Monday, January 14, 2013

Crystal Fractals Q&A: Daniel Panero Bertucci

The Crossing artist Daniel Panero.
Since the first issue of The Crossing, we've been able to sit and watch Daniel Panero Bertucci develop as an artist. From his first Magic story in issue one, to his contributions in the second issue, all the way through his current work in the forthcoming third issue, Daniel's style and talents seem to be ever improving. With The Crossing #3 close to release, we caught up with Daniel for his thoughts on his style, his work with Crystal Fractal Comics, his creative partner in (comic book) crime Dino Caruso, his other projects and his thoughts on the Crystal Fractal Universe as a whole.
Andrew Ardizzi: It's been nearly two years since we checked in with you, your first interview with Dino having appeared on our blog way back in February 2011. A lot has happened in our neck of the woods since then, but how have you been? What have you been up to?

Daniel Panero Bertucci: I have been busy with work obligations and working on new pages whenever I get the chance to do so. I have also been following with interest the CFC news and updates through the newsletter and social media. It’s a great way to keep us connected and reach out to the readers!

AA: When you and Dino chatted, it came at a time when we had released the first issue of The Crossing several months before, while the second issue was still about eight months away from being finished. Looking back almost three years later on that first book, what are your thoughts on yours and Dino's entries in issue one?

DPB: I enjoyed the opportunity of creating environments and characters for which there had been no previous visual reference. Being from Spain, I liked the fact that the action took place in Castile, but at the same time, that put some pressure on me because I wanted to be up to the task of representing the setting accurately.  I had to do some research on the historic period, which is something that I kept doing for the previous stories and also those I am currently working on. As I am getting more familiar with the time period, it becomes easier for me to create a coherent, realistic universe. Overall, although there are things that I would have done differently now, I am pleased with my work on the first book, also because it marked my first collaboration with Dino and with CFC. On a different note, I must mention Mae Hao´s superb coloring work.

The Crossing #1 cover by Alisson Borges.
AA: Much of the first Magic story focused on getting readers familiarized with the main characters -- their younger selves anyway -- and sort of rounding out the foundation of the Crystal Fractal Universe. Visually, what did you try and convey to readers with Dino's script?

DPB: I like the fact that the story is set centuries ago. I think that setting and the action in the past worked very well with these kinds of stories and the fantasy genre in general. For me, it was important to convey the action in a realistic and believable way, so that the reader would be as involved reading these stories as when he or she deals with the adult versions of the characters.

AA: One of the touches that leaps out on the second page of Magic 101 is the smaller inset panel of a stoic Natanael that gives way as the scene pulls back to reveal Natanael is hanging on every word of his teacher's lesson. It's very simple, but nicely nuanced because it hits home with who the character is. How did you go about composing that page? I feel it's very readable, in that it's easy for your eye to follow the smaller panel to the shot of Natanael sitting at his desk, then following his gaze to Ilonus.

DPB: Thank you. I just followed the indications on Dino´s script regarding the character´s attitude.  And as for the composition goes, I opted for a larger panel so that I would be able to include a detailed background and a greater number of characters. This big panel allows me to introduce many new characters to the reader for the first time. I like doing panels like this once in a while.  They're both fun to draw and help to highlight some key moments in the story.

AA: I noticed you used a lot of darker tones and shadows in your ink work in the story too. Was that something you already had in mind when reading Dino's script?

DPB: It was mainly due to the fact that I was becoming more confident with my inking style  but Dino´s script was definitively a push to increase the amount of shadows, as the action takes place in the interior of a medieval cathedral. In addition to the script, the color black has an interesting connection to the Spain of that time period, as it was a color that the royal family and the nobility chose for their garments. It was indicative of Spain´s ruling class´ both austere and pious character. For these, among other reasons, I believe a heavy inking style might work well with the stories we are telling now.

Page 2 from "The Emissary: Ringside."
AA: Since that first issue of The Crossing, do you feel you've evolved as an artist?

DPB: I think so. Being more used to penciling, I find that inking can be challenging, because what works with pencil sometimes does not translate well into ink. However, the more pages I do, the easier it becomes for me to adjust my pencil work to something that I can render on ink. I am working towards an inking style that should highlight the strengths of the pencils and also contribute to the general readability of the page, with balanced masses of black and white.

AA: I think fans can definitely see in the second issue of The Crossing that your work has evolved. Where the first Magic story feels a little confined at times, it's almost as though you really took the time to break loose a bit in The Crossing #2 on The Emissary: Ringside and Magic 001:Hedwig and the Witch. What was it like working with Dino on those scripts?

DPB: Ringside had two parallel narratives -- the eskrima fight and the negotiation taking place in the crowd -- which were great devices to give the story a good flow. The fight was interesting to draw, and I recall myself watching some videos on the internet on eskrima in order to get an idea of what this Philippine martial art looks like. Hedwig and the Witch gave me the opportunity to draw the eerie dry wastelands of Castile and use a large panel to show Hedwig in action as he hadn’t been seen before. 

AA: Unlike the first Magic story, these stories are a little more action-oriented, while we see you breaking away from basic layouts and using a lot of the white space to tell portions of the story. It's very well executed at that! What influenced you to visually tell part of the story that way?

