Bucky Barnes: Winter Soldier isn’t your father’s Bucky Barnes. Since the launch of the series earlier this year, the one-time Captain America sidekick (and Captain America) has taken up life in the cosmos as a space-faring super spy, putting the emphasis on the “outer” part of outer space --and much of that due to artist Marco Rudy. Rudy, who is doing the full art on the series from pencils to colors, brings a more expansive approach to the artwork outside of the traditional bounds of superheroes in comic books, partly because Rudy never intended to be a comic book artist.
Newsarama talked with Rudy about his unlikely journey from Mozambique to Brazil and ultimately into American comics industry, and how he initially turned down Bucky Barnes: Winter Soldier, learning about comics working alongside American Vampire’s Rafael Albuquerque, and ultimately finding his own voice through fan art and making friends in comics. Bucky Barnes: Winter Soldier is scheduled to be released January 7.
Newsarama: Marco, thanks for doing this – first question is an easy one: what’s on your drawing board today?
Marco Rudy: Pages 17 and 18, of Bucky Barnes: Winter Soldier #3. I’m running late, this painting thing takes time. [laughs]
Nrama: Before we get into what’s coming up, let’s talk about how this all started: How were you initially approached for this project, and what aspect of the project made you sign on?
Rudy: It’s funny you ask this, more people have and they get a tad surprised by my response. After I finished my New Avengers Annual (the Doctor Strange story), I kept bugging editorial for another shot at Stephen, with Clea, this time. I remember getting praise from everyone and even getting a "you're born to draw Dr. Strange!" - I was like "hell yeah, gimme that miniseries, then!" .. .only to get a response, four days after, with the new Bucky Barnes: Winter Soldier ongoing series. Now, I know Bucky, I've known the character from before his stardom... it just seemed weird to have me do my approach on this; such a down to earth, quintessentially "grounded" character. So I refused…
...until I was told I’d be working with Ales (with whom I had been talking about working together in virtually anything, for a good time now) and I was told the subject of the book. Basically 60s-70s-early 80s pulp Jim Steranko Nick Fury-ish kind of adventures. And space. Yep, that was a no-brainer. I immediately accepted and began to plan my approach to it.
Nrama: So after you accepted the project, did you go through any kind of feeling out or research process for this character leading up to working on it?
Rudy: I did. I had all the Ed Brubaker Bucky Cap run (to be quite honest, I was rooting to have Bucky Cap for much longer time than he had) and I went for everything Bucky I could find - the new run and the mini that ended his previous series. Also, I live and breathe Jim Steranko's art and approach to comics - that was easy, as everything was at hand. At the same time, after talking to Ales, we wanted something very distinctive about the book, something that would make it stand out even more, thus I grabbed every European album I have, grabbed more (Incal, Metabarons, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Giraud and Juan Jimenez, essentially) and went thru an archive of Heavy Metal. That has been my research, books-wise. There's more, but these will suffice, I think. [laughs]
Nrama: Outside of comics, what is inspiring you in the work people see here on the pages with your illustrations, storytelling and coloring?
Rudy: Tons and tons of other imagery, from movies, animation, to gaming. I do keep a constant updating image folder, with classic paintings to whatever visual interpretation of anything, for reference. Studying Ivan Bilibine, Albin Brunovsky and Virgil Finlay has helped as well. The usual suspects Bill Sienkiewicz, David Mack and JH Williams lll complete my list of ever present influences. There are quite more, but these are the most prevalent. I think.
Nrama: What about outside comics and painting entirely?
Rudy: Aside from the names I mentioned I can tell you that manga, anime and video games have great sway in my storytelling approach. People like Satoshi Kon (specially Paprika and Paranoia Agent), Masaaki Yuasa (Mind Game is a huge influence in whatever I do, visually), Mamoru Oshii (Ghost in the Shell), Yoshitaka Amano (needs no introduction), games like El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron, Baldur's Gate, director Zhang Yimou's movies, Katsuhiro Otomo… and the list goes on. There are many, many things
Nrama: You’re doing the coloring on this, which is the first time you’re doing it on a regular basis for yourself. How’d you go about making the decision to tackle the colors yourself and take full control of the artistic side of the comic?
Rudy: This is something I have always wanted. At the cost of free time I don't have, but still. I know that visually, I take more responsibilities in the final product, but it also allows me to grow as a storyteller and as an artist. The challenge is to convey mood and pace and everything in between using color. I have been learning and improving (I hope) with each panel completed.
Nrama: In the whole art vs. commerce debate, coloring the pages yourself takes more time – time which you could spend drawing more pages. How’d you balance that with your ambitions for these pages and how they’d turn out?
Rudy: I try my best. It takes a Lot of time, especially since I am doing this all traditionally. But my style can only be done like this, all my weird choices for panel layout already have color in mind, when I’m designing a page, so much so, I can use an inked black and white panel in a fully painted page. I can tell you that it takes much more time I could have ever imagined and that I am always running after the clock, but I know that my work and effort shines thru, when the final result is out. And that is all I am about, making sure my take on the story is the best I can do.
Nrama: You grew up in Mozambique, which you’ve said in previous interviews has a dearth of comics. Can you describe the availability of comics there growing up for you, and what you would say were your earliest books?
