- SuperCon - San Jose, CA - Sat. June 2, 2007 / Email - June 2008
- What makes a good artist? More importantly, what makes one respected in the industry? A good answer would be talent, but more so, consistency and a humble demeanor. These are the very traits that can describe Rafael Navarro.
What makes Rafael great is his very outgoing, friendly nature and his natural rapport with people. He is genuinely considered one of the nicest artists one could meet at any of the comic conventions. This is both a blessing, and a curse. He can't seem to say No to anyone, and - considering his popularity - tends to get torn in all different directions before too long. It's often amusing to see him at his booths, with a growing number of fans and friends surrounding him, and poor Rafael - head flipping side to side - trying to please everyone by engaging them in full-contact conversation. Realistically, it can't work. Some people step back and let other newcomers have their moment, while others, with many questions, might continue. Eventually someone comes to save him by grabbing him away, or reminding him of a previous commitment to a drawing or whatnot. But even then, Rafi will - with frustration - attempt to concentrate on a drawing at hand, while still chatting away.
That aside, the humbleness factor about him is amazing. He does a lot, but speaks very little about his accomplishments. He is a consummate worker, always busy in the artistic field - and yet underrated, if under appreciated. To know what he has been involved in, would make one wonder why his name isn't more known. The simple fact is that Rafael prefers to work, and not brag or self-promote.
If you've seen Rugrats, Tutenstein, the newer Scooby-Doo cartoons, or a plethora of other Nickelodeon features, along with Warner Brothers animations, then you've seen examples of Rafaels work. Even the joint creation of Stan Lee and Pamela Andersons Stripperella had Rafael as a storyboard artist. But closer to his heart is his own creation - as the writer and artist of the comic book Sonambulo. Sonambulo is a character borne of Rafaels closeness to his own Mexican cultural heritage. This is a character who is a former Luchador (Mexican wrestler), who, through circumstances, was unconscious for years, only to come back and have abilities to see into peoples dreams. This ability helps him to fight crime and solve mysteries. The series has a popular cult following, and is well-written and drawn, and gives a well-needed boost and respect to Mexican heritage as well.
I have known Rafael for years, and we've chatted endlessly on all topics we could think of, but we never actually sat down to do an interview. And so, after putting it off for a couple of years or more, we finally made a plan, during a lull at a Supercon in San Jose, CA. The crowds had died down after closing, and we were able to take a breather to go over Rafaels career, personal life and background, and just shoot the breeze about what makes him who he is. And to note, his knowledge of art and classic artists is amazing. It was rather enlightening, as I always find out new things about him, and finally had been able to share them with everyone else.
And so, with his usual mischievous humor and candid appeal, he delivered the goods. While reading this, envision smirks, raised eyebrows, subtle jabs, speedy banter, and some sarcasm in his answers amidst the facts.
K2K: Here we are with Rafael. Navarro, not that other artist. [Referring to the classic painter.]
K2K: How long have you been in the artistic industry?
RN: In the artistic industry, I'd say just a little bit under 20 years. Oh... uh, and a half.
K2K: How did you get started?
RN: Well, it all started when I was four or five years old, and wanted to draw the Batmobile - when I was a wee lad - on trash bags. And also... supermarket bags.
K2K: Wait. You wanted to draw ON trash bags, or you wanted to draw actual trash bags?
RN: No, I wanted to draw on trash bags. I believe it was grocery bags. I stand corrected. It was McCoys Market Grocery bags - the brown paper bags. I was obsessed with the Batmobile, and had to draw it one way or the other. And eventually, I never did draw the Batmobile correctly. That led by desire to draw, on a regular basis.
K2K: Who are your influences? Just like the basics.
RN: No, that's perfectly fine. I'll give you a quick little random shot into the field of comic books. I would say, not in necessarily any order - Jack Kirby, Alex Toth, Frank Robbins, Gene Colan... (laughs) He's very sandy. A very sandy Colan indeed. Master Of Light. Old 1930s, 1940s cartoons, Milton Caniff, Doug Wildey, Russ Heath, Joe Kubert, I could go on. Oh, Steranko! Without question. My buddy Jim. And everyone else in between who have been influenced by them all.
K2K: How old are you now?
