Franco Urru is an Italian comic artist best known in America for his work on Spike: Asylum, Spike: Shadow Puppets and Angel: After The Fall for IDW Publishing . The Comic Book Guide sat down with Urru to find out what he was up to before he was the go-to artist for Angel and Spike, his experiences at IDW and what's coming up.
QUESTION: Franco, How did you break into the comic book industry? When did you first begin pursuing it? What were you doing before?
I broke into the comic biz many years ago but kept a very low profile as I worked for a studio of very renowned Italian artists. For several months I just did some works as assistant, inking or penciling backgrounds, doing some references research etcetera. I still remember that time as one of the nicest of my career. Eagerness, totally new challenges for me and struggling to learn more were such fun most of the times.
QUESTION: Was Spike your first big break? How did you land the gig working with IDW? What, if any books were you working on prior to Spike: Asylum?
On an international level, yes. Spike was the big break. I landed into that wonderful script after a friend showed my pages to Chris Ryall. At the time Brian Lynch had written his first story for IDW and I started to work immediately on the covers of the entire mini. After finishing the first cover I realized that I was exactly where I wanted to be.
In Italy I worked on different series: various projects through which I explored the most varied genres. Fantasy, superheroes, ehm...erotic. But I also did some illustrations for children books, for commercials and even some graphic designs.
QUESTION: Living in Italy, did you read a lot of American comics growing up, or does Italy have their own comic book market? What titles do you enjoy reading?
The 80 % of my reading has focused on American comics since the seventies and I hardly spoke English at that time. Italy has its own market which I followed (and still follow) eagerly but my priority always went to the main series of superheroes like X-Men, JLA, Fantastic Four, The Defenders, Batman and too many others to even mention them all. Even Creepy, Eerie and Vampirella at the times of Warren Publishing. I still follow most of the above-mentioned series and added more to my buying list. Hellboy, Buffy (of course) and some of the independents like Madman. A lot...
QUESTION: Were you a fan of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer and/or Angel television shows before you began working for IDW?
I bought the ANGEL series on DVD at the Amazon UK long before even thinking about drawing such wonderful characters. The moment I started to work on Spike, I already had completed my collection of both Whedon series (and FIREFLY as well) [for] a long time. Consider that the ANGEL DVDs were available in England a long time before they were in USA, I could understand any situation or flashback on Spike and Angel Brian Lynch was referring to.
QUESTION: Have you read Dark Horse Comics' Buffy Season Eight at all?
Buffy is an extraordinary series so far. I enjoy both the story and the art. The writers know Buffy and all the Scoobies so well that I can imagine their voices while reading the books and Jeanty is such a talented narrator. He manages to balance the funny moments with the darker ones so well.
QUESTION: You have an uncanny ability to capture the likenesses of the cast of Angel, while still giving them a sense of movement so that they aren't just static images from photo references. Do you have certain methods to how you get comfortable with the character and more at ease with drawing them?
I don't use photos usually and if I do I don't 'trace' them. I redraw the faces free handedly. Of course after a few issues one manages to metabolize some features and drawing certain characters becomes easier. As for the figures I enjoy too much creating dynamic and impossible poses. I leave detailed references for other things like backgrounds and effects. Those have to be very similar to the TV series.
QUESTION: Have you had any challenges in getting one of your characters to look like the actors from the show or as the readers might expect?
A few of them, actually. I am gettin' the right synthesis of Wesley right now. Also Groo is not very easy to draw. Consider also that when you pencil a character it comes out in a way. While inking instead you tend to lose a few lines in order not to make the features too 'heavy'. That may change completely the resemblance sometimes...
Have you found that you've changed your drawing style at all from when you first began to now? Has there been anything to took you much longer when you first began that you can do with ease now?
Oh yes. I am a lot more fluid and aware after all those issues. Drawing a certain number of panels required more time once and also crowd scenes, which are so frequent in Angel.
Sometimes it takes a little longer to work on some sequences because I try to do everything Brian asks. I always imagine that he spent nights and days on a script and it would not be fair to change anything because I feel lazy. I changed a few minor things and mostly added a few panels in order to create a better graphic balance on the page,but that's it.
By the way everything is much easier for me now because after hundreds of pages I think I know exactly what Brian and Chris want.
QUESTION: How have you found the response to Angel: After the Fall been?
The response was overwhelming. There were so many good reviews and a couple of not so flattering reviews. One was about the second ish of Angel, which I did in a hurry but came out nicely (or so I thought). Unfortunately like many other artists I can hardly keep the pace with 22 (sometimes more) pages per month plus covers. Sometimes a few things may come out not exactly the way you want them. And there is hardly time to do some corrections. For that I apologize with all the fans. But I think they know I really put all the love I got in this work.
QUESTION: Any hobbies or side projects when you are in between books?
Actually I have not between books for years. I traveled to the tropics one year ago and brought the script of Spike ATF with me. It ended up with me sketching the first 10 pages on a wonderful beach being careful not to leave the sketchbook under a direct sunlight for obvious reasons.
I have plenty of hobbies and a few side projects that will have just to wait their turn.
QUESTION: How did you enjoy the recent New York Comic Con you attended?
That was fantastic. I enjoyed the Comicon and spent a considerable amount of money. I met Brian for the first time and the extraordinary Chris Ryall (whom I already met two years ago at the same Convention) and Scott Tipton,Stephen Mooney, Ben Templesmith. Lots of people working for IDW. We had a wonderful dinner and spoke about many things and projects. Wish we could do that more often.
QUESTION: Do you have a favorite moment from After the Fall?
A lot. The opening sequence from Angel #1, Illyria and the dragon. The reveal of a powerless Angel, The fight in ish #5, the death of Connor and even a few minor sequences. Brian wrote such memorable moments...
QUESTION: IDW recently revealed that you are returning for at least two more issues of Angel, with the return of Drusilla! Exciting!
Yes. That should happen in July . I can't spoil the plot but it's going to be really outstanding. I love Drusilla and the way the beautiful Juliet Landau portrayed her gives me plenty of material to work on. The covers are almost ready...
QUESTION: Any other stuff coming up, or are you going to take a break from the Whedonverse for a while?
Before the Drusilla arc we will make a Gunn special, which will reveal some important things and showing a character that... No. That would be telling. There are also rumors on the return of a fan favorite vamp with a soul. Wait! There are two of them... No. I don't think I can take any break for awhile.
QUESTION: Franco, thanks so much! Do you have a website or blog or anything you'd like to promote here, or is Facebook the best way for fans to reach out to you?
Thank you! Can you believe I have not had time to put my work on the blog and that it is on hiatus since months? I would love to hear from the fans and in a few weeks my blog should be online. Arrivederci.
Stay tuned for Franco Urru's Blog, which will be posted here!
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