Rudy: Dang, you did your homework! [laughs]
It’s interesting, actually. Nowadays Mozambique has less access to comic books than it had when I was growing up. We had a somewhat constant supply of magazines and bande dessinee. When I was little. I used to "subtract" some of the grocery money I was to supposed to use just to buy the next anything comics related. Plus, I’d get a lot of donations of Belgium and French related bande dessinee albums. Friends and family would come from overseas always with one or the other. I’d devour every little thing I could… it was fascinating. I kept getting American comics unbeknownst my parents, until the fateful day I bought Batman: Year One and my dad found me reading it and saw my "comics drawer" (they didn't like me reading comics that much, then. Things changed [laughs]). He tore it apart and some of the comics went by the wayside. Nowadays we talk about it and laugh about it. It was a different time, different mindset.
Nrama: In your visits back to Mozambique, has the availability of comics changed there from your perception?
Rudy: I haven't been back recently, so I don't really know. I know from friends that, because of the movies, people relate more to the characters, nowadays. I can tell you, last time I was there, a girl told me I should "outgrow my comics phase and graduate to a real job" [laughs] Different mindsets, again.
Nrama: You got pulled into comics after a comic book writer saw fan art you had done on DeviantArt. Now here in 2014 you’re a long way from fan art, but what do you think of the viability of fan art and its importance for an artist, be it fans of superheroes, fine art, movies, or something else?
Rudy: You start by doing what you're comfortable with. I, like many before (and after) I started by doing fan art …. And I still do. Its what had me honing my skills. It is what got me to where I am right now. I still study everything I can, every time I can, and if by study I mean, trying to reproduce how this and that person used this and that technique, I can tell you, it helps. It always does. I do know of people that have achieved a considerable level of success that didn't go that route - they did their own thing and now people do fan art of their work. Either way, whatever your approach is, someone will take a notice.....I don’t really know if this answered the question accurately. [laughs]
Nrama: You did! You moved out of Mozambique to go to Brazil, where you worked in Rafael Albuquerque’s studio for a time. What was that like, going from Mozambique with relatively few comics (and I assume comic creators) to working side-by-side with a group of comic creators?
Rudy: Heaven. I had never had "peers" in my life, prior to that. Because I never imagined I could work in comics in the first place. I knew there were several successful Brazilian artists, but I never thought I’d get to know them and befriend some. Rafael opened the doors for me. My life completely changed once I joined that studio, and I will always be thankful to him, for it. Every now and then I find myself remembering that year and a half and how much I grew. I got there thinking I knew storytelling - only to find out I knew nothing. To find out editorial can and will be blunt when telling your work is not up to par. The studio helped me step up my game, learn inking, learn to challenge myself to learn more, to always crave for more and above all, thru hardships, it taught me to be a professional. I miss them, actually. But I am glad to know that my studio mates, from Rafael, to Cris Peter (celebrated colorist), to Eduardo Medeiros (another cartoonist powerhouse) to finally, my buddy Mateus Santolouco (doing some kickassery on IDW’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles titles) are all making it happen for them. They're all big time creators. It’s nice to see where we are were when i got there and where we are now. And it’s great.
Nrama: Several years back in Toronto I read you had an art show, which seems very appropriate given your art. As you said, you never seriously considered working in comics until approached – what art would you be doing hadn’t you been pulled into comics?
Rudy: I don't even know… it’s possible that I would not do comics at all. I say it all the time maybe people don’t believe me but I never, ever thought of, even dreamed, that I would one day draw Spider-Man for Marvel. I still find it hard to believe, sometimes, that I spent four years over at DC and am going to a second year at Marvel. It’s just amazing. Its possible I’d be a very, very sad architect, which is what I studied in Porto Alegre, Brazil.
Nrama: With all that, you’ve been in comics now for seven years, but for many people your breakthrough work – in terms of recognition now at this level – started I’d say with that Marvel Knights Spider-Man run. But that’s me—what do you feel was your breakthrough work where you feel like you leveled up, to borrow a video game term, into something more closely to what you wanted to draw like?
Rudy: That’s easy - It was DC comics The Shield, my first ongoing series. This was so because there was quite a bit of creative freedom, when working with it. I blossomed; I love that book today, still. So much fun had. I have mentioned it before, but the last issue, Eric Trautmann wrote it in four hours and I drew the 22 pages (5 inked) in sixteen days. Not because I was on a deadline, just because I was having so much fun with that book. And it was me making a statement about my comic approach. After that nothing was ever the same. I am glad it is so. [laughs]
Nrama: And in your current project, in the first issues of Bucky Barnes: Winter Soldier that are out now, I see you doing some intricate but easily legible storytelling feats with panel layouts and directionality. All comic artists are storytellers, but I see you thinking and operating at a higher facility than most – do you have ambitions to writing your own stories at some point in comics?
Rudy: I do. Not for now as there are still much to learn. But yes, this is something I aspire to. Be it personal, indie work, or even using properties. I mean, i Have to tell a story with Norrin Radd meeting Shalla-Bal, at some point, in my life. Even if it’s just fanfic. [laughs]
that influence the way I tell stories. If I find a scene or sequence in anything that is remarkable to me, I mentally save it, and may use it when the situation requires. And so on and so forth.
Nrama: Dan Slott and Mike Allred are busy on their Silver Surfer series, but what say you to the prospect of Norrin Radd showing up in Bucky Barnes: Winter Soldier down the road?
Rudy: Now wouldn't that be awesome. Gimmee!!
…Ahem, yes, I’d like that. [laughs]