RN: Believe it or not, I'm only about to be 40 years old in August, but I feel like I'm an old soul. When I was a young person, I loved people who were at least three or four times older than I was. Those are the people I always looked to aspire to. I started reading Milton Caniffs Steve Canyon strips at age seven. I took it very seriously. I read the Terry And The Pirates reprints, and I guess they got me into an early admiration for the classics. It was just something that made sense to me. Anybody who would angle the brush, was my hero.
K2K: How much does culture play in your art and writing?
RN: Well, as of lately, I write and draw this character called Sonambulo, so I think that culture sure does play a big, important aspect in my own personal work. When I'm doing a day job, whether it be for Warner Brothers or Nickelodeon, I'm just another footsoldier to the cause of... of... evil. (laughs) But when it comes to my personal stuff, I definitely follow my heart and my culture. Basically, the things that one knows. The things that you grew up with, the things that make you who you are.
K2K: How many different comic book titles have you created?
RN: Oh, God. To be honest, I've only created one, that has seen the light of day. There are several that I really haven't had the time to try out, but I guess I will so, eventually, now that everybodys seemingly doing masked Mexican wrestlers, as of late, as of this day, at 4:20 pm, 2007, uh, I forget what day it is.
K2K: Its Sunday.
RN: Yeah, yeah. Way too many Luchadors in this world, gosh darnit. I think it's time to move on. That's not true. I'll always go back to Sonambulo, because he's my first love...
K2K: Aha! Man love.
RN: There you go. Man-Lucha-love. There's a difference there, Phil. It's just that I'll always be nostalgically connected to this character, because I've done him for so long, and I haven't the heart to kill him, so if there's light and oxygen going through this body [pointing at himself], there will be a Sonambulo comic... eventually.
K2K: Being both an artist, and a writer, do you consider yourself more one or the other?
RN: I think, to be perfectly honest, I am an artist without question. I'm a writer secondhand. It's more difficult for me to get into the writers frame, because it's not my greatest strength, and I know that. I think I work twice, two or three times as hard as a writer, than as an artist, because this is my living, and it is my lifes blood, and it's basically who I am. It just comes to my quite naturally. But writing, I actually have to stop, and really concentrate, and even perhaps struggle to get to the point.
K2K: Your bio states that your early love for comics encourage you to read more.
RN: Yes it did.
K2K: Do you find that would be true of most kids, or at least in the days before the internet and TV overdose?
RN: Funny that you mention that. I was just covering that very same thing... Kids still read, believe it or not. Yes, there are accessories like the internet, and seemingly libraries are in the middle of a target where the internet is making them obsolete. Eh! Wrong! Go to the library. There is an internet access there too, and yes, Heaven forbid that there are shelves and shelves of these things called books, that people still read. This is a fallacy... that people still assume that computers have taken over the animation industry. No they haven't. It's just that Disney hasn't actually had the balls to just blame the producers who get the bad ideas, who put out these really bad cartoons... That everybodys going digital. That's not true. It's just a trend. You still need a creative mind, and... and... experience to back up some tool. The computer is no different than an airbrush or pencil, my friend.
K2K: Do you think that comic books are still a valid source for encouraging reading and art?
RN: I think so... As are novels, as is anything with the written word on it. Pictures are optional, of course, without question. For me... (slyly) I prefer pictures, because I like to watch.
K2K: Your first favorites were newspaper comic strips?
RN: Oh, yeah! Oh, gosh. Steve Canyon, by Milton Caniff. I was also reading Popeye by [Forrest]
Bud Sagendorf, in the late 70s, I think Mama, I think anything that I could read on a Sunday if I didn't have a quarter to go to my local comic shop, sorry... my local liquor store... to buy my candy bar and comic book... which was probably Captain America issues by Jack Kirby or Frank Robbins.
K2K: Do you like Fantomas?
RN: Oh, without question! They rock, dude! [Referring to the Mike Patton-fronted band, as opposed to the French detective thriller that the question referred to.]
K2K: Is the character the same as The Phantom?
RN: (laughs) Well, are you talking about the band, or are you talking about the...
K2K: With a PH.
RN: Oh, Fan-TO-mas. Yes. There was a fantastic comic book put out in Mexico, of the tradition of the classic French character in the 1970s, which I grew up reading at the same time as I was reading Captain America & The Falcon. So, yeah, I adore Fantomas.
K2K: Your first job was working in video game animation. What games did you work on?
