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Jose Villarubia Interview

conducted late July 2003

Jose was the first person who helped produce Promethea that actually contacted me before I contacted him when he made some additional notes about my annotations to Issue #7
He also contributed extra information about the famous Issue #12.
His contribution being to color the bottom 3rd of each page (The Aleister Crowley tells a joke starting at his birth and ending with his death).
His contribution to Comic Book Artist #25 was entitled ABC and Me and is well worth reading.
So what else can I ask him about himself and his contributions to Promethea.
Read on and find out.

Q: You are described as a digital artist/photographer. What is the major scope of your work? Do you paint on canvas as well as using computers and do you do any drawing with good old pencil and paper? Have your worked much in the comics field or is most of your work photographic?

I used to paint on canvas, but not for comics, but for fine art paintings and portraits. I have also used acrylics, watercolor, gouache, pastels and other mediums extensively. However, for the past decade or so, most of my work has been photographic, and for the past five years, mostly computer manipulated.
I use paper and pencil when I sketch the ideas that I will execute digitally. I always do thumbnail sketches and preliminary drawings.
My comics experience is mostly in coloring, and mostly with Jae Lee. Other than that I have completed a digitally manipulated graphic novel with Stephen John Phillips (Veils) and the Promethea sequence.

Q: Could you give us a little bit of background information?

Born in Madrid, Spain, and residing in Baltimore. I am a professor of Illustration at the Maryland Institute College of Art.

Did you go to art school? Who were the major influences in your artistic life?

I attended the School of Fine Art of the Universidad Complutense in Madrid. I have a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the Maryland Institute College of Art, and a Master of Fine Arts degree in Painting from Towson University.
My major influences growing up were my parents and their friend, painter Ezequiel.

Has your being gay had an important impact on your artwork and have you experienced much prejudice either in work or your normal everyday life?

Yes, it has impacted my work. Most of my early personal work were male nudes.
In every day life I have experienced as much prejudice as any gay man does: I have seen and experienced harassing, gay bashing, sarcastic comments and a lot of other reprehensible behavior.
In my professional life, both in art and academia, I have worked mostly in environments that were safe, but I did see administrative homophobia in practice when I taught at state university.

Have you published many books? Where could people who are interested in your work find most of it?

My work has been featured in many books.

BOOKS FEATURING FINE ART WORK
The Male Nude, David Leddick, Taschen Verlag, Cologne, 1998, pp. 640-1, 165
Uniforms, PhotoFactory Press, Los Angeles, 1998, plates 50 and 52 Male Bonding II, PhotoFactory Press, Los Angeles, 1998, plates 53 and 54
Vamps and Tramps, Camille Paglia, Vintage Books, New York, 1994, p.94 The Homoerotic Photograph, Allen Ellenzweig, Columbia University Press, New York, 1992, pp. 188, 191-3
Lust, The Body Politic, Introduction by Dennis Cooper, Liberation Publications, Los Angeles, 1991, pp. 6, 66-73

BOOKS FEATURING COMMERCIAL WORK
The Society of Illustrators 44th Annual of Illustration, Watson –Guptill
Publications, New York, 2002
The Society of Illustrators 42nd Annual of Illustration, Watson –Guptill Publications, New York, 2001
Spectrum: The Best In Contemporary Fantastic Art Vol. 7, Edited by Cathy and Arnie Fenner, Underwood Books, Grass Valley, 2000, pp.82, 198
Vertigo Visions, Alisa Kwitney, Watson –Guptill Publications, New York, 2000, pp. 155, 191

