DKN Exclusive Interview: Carmen Carnero – Artist on ‘Detective Comics’

by Steve J Ray
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Carmen Carnero is a Spanish artist and designer, currently working for DC Comics. Her style is crisp, clear, and she can beautifully capture moments of introspection, tranquillity, and turmoil with equal aplomb.

Carmen has already drawn a number of titles for DC, most recently the excellent Detective Comics #957, which is where her talent first caught my eye. This issue was a comics masterclass for me; a real glimpse into the mind and the life of Spoiler, in words and pictures.

I recently had the extreme good fortune of interviewing Carmen about her work on Detective Comics.

I’m so glad that my family raised me speaking Spanish, as the artist was much more comfortable answering the questions in our mother-tongue. I guess this means that I’m now officially a journalist and an interpreter… who knew?

My Dark Knight News colleague Sharna Jahangir – a talented artist in her own right – also set some questions for Carmen. We both wanted to get her perspective as a female working in what has traditionally been a male-dominated industry.

Carmen Carnero Interview – Part One – Questions by Sharna Jahangir

Dark Knight News: Who for you is the most powerful hero in comics? Not just in terms of super powers or abilities, but also in their power to inspire.

Carmen Carnero: Superman, without a shadow of a doubt. The question answers itself. He’s one of the very few characters who can inspire due to the enormity of his power, and how he chooses to wield it. His very best comic stories have always included his humanity, and sense of justice as their main themes.

DKN: Where did your passion for comics come from? What experiences have you had that relate to it?

CC: It started with just two comics; Frankenstein and Gen¹³. The art of both Bernie Wrightson and J. Scott Campbell really left their mark on me. It was after these two books fell into my hands, at the age of 18, that I made the decision to study art. I’d never drawn before, but knew that it was what I loved and wanted to do.

After high school I went to university to study fine art. At the end of the course, I had the extreme good fortune of coming across another, specifically focused on the art of comics, which featured some of the greats of the industry. Amongst them was Joe Kubert.

This course is where it really hit home for me, that what I really wanted to do was draw comics. If Joe Kubert recommends that you show your work to all the big companies, you listen to the master! After showcasing my portfolio at various conventions, my love for drawing comics changed from a hobby into a career.

Moving Pictures

DKN: What is your favorite medium of story telling?

CC: Cinema and TV, because seeing physical movement is what really sets them apart from comics. On paper, I may need 3 panels to show just one movement, on film it’s much easier. Camera movements help inspire much of what I do, when it comes to drawing my comics. Visualising an interesting panorama always helps when the time comes to planning my page layouts.

DKN: Have you noticed any difference in the interactions between the publishers and male artists vs female artists in the industry?

CC: No, no differences at all. At least, none that I’ve personally noticed. I haven’t experienced any difference in treatment.

DKN: How do you feel about female narratives in comics that have been written by men?

CC: They’re just narratives, regardless of who writes them.

Carmen Carnero Interview – Part Two – Questions By Steve J. Ray

DKN: How do you feel when you see the print ready pages for the first time? After they’ve been inked, coloured and lettered?

CC: Gosh. I’m always thinking about the mistakes, or how to make my work better next time. I’m very critical and demanding when it comes to my own work. But it’s always a joy to see your comic in stores, or when folks crop your art to post on-line, on blogs etc. Generally, though, once I’ve seen the finished product it’s very rare for me to look at it again. I never like seeing what I’ve drawn in the past, however good or bad.

DKN: Who are your artistic heroes and influences? Obviously ,Wrightson and Campbell rank highly.

CC: It started with them, but when I discovered what Alex Ross was doing I just knew that he was going to be my art hero. Kingdom Come is the perfect example, and my absolute favorite. I would truly love to one day achieve that level of excellence in my own work, however impossible that may seem.

I have a ton of contemporary influences, like Stuart Immonen, Olivier Coipel, Carlos Pacheco, Greg Capullo, Sara Pichelli, Adam Hughes, Sean Gordon Murphy… a huge list of talented people, I could never name them all. If I then went on to include all the classical painters, sculptors, etc..

Versatility Is Key

DKN: Are there any specific characters or situations that you really enjoy drawing? Are there any that you find challenging, and that you DON’T particularly like drawing?

CC: I always really enjoy drawing facial expressions and conversations. This is probably because I find drawing faces really easy. As for something that I find particularly difficult, I have to admit that my weakness is double page spreads. I find planning them out very taxing.

DKN: I love your more delicate moments. They’re really some of my favorite parts in all of the comics you’ve illustrated. Are there any characters you’d like to draw in the future?

CC: My ultimate goal is to one day draw Superman. But there are always characters that, although you think you may not enjoy drawing them, when the time comes around to actually doing it, it turns out to be great fun! Right now I’m having a blast with the huge variety of characters that appear in Detective Comics; Spoiler, Clayface and Batman in particular.

Working On Detective Comics

DKN: Is James Tynion’s writing or the DC style different to the Marvel style? Do you prefer to work from full scripts with detailed layouts? Strict, tight guidelines with exactly what the writer wants, panel by panel? Or do you prefer basic page breakdowns which the writer scripts later, after seeing the art, giving you more freedom?

CC: To be honest, whichever publisher I’ve worked for, I’ve never drawn from a basic layout script. It’s always been full on, panel by panel page descriptions… so I can’t state a preference. All the scripts I receive are extremely detailed, and I try to keep as close and as faithful as possible to what the writer asks for.

DKN: Are there any writers or artists you’d like to work with in the future?

CC: There are far too many writers, inkers, and colorists I’d love to collaborate with to actually name. I have been extremely fortunate with the talents I’ve already worked with, and would love to collaborate with many of them again. But, no… no real preference. I’ll welcome and be thankful for whatever comes my way.

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

CC: Honestly… I’ve been thinking about that question for over a week and couldn’t come up with an answer! I’m very happy with the questions I got.

Anarky In The U.S.A.

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

CC: As it’s not my first language, I do sometimes need to think carefully about what exactly it is that the writer wants in a specific panel or page. The usual solution is translating the script. That helps me work faster… to work on the art from the translation. That way I can also avoid making mistakes, and it’s less likely that I’d need to draw anything again from scratch.

DKN: I’m really looking forward to your “Longer Chains” story arc. It’s due to start when “Intelligence” concludes, right?

CC: Right now, I don’t know if the story’s still going to be called “Longer Chains.” What I can tell you is that I’ll definitely be drawing two more issues (#963 and #964) which will also focus on Spoiler. It will continue the story between her and Anarky from exactly where we left them at the end of Detective Comics #957. Anarky’s intentions will finally be revealed, and we’ll be tying up a few more dangling plot threads too. Everything’s connected!

DKN: Thank you Carmen, it’s been a real pleasure talking to you.

CC: Thank you for the interest!

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