RN: Oh, gosh. I worked on a lot of stuff for Interplay, because it was all farmed out from a small company that I worked for, called Dreamers Guild. We did a lot of 3D, 3/4 perspective, what you'd call Isoview video games. Oh, Harlan Ellisons Dream Corridor. It's based on a short story that he wrote years and years and years ago. [Editors note: Harlan Ellisons I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream} It's basically the end of the world, and the last remaining surviving human beings. I think there are four or five of them. This big, massive computer keeps killing and torturing them, and bringing them back to life, over and over for thousands and thousands of years. Because this machine hates people. I think the game consists of you being one of the people. You control them. You eventually take over, and you discombobulate the computer, and you kick ass. Then you deal with the rest of the world, and the fact that there are only seven, or five of you. It's an ironic story.
K2K: As a day job, you work as a storyboard artist.
RN: Yes, sir. Yes, sir.
K2K: What titles and companies have you worked on or with?
RN: Oh, gosh.
K2K: Now you're going to have to think about it.
RN: No, no. Here comes the resume list. Nickelodeon, I worked on the Rugrats for several seasons. Angry Beavers. Hello lesbian people out there, I love you all. Yes! Yes, yes, yes. What else? Goodness gracious me. I worked on...
RN: Yes, yes. Let's stick to the high list. Stripperella, with Stan Lee. I did the first two seasons of that. Rugrats, Shelly Showdown, ¡Mucha Lucha!, The Batman, and most currently, I started on Scooby Doo. Tutenstein.I worked on Tutenstein. It'll come to me the minute I stop to focus. What? Me focus? Duh! It's just all these fantastic, wonderful visual aids walking by, Phil, which you can't see because they're all behind your back.
K2K: You've done more.
RN: Oh, yes. And I promise that when you do the reedit, I'll send you more.
K2K: whats it like Nickelodeon?
RN: Uh, well, it was wonderful to work for its time. Just like any gig. I look at all my assignments as basically war campaigns. It was a good cause at the time, but I'm glad that I'm off to bigger and better things these days. But that's OK.
K2K: How was it working for Rugrats?
RN: That was like my first assignment. I practically cut my teeth during that time period. I have fond memories of the people I worked with. The work itself wasn't my proudest, not my most finest moment. I was still learning, and it wasn't my type of material. I like big action fight sequences, and apparently they were a little scarce on a show about little kids, and dreaming, and imagination.
K2K: Did you ever meet [Devos] Mark Mothersbaugh?
RN: Yes, I did. Which I was very happy about, to share coffee with the man, on a regular basis. He's a wonderful person. I hardly recognized the man. For some reason, when I started hearing the name Mark Mothersbaugh in the room, I said, Where, where where? All I remembered was this guy named Mark, sitting there doing music for the thing. He had like semi-long, feathered hair, and glasses. Very mellow.
K2K: He was so not Devo, wasn't he?
RN: No. He was just a normal Joe, like you and I. Pretty much so. He blended in with the rest of us, basically. Wholeheartedly so.
K2K: Would you work with him again?
RN: Oh, gosh! Anybody with that amount of talent and creativity, if I was given the opportunity to work with that person, I would jump at it.
K2K: What are you doing now, now that you're not working with Nickelodeon?
RN: Oh, right now I'm doing an interview and...
K2K: Not NOW.
RN: In a few hours, literally starting tomorrow at 9 am, I should be back at Warner Brothers, on the Warner lot, in Burbank, working on the next Scooby Doo DVD... Direct-To-DVD project, for the next few months.
K2K: A title?
RN: I believe it is titled, Scooby Doo And The Shadow Goblins, by Joe Sicht. He's a foreigner.
K2K: Aren't we all, in some ways.
RN: I like Def Leppard, myself. [Referring to previous Foreigner comment.]
K2K: Tell me about Sonambulo. What does the name mean?
RN: Sonambulo means sleep walker in Spanish. It was derived from an old Santo & Johnny 1950s song, called Sleep Walk. In Spanish, when my dad was listening to it, in the late 1950s, the single said, Sonambulo. When I was designing Sonambulo, he was originally called The Sleepwalker, a big, burly wrestler dude detective, with an Anglo twist to him. My dad said, That's great, but it's kind of a mouthful, isn't it? Well, give me something else. OK, how about the Spanish one, Sonambulo? (sarcastically) Oh, that's not a mouthful, dad. That's easy. But actually it does have a nice little flair and feel to it to say Sonambulo. It's almost like... it has a certain tinge to it. You get a chill down your spine when you hear it.