GRAPHIC NOVELS (Covers and Interior art)
CAGE, Brian Azarello, Richard Corben, Marvel Comics, 2002
Captain America: Ice, John Ney Rieber, Jae Lee, Marvel Comics, 2003
Fantastic Four 1234, Grant Morrison, Jae Lee, Marvel Comics 2002
The Sentry, Paul Jenkins, Jae Lee, Marvel Comics, 2001
Promethea Book 2, Alan Moore, J. H. Williams, America's Best Comics, 2001
Veils, Pat McGreal, Stephen John Phillips, DC Comics, New York, 1999 GRAPHIC NOVELS (Covers)
Promethea Book 1, Alan Moore, J. H. Williams, America's Best Comics, 2000
Promethea Book 2 Alan Moore, J. H. Williams, America's Best Comics, 2001
Promethea Book 3 Alan Moore, J. H. Williams, America's Best Comics, 2002
Promethea Book 4 Alan Moore, J. H. Williams, America's Best Comics, 2003
Tom Strong Book 2, Alan Moore, Chris Sprouse, America's Best Comics, 2002
Tom Strong Book 1, Alan Moore, Chris Sprouse, America's Best Comics, 2000
Top Ten Book 2, Alan Moore, Gene Ha, America’s Best Comics, 2002
Top Ten Book 1, Alan Moore, Gene Ha, America’s Best Comics, 2000

Finally some Promethea questions:

You and Charles Vess are the only guest artists who have worked on Promethea (except for Steve Moore and Eric Shanower's Little Margy in Misty Magic Land) but you've done more work than Mr. Vess.
Apart from 8 pages in Issue #7 you've also worked on the bottom part of all 24 pages in Issue #12 as well as the Hardback covers for the Book collections.
I assume you will also be doing the cover for Book 5 when it finally appears.

Yes, I will.

Q: Do you think your services might be required sometime in the last 6 issues?

No, J. H. is doing all of the work these days.

Q: Do you have an image of the not quite yet released Book 4 cover that you could send?

Yes, I'll enclose it.

You first got in contact with Alan Moore over a theatre adaptation you were doing of the Mirror of Love. I've read the script for this from the 4 color heroes website but haven't seen the original artwork. You obviously must be fond of this work as the book version to be released soon incorporates work done by you with Alan's story.
Q: Has Alan enlarged his original script at all?

He is revising it and changing some of it.

Q: When will it be published?

December 2003.

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Maxfield Parrish Prometheus illustration showing chaste eroticism which was the inspiration for the version of Promethea shown on Issue #5 cover

The Cast List of your Promethea movie with stills only
Promethea Audrey Causilla
Bill Woolcott Douglas Bayne
Dennis Drucker/ Dirk Dangerfield Tom Burke
Jeannie Lobato Sophie Bangs
Aleksey Zolotaryov snakes and moths in 3-D
David Page provided the straitjacket
Shot in Baltimore

Two Promethea covers inspired by Parrish and Dali that are a 50/50 collaboration between JH Williams and Jose

The idea of using photographs to make up a comic book is not new. Even before Monty Python got started way back in 1964/65 one of Terry Gilliams first paid jobs involved him taking photographs of John Cleese for a comic story of a man falling in love with his daughters Barbie Doll published in a satirical magazine called Help!.
Q: Is there a long history of comic books being produced using photographs instead of drawings or is it a rare occurrence?

Fumetti are very popular in Mediterranean and Latin American countries, but the most artistic example of a comic book that I saw growing up was the amazing "Ogre" by the genial Richard Corben.

(Not part of the interview but here's a webpage on how to turn photographs into a comic book like look I thought you might find interesting http://www.jasc.com/tutorials/nieuwenstein/comic.asp )

Tha’s a really lame one. I did a tutorial for an old issue of Popimage (explaining how I did the Prometheus image). Try to see if Ed Matthew would let you use it.

The main difference with your work on Promethea is that it is a serious tragic story told in just 8 pages and that what starts off as a normal comic becomes hyperreal for the middle of the story before returning back to a normal comic once again.
If they ever make a film of Promethea then the only way to do this part properly would be to have characters from the movie screen step out into the audience watching the film as happened in Woody Allen's the Purple Rose of Cairo.
Q: Can you imagine a film ever being made of Promethea? Alan would obviously just take the money and not provide any input but do you think the Promethea story could be made into a successful movie?

