every word he writes. The fact that we are almost the same age makes it even easier. We were 90’s adolescents and l think it shows in our work together.

DKN: Absolutely, it’s palpable. In my reviews, I’ve often said that Detective Comics has brought many of the characters that I love back into the spotlight. Cassandra Cain, Tim Drake… and now even Jean-Paul Valley. It’s like he writes and you draw straight from out of my head and heart!

I’ve learned from the amazing Carmen Carnero that James writes full scripts with detailed layouts. Strict, tight guidelines with exactly what he wants, panel by panel. Do you prefer to draw like this? Or are you more comfortable with page breakdowns, that the writer scripts later, after seeing the finished art?

AM: The wonderful Carmen! She’s great.

Yes. James sends full scripts, with the number of panels per page and the complete dialogue, but he’s very open to artist input. He gives brief descriptions of the scenes, but gives me a lot of freedom. l usually tend to stay close to the script, with small changes here and there… but lately he’s been letting me cut loose! Giving me even more room to play… especially in the fight scenes. There are a couple of them in the two last issues of our arc “Intelligence” that l totally made up myself, which was fun but challenging! If the script is good l really don’t mind following strict descriptions. l think l have a lot to learn from writers, so l always welcome guidance.

DKN: Man, I cannot wait to read #962! The Azrael/Batwoman/Cassandra battle in #961 was awesome. You really do work with the best. Are there any writers or artists you’d like to work with in the future?

AM: Yeah… many. Tom King, Greg Rucka, Nick Spencer, Kurt Busiek, Mark Waid, Mark Millar, Brian Vaughan, Jason Aaron…

Made In Spain

DKN: Is it difficult for you to draw from scripts written in English? How do you get around any language barriers?

AM: No, l can read and write English well. I understand almost everything… Google does the rest. If not, l can always count on David Macho – my agent. He speaks fluent English, and helps me whenever l need it.

DKN: Finally. Is there a question you’ve always wanted sometime to ask you, but no one has yet? What is that question and what’s the answer? What would you like comics fans and readers to know about you?

AM: Yes, there is one:

“What does ‘Dabuten’ mean? Why do l find that word written in the backgrounds of many of your comics?” And the answer is “It’s my favourite word in Spanish, and it means ‘Cool.’ ”

My friends and I use it a lot. It’s a bit old fashioned, but we love it!

Asides from that silly thing, l’d like people to know that l’m thankful for having this job, and for having them as readers, that l’m always doing my best to outdo myself, and that l hope they feel all my efforts.

DKN: Álvaro, muchisimas gracias. I’ve loved corresponding with you, and really appreciate your time. I love your work and can’t wait for the last chapter of “Intelligence”.

AM:  I handed the last page of Detective Comics #962 to my editors on July 18th, and we started this interview on June 20th! I’m exhausted, but very happy. These past few weeks have been awful, really. Thanks for the interview and for all your patience! I will be back on Detective Comics in a few months time.

DKN: My friend, it’s been a pleasure and well worth the wait. The world needs your comics.

Álvaro Martínez’ Batman Bibliography

What a guy, and what a talent. Álvaro has done a ton of work for DC Comics, the majority of which is Batman related, and readily available. I highly recommend tracking it down.

Aquaman: Futures End #1 – Tied in to the brilliant Batman Beyond Maxi-Series The New 52: Futures End that began in May 2014 and ran through to April 2015. The ramifications of this great story are still being felt in Dan Jurgens’ excellent ongoing DC Rebirth title, Batman Beyond.

Batman Eternal #50 and #51 (Collected in Batman Eternal Vol. 4)

Batman & Robin Eternal #7, #8, #24 and #25 (Collected as Batman & Robin Eternal Vol. 1 and Batman & Robin Eternal Vol. 2)

Grayson Annual #2

Detective Comics #936, #937, #938, #943, #947 (Which can all be found in the beautiful collections: Detective Comics Vol. 1: Rise Of The Batmen and Detective Comics Vol. 2: The Victim SyndicateDetective Comics Vol. 3: League Of Shadows, which collects issues #950-#956 will be released on October 4th.

Further Reading

Álvaro Martínez, Raül Fernandez, James Tynion IV, Brad Anderson and Sal Cipriano’s work can be found in The excellent new story arc ‘Intelligence’, running through Detective Comics #958 – #962. Trust me, this is one of the hottest and most consistently excellent books on sale, right now. Always great to read, and always lovely to look at.

The next arc, tentatively titled “Long Chains” drawn by the hugely talented Carmen Carnero, begins in Detective Comics issue #963.

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