K2K: whats his real name?
RN: His real name is Salomon Lopez, which actually was named after my grandfather, who passed away that year, after Sonambulo saw the light of day. I regret, I never had the chance to show him that I named this after him.
K2K: You won a Xeric Award for Sonambulo?
RN: Yes, I did. A Xeric Award is an award that is given once per year, by a committee of comic specialists. It's basically funds. It's more of a grant, than an award. It does serve as an award, a nice prestigious weight that you can put in your book. It's like a mini-Eisner, so to speak. For independent comic book artists. But unlike the Eisner, it comes with money. Yeah! Money comes in hand, especially for any independent artist at the time, once they put something new and different and bold out. The Xeric Award recognizes that, and awards people with such things for potential independent artists that are having something that is worth their while. I was honored with that privilege.
K2K: whats with your love of Luchadors?
RN: Oh, God. Where do I begin? They're basically superheroes.
K2K: How do you explain it to whitebread America?
RN: Basically, to me, they are the living, breathing Captain America and Batman. We just don't know who they are. It could be me, it could be her, it could be your uncle, or my dad, or my mother. We'll never know because they're wearing wrestler masks. But the good thing about it, is that they're common people. Common people, of a common clay, that rise from their problems - whether poverty or oppression - if they only had a mask to protect their identity, and their loved ones. It's that whole slice of life, reality factor for these characters. They're larger than life. They are wrestlers, but they are regarded in high standards in Mexico. It's an honorable thing to be a Luchador in Mexico. It's like the Samurai is viewed in Japan, or the American Cowboy in America. These are important iconic images of heroism.
K2K: What is Lucha Libre?
RN: That means Free form. It's free form stylized grappling.
K2K: And what did you think of [Jack Blacks] Nacho Libre?
RN: Nacho Libre, hit and miss. I was a huge fan of the Napoleon Dynamite film, which I thought was the most hysterical thing [I had seen] in my life. It was a noble attempt to tackle on a culture, a wrestling thing, and at the same time, try to introduce the masked Mexican wrestler to a different culture. The tongue-in-cheek comedy about it had its ups and downs. I'm a huge Jack Black fan. It's basically, your first car. It's got knocks here and there, but it gets the job done. Hopefully it'll launch more sequels, or it'll launch a new genre in American Mexican wrestling films.
K2K: What about real Luchadors... Compared to American wrestling, are they more gymnastic?
RN: Oh, it's more acrobatics. Mexican wrestling, they move faster. American wrestling is more about slow, sluggish, basically it's a power thing. Because they're monsters. American wrestlers are giants. They're gods that walk the earth. Mexican wrestlers are short, pudgy guys, who basically have to rely on their skills, as both athletes, and most importantly visually be stimulating constantly, on a regular basis. So they include acrobatics. They're the ones who actually started jumping off, leaping off the rings. And masks. That was the big thing too. It was basically living, breathing superheroes. And they had to look like Jack Kirby drawings come to life.
K2K: Is it fake there too like here? Do they plan out their gymnastics?
RN: It's fake like... Oh, you have to. They way I look at it, it's an opera. It's a big, giant soap opera... for dudes. It's basically good versus evil, designed in a way where good will win out, if you actually try. But then there are chances were evil will eventually seek out good. But good will remember it. It's going to have a second chance to prove itself. Just like life. You've got to deal with the hard knocks. So, yeah, it's a big, giant soap opera.
K2K: How much does the idea of Sonambulo being an ex-Luchador play into the character?
RN: All the time. Once you're a wrestler, a Luchador, you'll always be a Luchador. It's sacred to always have the mask on, even long after you're retired. If you go into the public, that is your public face. People know your mask, not your face.
K2K: What about as him being a private investigator?
RN: Well, he's more of a celebrity private investigator at that point, because he's Sonambulo the former masked wrestler who is now a private eye. He's still in the limelight, but obviously people do not know his face.
K2K: In the storyline, he seems to be outside of the law. How does he respect the police?
RN: (laughs) Mostly just out of extracting the clues to stop certain forms of evil that the police obviously can't, because they haven't the knowledge or the skills to do so. I believe Sonambulo tries to work within the system, but as usual, there are times when he has to bend the rules to a certain extent. Whether his reaction is to rub elbows with the local law enforcement or not, it's clearly not his prerogative at all. If it has to be done, so be it. But he doesn't need to do it wittingly.
