Raül Fernandez Fonts is a Catalonian comic-book artist, and ranks amongst the top inkers working in comics today. His work on Detective Comics has been nothing short of stellar. An alumni of the Joso Comics Arts School, Raül landed his first professional assignment for independent Spanish publisher Camaleón Ediciones in 1998, when two of his contemporaries couldn’t hit a deadline. The world of comics has been richer ever since.
Raül broke into American comics with Dark Horse, inking over the pencils of Ramon F Bachs on Star Wars titles, such as Jedi vs Sith and Jango Fett. He then went on to work on Gen13 for Wildstorm. His work for Marvel led to inking on the mini-series Spiderman: Breakout.
His DC Comics work started with freelance commissions inking long-time collaborator Ramon F Bachs, which led to regular work with Fernando Dagnino on titles such as Teen Titans, Superman and Justice League.
I have had the privilege of reviewing Detective Comics over the last nine months, where his inks over the incredibly detailed pencil art of Álvaro Martínez have been consistently impressive. Over this time, I have had the extreme good fortune of conversing with Raül and his colleagues, and had the honor of interviewing two of them.
Today, Dark Knight News is proud to complete the hat-trick, and present a world exclusive interview with the man himself.
Exclusive Interview – Raül Fernandez Fonts
Dark Knight News: Raül, thank you so much for taking the time out of your hectic schedule to talk to us. First of all, for new comics fans and readers, what for you are the goals, and the responsibilities of a comic-book inker?
Raül Fernandez Fonts: My objective is to translate in line, tone and texture using permanent ink, what the artist wants to express with his pencils. I always try to respect their original style. I like staying as close to the personality that they are trying to impart on the final page, but without forgetting to put in my own personal touches. Every now and then, though it’s rare, the need arises to correct small details, or errors that may have slipped by the penciler, and it’s part of an inker’s responsibilities to fix those, if needed.
DKN: That’s as good a description as any I’ve heard before. I know that back in the day inkers worked directly on over-sized blue-print scans, on art board of the original pencils. Is that still the case today?
RFF: These days, I’m used to getting high-res scans of the pencils via email, and I print them out on blue-print in double size A3 format. I then ink directly onto paper. Once this first stage is complete I send the inks back to the penciller for approval and/or guidance. Every now and then, a small detail may need adjusting, like a facial expression or a composition/lighting fix. Once any corrections have taken place, I pass on the completed inks to the colorist.
DKN: That’s fascinating to me. I love that you hand-ink the work, and don’t just work digitally. For amateur inkers, like myself, what do you use, and recommend?
RFF: My tools of choice tend to be calibrated pens, synthetic refillable Pentel brushes, white correction fluid, and the thick Edding pens (for large black areas). But you will also find me using the odd sponge, cloth, and even the occasional toothbrush to create effects and texture. I finish the work digitally using photoshop before passing the completed, clean inks to the colorist.
DKN: That’s amazing! A toothbrush… who knew?
DKN: Just on Detective Comics, you’ve worked with some incredible color artists. The amazing Brad Anderson, Adriano Lucas and Tomeu Morey among them. The brilliant Sal Cipriano has lettered virtually every issue of Detective Comics since DC’s Rebirth. How do you feel when you see the completed, colored, and lettered comics?
RFF: So happy. Those guys are all really good. When you’ve spent so many hours at the drawing table, putting so much effort into doing a good job, it’s fantastic collaborating with artists of that calibre. Colorists and letterers with such talent really make your work shine that much brighter.
When I receive the completed pages is like a small fiesta! I spend a sizeable amount of time with a silly grin on my face just looking at them. I still get that huge rush of joy, and admiration over the final comic-book, like the massive fan that I still am.
DKN: Are there things that you find easier to draw, or more fun? Do you prefer to/find it easier to draw nature (people, landscapes, animals) or machines, and cities (plus cars, planes, spacecraft, robots)?
RFF: I’ve always preferred nature, because it allows for more creativity, so it is more fun to draw. One of my favorite parts of the job is experimenting with texture and tone. Whenever you ink nature, it’s a lot easier to use these techniques, because there are fewer constraints. It’s more free, intuitive and dynamic. It allows you play more with lines, style and substance.
Machinery is “Colder.” You’re confined by the straight lines, rules, angles, and templates. It gives you very little scope for improvisation, and adding character.
DKN: It’s probably a lot more time consuming too. How long does it take you to ink a page, on average?
RFF: I try to aim for at least one full page per day. Of course it all depends on the level of detail that the penciller has put in. Sometimes there are pages that are straightforward, and that I can complete over the course of a morning (5 or 6 hours). Others can easily take a good couple of days. I’d like to be a little faster, but I guess that’ll come with practice.
DKN: Álvaro Martínez is an incredible artist. He must be one of the pencillers that puts the most intricate level of detail in his art. What’s it like working with him? How do you feel when one of his pages hits your inbox?
RFF: Yes, he does put in tons of detail. Sometimes, I’ll get a set of his pages, and think “Oh, $#!+… Álvaro’s gone nuts again!”
