Nicolás Giacondino is a talented Argentinean artist that has taken Outland Entertainment by storm. His unique style fits unseemingly into a vast array of projects without ever losing its authenticity.
How is it to collaborate in the creation of a story? Is there too much compromise?
Collaborating with other authors (be it writers, artists, colorists, etc.) has to be an organic and loose experience. You have to be open to the ideas sent your way and offer what you think are valid points to improve the story. And yes, there’s a level of compromise, but always to the work itself; you never have to become too attached to your own conceptions and ideas so much so that they’ll clash with the others’ or create tension. If it’s better for the story, then you have to incorporate it.
Speaking specifically of the projects I have here in Outland, the back and forth between all the parts involved in the creation process has been amazing. Everyone’s extremely professional and at the top of their game in their respective areas, offering great advice and also knowing when to give the other the upper hand if something will work better for the saga. In my case, being the artist, I will provide visual cues and ideas for the writers to interpret and reimagine. They then send me their own takes and I’ll assess the suggestions and improve the material so that we’re all on the same page.
It’s my opinion that collaboration is the best experience when making comics. It forces you out of your comfort zones and exposes you to new and radical ideas, which help you to evolve your artwork.
Does it help or hurt knowing in advance that you’ll be the one giving a concept its visual life?
Definitely helps. I’ve dabbled a bit in writing (I have a published graphic novel penned by myself), but my primary concern has always been the artwork. So, being able to focus and work solely on the visual aspect lets me do my best knowing the other parts of the project are taken care of.
I also love to give the writers or collaborators in all the projects I tackle the utmost respect to their vision. I have a very unique style, but I’m open to it bending to the requirements of the story. You can never get something illustrated 100% as the writer imagined it; but I try to come to at least 99%.
Did you always envisioned these projects as webcomics?
Well, I always envisioned them as comics. With the climax of the digital age all around us, webcomics were the default option to get the project out there in the world. That said my intent is that we may be able to see these stories in print too.
Ours is such a strong medium, so full of possibilities that I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
There’s a whole debate around comics becoming digital. Do you think webcomics are the gateway for this new digital world?
Webcomics have taken things a step beyond in that they allow a larger number of artists and writers to express their vision without having to go through the filter of a major publisher or a ‘house style’. For me, personally, that’s been very advantageous and liberating. My style isn’t what you’ll usually find in the cover of the big companies, but published independently it has found a great audience that luckily grows larger every day. And I’ve seen the same happen to other artists and creators, who are able to reach a much more massive audience than they could’ve dreamed of.
Do you find yourself more driven towards a specific genre(s)? Which one(s)?
I’ve always been very passionate about science fiction and have been fortunate to be able to tackle projects related to it through the years.
However, that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy working in other genres, such as Fantasy or Steampunk. I’m always curious and willing to try things out and my style is very adaptable to many different kinds of stories. Horror, for example, isn’t something I’d done. But through Outland, I was able to illustrate two tales in that genre that were very exciting!
Why Science Fiction?
Science Fiction, for me, allows you to contemplate very interesting, radical ideas and philosophical issues with more ‘purity’ than in any other genre. The far future or the dystopian near future peels our preconceptions on any given subject so that the message is carried across with more strength, allowing the reader to think about the implications of the narrative devoid of his personal stakes in it. For example, cloning is a very tricky subject in the contemporary world; there’s lots of ethical and moral questions being addressed and everyone has a political, human or religious view. If I transport them into a distant planet or time, cloning then becomes something abstract, an idea that can be dissected within the boundaries of that new world. Yet, the consequences and realizations that you bring back with you when the reading experience is over are carried into our contemporary world, hopefully giving people a new perspective on the matter.
When did you begin to show your artistic capabilities?
As I always say, I started drawing as soon as I was old enough to hold a pencil. And, asking my parents about my passion, they tell me it goes indeed that far back. I had a few other interests during my teenage years, but drawing is what’s always driven me.
What’s your favorite childhood moment related to comics or drawing?
Well, living in Argentina, sometimes we didn’t have access to all the latest material being published in the US. But there was a point in the 90s, when the arrival of comics would be almost instantaneous upon release, which caused me to open up to some major influences.
I remember a day in particular, when I was walking down a street from school and came across a newspaper stand and amongst the magazines and usual comics, there was the first issue of Jim Lee’s run on X-Men. I flipped quickly through the pages and dredged up whatever money I had in my pocket and bought it. Inside, there was an interview with Lee himself, talking about his process and whatnot and that’s when I decided I’d wanted to do this for a living. Up until that point, drawing comics was a hobby, but that issue of X-Men and Jim’s words changed my mind completely and set me on my path to become a professional.