K2K: Whats the quick version of his powers?
RN: He's a former Mexican wrestler who has the uncanny ability to read peoples dreams. To make a long story short, he had this gift all the time, to read peoples dreams. The only catch about it was that he can't sleep. It's a weird, vampiric state of mind where he's constantly awake. He doesn't have the ability to rest. And with that he has plenty of time to do things, so he's always on the case, no matter what. In the story, he was in the position where a local mob boss offered him the job to be the muscle. He politely declined. So when the time came, the muscle was to be used as an example. So they killed him. They literally shot him point blank, and buried his body in alleged Olympic Auditorium ring. I don't know how, after all the years, nobody checked under the ring for a stinky body. But there's the extent of your imagination coming into play. What happened is just before that, is his weird sleep disorder where he would sleep for days at a time, nonstop. That was the first clue that something was wrong with his body. So when they killed him, they thought the actually had murdered him. In actuality, they sent him into a weird suspended animation. He was like a little butterfly in his little cocoon, so to speak. When he came out, he came out of this sleepiness state, almost four decades later. When he came back, he realized that his world was completely gone. Times had changed, life had changed, and all the people that were involved in that mob hit were all gone. So now he was alone in this world. But, with this gift, to go into peoples minds and subconsciousness, things that they may know, or the fact that a person is afraid of some hideous monster as a child, Sonambulo can see it and battle it for him.
K2K: You have a definite Noir style in it.
RN: Oh, gosh. Noir is a very important factor in the books that I write and draw, and also in my mind state. I love that whole era of hopelessness and despair, but with a lingering light of hope somewhere between that femme fatale, and that rod she's got stuck in your gut.
K2K: How much Frank Miller influence do you have?
RN: Frank influenced my superhero perspective in the 80s. I think film noir was introduced to me by watching Orson Welles films. That was pretty much the greatest stuff I'd ever seen in my entire life.
K2K: What other influences have you gotten Sonambulo from?
RN: Pretty much what we've said, but also the finite world of Germanistic expressionistic people, Da Da art, surreal dream landscapes, some Salvador Dali, Frederico Fellini, Orson Welles, Carol Reid, Howard Hawks. All the Italian horror directors.
K2K: Is Sonambulo an ongoing series, or a set of one-offs?
RN: These last couple of issues were a three-parter that took two years to get done. But before then, they were one-shot, self-contained stories.
K2K: How many are there?
RN: Right now, about ten or eleven issues now. Some are condensed.
K2K: Here's the long question... The basis of Sonambulos societal landscape appears to be all Latino decent, yet everything fits within a non-specified culture. You know everyones Mexican, but nothing actually looks Mexican in the surroundings. Is that done on purpose, or is there a point to be made?
RN: That's funny. Give me an example of characters, aside from Sonambulo, that are all Mexican? Sonambulo is bringing a perspective.
K2K: If you recall my review of one of the comics... I mentioned that the characters are all Mexican, but you wouldn't have to necessarily be Mexican to read it or enjoy it. It's almost a non-specified culture, with Mexican attributes.
RN: Oh, yes. Big time. Perspective. Experience. Viewpoints of everything of love, life, loss. Is it Mexican? I try to pick topics that are universal. I just happen to be Mexican, so quite naturally I just think that I should write from that perspective as opposed to anything else that I wouldn't know.
K2K: In the issue where he finally finds his love, after over 30 years. I got a tear reading that. What did you draw upon to write that storyline?
RN: Aw. It's just loss. Loss in general.
K2K: Anything personal?
RN: Oh, without question. The best work, the best artistic endeavors are taken from people who are driven. I mean, you know art. I was just listening yesterday to Angie by the Rolling Stones. Still it's an amazing song. There's something about it, it just leaves you empty. Neil Youngs Tonights The Night. Something there that just touches you in ways that is indescribable. But you definitely feel it. You know it's there. Angst is a very personal thing.
K2K: But had you lost someone when you wrote it?
RN: Oh, yes. Definitely. Whether it be my grandfather, or... it's a combination of everything, and anything under the sun. If you've ever gone to that point of melancholy where you have to stop and write a blues song, that's what makes you who you are as an artist. And yes, without question, it's the loss of something you either live with and are depressed, or in an artists case, you do something about it and create art out of it.
K2K: I thought it would make a good short film. Do you still have your rights?
RN: No, I just redid my rights again, for another possible movie option.
