Francesco Francavilla makes his debut in the USA trade in 2005 working for Ape Entertainment. Noticed by Dynamite, he starts working on Zorro. From that moment on, he starts working both as an illustrator and a cover illustrator for Marvel (Black Panther, Hawkeye), DC Comics (Detective Comics, who got him an Eisner Awards in 2012, Swamp Things), Dynamite Entertainment and Archie Comics (with which he has published Afterlife with Archie, presented by Edizioni DB in Lucca 2016). In 2012-2013 he realized his first creator owned series, The Black Beetle for Dark Horse, and he will soon publish a short-series about the greatest pulp comic hero, The Spirit. We talked with him about his career and what influenced him and his work.
Hello,Francesco, thank you for your time! On the Internet I couldn’t find that much about your training or the start of your career: do you mind tell us something about that? I made my debut with a indie short series, something like Zorro but that took place during the American Revolution (ndr The Black Coat, Ape Entertainment, 2006). The short series was critically acclaimed, but did not impress the readers since it was published by a small publishing house. Still, all of this was enough to get Dynamite to notice me and call me to work on Zorro. It is when everything started.
You are an author that prefers the pulp genre. Why? And speaking of this kind of narrative, the pulp genre saw its greatest moments in the 20s and 30s of the 20th century, yet nowadays many writers and illustrators are still fascinated by it and try to read it in a modern key without betraying its principles. How do you think could the pulp still contribute to the modern narrative, be that through comics, literature or cinema? Well, my passion for the genre came from the black and white movies, both pulp and horror classics. I have always been fascinated by the shadows, the atmosphere, the fact that things are hinted, rather than showed openly. The new generations do not have much chance to see this kind of things and that is why they are so attracted by these stories. They are enjoying the genre even with a modern approach.
Speaking of your style, we can certainly say it is very peculiar, even retrò, with the way you play with colors, lights and shadows. Also, the representation of very realistic situations with unnatural colors has a touch of expressionism in it. What artists, not only from the comics world, have inspired you? When I decided to start coloring my own drawings, I knew that a completely realistic approach would have needed too much time, so I decided to use the color more to create an atmosphere rather than something else. The color is the equivalent of the soundtrack in a movie, it is there to hint at something, to warn about something that is going to happen. I use it as a narrative tool rather than a graphic one.
Thoughtout your carreer, you also worked on a lot of covers. Are there a lot of technical differences between working on narrating something and just pure illustration? The cover has to catch your attention, it requires more planning in many things, for example in the layouts. You have to push the reader to buy the book right from the shelf, it has to stand out and that is why you have to design it very carefully.
You mostly have worked in the States, where you drew literally everything, aside from working on your own stories. I wanted to ask you your long cherished dream, but it was recently announced that you will publish for Dynamite your own short series of The Spirit. How did the project start and how was it to face the most famous pulp hero in the history of comics? Dynamite Entertainment, for which I had already worked on many covers and comics such as Zorro, The Shadow and The Spider Lone Ranger, offered me the chance of working on this project. When they reached out to me, apparently interested in doing a short-series written and illustrated by me… Well, it was an offer I absolutely had to accept. Sure, it was stressful, since incredible authors like Will Eisner, Frank Miller, Matt Wagner and Darwyn Cooke had already worked on the character and put the bar very high.
Aside from drawing stories, you also wrote the scripts of some, like The Black Beetle. Have you ever thought about writing a story and let others illustrate it? If you had to choose, who would you like to entrust with your stories and why?
Yes, it is something that I find interesting. When I worked with Matt Wagner, who is an all around artist and writes for another illustrator, I understood that what you saw in your mind will not be then brought to life in that exact way by the artist you ar eworking with. Yet I still find it interesting. I would want maybe to work with some Italian friends like Siniscalchi or Brindisi.Both of them helped me improve as an artist in the beginning.
Speaking about Italy, where you never worked, is there a character you would like to work on or a particular work you would want to realise? I am a huge fan of Dylan Dog, so I would love to work on this character. Perhaps it will happen sooner that I thought…
Here in Lucca you are presenting Afterlife with Archie, made with Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa. How did you start such a particular project that connects a character this famous in the world of the American soap-opera comics with horror atmospheres? Archie comics asked me to realise a variant cover for Life with Archie and they gave me no limitation. Since the issue came out in October, around Halloween, I decided to play with words, transforming “Life with Archie” in “Afterlife with Archie”, putting zombies on the cover. Everyone who saw the story thought it was a horror story, but in the end it was just a regular one. So Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa spoke with the editor about the comic book, which then made the playful idea of a variant cover an actual comic book issue! (laughs)
Thank you very much, Francesco, and keep up the good work! Thank you for the interview.
Interview realised in person on October 30th, 2016 at Lucca Comics 2016