We’re excited to welcome Valencia-born and Leipzig-based comic book artist and illustrator Ángel Rams to the LIFESTYLE collective. Angel sheds light on the roles of Reflection during the process of interpreting an author’s scene and Response as the illustrator’s goal to tell the story through that interpretation. He goes in on the importance of telling a story without sacrificing the narrative for superfluous illustrations that only aim to impress readers. Ángel showcases these different features of the creative process using dope examples from his portfolio. He also sheds light on exciting future projects such as serving as the artist for Alfred Ngubane‘s book Shaka Zulu, the upcoming release of a graphic novel set in post-WWII, and his participation in the 2014 Egmont Graphic Novel Contest with his graphic novel Cayuco. Check out the dialogue below accompanied by samples from Angel’s eclectic collection and links to various projects he’s got going on.
One of the main rules of sequential art is that you are here to entertain people, telling them a story throughout panels, not to gather a bunch of cool pin-ups on a page. A good comic book page can be understood without the dialogue on it, because it responds to the script.
– Ángel Rams
Leading off with some basics, where are you from? And where are you at?
AR: My name is Ángel Rams. I´m a comic book artist and illustrator born in Valencia, Spain. I currently reside in Leipzig, Germany.
What does Reflection and Response mean to you?
AR: I consider myself a comic book artist that takes occasional illustration commissions. The bulk of my artwork is what we call “sequential artwork”, in plain English: comic book pages. So I guess I should respond as a comic book artist. I believe Reflection and Response are a great part of a comic book artist’s work.
I would say Reflection describes my intention when I draw a scene, an object or a character. I try to capture on paper how I conceive that scene, object or that character. I try to reflect my perception of reality through my artistic skills. Of course that reality doesn’t really exist; it’s a reality the writer created. My task is to read, interprete and reflect. And that leads us to the next question: Response.
I understand Response as the artist’s level of commitment and efficiency toward the story. Rule number one is: tell the story. The closer my drawings are to the writer’s initial idea, the better Response I provided as a professional. In my opinion, a good comic book is the one where art and dialogues work along so well that it makes you wonder if it was made by a team or by one single creator. For this to happen you need a collaborative effort between writer and artist, or such a complete, well written script, that it gives the artist information enough to provide a good Response. Luckily I’ve been in both situations.
One of the main rules of sequential art is that you are here to entertain people, telling them a story throughout panels, not to gather a bunch of cool pin-ups on a page. Sadly, many artists focus their efforts on showcasing lots of boobs, muscle and plasma beams in cool postures rather than telling the story effectively. They adapt the story to the art and it should be the other way around, and that creates divergences. There’s nothing worse than divergences between artwork and dialogues. Seeing a character doing something or showing a body language that doesn’t match what they say, drives you out of the story and makes it less believable. A good comic book page can be understood without the dialogue on it, because it responds to the script. You don’t really know what they are saying but you know what’s going on.
How does your work fit in with that definition?
AR: When you look at the pages [from Tunnel] above, even with no lettering work on them, they convey the defenselessness and vulnerability the wounded character is feeling at that point of the story. His posture laying on bed, the martial mood of the military character that’s talking to him, the dark empty infirmary room, how the doctor approaches step by step with his apron stained with blood… All of this is telling you that wounded dude is in trouble. My task as an artist is to convey that idea throughout the page, to respond to the writer’s idea. Even the page layout imitates the shape of the window’s grid. All these elements subconsciously affect the reader, they create a mood and make the story believable. They all work together to tell the story.
At the same time, I have to reflect on the look of the room (it’s not a civil hospital, but a camp hospital), the ethnicities of the characters (the doc is Japanese) and every single object in an effective way. That means hours of documentation and study before even picking up the pencil. How many amateur comics did you see where cars look like shoe boxes? That happens because they don’t reflect real objects properly.
The next scene, below, [is] pretty much the same. The female character has the sensation of being observed, and so does the reader, because the position of the statues, the deer head and the empty library convey that feeling.
What else have you been working on recently? What are you looking to work on next?