K2K: Is Sonabulo mostly male or female readership?
RN: Funny that you mention that. Right after that story, the female readership increased. I guess the estrogen combination worked.
K2K: The comic has been optioned to be a feature film, right? That was started about 13 years ago.
RN: Yeah. Nothing congruent. There are always possibilities. In five minutes, there's an option to do it from Warner Brothers. In the next five minutes, it's back in obscurity.
K2K: Who owns the rights now?
RN: Right now it's the same people from Sergio Aguero. La Cuesta Pictures. He's the producer of Y Tu Mama Tabien, and Motorcycle Diaries.
K2K: So what do you think? Yes or no?
RN: I have my faith in him. We have to decide which compromise we are willing to give up. I've already told him that the compromise that we would never give up are usually always asked. Could we put Tom Cruise behind that character? No, we cannot. Can we take his mask off? No! We cannot! Can we show this guys face? No, we won't. Even Nacho Libre, the most recent attempt at tackling the Mexican wrestler genre in American film cinema, during half the thing, he was already without a mask. He'd show up without the wrestler mask. Even at the end, all these little kids show up with these masks, giving tribute to Nacho Libre the wrestler. All I saw up on the screen was Jack Black playing Mexican, in brown make-up. Doing his little watch me dance. It was silly. I knew what I was going to see, but even then, it was like that they were ashamed he would wear a mask. Who knows. Maybe it's the ego of the actor. It's hard to deal with that one way or another.
K2K: If making this into a film, who would you like to see play the lead role?
RN: Anyone with the balls to literally do a very serious, yet comical, physical performance, that would require them to wear a mask throughout the production. Now, homeboy [Hugo Weaving], he was in V For Vendetta. He was V. He wore a mask throughout the whole thing. He agreed to that. That was part of the clause. That's what I would do for Sonambulo. And that movie did well.
K2K: Would you expect most of the cast to be Latino, or of that persuasion?
RN: If there's anything that I suppose would be Latino in this production, I guess it would be the perspective. I would like to introduce the Latino perspective. For cast, I don't care who plays it. I wouldn't mind Sonambulo played by anybody, it just matters if this person can really convince me that this character has come to life. If he could actually bury that Scottish accent for that thing, I would be convinced.
K2K: Would there every be an animated version of Sonambulo?
RN: That would be so awesome. Orale! There's been a couple of attempts at the creation of an animation series. We had pitched to several including Warner Brothers. They politely declined. At this point right now, there is going to be an El Santo cartoon coming out on Cartoon Networks. If I had any influence with these big animation studios of maybe the possibility of masked Mexican wrestlers having a format... there it lies.
K2K: Have you had other artists or writers put out tributes to Sonambulo?
RN: Funny that you mention that. I did put out a book a couple of years ago, called The Masks Of Sonambulo. Different views and perspectives by other writers and artists.
K2K: Do you have any other comic book, or animation ideas that might see the light of day any time soon?
RN: Sure. I do. There are a couple of ideas that I've been meaning to get around to. It's just that I spend so much time and trouble with Sonambulo, that I think I might like to broaden my horizons. I think it's time now. I think I can actually stop and do other characters and ideas.
K2K: You don't want to be a one-sleepwalker kind of guy.
RN: No, not at all. Napping on the job? Me? Yeah! I'm also collaborating with some other people. Like Mac Afro. I did a one-shot of that. I've been doing a lot more various magazines to switch the flavor and to add more to the resume.
K2K: Looking over any questions that I missed... Mexican culture provides a lot of color and folklore. How important is it that you bring that to the forefront in America?
RN: Again, it's perspective, and just something new and different as opposed to the norm as one would expect. The supernatural, in Mexico, is something that is not questioned. Its weird. There are skeptics, and there are doubters, and just intelligent people in cultures like this, but there's always that little slight hint of whatever you do, don't mess with that gray area. Out of sight, out of mind. OK, that's fine. Yes, we don't believe in ghosts. We don't do this, or do that. There are no demons. But you know what, let's just not walk on those cracks. There's always this weird, backhanded subtleness. Just so long as we don't mess with it... I think we're OK to live alongside it IF it exists... but I sincerely doubt it... but let us not curse it. Just don't say Bloody Mary five times. I don't want her coming out. There's always that.
K2K: Is there a lot of unexplained stuff, like supernatural phenomena, down in Mexico? I wasn't planning on going to that tangent, but since it got brought up.
