Interview by Steve J. Ray
One of the great joys of writing for Dark Knight News is getting to meet and talk to some of the finest talents in comics. Over the last few years I’ve made friends all around the world and one of them, the incredible Pedro Pascual Paredes, is a fellow journalist and comics fan, based in Spain. (If you’re a Spanish speaker, you MUST check out Zona Negativa). Thanks to Pedro I was able to reach out to the amazing Jorge Fornés, an artist who has wowed the world with his incredible art on Tom King’s Batman.
Jorge is from Vilanova i la Geltrú, near Barcelona (Catalonia, Spain) and his art has graced the pages of Marvel’s X-Men, Thunderbolts, Doctor Strange and Guardians Of The Galaxy. For DC Comics he recently blew fans away with his classy and atmospheric work on Batman issues #66 , #67 and #72, the premiere issue of Batman: Secret Files and he’s currently working on the forthcoming Secrets Of Sinister House.
He’s a talent to watch and a really great guy. I hope this interview is as much fun to read as it was to conduct.
Steve J. Ray: Hola Jorge! Thanks so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk to us.
Jorge Fornés: Thank you.
SJR: I’ve noticed that, in everything I’ve seen you draw, you always handle both pencils and inks. Do you prefer doing all the line art solo?
JF: Yes, absolutely! My pencils don’t tend to be very detailed, they’re practically just layouts. I finish my art by inking directly over the sketches. This gives me greater control over the balance between black and white, and the use of light and darkness. I don’t think it would be possible for me to work with an inker.
SJR: So, do you have a preference over which medium you enjoy most?
JF: For me they’re pretty much one and the same. It’s obvious that I really enjoy inking, it’s practically my favorite part of the artistic process… although the most important aspect is the layout and storytelling. That’s what demands the most concentration on my part, and those are the key components necessary for everything else to work.
SJR: Your style has really evolved over the years. I feel that it’s particularly grown and changed with your recent DC work. I see a lot more confidence in the art you’ve produced with Tom King. I mean, I’ve always loved your work; on Magnus, on Thunderbolts and X-Men… but I honestly feel that something magical has happened with Batman. Are you a big fan of the Dark Knight?
JF: Oh, absolutely, he’s one of my favorite characters. It’s a dream come true to work with a writer that I admire as much as Tom, and to have the opportunity to draw Batman. I enjoy it immensely and hope to continue.
I was always a huge fan of (Frank) Miller’s work on the character, his Batman comics were a massive part of my childhood, and key factors in making me decide to dedicate myself to this line of work.
SJR: Many millions of fans around the world would agree. Miller’s Dark Knight Returns and Batman: Year One, with David Mazzucchelli, still rank as some of my all time favorite comics stories. We’ll come back to Mr. Mazzucchelli later, but I need to ask you how the Batman job came about?
JF: I have to thank DC for the opportunity, particularly Jamie S. Rich (editor on the Batman line of titles) for having such faith in me. The man who’s really responsible for all of it though, is Tom King. He’d seen some of my work on Twitter, back when I was still a virtual unknown, and championed me from the start. He put total blind faith in me and gave me the opportunity to work on the biggest selling title in comics. I’ve worked on a character that I never in my wildest dreams ever thought I would. I owe Tom a huge debt of gratitude for giving me this amazing experience and opportunity.
SJR: I’m grateful too! Not just for your great Batman, but for your version of Gotham City. When I see how you draw streets and skyscrapers, your art blows my mind! Many artists I’ve spoken to don’t enjoy drawing buildings and architecture. Do you find it hard to draw in so much detail? Or is it something you actually enjoy?
JF: That’s actually a great question, because in my early years as an artist, I received a lot of criticism, due to a perceived lack of detail in my backgrounds. In my quest to improve my art and fix my weaknesses, I dedicated myself into putting a lot more effort and attention into them. I’d say that it’s gotten to the point now where they’ve become an actual character in the stories. The truth is that these days it’s one of the parts of the job I enjoy the most. For me backgrounds are key components to bringing the right ambience and atmosphere to the story.
SJR: Totally. Your Gotham City is a living, breathing entity. So what else do you enjoy drawing? Is there anything you really don’t like?
JF: In this line of work you find yourself drawing things you’ve never done before in practically every single comic that you’re assigned. I always try to look on the bright side, so there’s nothing I hate drawing. I love creating double splash pages, with huge backgrounds. I really enjoy work that requires a lot of composition.
SJR: It really shows! So… now I’ll circle back to Batman: Year One. Many compare your style to that of David Mazzucchelli. Did his art influence your drawing? I think your Batman’s clearly older, more mature, bigger and stronger. I see an evolution to the character.
JF: Oh, yes. Mazzucchelli is one of my favorite artists and yes, he absolutely influenced my work. I’m a huge fan of the look and feel of 80s comics, so I try to reflect that in my art.
SJR: That’s really cool. So who else influenced you? I see a lot of Steve Ditko in your style… or am I way off base?
