Art Agent Macho Leads the Spanish Invasion of US Comics
Art Agent Macho Leads Spanish Invasion
David Macho Gómez is a name you’ve probably never heard as a fan of comics. It’s also a name you’ve heard a million times if you’re an editor, and especially if you’re an artist in Spain. However, his work has without question graced your eyes. With artists like Jesus Saiz, Daniel Acuña, and Cafu, Macho has helped shepard some of the most popular artists in comics from the Spanish villas to the pages of American superhero stories and beyond.
Now the art agent is launching his own website, Spanish Inq. The site is designed to feature all of his artists, keeping fans and industry folk alike on top of their current work, helping to keep them at the forefront of the minds of the comics world. For more, we spoke to Macho about his new site, the artists he’s working with, and his thoughts on the future of the comic book industry.
Newsarama: Tell me, David, should anyone have expected the Spanish Inquisition?
David Macho: To be honest, not really. Not even ourselves! I mean, when I started representing artists more than a decade ago, artists extraordinaires Salvador Larroca, Pasqual Ferry and Carlos Pacheco were already working for the American industry, but there really weren’t any other agents around here in Spain, and certainly it never had been my idea to become an Artist’s rep. It was serendipity, I guess. I mean, I was going to travel to San Diego Comicon, and Ramon F. Bachs, Jesus Saiz and Fernando Blanco asked me if I would bring their portfolios to the Con and see if something would come out of that. I already knew some people in the industry because of what my real plan was those days (try to create the first Comicon in my hometown) so I showed their stuff around, and Dark Horse made an offer for Ramon to do a Spyboy story, and a little later for Jesús and Fernando to do a story in Dark Horse Presents, and only then I thought, “hey, maybe I can do this!” but honestly, it never crossed my mind until it happened…
About the “Spanish Inquisition” name… well, it started as a joke somebody said in one dinner. I don’t even remember who said it, but of course, we were remembering the classic Monty Python’s Flying Circus sketch, and we’ve been using it since then, mostly because I’ve never wanted to use something like “David Macho representations” (blergh). But starting some months ago, we’ve started going more with Spanish Inq, because it sounds like Spanish Inc. and of course, Spanish Ink, That has a good ring to it. And well, it also avoids confusions with the “other” Spanish Inquisition!
Nrama: How did you get involved in the comic industry?
Macho: I had always wanted to be a part of it, but maybe I’m the odd guy around, because I’ve never wanted to be a creator. I could never be an artist, but I haven’t really been interested it in being a writer, either. I pitched a project once when I was like 20 and I saw that wasn’t for me. But my idea was mostly focused in being a part of the Spanish and American Comic-book industries. I wanted my hometown of A Coruña (best place in the World) to have a Comicon, and I fought for it, and with the help of a lot of people, including the master Miguelanxo Prado, we made it happen. Also, I opened the first comic store in my hometown, too, with owners Fernando and Susana (hello guys, long time no see!), and some time later I moved to Barcelona, and started freelancing for publishers here, as a translator, extra contents and Website editor (extra contents = the ones not includied in the american edition, but included in the Spanish one, like interviews, articles, etc.), I negotiated some american series’ rights for Spanish publishers, wrote articles, interviews, and well, a gazillion other things. I’ve also been Barcelona International Comicon (one of the biggest in the World) Guest Manager for lhe last 7 or 8 years already…
Nrama: How does it benefit your artists to have something like this set up?
Macho: Well, we’re very visible already, in terms of how many of them are currently working, and of course, because of how updated I try to keep the publishers with new samples, schedules, who’s available and who’s not… Also, of course, because of the trips we do to America 2 or 3 times a year. But there’s something a Website gives you above all else: Immediacy. An editor or talent liaison can always locate me (I work 24/7) and ask me for samples or recent pages from any of the guys, and I’ll email them back, but that’s like 5 minutes when opening the Website for them means, what, 5 seconds? They know where to look, they have a style in mind for the project they’re trying to find an artist for, so they can just go to the site and check it out. They can also check each’s artists resume without even needing to ask me for it, and be informed of anything they need to know, very fast. And of course, I can always upload some pages or samples to a password protected page so only the editor that needs to see them can access it…
Again, it’s all about making things easier for the editors. If their lives are easier, so are ours!
Nrama: How does it benefit you?
