One of the brightest new stars to emerge from DC's New 52 reboot has been Andrea Sorrentino, the artist on the current run of Green Arrow and DC's September Villains Month issue, Count Vertigo #1.
An Italian artist, Sorrentino seemingly came out of nowhere when the New 52 launched in September 2011, as his artwork on the brand new title I, Vampire won critical praise and enthusiastic fans.
When that book recently ended, Sorrentino was part of the creative team that DC hoped would turn around the Green Arrow book. Working with Jeff Lemire, Sorrentino gave Green Arrow a new look and feel as the new team took over in February.
The new direction for Green Arrow came with a new villain named Komodo, and a new set of struggles for Oliver Queen as he lost his fortune, his company and his heritage.
Next comes a complete revamp of the DC villain Count Vertigo, who will get his own title in September as part of DC's Villains Month. Count Vertigo #1 will feature Sorrentino on art with Jeff Lemire writing.
With this week's issue #21 finishing up the title's current arc and Count Vertigo's introduction coming in July, we talked with Sorrentino to find out more about his background and his approach to Green Arrow.
Newsarama: Andrea, let's start by just talking about you as an artist. How did you first become interested in drawing comics? What started the passion for you?
Andrea Sorrentino: Well, to be honest, I can't recognize a specific moment when I realized I wanted to be a comic artist. I've always loved to draw since I was a kid and I've always loved comics. I think I couldn't even read when I started reading them, just by the figures, so I think it was just something inside of me from the very beginning.
Nrama: Where are you from? And how did your family and community influence your choice to become a comic artist?
Sorrentino: I'm Italian and, as it's pretty common here, I started reading Walt Disney's comics when I was a kid. I've read some manga and Italian comic books when I was a teenager and that made me want, I think, at the age of 11 or 12, to try to write and draw some stories with the dream of becoming, in future, a pro comic artist.
Anyways, I think it was about 15 years ago, when I was 15 or 16, that my older brother opened a comic shop in my city.
Nrama: Wow, that must have brought you into contact with a lot more comics.
Sorrentino: Suddenly, a big mass of American comics came into my hands, all free! And I think that was a moment when I fell in love with U.S. comics.
I remember a copy of [Brandon] Choi and [Jim] Lee's Fantastic Four: Heroes Reborn come under my eyes and I was like, "Woah! Oh my God!" At that time, I didn't even know the artist I was watching was the comic legend Jim Lee. I didn't care much about the names at that time. But I was, like, stunned. And I remember I said to myself something like, "Wow, this is the kind of comics I want to draw for life!"
Of course, the road toward making it a profession was still long. I've [attended] a comic school in my city and the Academy of Fine Arts here in Italy before finally starting to work with comics.
Nrama: What were some of the comics that impacted your love of comic books? You mentioned Jim Lee...
Sorrentino: The first crush was with Jim Lee's artwork. In confrontation with the manga and the Italian books I was used to reading, the explosion of colors — together with those impressive hero poses — was really something to fall in love with.
With age, I've started to appreciate some different kinds of books, some edgy stories like the
[Warren] Ellis\[Mark] Millar Authority and Ellis Planetary, or something darker like [Mike] Mignola's Hellboy or some of Frank Miller's books.
Nrama: What sort of things did you draw when you were first picking up a pencil and sketching comic stories?
Sorrentino: Believe it or not, my very first story — I was 12 or 13 — was a 12-page romantic story!
Nrama: As a young teen? That actually sounds about right.
Sorrentino: I know, I know! We're all so cute and in love at those ages! The good part of it is that I think no more than 7 or 8 people had the chance to read it.
Nrama: You hid it away?
Sorrentino: It's locked somewhere in the darkest corner of my garage, hoping no-one will ever put his or her eyes on it!
Of course, it didn't take me more than a couple of years to start discovering my dark, horror side. Growing older, I've become the dark artist people may have seen on I, Vampire and Green Arrow.
Nrama: You mentioned that you went to art school. But how did you get started in the comics business?
Sorrentino: The first contact I had with the professional world was with a U.S. editor of roleplaying games. I did some horror artwork for them when I was noticed by Shannon Eric Denton that, at that time — 2009 I think — was an editor at WildStorm. He proposed me to do some covers for an upcoming X-Files\30 Days of Night crossover and, after that, he proposed me a Sony licensed title (God of War) that kept me busy for about one year. It was a very experimental style, something we were doing to try to match to the style of the video game, adding a darker spin to it. Not my best work, for sure, but it was a great way for me to grow, artistically and professionally.
After that, I was back to my beloved black and white style, and I finally had the chance to jump into the DCU with I, Vampire in the big New 52 event.
Nrama: You certainly got a lot of attention when I, Vampire launched. How would you describe your current style?
Sorrentino: Well, it's for sure a style I developed with years. It for sure has a lot of influences that come from different artists I've loved and I love.
That said this, I think it's also basically an expression of myself. I'm a dark artist, and I think it shows on whatever projects I work on.
Nrama: You mentioned that you loved Jim Lee when you were young, but I'm sure you've had a lot of other artists influence your style. Who do you think are some of the influences on the way you draw?
Sorrentino: The biggest one, for sure, the one everyone points me about is Jae Lee.