Growing up, did you read a lot of comics or were there other activities that you preferred?
Like I said, there wasn’t a lot of material back when I was growing up. Mostly old DC paperbacks and some indie stuff. Argentina once had a huge comics industry and a lot of amazing talents came from here south into the international market, but after the dreaded dictatorship of ’76, it was all but dismantled. In fact, my hometown only had one comic-book store, which I discovered when I was 18 years old. But I was always interested in whatever I could find, so yes, I did read a lot of what was available.
As for other activities, I also enjoyed music passionately. I played the drums in bands all through high school and considered it a career option at some point, but as I said earlier, drawing always kept me coming back. Whenever I’d have to design a poster or CD cover, I’d remember why I loved it so much.
What about beloved artists? Any childhood idols?
Jim Lee was my absolute hero, as I mentioned before. But I also followed the work of other classic artists that helped me shape my style a lot, including Jack Kirby and Bruce Timm, two of my most important influences.
Later in life and as I found more and more material to read, I found the likes of Frank Miller, Neal Adams, John Romita and so many others. From my country, I also loved the work of Carlos Meglia and Enrique Breccia, both of whom I had the chance to meet personally. The latter became my mentor when I participated in one of his illustration and comics seminars.
Did you always want to work on this creative field?
At first, I didn’t even know that was possible. I’m not sure it is now either, haha!
I always sort of took comics for granted. I mean, I knew they had to be drawn and written by someone, but I never dug deeper into what professionals in the field actually did; I just enjoyed them and figured there were a few lucky fellows who were able to work on these amazing magazines. It wasn’t until the boom of Image Comics and artists making a big splash away from the major publishers that I realized this was something you could do for a living. So, upon that discovery, I started reading and studying more and more, trying to find ways to make it as a professional comic artist.
Going back to your own work: illustrating, coloring, lining,.. Do you have a favorite?
I enjoy the whole process, from pencils to colors. But inking has always been the part that I enjoy the most. In fact, Outland has given me the chance to work a lot in black and white and showcase my artwork as such, which has been a huge pleasure. Line weight, spotted blacks, crosshatching… those basics of inking make me truly happy when I’m doing a page.
And projects? Is there one that stands out from the rest?
They all have unique qualities that I think make them amazing, but if I had to choose one in particular I’d say Nightfell is the one that stands out the most.
Why is that one different?
Because it flips a common trope which we all know: that zombies eat the living. In Nightfell, the undead actually protect us and are our last line of defense against darker, more sinister creatures from below. That basic premise brings about uniqueness to the work that I think makes it truly original.
Also, it has deep roots in the Sword and Sorcery genre and it was conceived to be read as either a regular comic-book or a strip (which is how it’s being released in the website). That is also something that hasn’t been seen for quite a while and a format that both Jeremy Tolbert the writer and myself enjoy enormously.
From making the pencil sketch to applying the last smear of color what is your process?
My take on a page usually starts with reading the script and making a mental image of how the composition should work. I visualize the panels and what the writer’s vision is and then I map that out in panels across the page.
Once the panels are laid out, I go in very quickly and sketch out the basic perspective and character interaction and make sure everything works and is where it should be. When I’m satisfied with the storytelling, I tighten up the pencils and send them to the Editor and writer for approval.
If approved, then I move onto the final inks. With Outland, this has been the final stage in many projects and so once it’s done, I send it as a hi-resolution scan for it to be colored and lettered.
If I’m illustrating the whole, then I take special care to not outline certain things I will leave specifically for color to define. I then go in and add the volumes with grayscale and once that’s done I’ll put in the colors and details.
Do you follow a painfully strict plan or is it a more of organic process?
I’m very strict in the process. I found out that it is the best way to meet the deadlines and focus properly on every step.
So… can you tell us what project(s) are you most looking forward in the short run?
I’m very much looking forward to showing audiences the projects we’ve been working on so hard. Especially Nightfell and N0.1R, a crime story set in a world where organic life is nonexistent and robots rule in a mimicry of our 1940s.
There’s always something else in the pipeline, but I can’t really reveal much other than there’s exciting times ahead!
Thanks Nicolás for giving us a small peek into your creative world!
Thank you and I hope you enjoy the stories we’re working on!