I Dream of Lucha: Rafael Navarro talks "Sonambulo"

Thu, December 13th, 2007 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Shaun Manning, Staff Writer

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"Sonambulo: Mexican Stand-Off" #3, the latest in the Sonambulo saga, is on sale now

Rafael Navarro has good reason to daydream. Since winning a Xeric Grant for independent publishing, the quirky and surreal "Sonambulo," the series has been translated into several languages for worldwide exposure and has been optioned for film by the producers of "Y Tu Mam Tambin." CBR News had the chance to chat with Navarro about the history of "Sonambulo," the artist's upcoming projects, and the much-dreaded-amongst-indie-comics-creators "day job."

"Sonambulo" covers a lot of ground in both the noir and surreal sci-fi genres, and looks a bit like "The Outer Limits" as written by Mickey Spillane--if the Mike Hammer character wore a Mexican wrestling mask. Navarro described the appeal of this sort of genre bending as "finding to two different items that one would never assume would be a great match, and suddenly it's like they were meant to be...like chocolate and peanut butter."

"For me," Navarro said, "it was just a simple merging of the things I love--noir, horror, suspense, and yes, lucha libre [Mexican wrestling]. With the addition of these genres and all they entail, the material then becomes broader, with a limitless range to play in."

While the question of "where do your ideas come from?" is one that most creators hate, it's hard not to wonder about the origins of a dream-reading, monster-fighting, ex-luchador private eye star of "Sonambulo." Navarro, though, has an a poetically appropriate story about the genesis of his work.

"Sonambulo: Sleep of the Just," the original Sonambulo tale
"I've always wanted to write and draw a story about a detective who could read people's dreams," Navarro told CBR News. "Now with that said, the character had no visual identity aside from just the standard fedora and suit. Then, one insomniatic night (used to happen frequently then!), I finally fell into a deep sleep and then began to dream of this detective, appearing in silhouette only, entering his office in the dead of night. He appeared wounded, obviously from a gunfight earlier, and needed to mend himself. All this was revealed to me by the light of a neon sign outside the office window, blinking infrequently. The detective then proceeds to the door, and the neon sign continues to blink, revealing a broad shouldered, hulking man in a suit and tie, reaching for his hat and just then, as he opens the door to return to the fight, he turns to us, and the neon sign reveals that he wears a mask of a luchador!"

Asked about his affinity for "dream logic," Navarro revealed that he prefers to see dreams as an absence of logic. "It could be anything you want, for your dreams and the imagination that fuels them is limitless," he said. "Imagine your most hidden secrets, hidden even from yourself, sequentially revealed to us in black and white images, representational or just plain, flat out blatantly so, finally coming out towards the light of our consciousness. It could be hilarious, haunting or even frightening!"

Since its debut in 1996, when Navarro won the Xeric grant to create the series, "Sonambulo" has been translated into Spanish, French, and, soon, Croatian. "Sonambulo" has also been optioned for film by Sergio Aguero, who produced 2001's hit "Y Tu Mam Tambin." Navarro is eager to see the big-screen version of his creation. "It appears the process is just never fast enough for me!" he said, adding that the story will draw upon several existing Sonambulo tales, "with a new adventure worked in."

"Sonambulo" Croatian edition
When not immersed in the life of his insomniac hero, Navarro busies himself with storyboard art for several animated series, in what he calls his "day job." "I've just wrapped up on a Scooby Doo direct-to-DVD for Warner Bros., and 'The Batman' Season 5, which is currently airing right now," he said. "I'm currently working on a show called 'Hero 108' for Cartoon Network," which will debut next year.

Comparing storyboarding for animation to illustrating for comics, Navarro said his day job is a bit more complex. "As a storyboard artist, my job is to basically coordinate all the visual action based on a script, kind like driving directions, just a bit more elaborate," the artist said. "Comics, like storyboards, deal with the concept of time, but the isolated moments of time in comics are ideally representational, almost iconic if you will, and animation requires much, much more!"

Fans of Lucha Noir can look forward to two new "Sonambulo" books coming up sometime in 2008. "One is called 'Sonambulo Lives', where I wrap up the last storyline," Navarro confirmed, "and then there's the next one, tentatively titled 'The Werewolves of Whittier.'" At least one of these should be ready for the San Diego Comic-Con in 2008.

Navarro's other upcoming projects include a children's book titled "Captain Candy," a story for the "Hot Mexican Love Comics" anthology, and an as-yet untitled Western in collaboration with Mark Masterson, co-creator of "Dorothy," which will be published by Illusive Arts.

Asked whether there are any "mainstream" or "iconic" characters he'd like to work on, Navarro answered in his typically sly style. "Well, the love and ardent desire will always be there for them without question, for I wouldn't be in this business if it weren't for them," Navarro said. "It's just that every time I've the remotest interest in a certain character, they seem to get killed off just after! Superman, Hal Jordan, etc., and most recently, my personal fave, Captain America! I just heard Batman's next. Hmm, now I know who I want to draw: Winter Solder! Heh heh, that's it, that's the ticket!"

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