I was fortunate enough to field some questions with the innovative talent, Nacho Tenorio. In brief: this is the man behind the stellar visuals in the always dynamic Dark Shadows monthly series.
If you ready to be lost in a vampiric trance, then read on!
UTF: When you approach a property that’s endured as long as Dark Shadows, how do you go about creating the visual side of the story?
Nacho Tenorio: Sure it wasn’t easy the first time. A year ago, while doing test pages for Infinitoons (a Spanish artist agency), via Dynamite they asked me to do two of them for Dark Shadows. At that time, I didn’t know anything about the TV show except for Tim Burton‘s movie. The original series wasn’t broadcast in Spain. They provided some previous issues for reference, and then thanks to the Internet, I found the complete original series, Gold Key comic books and a good amount of fans. I felt a bit overwhelmed at the time, I must admit, Dark Shadows contains a whole universe of characters, places and timelines. I try in every issue to be as accurate as possible to all this material, giving room, of course, for innovation.
UTF: I have to say, as a whole, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed your body of work that you’ve turned in. Especially when it came to the visualizations of both the good and bad sides of Barnabus Collins. How difficult was the creation of these two differing personas?
Nacho Tenorio: Jonathan Frid did tremendous work showing the character as a majestic but very complex and haunted classic vampire. I think he gave a new dimension to the vampiric curse, a tangible ‘weight’ on his shoulders. You could feel the beast beneath his eyes, but also his tenderness and inner fight. Mike Raicht took these two completely different aspects from the character and put them into two different ‘bodies’: Dark Barnabas is cold, sometimes feral, proud of his powers and full of himself. On the other side, we have a ‘human’ Barnabas Collins. How can you show this using drawings? Being specific about his body language and his facial gestures. Every side of Barnabas has his own language and poses, his own acting.
UTF: How do you avoid the inevitable complaints about the style of the comic versus the way the original series looked?
Nacho Tenorio: Well, comic books and TV are completely different media, having both their own language, ‘cameras’ and tricks. In comics you don’t have any limitations for clothing, sets, lights or special effects. Your imagination is the only limit!. In expanded universes, giving room to innovation is a must.
UTF: Did you do a hefty amount of research when forming your designs for the characters?
Nacho Tenorio: The classic characters were already established when I arrived, and their look was easy to find after some initial research. For new ones, the main rule is reflect the styles and look of the early 70s; hair, costume, adornments, accessories. I particularly remember the first appearance of Sheriff Willets in the police station of Spafford, I think it’s a good example of a ‘big’ research: the town, all the cars, the police station from outside and its insides, sheriff clothes… All the details should be OK in order to draw the reader into the story.
On the other hand, the infernal monsters (like The Master or his imps) came directly from my mind. I try to think ‘if a monster like that made his appearance in a 1970 TV show, how would it look ?’ It was difficult and fun to design it at the same time.
UTF: Is it hard to balance so many differing players in each issue?
Nacho Tenorio: It’s hard when you haven’t worked previously with them but… keep drawing them and soon you’ll discover something that you love. Barnabas Collins, Willie Loomis, Nicholas Blair… there’s something special in every character. Mike Raicht is balancing well in the script, giving everyone his moment and story. I got surprised when, in issue #15, I had to draw a possessed version of Roger and Carolyn: they became instantly two of my favorite characters.
UTF: A lot of people think they can draw, but they never go anywhere with that talent, how did you?
Nacho Tenorio: Since I can remember, I’ve been drawing. Awfully most of the time, but drawing. Then I took some drawing classes during primary and secondary, and finally entered the Fine Arts Academy in my university years. After that I did some works in other media (audiovisuals, graphic design, role-playing games, magazines, web-comic). I was always moving from one work/commission to another, showing my drawings in comic conventions and trying to get interviews with the editors.
In a comic convention in Granada (Spain) I meet Eduardo Alpuente (head of Infinitoons, artists agency) and he saw some potential in me. I made some tests and… now I’m finishing my 12th issue of Dark Shadows. This is my story so far.
UTF: Do you have any advice for the aspiring illustrators that might be reading this article?
Nacho Tenorio: Don’t throw away your aspirations. Keep working, keep moving and search everyday for opportunities. Study and do your homework, draw everyday. This is the way I follow.
UTF: You’ve been working with Mike Raicht on the series, how has that partnership progressed?
Nacho Tenorio: Mike has become more satisfied with the art and he let’s me know it. Since issue #14, I’ve been working with Sergio Mora (known also as TitoSearch) who is aiding me with inks, and together we established good communication with Mike. I think this kind of partnership is important in order to create good narrative and, in the end, good comics. I also follow Mike‘s past and newest works (such as Wild Blue Yonder) and I am extremely proud to work with someone as experienced as him. It’s a privilege to work with him.
UTF: Do you get any creative input in the narrative?
Nacho Tenorio: I mainly follow Mike‘s vision, clearly shown in his scripts and, from there, I add my own ideas in page composition and character design. I am free to experiment with these aspects and I try to improve them in every issue.
UTF: Overall how has the experience of working on this title been for you?
Nacho Tenorio: In a few words: a dream come true. It’s the experience I’ve been expecting all my life.
UTF: If you could have someone guest illustrate an issue, who would it be and why?
Nacho Tenorio: Francesco Francavilla, of course. I think his style is perfect in order to show the dark atmosphere of the series mixed with his classic-pulp ink strokes. His covers are genuine pieces of art.
UTF: Are there any other characters from Dynamite that you’d like to draw for a little while?
Nacho Tenorio: If I had to choose, I’d draw two of them: ‘Vampirella‘ and ‘The Phantom‘. ‘Vampirella‘ because of it’s great iconicism and significance here in Spain: the character was drawn by José González and Zésar Álvarez in the seventies and early eighties (and I must admit: it has to be really fun to draw).
I’d like to draw ‘The Phantom‘ for a completely different reason: because of my father. ‘The Phantom‘ was one, if not his favorite comic character when he was a child, and I think this would be a great gift for him.
UTF: What about from other comic book companies?
Nacho Tenorio: I’m a great fan of anti-heroes, especially the Punisher and his MAX series but if I have to choose only one character… I’d fall again in my teenage dream and I’ll choose Spawn. I spent my whole early teens drawing his mask and chains in sketchbooks, I swear.
As we reach the ending of this conversation I want to take the time to thank Mr. Nacho Tenorio for this excellent opportunity. It was an absolute pleasure receiving your candid responses and I know I speak for the rest of the staff when I say: can’t wait to see what you draw next.
But what did you guys think of the interview? Sound off with your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!