RN: I have friends, family, relatives, you know, that still literally believe that the Orona will come out if you say or do something. It's that weird, subtle superstitiousness from people. It's Old World. Like my mom still believes that if you put certain herbs in a certain water and you drink it, you won't get a cold for six months through the winter.
K2K: That's almost homeopathic though.
RN: Yeah, homeopathic.
K2K: What about ghost beliefs in Mexico, or things like that? It seems that up here it's up in the air. They may exist or not. Maybe good, maybe bad. What do they believe in Mexico?
RN: I've heard that there are more UFO sightings in Mexico than anywhere else.
K2K: Although the most ghost sightings are in England, although Japan seems to fear them the most.
RN: The Japanese perspective on their extreme fear of ghosts is because most of the ghosts that you hear of, coming from that part of the world, are like angry, disembodied spirits. Something messed up happened, which is why they're still stuck on Earth. It's just kharma that just gets worse and worse and worse, because it's all based on frustration, repression. Vengeance is a messed up thing, man. It's the in thing in Italy, so go figure.
K2K: Do you think that by bringing different cultural medias and ideas together in America will add to the soup, or do you think that America still has an us and them mentality regarding other cultures?
RN: I think you need any new perspective on the same old tired out ideas, whether it be philosophy, politics, or whatever. I think we would benefit from a new perspective. Things change. You either prepare for them, or you become obsolete. You take your pick. What do you want to do? Do you want to exist, or do you want to be part of the world.
K2K: Do you think that America still has an us vs them mentality? G.W. Bush seemed to help that idea along.
RN: Nah. I think his world, his mind state, to live that way, I suppose so. To the rest of the world, I think not. I think it's very finite. It's up to the individual, I suppose, to assume that such a world exists that's finite, according to them, unto their rules. It doesn't work for me, and it's never touched me.
K2K: As you travel around to different conventions, do you find that there are particular areas which are more knowledgable to your comics?
RN: Hmm... the funniest thing is that I thought Latino-based communities would have a much more immediate grasp for it. Believe it or not, it's those non-Latino cultures that are most curious, because to them it's something fantastically bold and new and bizarre and far-out and way out. They're the ones who actually have the most interest. To Mexicans, masked Mexican wrestlers are old hat. Oh, that's good. It's a nice little take on something nifty. We might buy it, or might not. But the ones who are serious, are the uninitiated.
K2K: In an interview with another magazine, you had mentioned comparisons of Luchadors to the Japanese Samurai and American Cowboys, as you did earlier here, and that Luchadors were the basis of where Mexican tall tales came from.
RN: Oh, definitely. If El Santo came into a room, and they saw him, if the person who viewed this god-like figure was asked to describe the man, he would probably say that he was the biggest Mexican who walked in, He walked in like he owned the place. I'm kind of referencing Robert Rodriguez. I think that's where the tall story comes in. Obviously the man, when he was alive, was probably no bigger than 56 or 54. He was just an average, short Mexican guy. Actually, most Mexican wrestlers are short, stubby guys, but yet to the Mexican perspective, they're larger than life. They're Wyatt Earp, and John Wayne, and, and... Tommy Chong put all together. I don't know how that connection worked, but Tommys a big guy.
K2K: Do wrestlers exist as an extension of stories, or do stories exist as an extension of wrestlers?
RN: I think both. Legend is always written by ability, or just lore. It depends on a particular moment. If Jimi Hendrix can zap Voodoo Child, and he starts doing the old Robert Johnson thing about being a god-like creature who can take down a mountain with the slap of his hand, and all because he was the seventh son born on the seventh sign or whatnot, whether it was true or not, it sounds amazing.
K2K: You had once referenced The Power Of Myth by Joseph Campbell by saying, If I only had a mask. What was that line referencing to?
RN: To cover ones face - ones facade, ones identity - you become mythical. You become mysterious. You also protect your identity. Obviously you either have a past, or a future with loved ones whom you are willing to protect. It takes a person of some significant chutzpah to take on whatever monster they have to tackle. It's a visual impression. It's like when Batman puts on his mask for the very first time in Batman: Mask Of The Phantasm, whats Alfreds perspective, as he walks away to go off on his first mission, he says, My God! It frightened him. It became more than just a person. He became an icon. Something that is not of this Earth anymore. He still has Earthly bonds, but that's only because he wants to. The same thing happens with the wrestlers, from the Mexican perspective. These guys, they are living, breathing heroes, and villains... and vile creatures that they have to fight on a regular basis If they only had a mask..