Macho: Well, it’ll make me work more and rest less, if that’s a benefit. But, seriously, it’s obvious to say that everything that benefits the artists benefits me. This is not setup to look for more artists, I haven’t done that in ages (but of course I’m not dumb and if a brilliant talent knocks on your door, you don’t say “go away”) But personally, I don’t think the Website is going to benefit me, neither am I looking for that. Everybody in this industry knows who I am, what I do, and that I’m involved in it on a lot of different levels, not only as an agent. Sometimes I’ve been told my reputation is that I “make things happen”, and by the end of the day, that trust is what makes me happy. And believe me, it’d be difficult for you to find somebody that is happier with his / her life than myself!
Nrama: How long have you wanted to do something like this? What was the process of getting it set up?
Macho: God… I’ve been wanting to do it for years… Five, at least. Some time ago I asked Ariel Frusin, brother of the genius artist and even better person Marcelo Frusin to design a Website for us, but I couldn’t find the time to even give him the info he needed to finish it, so I let it go. It was always the lack of time and a “I don’t know how to design a Website, and I will never learn” mantra stopping me. But a month ago, more or less, I decided to stop saying that and just go for it, learn on the fly or however you wanna call it, and I just did it!
I know it’s not perfect or the best site in the World, of course, but I’m really proud of the results. I wasn’t looking for anything flashy, just a sober / easy to navigate professional site that informs and showcases a group of brilliant artists and lets their art speak for them, and now it’s up to you guys to let me know if I’ve achieved it or not!
Nrama: You already represent some very high-profile artists; is this an effort to draw in more?
Macho: No, no, there’s so many hours in the day, and I’m already using most of them! Honestly, I do this all by myself, and my goal has always been having time for everybody: for a phone call, an email, whatever, just being there to answer it, any day of the week, and I don’t want to risk not being able to do that.
There’s a part of the job that people doesn’t see, and that happens before an artist even gets published, and of course, much before an editor gets an email with his / her samples. I’m talking about the “guidance” part, trying to help them understand what an editor wants / needs to see in an American comic-book; the parameters and look of a comic-book in terms of composition, storytelling and how the characters must be portrayed, and what are the differences between American comic-books and European ones, why we try to have an establishing shot and also a close-up on a page instead of staying with descriptive panels (involving ourselves with emotions as being a part of the story instead of keeping the distance and being colder). Things like… Why you can’t break the 180 rule from one panel to the next, and why the character that speaks first should be on the left of the panel.Other stuff that may sound obvious, like why you have to show the most iconic parts of a character and avoid hiding or cutting them… And please, when you are doing samples, remember, what it’s on your head also has to be seen on the page, because if it stays in your brain only you will understand the story you are trying to tell, and we’re STORYTELLERS, above all else...
I could keep ranting like that for hours! But anyway, that’s a very time consuming and “unpaid” part of the job, but also a very gratifying one when an artist ends up getting an offer and you can step out of the way and say “now you’re jumping without a net, you’ve deserved mine and the editors respect, so go for it”. Then you can sit back, relax, and stop being a pain in the artist’s butt to focus on becoming a pain for the editor of the book!
Nrama: With an ultra-competitive creative market like Comics, what are five big tips for success that you would give to artists?
Macho: I think I’ve just covered some of that, but yeah, the answer could be more detailed, so here w ego (/me flexing muscles):
First, the negatives… Believe me, I’ve passed on a lot of artists, some of them VERY talented, for various reasons. Namely… sometimes they lack the most minimum amount of patience and they don’t want to accept “Rome wasn’t built in a day”, and that every learning process takes time and effort; sometimes they think they know better than me and every editor and they can’t be corrected because “everybody tells me my art is GREAT,” and yes, I’m not exactly soft when I correct artists. If you can’t accept that I call a spade a spade, sorry, but you are in the wrong business.
Sometimes I get the “hey, you are not an artist, you don’t really understand my art, so you’re wasting my time here”, and that just makes me think “oh boy, you are the one asking me, and when you don’t like the answer, you try to pull that? Ok, have a good life!”. And well, sometimes it’s just obvious they wouldn’t be able to deliver a bunch of samples on time if their life depended on it, and if they can’t deliver samples, well, imagine a whole comic-book!