He’s a dude that just has so much talent, and just keeps on growing as an artist. He spends so much time at his desk, and you can really see it in his work. I’ve worked with him for a few years now, and looking back from when he started to where he is now… the growth is incredible. He works so hard, for so long. I don’t even think he sleeps! He’s a Replicant!
DKN: You and I have been talking for many months now, and you know that I’m a huge fan of your collaboration with Álvaro. I’ve stated on many occasions that your chemistry as an art team is one of my all time favorites. I’ve likened you to Lee/Williams, Parobeck/Burchett, Bissette/Tottleben and Byrne/Austin (I’m so old). Your work together really is superb, and so much more than the sum of its parts.
RFF: Wow, now that’s high praise indeed! Thank you. It’s greatly appreciated, when we – as artists – are recognised in this way. Sometimes, the work can be gruelling. Double page spreads, with tons of characters, beating the bejeezus out of each other can be a real chore to complete. It’s great to know that readers enjoy, and appreciate them, because they can be arduous and tedious to complete. Even though the results are frequently spectacular, getting there can really drain you. So, thanks!
I do enjoy single splash pages where I can really cut loose on effects, lighting, and texture. That’s the kind of work that really motivates me. I’ve had the extreme good fortune of drawing some of may favorite comics characters over the years, On Detective Comics, I’m having a blast drawing Batman, his huge cast of supporting characters and Gotham City. The atmosphere really allows me to explore what it means to be an inker.
DKN: I’ve said it on numerous occasions, that in my honest opinion, you’re one of the greatest inkers working in comics today. As a fellow inker, I see the level of work you put in, and what it adds to the finished book. Your work literally knocks me out. Who are your inking heroes? Who do you think we should look at as luminaries in the field?
RFF: Thank you so much. You’re too kind, ha, ha! Wow, that’s a tough question. There are so many! I have to mention one of my contemporaries, Sean G. Murphy’s Batman: White Knight is seriously (frickin’) awesome. He’s one of many artists that I admire who are all-rounders, who pencil and ink their own work.
Some of the amazing teachers at the Joso school, like Jordi Sempere, Pasqual Ferry… I love their inks. I remember seeing my first American comics and admiring the work of Adam Hughes, Mike Mignola, Kevin Nowlan, and Bill Sienkiewicz amongst many others. Since then, I’ve also discovered Mark Farmer, Paul Neary, Klaus Janson and been inspired by their work as professional inkers.
DKN: Now that’s a list. Every one of them has been an inspiration to me, too.
DKN: So you’ve mentioned all-round artists. From some of the work you’ve kindly shared, it’s clear to see that you’re a great penciller too. Will we one day soon see you pencil and ink?
RFF: Who knows? Perhaps one day. Right now, I’m enjoying my work as inker over other artists pencils, Álvaro’s in particular. One day, I may feel the push to make that leap, but honestly, right now the thought of it gives me vertigo. It’s daunting, and would be a huge effort… but, we’ll see.
DKN: You already work with one of today’s greatest comics writers, in James Tynion IV. Are there any others that you’d like to collaborate with? Other artists?
RFF: So many! Scott Snyder, Brian K. Vaughan, Tom King, Grant Morrison, Brian Azzarello, Mark Millar… dude, what a question! As for artists, I don’t have a list of inkers, there’s a ton of folks whose work I enjoy. These days, the guys I’m reading, and whose style I love are Tommy Lee Edwards, Tomm Coker, Frank Quitely, Jason Latour, James Harren, Carnevale… but I’ve also had phases where I’ve really studied the works of Olivier Coipel, Mark Morales and Mark Buckingham. Those are some that leap to mind, but I’m sure I’ve left out or forgotten a ton of others.
DKN: I don’t know how many interviews you’ve had, but I’m sure you’ve answered hundreds of fans’ questions over the years. Is there a question you’ve always wished that someone would ask you, but they never did? What is that question, and how would you answer it? What would you like our readers, and your fans, to know about Raül Fernández Fonts?
RFF: Ouch! Well, right now I don’t know what to tell you. If I’m being totally honest, I can’t think of one. Hmmm… I’m going to have to think about this, possibly for a future interview.
To the fans, I’d simply say that I’m a guy that loves his job. I sincerely hope that you all enjoy it and, and will continue to enjoy it for a long time.
DKN: Gracias, Raül. You do know that I may hold you to a future catch-up interview. This one has been fantastic!
RFF: Thanks to you, Steve. I’ve always loved talking to you, and greatly appreciate all the interest to you’ve shown for my work. I look forward to my next run on Detective Comics, and to reading your reviews.
DKN: Now you’re being too kind. The comics you guys put out are so good that the reviews almost write themselves!
Raül Fernandez’ Batman Bibliography
If you like what you’ve seen of Raül’s art (and who wouldn’t), here are links to some of his Batman related work with DC Comics.
Images Courtesy Of DC Entertainment And The Artist