When Rafael Albuquerque first began creating the world of American Vampire, he thinks it represented a lot of "growing up" as an artist.
Working with best-selling author Stephen King and series creator Scott Snyder, Albuquerque not only had to visually interpret their words and create new characters from scratch. He also wanted to establish a unique artistic style for the comic, experimenting with new artistic and storytelling techniques.
Apparently, the artist's attempt at growth has worked for fans. American Vampire was just nominated for an Eisner Award as "Best New Series," and it's successful enough that Vertigo is launching a spin-off mini-series. Although King is no longer writing for the series, Snyder has gotten enough attention for AmVamp to get a gig writing Batman in Detective Comics.
For Albuquerque, the honor of being nominated for an Eisner comes from a lot of perseverance and determination to be a comic book artist. Although Albuquerque began his career as an artist by working in advertising in Brazil, comics were his passion, so he created a website with an online gallery, hoping to attract the attention of a publisher.
It paid off. He eventually got a proposal from Middle East comics company AK Comics, and was later discovered by the folks at Boom! Studios. But most superhero comic readers remember his first gig at DC Comics on the Blue Beetle series.
Yet Albuquerque says that, despite his success at DC, he longed to be involved in a more "adult" series, where he could experiment a little.
And that's exactly what he's doing on American Vampire, drawing a slew of new characters since the book launched last year, adding to them in the comic's new World War II storyline, which just started in March.
Newsarama: Rafael, just overall, how has the experience been of working on American Vampire?
Rafael Albuquerque: Just amazing. I was working with superheroes for a while, in DCU, but all my editors knew that wasn’t really my thing. I was always asking for a more adult kind of book, where I could experiment a little more on the artwork and storytelling. When I was invited to do American Vampire, that was my chance.
Nrama: What do you think the project represents for you in your career?
Albuquerque: I think it meant growing up, as artist. As I have mentioned, it's the opportunity to do comics as I see it, and want to do it. Also, the opportunity to use art techniques I have never tried before. I think, also, that this project brought a lot of attention for my work, and that was really important too.
Nrama: What's the experience like working with Scott Snyder?
Albuquerque: It's always a good collaboration. Always. I think we have this mental connection that makes us really good together. We are always thinking in the same way, and we want the story to go to the same direction, so, I believe it’s a partnership for many, many projects.
Nrama: Looking back, how would you describe the experience of working with Stephen King?
Albuquerque: It was surreal all the buzz about it, and that was kind of scary, but the work itself was really easy going and amazing. He is a creative fountain, and every time he said anything about the art, or story, we were listening carefully, cause that's gold. He's also a really nice guy to work with. Patient and collaborative. I would love to work with him again.
Nrama: Looking back at your time on American Vampire, what's been your favorite scene you've drawn so far?
Albuquerque: There are many, but one that I really liked was when Pearl was transforming into a vampire, and she had that weird dream with a sunflower garden. I really like that sequence.
Nrama: What can you tell us about the World War II storyline that started last month?
Albuquerque: It's focused on Henry, Pearl's husband. He is now getting older and, in a way, that's an opportunity for him to feel young again, somehow, so he goes to war in a platoon, sent by Hobbes, and the vampire hunters. Things get ugly when Skinner Sweet meets them in the Pacific.
It's a phenomenal story by Scott. Definitely the best arc so far. I’m very happy with the art approach too, colors by the awesome Dave McCaig. I can say it's our best, for sure.
Nrama: Who are some of the characters you got to create for this arc?
Albuquerque: The platoon guys are very important. Vicar, the leader, Calvin, Sam Lants, Johnny.... All these guy have an important roles in the plot. We feature some new species of vamps too. It's pretty much one step ahead in the AmVamp universe.
Nrama: What kind of scenes are you getting to draw in this era?
Albuquerque: A lot of big spread war scenes. A lot of moody sequences too. I cant really say too much about it to not spoil it, but we are trying to bring that Saving Private Ryan taste for the comic.
Nrama: Is it a challenge to draw so many different eras in this comic?
Albuquerque: Yes, especially in the characterizations. They need to be different, get older, or change the hair, clothes, so it's hard to make them recognizable. That's why it's so important to get their personality well done, 'cause that’s how the readers will recognize them.
Nrama: Do you plan to be stay on American Vampire for the long haul?
Albuquerque: Yes, for the whole run. Sometimes, we will have a guest artist or something, but I'll draw the main stories for as long as the book lasts.