And some of you, please stop tagging me and other professionals on Facebook photos like you know us. That won’t exactly make me / us accept you as friends, more the opposite, it’ll make us avoid talking to you ever again…
Anyway… the five tips I’m going to say now can sound obvious to you and your readers, Lucas, but remember, a lot of times we don’t see what’s in front of us and we keep trying to make things difficult when they should be simple:
1- Don’t think about yourself as a guy that has to do pretty pictures. If you want to be a comic-book artist, think of yourself as a storyteller first and foremost. Learn composition, storytelling, perspective, anatomy, shot depth, and then you will do the prettiest pictures in the multiverse, but learn how to walk before trying to run a marathon…
2- It’s good to learn from the masters, but please, stop looking at comic-books as your only inspiration. Go to a park, and sketch people, dogs, trees, bikes, everything! If you need a car reference, look out your apartment window, go take a Picture of one... The only way to extrapolate reality is to really understand it. A copy of a copy always looks like, well, a copy, it’s never as alive as something you understand because YOU’VE seen it and you “get” how it works.
3- Study the classics, use anatomy books from the Renaissance, look at Michelangelo and then Alex Raymond, Hal Foster or Burne Hogarth, and then go to John Buscema or Jose Luis Garcia Lopez, and you’ll understand a lot of things. Even if you’re only interested in drawing superheroes, read every other kind of comicbook. Artists like Jaime Hernandez, Naoki Urasawa or Alberto Breccia can teach you a lot of things. The more eclectic your sources of knowledge are, the more complete an artist you’ll potentially become.
4- Be humble. The day you think “I know better and I don’t need to learn anymore”, you are as good as dead in this industry. We have to challenge ourselves EVERY SINGLE DAY and NEVER STOP LEARNING. Also very important: have discipline. This is a monthly market, and you have to be able to do a book a month, or close. But most important, you need to be honest and say how many pages you can deliver in a month, and if you can’t do a book in 4-5 weeks but the editor likes your work enough and can fit your speed to her / his project, more power to you. But if you lie… I’m sorry, you are a sitting duck waiting for the hunter to shoot you. Liars don’t get too far in this industry, and even when they do, they’re caught, sooner or later, and dissapear before they even get to say “But, but…”
5- If you don’t know what “Occam’s razor” is, learn it (and the artists I work with probably hate it, since it’s something I keep repeating). Stop making complex what should be simple. Draw, draw, and draw. Think less, draw more, dammit!!!
Again, I could keep going for hours!
Nrama: Do you see the comic industry expanding? What about your personal role in it?
Macho: Yes, of course. I may be stating the obvious here, since it’s a trending topic these days, but the digital era is upon us, and I think that is going to change it all… Look, Steve Jobs confirmed some days ago that the ipad has sold 1,000,000 units in 28 days, and the 3g version has already sold 300,000 units in a single weekend. That means a lot of potential readers that now are going to be able to get comic-books they couldn’t get their hands on before, and of course it’ll also help support the printed comic-books. And more sales on the ipad and other future digital platforms, of course, must mean more royalties for creators and money they all deserve. There’s a lot of vitriol and name calling to artists and writers on the Internet but damn it, they work hard every single day until they get their page done. No office hours, sacrificing time to be with their families because the books have to be done, and you gotta respect them for that. Maybe you don’t like their style or the story you’ve been told, but they deserve every single cent that may come their way, and more...
Comic-books are more and more a respected media, a legitimate part of the culture, as they have been here in Europe for decades, and more and more a part of the pop / entertainment world. We’re here to stay, and now with the support of Disney in Marvel’s case and the new DC Entertainment, the possibilities for our industry to keep crossing to other media are endless. I think things are being done very well all over the industry, and we’re only starting to scratch the surface of what can be achieved. There’s a reason I joke calling myself an Utopian, and that’s because I always think nothing stops us from getting things done but ourselves, and if we set no limits to ourselves (aside of the ethical / moral ones, of course), sooner or later, this industry will reach what we’re all hoping for, whatever that may be for any particular person.
And about my personal role… Well, I’ve always seen comic-books as a global thing, and I think it’s not yet completely seen as that. It’s true that American comic-books reach other countries and markets, but they’re seen as a part of American culture, and published for American readers. Maybe it’s time to think, again, about retooling the model and if movies can have worldwide releases, why not comic-books? By the end of the day, my goal is to be a part of that, and to try and keep growing and learning every possible way… In what role? Well, that’s not for me to decide, I think. I’m just a piece of the machinery…
Nrama: Anything else you'd like to tell fans, artists, and whomever else?
Macho: To the artists: Thank you all for your friendship, talent and dedication to your art. And thank you for understanding there’s no I in team…
To everybody else, and you all know who you are, thanks for your patience and for always being there. And please, never change, I love you all as you are, you cranky bastards…