Rafael Ruiz is a recent acquisition to the Team Fantomen ranks and follows many other top quality Spanish artists who have worked on our hero like Jaime Vallve, Carlos Cruz, Joan Boix, Rafael Lopez Espi and Coral Martinez.
His first story was published in 2015 titled "The Mark of Cain" and was published in Frew #1762, Fantomen 25-26/2015, Fantomet 1/2016 and Brazil's O Fantasma #2.
Fans have enjoyed his work ever since and now we get to learn more as we were lucky enough to spend some time with Rafael Ruiz.
Chronicle Chamber: Welcome to Chronicle Chamber. Can you start of by telling us a bit about yourself? Including what region you are from in Spain?
Rafael Ruiz: I was born in the Balearic Islands. Specifically in Palma de Mallorca.
CC: Where you always into drawing and art? Was it something you grew up wanting to do?
RR: My mother used to tell me jokingly that I was born with a pencil in my hand. From a very young age and without knowing why, I had a knack for drawing. I liked to create characters, vehicles of all kinds and small comics.
As time went by, I was inspired by comics and movies, and mainly by my father. He was a great artist. He used to make big paintings for the cinemas on the island (right). A good person and a better mentor. Everything I know about the art of color I learned from him.
The truth is that my father did not want me to follow in his footsteps, as he said that making a living as an artist is not usually profitable. My mother, on the other hand, always supported me in my endeavor.
CC: Did you study art and if so, where?
RR: I studied art at a local high school on the island. I studied applied arts and art history in the 1990's. It helped me in certain aspects, but the truth is that my real study was self-taught. I learned everything I know about artistic and anatomical drawing on my own. The art of color I learned from my father, as I said before.
CC: Is there anyone in particular who also inspired you and influenced your work besides your father?
RR: Of course. With the comic and illustration section mainly by John Buscema. I was fascinated by his work on "Conan the Barbarian" and I was also inspired by great artists such as Frank Frazetta, Bruce Timm, Simon Bisley, Richard Corben, Ron Garney, John Romita, Geof Darrow and Frank Miller.
My other great source of inspiration is the seventh art (movies). Especially science fiction, action, fantasy and adventure movies. Some of the inspiring movies and directors are Ridley Scott with Alien and Blade Runner, James Cameron with Terminator or Aliens, Paul Verhoeven with Robocop or Total Recall, John Mctiernan with Predator or Die Hard, Kubrick with 2001, Spielberg with Indiana Jones, Lucas with Star Wars, Tim Burton with Batman, Stallone with Rocky or Rambo.
And last but not least, video games: Silent Hill, Resident Evil, Driver, Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, Crash Bandicoot and more recently Red Dead Redemption, Last or Us, Grand Theft Auto, God of War, BioShock, Uncharted and Alien Isolation.
CC: What made you want to be an artist?
RR: I have always loved the art of drawing and painting. The motivation came from movies, comics, artwork in general and video games.
CC: Can you tell us about your first break in the industry?
RR: Eventually, I started to publish some comics for a local newspaper and covers for magazines and covers for musicians. Later on, I started to publish short stories in erotic editorials like "La Cúpula ediciones" or "Eros" from Dolmen Editorial.
I spent years doing alternative jobs while I established myself as a cartoonist as a full time profession. Working for Comicup was when I started doing comics on a regular basis. They were mostly short stories with a juvenile theme.
My most notorious work during those years was working with Silvio Camboni and Dennis Pierre in the comic book series "Gargouilles" as a colorist for the publishing house "Les Humanoïdes Associés".
CC: Do you like working on the Phantom? Did you know of the Phantom before you started work on those stories? Did you ever read the character?
RR: I no longer work in the franchise. But I remember I had a great time creating those stories. Especially on the covers and independent illustrations.
The truth is that when I was offered to do the Phantom comics I had very little knowledge of the characters and their history. I had to do a lot of research at the beginning. Before doing the stories I remembered finding some comics in my collection and I devoured them. I have since added many more to my collection.
CC: That is sad your no longer working on the series. How did you get the role of the Phantom for Team Fantomen in the first place?
RR: The opportunity came to work on the Phantom franchise in collaboration with Egmont and Comicup which was the studio I was working for.
CC: In the last few years your Phantom work has been assisted by Coral Martinez. Has that changed your style or the way you work having her ink your pencils??
RR: Coral Martinez has a great talent with her inks. When I collaborated with her it was great to see how she embellished the pencils. She didn't influence me since our work was parallel. I let myself go with my style and narrative. Coral would then do her great finishing.
CC: You also recently worked on the “jam story” written by Andreas Eriksson. What was it like being a part of that?
RR: It's my favorite. I really enjoyed collaborating with so many great artists and with a story like Eriksson's Jam story. I loved being able to do the ending!
CC: You have worked on several covers for Team Fantomen and also a card for the (Australian) Frew Gallery trading card series. Do you prefer covers or interior work and is there a difference in the way you work with a cover?
RR: Storytelling and illustration are very different processes. Personally, I enjoy illustration more. But I must say that creating the narrative of the scenes is a lot of fun..
CC: In the story "Red Zone" it features the Phantom visiting New Zealand for the first time. Did it require extra research? Do you use google for your research?
RR: Of course. I had to do a lot of research. Especially before and after the disaster in the city of New Zealand. Without Google it would have been a very difficult job to do.
CC: Do you accept commissions and how can they contact you?
RR: Yes, of course. I had to temporarily stop drawing for a few years for personal reasons. But I'm back. You can contact me by email: email@example.com
CC: Do you have a place where phans can see your work?
RR: I am currently revamping the website www.tonkatsustudio.com . But you can see some of my work through instagram now under the pseudonym of Ralph Key. I am also uploading my recent works on Redbubble.
CC: Thank you for your time and for your great work on our Phantom. Hopefully we will see you back again on or in our Phantom comic.
RR: Thank you!