JF: Wow. No, you’re not wrong at all. I love Ditko’s storytelling, he was years ahead of his time… as was Jack Kirby. Artists like Alex Toth, Frank Miller, Denys Cowan, Alex Raymond… it’s a really long list. Mike Mignola, Darwyn Cooke. I love a lot of stuff from before the 90s… I’m really old-school in that respect. [laughs]
SJR: Those men are some of my favorites too… that’s a great list! Steve Ditko worked almost exclusively for Marvel, and for the late, lamented Charlton Comics. Many of the others worked, like you have, for both DC and Marvel. Is there a great difference in the way both companies function, in your experience?
JF: Not really. At the end of the day the way they work is practically the same. As artists they just want us to tell the story with pictures, as best we can.
The one thing that I would say though, is that independent publishers are the ones that allow artists to express themselves creatively the most. I’ve never really had any issues with the two giants, but I’ve always felt more freely able to express myself in the indies.
I think that may be because you don’t have all the added pressure of working on characters with such rich histories, or legacy. DC heroes are huge social and cultural icons, that mean so much to so many. As an artist you really feel that pressure, whether you care to admit it or not. It can be a great weight on your shoulders when drawing such legendary characters.
SJR: That’s a wonderful answer. Thank you. So, what’s your first comics memory?
JF: I’ve been reading comics as long as I can remember. That’s how I spent my entire childhood and adolescence. I was also blessed to have grown up in the second golden age of comics that was the 1980s. That decade saw more masterpieces than any other. It was incredible going out every week and buying the legendary comics of the era as they were coming out: Watchmen, Dark Knight, Swamp Thing, The Question, Sandman… and so many more. Reading those got me hooked for life!
SJR: That was my era too. Those are the comics that drew me back in, when I was considering “growing up.” We did have some amazing titles back then. What about the future, though? Can you tell us about any new projects you’ve got lined up?
JF: Actually, I don’t have much to tell. As you know, this business is always on the move and things change very quickly. What I can say is that I’m working on the next Batman Annual with Tom King for DC, and on Daredevil with Chip Zdarsky for Marvel. How cool is that? I also have a story coming out in October with John Layman, which will appear in the DC Comics Halloween Special. That one was great fun.
SJR: Wow! I cannot wait to read all of those! So, are there any other writers, or color artists that you’d like to collaborate with in the future?
JF: The truth is that I’ve been so blessed to work with every writer that I’ve already drawn for. I adore working with Tom King, and Chip’s fantastic too. Eliot Rahal, Ram V and Kyle Higgins are also amazing. I’ve been lucky to have worked with any and all of them.
As for color artists; from Chris Harris, who I worked with on Magnus, to the dream come true of working with talents like Jordie Bellaire or Dave Stewart… it’s mind-blowing when I see the finished pages from these stellar talents.
Little by little, I’m getting more and more used to it, but it’s still a little surreal when you see your work published by the companies that you’ve grown up reading. It would be incredible if, one day, one of my comics could ever mean as much to someone as the work of my many heroes has meant to me.
As for dream projects… I’d love to work with Frank Miller! He’s my greatest inspiration. His work has had a huge impact on my life, as well as on my career.
SJR: I’d love to see that happen!
So, to close. Over the years; at conventions, in interviews and at fan gatherings, you’ve probably been asked hundreds of questions. Is there something you always wished someone would ask you, but they never did?
JF: Whoah. How long can I go away for, to sleep and think on that? [laughs]
SJR: What’s that question, and what’s the answer? What would you like our readers, your fans, to know about you? Not necessarily Jorge Fornés the artist, but Jorge Fornés the human being? What do you want to say?
JF: I want to inspire everyone who’s ever dreamt of doing this, and tell them that it’s never too late. I’ve always loved the comics medium, and I’ve never taken a drawing class in my life. My parents never had the means to send me to art school, so my work experience was loading and unloading boxes and crates from supermarket delivery trucks, from age 16. I’ve only been drawing comics for 5 years!
Until very recently I was working in a garage fixing cars, and I never dreamt that I would ever be a professional comics artist. My first published comics work was in DC’s New 52 Detective Comics Annual #3, when I was 39!
Over the following five years I’ve been able to draw Batman, Daredevil, Doctor Strange… this proves that if you work hard and hold onto your dreams, anything is possible.
It never ceases to amaze me, day after day, how different my life was, just recently, compared to how it is today. For all of that I have to thank everyone who’s ever bought a comic I’ve drawn, and all of those who gave me the opportunity to do so.
SJR: That’s amazing. Gracias, Jorge.
JF: Y a ti, Steve.
Jorge Fornés is an incredible talent and you couldn’t hope to meet a nicer, more humble person. Check out the art attached, courtesy of DC Entertainment and the man himself, and be sure to keep an eye out for the next Batman Annual and the 2019 DC Comics Halloween Special, on sale in October.