Name: Ismael Canales
Favorite Comic Book Character Growing Up: That’s hard… I’ll go for Batman, Spider-Man and Superlópez, a Spanish Superman parody.
Favorite Comic Book Character Now: Athena Voltaire!
Latest Work: “Athena Voltaire and The Sorcerer Pope,” first four-issue arc of the ongoing series published by Action Lab Entertainment. (Series kicked off February 14!)
TrunkSpace: How would you describe your art style?
Canales: Not sure about that, it changes constantly. I’m very insecure about that, and I just try to adapt it to every new story I’m telling. In comics, art is supposed to be at the service of the story, and that’s what I’m always struggling with, just trying to make the story as readable and fun as possible for the reader.
TrunkSpace: How important were comic books in your life growing up and is that where you discovered your love and inspiration for drawing?
Canales: My mom started buying me comics even before I could read, and she also taught me and encouraged me to draw, so comics were there from the beginning and I learned to love them and be inspired by them since, forever. I wasn’t a sports kid, so comic books and films were my main source of entertainment when I was young, and I definitely wanted to keep drawing because of them.
TrunkSpace: Was there a particular artist or title from your childhood that you remember being drawn to and inspired by?
Canales: As a reader, I usually look for artists more than characters/series. The first two artists that I remember I started to identify with when I was a child were John Byrne and Alan Davis. (I’m a kid from the ‘80s!) I was really impressed with their work. Their comics were, you know, really well drawn! I keep looking at their work, loving it and trying to learn from them.
TrunkSpace: How did you decide to approach your career in comics? Did you formulate a plan of how you wanted to attack what is known for being a hard industry to crack?
Canales: I had no idea about how to break into comics. There’s no formula or trick to get there – I’m still trying to figure it out, indeed! I started going to comic cons here in Spain, meeting editors and pros. You know, I started to build a contacts list, because it’s always a good idea to hear the advice and critiques from the people of the industry – it really helps you to improve your skills. Finally, I started working with Butxido Agency and Luis (my agent) helped me to get into Athena’s world. As I say, there’s no “right” way of breaking into comics… you can work with an agent, you can create your web comic and get hired from some company, get hired after an interview at a con, or even self-publish your own creations. I suppose it’s just a matter of being there, working and showing what you do to anybody who may pay attention.
TrunkSpace: What was your biggest break in terms of a job that opened more doors for you?
Canales: My biggest break in comics has been “Athena Voltaire and The Sorcerer Pope,” the first four-issue arc of her new ongoing series published by Action Lab Entertainment. Not sure yet about doors that can be opened from now, but I’m really honored to be a small part of Athena’s legacy!
TrunkSpace: A lot of people say that breaking into comics is the hardest part of working in comics. How long did it take you before you started to see your comic book dreams become a reality?
Canales: I started to take it as serious as possible about eight years ago. I’ve been publishing some short stories in comic book anthologies here in Spain (“Cthulhu,” “Killertoons,” “Dark Hearts,” “Ensueños”), teaming up with dear writers/friends like Fátima Fernández or Alfonso Bueno, a couple of comic books for ECV Press (“The Continuum,” “The Hunters”) with Ben Schwartz, a 22-page comic book for an imminent sci-fi short film, “Is This Heaven” (written and directed by the amazing Bastiaan Koch, Marauder Film’s mastermind) and learning everything I could until Athena came to me last year. So, everything you do counts as a learning process. I also self-published a few issues of “Zinco,” a fanzine that my friend Domingo Pérez and myself created when we were younger. But each artist has his/her own timing. I know about artists that got in after their first interview, and others that had hundreds of rejections before breaking in, so it’s important to keep focused on what you want and don’t get discouraged… just like with any purpose you may have in your life.
TrunkSpace: Is there a particular character or universe you always find yourself returning to when you’re sketching or doing warm-ups?
Canales: Batman! Don’t know what happens with the character, but I discover myself sketching little Batmans very often. I love the shapes and how you usually play with the shadows when drawing Batman. It’s so much fun!
TrunkSpace: Is there a specific title or character that you’d like to work on in the future and why?
Canales: I’ll be more than happy working with any of the Marvel and DC classic characters – no surprises here, but I also love discovering new characters, like Athena Voltaire! My favorites can change from day to day, but if I have to say one right now, I’ll go for The Rocketeer. I really love this character, but I have to admit it would be so scary to be drawing Dave Stevens’ creation. He was a true genius and his work keeps inspiring me constantly. Man, he was SO good.
TrunkSpace: What is your ultimate dream when it comes to your career in comics? Where would you like your path to lead?
Canales: Just to have a long career in comics seems a big dream already! It doesn’t matter for me right now if it’s by working with some publisher’s properties or with some creator-owned stuff… hello, Mark Millar! Jokes aside, just to keep working sounds great for me.
TrunkSpace: What would you say is the greatest strength an artist can have?
Canales: Style, influences, tools… it doesn’t matter in the end, I think. Everyone has his/her own way of doing things. If you are serious with the work, and finish it (on time!), well, this is the best business card for a commercial artist. This is teamwork, and you can’t be the one who stops the production pipeline. After saying that, we all are human beings, and things can happen; Athena’s team has been incredibly supportive and nice when I’ve had some trouble (well, tons of them), and I’m so honored to share the title with all of them. (Steve, Emily, Chris… you guys are the best!) Being like them, nice and kind people, is a strong tool too when you work in something collaborative like comics.
TrunkSpace: How has technology changed your process of putting ideas/script to page? Do you use the classic paper/pencil approach at all anymore?
Canales: I started working digitally about three years ago, and it really helped me with working faster. It takes time to get used to these new tools, but it really helps you. And, hey, if everyone out there is using it, why are you gonna play to a disadvantage? Anyway, for me, nothing compares to using traditional pencil and paper, and I love when artists that I admire share pics of their original physical pages. It’s magic!
TrunkSpace: What advice would you give another young aspiring artist who is considering a career in the comic industry?
Canales: Just don’t! Just kidding! I’ll say, just try to keep your passion and vocation… this can be a hard job. It’s time consuming, and if you don’t have fun it can be a pretty frustrating thing to do every day. And don’t be afraid of working hard. And be opened-minded with critics, from editors to other artists. Be smart and learn as much as you can from them. Family and friends are usually nice and kind, but you need objective feedback to keep improving, and it can be hard in the beginning.
TrunkSpace: Making appearances at conventions: Love it, leave it, or a combination of both?
Canales: I’ve done just a few appearances at cons as an artist, and I have had so much fun. In a (usually) lonely job like being a comic book artist, it’s really great having an excuse to go out there and meet people and other fellow artists. And having the chance to say “hi” to artists and people you admire is a really amazing feeling. It is also time consuming, but I’ll try to attend as many cons as I can as an artist, no doubt about it.
TrunkSpace: What is the craziest/oddest thing you’ve ever been asked to draw as a commission?
Canales: I haven’t drawn many commissions yet, but I have to say that what has amazed me is that I usually don’t get asked to draw the typical iconic characters from comics (Superman, Spider-Man, etc.)… most of the time I get asked to draw comic or video game characters that I know nothing about, so I have to Google for references all the time. But it’s always fun to draw things that are completely new to me.
TrunkSpace: What else can fans of your work look forward to in 2018?
Canales: While answering your questions, I’m working on the last two pages of my Athena Voltaire run. I have to take some time before getting involved in any other projects, but I hope I’ll be talking with you about new comics very soon. I’ll keep you informed.