DPB: Thank you! I tend to think of page composition as a whole, where the panels should not work only as individual representations of specific actions, but also as part of the page’s layout. In order to make the page more dynamic and help its readability, I try to include a variety of panel shapes, sizes and borders (or lack of them) whenever I think it´s possible.
AA: You and Dino had a second story, a two-pager focusing on Hedwig, in the same issue. What do you recall about that short story?

DPB: I liked how Dino had scripted all that action and character development into a really short story, while still keeping a classic plot structure with a beginning, a middle and an end. Kudos to Dino for that! Furthermore, the two-pager also had a relatively low number of panels, which left room for me to do some big drawings to tell the story.

AA: It was really cool to see Hedwig finally cut loose a little too. In the first issue of The Crossing, he seemed fairly reserved and didn't really use his powers very much. On the first page of Hedwig and the Witch we see him dealing with a thief rather emphatically, and it turned out to be the coolest part of the two-page story. Did you enjoy drawing that panel, and what inspired it? The crackling from his eyes is pretty neat, by the way.

The Crossing #2, Hedwig, Daniel Panero
Hedwig meets a common thief in "Magic 001: Hedwig and the Witch" in The Crossing #2.

DPB: Thank you! As I was thinking about the scene, it occurred to me that it would have a better visual impact if Hedwig´s reaction displayed some of his powers, hence the idea that the thief’s hand, as he is grasping it, becomes bony and withered. It was an addition to Dino’s script which was meant to visually spice up the scene, while at the same time, try to be faithful to the spirit of the story.

AA: The two-pager kind of ends on a quieter note with Hedwig smugly striding off, with the moon in the background and darkness enveloping the top half of his face. What were you trying to convey with this last panel?

DPB: I was trying to render the gloomy, harsh and dry plains of Castile, which even today are not densely populated areas and can be very evocative. They make a perfect background for the type of story we were telling and Dino hit the nail on the head by having Hedwig encounter the nomadic thieves and the fortuneteller. Those are elements that are endemic of medieval Southern Europe and I am happy he included them in the narrative.

AA: Hedwig is really becoming a scary character in his own right, and is really becoming more of a Machiavellian character. Did you enjoy drawing him in a different setting than you had been in Magic 101?

DPB: I think it’s important to have a good balance between action and dialogue scenes. And as long as neither kind prevails too much, they are both gratifying to do. This said, drawing Hedwig showing off a little bit and wandering through the moors was definitely enjoyable and I wouldn’t mind doing similar features in the future.

One of the latest pages from The Crossing #3.
AA: Over the last few months we've been gradually revealing more of your artwork from the forthcoming installments of yours and Dino's Magic stories featuring the CFU's main characters during their formative years. What's it been like working with Dino this time around, and have you noticed an evolution in his scripts?

DPB: It seems to me that Dino, as the experienced writer he is, has always had a very clear idea of how he wants the story to unfold, and all of his stories have his distinctive well-paced, skillfully conceived endings style of writing. If we also consider the fact that there has not been enough time for a big story arc, I guess the answer to your question is that it’s still too early to tell.

AA: What has been your favourite panel to draw so far?

DPB: There is a sequence in a story, that is still unpublished, where one of the priests from the monastery, who has revealed Hedwig’s evil nature, reaches for an object to defend himself from him, while Ilonus witnesses the scene. I was pleased with how that panel came out then, however I would like to believe that the best panel is always a few stories ahead. In other words, it has yet to come.

AA: You and Dino are seemingly becoming the CFU's "Batman and Robin." Who wears the cowl in the team?

DPB: That’s funny. Our initials are also Ds as in "Dynamic Duo!" I guess that, as in most creative teams, the writer has the leading role. I am a firm believer in the fact that no matter how nice the art is, what ultimately makes you flip the pages of a book is a strong, captivating story. My role in this partnership is doing my best to provide a good visual narrative, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

AA: You two have worked on a lot of scripts for us together, but as Dino told us when we chatted with him, you two worked on a project of your own outside the Crystal Fractals realms. Dino had mentioned that he had been pitching scripts to Skipper Martin for Bizarre New World and once it was approved, you were tapped you to do the art. Can you talk a little about the "Soar Spot" story and how you approached it?

Dino and Daniel soar again in BNW's Soar Spot.
DPB: We worked on that one some time ago. Dino came up with a great story for the BNW universe about two trapeze artists who feel redundant in the world they live in. It was well told and had a heartfelt ending. A well-scripted story is always easier to put into panels, and Soar Spot was such.

AA: What's next for you? Do you have any other projects on the horizon?

DPB: Not really. But I am willing to illustrate a longer book, like a one-shot or special issue, and having it be a crowdfunded project. That is when the readers and fans’ support becomes crucial. We have to take advantage of being comic book creators in the digital era and I believe the CFU has a lot of potential.

AA: Do you have anything else you'd like to say to your fans or the readers on the Crystal Fractals blog?

DPB: Thank you for your support and spread the word! And hope to see you soon at a Comic Con.

AA: Thanks for chatting with us Daniel, we appreciate you taking the time!

DPB: Thank you, Andrew, any time!


We just wanted to thank Daniel once again for donating his time to chat with us and answer our questions. He's a tremendous comic talent, and it was a pleasure to catch up with him again. If you'd like to learn more about his work, you can find him online as well as on Twitter. Also, stay tuned to the blog because Daniel just told us that another page is nearly completed for The Crossing #3, and we can't wait to see it!

Thanks for reading!


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