The Italian Job: Talking with Artist Simone Bianchi

Fri, February 3rd, 2006 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Jonah Weiland, Executive Producer/Publisher

Bianchi standing in front of the sign for the Lucca Comics & Games convention earlier this year. On the right is his artwork for the convention's poster.
Most American comics fans probably think of artist Simone Bianchi as the new kid on the block turning heads. His work with Grant Morrison on "Seven Soldiers: Shining Knight" for DC Comics may mark his first American comics publication, but his freshman status in the States is a bit deceiving. The Italian artist has been honing his craft for over 11 years now for various publishers throughout Europe.

His jump to the states was helped along by his art dealer Sal Abbinanti ("Atomika"). Bianchi met Abbinanti in 2004 at the annual Festival International De La Bande Dessine (International Comics Festival) in Angouleme, France. The two immediately hit it off and it was Abbinanti who convinced the 33-year-old Bianchi to begin showing his stuff around to American comics publishers. Today, Bianchi is handling regular cover duties on a variety of top titles for DC Comics. We caught up with this rising star to find out what makes him tick and to learn more about his background.

His American comics production began two short years ago. "In the summer of 2004 I lived in New York City and met the great Mike Bair who introduced me to Peter Tomasi, an editor at DC Comics," Bianchi told CBR News from his home in Lucca, in the Tuscany region of Italy. "After a few proposals, the very last day I was in New York we went out for lunch and Peter gave me the script for 'Shining Knight.' When I look back at it, I still get goose bumps!"

For Bianchi, working on "Shining Knight" was the realization of his dream to work in the American comics market. For that project, Bianchi worked closely with Tomasi, whom Bianchi calls "my personal Eighth Soldier." His work on "Shining Knight" led to his regular cover gig at DC Comics.

"So far I've done covers for 'Green Lantern' from issue #8 on, the first trade paperback cover for 'Seven Soldiers,' and eight new covers for both 'Batman' and 'Detective comics,' six of which I have already done," said Bianchi. "I admit I was not familiar with Green Lantern, but I can say I've really grown to know him and it's been an exciting discovery. With Batman, it was a completely different story since I grew up reading this character and it all came very easily. I did a few dark, gothic shots of Batman with details emerging from absolute darkness, which I'm quite proud of."

The construction of a comics cover isn't an easy one for any artist. For many, it's the hardest part of their gig. Constructing a cover that's exciting and eye-popping-- one that will catch the interest of a passing comic fan-- is of great importance to any comics publisher, for obvious reasons. Bianchi gave us an idea of what his process is when constructing a cover. "My first step it to talk to Peter to get a general idea of what the composition will be, the camera point of view and to understand which character will show up. Secondly, I make a rough pencil sketch to visualize our thoughts. The third step begins after Peter's approval. At that point I take a few pictures as reference, do detailed pencils, work on the final inks and then I watercolour halftones.

"For colors, it is all digitally done. Moose Bauman worked on 'Green Lantern,' but I don't know yet who will work on 'Batman.' For 'Green Lantern' #12 it will be Lucio Parrillo taking care of the colors. He's an amazing Italian artist and good friend of mine."

As for the most important key to a successful cover, Bianchi summed it all up in one word. "Emotion," said Bianchi. "It's important is to evoke different feelings for different situations and that's what it's all about. Technique is just an excuse to achieve this final, main goal."

While Bianchi's quite busy with cover work for now, he says that fans will begin seeing his work on interiors again in the not too distant future. "Trust me, it's going to change pretty soon, actually," said Bianchi. "I am going to have got some great news about this shortly.

"Currently, I am very busy working on covers; I just did 10-12 covers and three of them fully colour painted (two Marvel 'X-Men Unlimited' covers and one for Wizards of the Coast) in a month and half. And I can't wait to do interiors again after enjoying so much my last work on 'Green Lantern' #6 with Geoff Johns."

Bianchi's European output far exceeds what we've seen in the United States thus far, and the artist was happy to share a little background. "I've done a lot of illustrations, CD covers for heavy metal bands and some big size private commissions. I did one shot of 'Conan the Barbarian' for the Italian division of Marvel and a few other covers for them ('Fantastic Four' and 'Spider-man'). I do a lot of commissions, paintings and conceptual art for the music business and 3D animation. Before that I saw my work gathered together in three art books: 'Echi' (2000), 'The Art of Simone Bianchi' (2002) and 'Onirika' (2005).

"Then came 'Ego Sum' for Vittorio Pavesio Productions, a scientific trilogy I wrote and painted through 2003 and 2004 (the first two books), 44 pages full colour painted, hard cover. As soon as I'm done with the third issue, I'll start looking for an American publisher to translate it for the American market."

"Detective Comics" #818 "Batman" #652
Having lived his entire life in Italy, we asked Bianchi to give us an idea of what comic culture is like in his native country. Here in the United States, comics shops have become gathering places, almost like a local bar without the alcohol. Then of course there are the numerous conventions held around the states that attract thousands of fans. Are things similar in Italy? "It's pretty much the same, crazy funny insane madness over here," said Biacnhi. "Fans are, thank God, the same all over the world: passionate, curious and warm.

"In my town they hold the biggest Italian convention, Lucca Comics & Games, which was last held two months ago," continued Bianchi. "For it I was asked to paint the official poster; together with my sister Gloria, who currently works with me, we decided to have a booth on our own-- which is an absolute rarity for an artist in Italy-- to show fans my art and to draw for them. It was amazing to hear how deeply they knew my work and to hear their opinions and advice. Moreover, the organizers did an exhibition of my works; it was an enormous job calling every single collector, having the pieces delivered, but I must say it was really an honour to have this happen. After the show the exhibition was brought to the National Museum of Comics."

Finally, we asked Bianchi to give us a short glimpse into what his life is like. "My life is full of cinema, esoteric literature, girlfriends coming and going (actually more often going than coming, as working my ass off 10 to 12 hours a day is not helping a lot), swimming and the gym. I am a Buddhist and have a greedy will of life."

"Green Lantern" #9,
Inks Only
"Green Lantern" #9 "Green Lantern" #10

"Green Lantern" #11 "Ego Sum" #2 "Seven Soldiers"
TPB Cover

"Green Lantern" #6,
Page 1
"Green Lantern" #6,
Pages 2 & 3

"Green Lantern" #6
Inks, Page 4
"Green Lantern" #6
Pencils, Page 5
"Green Lantern" #6
Pencils, Page 6

"Green Lantern" #6
Inks, Page 6
"Green Lantern" #6
Inks, Page 7
"Green Lantern" #6
Inks, Page 9

   
  "Green Lantern" #6
Pencils, Page 18
 

 
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