Nrama: Yeah, I can see that why people would say that. Do you agree?
Sorrentino: I would be a hypocrite to not say that he's one of the strongest influences I've had, especially in my first years. Truth is that I read a lot, and watch a lot of different things. There're so many comic artists, movie directors and artists from history that I think influence my storytelling, my graphic choices, my way of approaching a page that I couldn't ever make a list.
Sometimes also just reading a writer like H.P. Lovecraft or Edgar Allan Poe can leave a mark to your art style, even more than a comic artist itself.
Nrama: How would you describe your approach to the Green Arrow comic? And how is it different from what we saw in I, Vampire?
Sorrentino: I think it's a bit different. The way I draw things like characters and backgrounds is similar, but it changes a lot when it's up to storytelling, pace and approach to the page. I think working on Green Arrow took me a bit out of my comfort zone, made of atmospheric scenes and slow pace.
And I have to say that I'm having great fun with it. I like new challenges and I've had a lot of freedom to structure the scenes, setting the pace of them, adding or deleting a couple of panels here and there to better manage the action.
I think I'd like, in the future, to come back to a more atmospheric book, but for now it has been great to work on an action-driven series — with noir tones. I think my best issues are next two ones and I can't wait to read what peoples will think about them!
Nrama: We've seen the new design for Count Vertigo, and the character is getting his own #1 issue in September. What was your direction as you designed the character, and how did his look evolve?
Sorrentino: It has to be said that the first main order was to do something completely different from the old version of the character. I've managed to keep Shado very similar to her past incarnation, but with Vertigo there was the need of something completely different. Also, as it happened with everything in the book, this is basically a new Count Vertigo with something in common with the old character, and something completely new.
Nrama: Can you describe how you ended up with some of these individual pieces: the red tattoo (is that a tattoo?), the green pants, the wide studded belt, and the red tassel/scarf?
Sorrentino: The first idea I had was to pick the circles that the old version of the character has on his breast and changing them into a vertigo, covering the whole upper part of his clothing. At the very beginning, it was a green vertigo over a white shirt that, in my idea, created a good color contrast and kept the original color (green) of the character. We discussed it a bit and in the end, we realized that we needed another color to put in opposition to the greens of Oliver's clothes. And this is the moment when the vertigo on the breast changed to red.
Also, after a couple of changing and tryouts it was decided that the shirt had to go and the vertigo become a tattoo on his skin. The rest, it's something I've referenced from some traditional clothes of the east of Europe, to try to put the character more in line with the atmospheres of the arc he will be shown in.
Nrama: His look makes him seem angry, or even a bit unhinged. Was that on purpose?
Sorrentino: Unhinged? My terrible English!
Nrama: A little crazy. Does that fit his character and the way you wanted him to look?
Sorrentino: Yes! Mostly, it's the fact that it has a weird thing attacked to his brain and, while I don't want to spoil anything about the device or about Vertigo's story, I liked the idea that this could have some minor influences on his behavior.
Nrama: The character used to have ties to royalty, thus the "Count." But it
looks like, from this artwork, you weren't trying to reflect a royal heritage in this character?
Sorrentino: Again, I think I can't spoil much about his origins and history but I can say that he's still a Count. Just not that kind of "regal" count he used to be.
For what you'll see in Green Arrow #22, Vlatava is an impoverished little state in the Balkans and, not anticipating anything of the story, the reign of Count Vertigo is more like a decadent royalty. He has no guards in high uniform nor a rich good-looking castle, but he's more like a sociopathic leader of a poor nation.
That's why the 'royal' cape is gone, and it will be probably exchanged for a not-so-clean winter coat in the scenes where he's in the snow.
Nrama: Can you explain the technology in his head?
Sorrentino: I can't say anything else without risking Jeff to kill me!! Everything will be clear in a couple of months anyway.
Nrama: Let's talk about working with Jeff. How has it been?
Sorrentino: Awesome! I've been a big fan of Jeff's work before knowing him personally, and it's a big pleasure and honor for me to share the duty with him on this book. What I'm loving is that, as he's an artist himself, he has several ideas about the visual some scenes should have, but he's also leaving me a lot of freedom to take and expand them. I think it's shaping up as a great collaboration and I'm really hoping to have the chance to work with him in the future again, once we'll be done with Green Arrow.
Nrama: What have been some of your favorite things you've gotten to draw so far in Green Arrow?
Sorrentino: The Count Vertigo issues are funny. Lots of chances to try something new and to have fun with weird layouts. I also admit that the last battle with Komodo under the rain in issue#20 was a little come-back to my comfort zone of slow-paced and atmosphere, so it was nice to draw. But in general, I'm enjoying everything.
Nrama: Are you hoping to stay on Green Arrow for awhile?
Sorrentino: Yep, I really hope so. Jeff is writing a world-building story for Oliver that I think will define the character for the years to come, so I hope to be at the party for
as long as possible! Luckily, the people's reception of our first arc (that is going to end with this week's issue #21) has been pretty positive, so I think they'll give us the chance to be on the book for awhile.
Nrama: Then to finish up, Andrea, is there anything else you want to tell fans about Green Arrow?
Sorrentino: To wait and see! You can't imagine what Jeff has in mind for the future of Oliver, and I can swear that Komodo was just the tip of the iceberg!