Absolutely. And so does J. H. I think that the first story arc could be successfully adapted.

Q: Just out of Idle curiosity on my part what's on the movie screen behind P romethea and Dirk Dangerfield when they kiss? It looks like workers in an office. Was that part of Alan's script and does it have any significance or is it just a background detail?

Yes, it is an office picture and yes it was in the script, I believe. I think that it was my idea to turn it into a billboard, Alan, I believe, wanted mannequins and props. He just wanted a mundane background.

In issue #12 your paintings show us Aleister Crowley from Birth to Death telling a long joke.
Q: Do you know much about Crowley himself? Had you read any of this works or were you mostly just interested in how he looked?

No, not really. All I know about him is from reading Promethea.

Q: How hard was it to match up your work with JHW and Jeromy Cox for the top 2/3 of each page?

Pretty complicated. I left the pages open in layers, so he could blend them. I colored them first and then gave the files to him. He did a great job

Did you do one long painting or 24 (or less) smaller ones that had to match up as much as possible?

I did them mostly in double page spreads.

Q: Most of the Crowley images are directly adapted from photos. How many did you actually make up without any reference source to work from?

I never saw the original photos when I was painting them. J. H. was supposed to change them a bit, but I believe he did not change them very much. I invented the light source, color and details in all these images.

Q: Two paintings by Bosch and Breughel are combined into one large image. Was it hard matching them up & how much editing did you have to do to the original paintings themselves?

Breughel and Jeronimus Bosch, as a matter of fact. J. H. had sketched them and I substituted them for the paintings with all the elements s in place. It was relatively easy

Were these actual painting specified in Alan's scripts or did you choose them?

As I said, J. H. sketched them. I never saw the script for this issue.

Q: Aside from all his magical work Crowley was well known as a mountaineer. Did you or Alan ever consider showing him climbing as an appropriate image for Issue #12 or any other appearance by Crowley in Promethea?

You should ask J. H. I have no idea.

Q: What are some of your favorite Promethea images and some of your favorite issues and why?

Oh, so many! It is hard to tell. I tend to recall moments in the story and particular sequences instead of single images. I love the first issue. It made me cry. I loved the sex one as well. I loved the Moebius strip double spread. so many things, it is hard to single any out.

Q: Is there a question about Promethea and your work on it that you've never been asked but that you would like to answer?

Yes. Did I do any additional pictures for the sequence that never made it to the finished story. the answer is yes. I shot a photo of the two guys kissing, to use subliminally, but the pages were so dense, I did not have anywhere to put it.

Q: You've recently done artwork for a new edition of Alan's first novel Voice of the Fire as well as an enlarged version of the Mirror of Love. What prompted you to have these old titles reissued? Was the initial impetus to do them from Alan or did you approach him first?

I consider Voice of the Fire Alan's finest writing. The Mirror of Love holds special significance to me as a gay man, and Alan considers it on of his best five pieces.

Will there be limited editions signed by Alan and yourself for either of these titles?

Yes.

You can preorder one of 500 only signed copies of both titles from Top Shelf Comix


click on images for ordering information

Are there any other old writings of Alan or even new ones that you would like to collaborate on?

I will illustrate his story "Belly of Cloud" in the incoming months as well as other projects that have not been announced yet.

The script for Belly of Cloud can be found in The Extraordinary Works of Alan Moore by George Khoury. Also the book contains numerous photos of Alan taken by Jose

Q: This is the only webpage about you specifically I can find
Jose Villarubia
Are many of your artworks available online somewhere?

Go to the July 11 archive of City Paper

How was the San Diego Con this year (2003) and what did you enjoy most about it?

Enormous and fantastic. What I enjoyed the most was hanging out with other artists, writers, editors and fans! It really has become a yearly ritual.