K2K: More personal questions. You're married, and very personable. Does your wife ever get jealous of the attention that you get?
RN: All the time.
K2K: You're one of the more popular, nice guys to meet with at conventions. Are you really always nice, or is there a dark side to you?
RN: I don't know. Wake me up at three in the morning, right after a long deadline I had waited to complete, and say, Hey Rafael, whats up? What are you doing? I just ruined your Jack Kirby original. and let's find out. (laughs) I guess all I can say is, as Bruce Campbell would say, It's just me, baby. Everyone has their ups and downs. I'd like to say I'm more upbeat than average, but dude, I'm human. Get me ranting about George W. Bush, or American Idol, and oh man! Yeah! I'm smiling all the time. I guess it's the stoner perspective without the drugs, I suppose. I'm high on life, man.
K2K: You were born in Sonora, Mexico. You only lived there for two years?
RN: Yeah, I was born in Sonora, Mexico and lived there for two years. I came to America when I was three. Every so often I try to go back to visit family.
K2K: I had wanted to talk with you about your exceptional guitar playing skills, but that could take hours. Tell me just a bit though. You play left-handed?
RN: Yes, I do.
K2K: Who are your influences?
RN: Gosh, I'll give you a quick rundown. We can start from the beginning in the 1950s. Gene Vincent, Eddie Cochran, Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Rick Nielsen, Pete Townshend. The regulars without question.
K2K: Were you self-taught?
RN: No. My father was a guitar player, as were all my siblings. My father would program me like the Jedi, so I'm a guitar player as well.
K2K: Have you played in any bands?
RN: I've played in several bands. They weren't big, but in my heart, each and every one of them was worth their while.
K2K: Are you going to be in band again?
RN: Why? Is this an offer?
K2K: It should be. People should see your talents.
RN: Well, let's do it. Let's practice.
K2K: Yeah, because you have plenty of free time.
RN: Ha! Yeah! (laughs heartily)
K2K: What I found interesting about seeing you play the first time was that you don't play normal. You played a right-handed guitar left-handedly, but strung right-handed.
RN: Yes. I told you I was in a household of guitar players. I'll explain. I, unfortunately, was the only lefty. There was only one guitar in the house - (sarcastically) growing up the poor Mexican family and all. I had to reluctantly either, consummately deal with the fact that after I'd switch the strings, I'd kick the nut off and have to reglue it, and restring it to the proper left-handed perspective. By the time I dropped the guitar, go to school and come back, everything would be reverted back to the right-handed way, and everyone was mad at me. So it was either learn to adapt, or learn the clarinet, or something. By the way, which I eventually did in high school, but that's a whole other story all together.
K2K: Do you play left-handed guitar too?
RN: Yes I do. But I think after playing guitar in that odd way, I'm much better that way. I just have more practice with it. And yes, I do own a clarinet too, but I haven't played it in years. I would like to find the time.
K2K: People should hear you play.
RN: I do bring my guitar to conventions. My acoustic classic Spanish flamenco.
K2K: Any last words?
RN: Keep it coming, and don't look back. It's all ahead of you, baby.
And with that, off we went to help him load the gear to his car - the payment for allowing us an interview. Below is a few notables about Rafaels career, and current/future projects.
* Emmy (Won) - Tutenstein - Outstanding Special Class Animation 2006/2007
* Emmy (Nominated) - The Batman: The End Of Batman - 2008 (which did win for sound)
* Hot Mexican Love Comics - Sonambulo short story
* Kids Of Whitney High Comic
* Gumby Gang featuring Pokey
* Captain Candy: Book Two (childrens book)
Currently working on -
(Two Sonambulo books at once - out in November 2008)
Sonambulo Lives / Sonambulo And The Werewolves Of Whittier
* Still working on Scooby Doo animated films
* The Secret Saturdays - an American animated TV series by Canadian cartoonist Jay Stephens (creator of Tutenstein) on Cartoon Network. Premiered on March 1, 2008.
* Hero 108 - Cartoon Network (Hero 108 is a creation of Mike Young Productions, one of the largest independent animation studios in the U.S., and Gamania Digital Entertainment, the largest publisher of online multi-player games in Asia.)
* Spectacular Spiderman - CW4Kids - Premeired March 8, 2008
Written by Philip Anderson