My first contribution to Mad Cave comic books will be out by September 27th, 2023!
One early morning in July 2022 I woke up to go for a walk, return to home to get ready, and head to the studio to start my workday. When I sat and opened my email the first message I noticed had been sent by Chas Pangburn. I start to read but had to stop because wasn’t sure if I had read it correctly… after a break, I read it again. Mister Pangburn (Senior Editor at Mad Cave Studios) was congratulating me on being chosen as one of the 2022 Mad Cave Studios Talent Search winners! Two months prior I submitted my entry as letterer, hoping to catch a proper credited work. I’m tired to be a “ghost” in the industry and see most of my published work under other artists’ names. This is the full list of 2022 winners:
- Riccardo Cecchi
- Keith Frady
- Marcello Iozzoli
- Andriy Lukin
- Marco Pelandra
- Rachel Pinnelas
- Renato Quiroga
- Marco Tortella
You see? That’s two creative teams! Chas paired me with Keith Frady (writer), Riccardo Cecchi (artist) and Marco Pelandra (colorist) and assign us our first Mad Cave comic book: A Battlecats 12-page story titled “Not All Cats Go to Heaven”! This short story will be out next Wednesday as part of the Tales From the Cave One-Shot that includes 2 more shorts, one set in the Hunt. Kill. Repeat. universe by Rachel Pinnelas, Marcello Iozzoli, Marco Tortella & Andriy Lukin, and another one set in the Nottingham series by David Hazan, Shane Connery Volk, Luca Romano & Justin Birch. Preview art from our Battlecats story and publication synopsis:
Just in time for Halloween, Mad Cave Studios is proud to present readers three treats: a spooky Nottingham story from Hazan, Volk, Romano, and Birch; a Battlecats “tail” featuring teenage felines tempting fate; and a Hunt. Kill. Repeat. battle over technology.
Fans of all three worlds are given “pumpkin” to talk about with stories crafted by MCS Talent Search winners from past to present!
A Creator Q&A was published in Mad Cave‘s website, due to my own fault I forgot to send my part in a proper schedule, that’s why I share the full and unedited version below. You can read the rest of the creative team replies here!
Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself!
Hey there! My name is Renato Quiroga (pronunciation close to: Reh-NA-tho Keeh-ROh-gah) and I’ve been formally involved in Comic Books since 2004 when I get started as flatter for Raúl Treviño (then a Marvel Comics colorist). I keep my chores as flatter, not just for Raúl but for color artists at Protobunker Studio as Tatto Caballero and Dono Sánchez Almara. Soon, I got my first Wacom tablet and start the first semester of Graphic Design at my local Visual Arts School while I was able to learn and test the entrails of comic book coloring.
By 2007, in Protobunker were kind enough to hire me as color contributor for the War of the Worlds adaptation published by Stone Arch, at some point I drop school and was lucky enough to be hired as full-time colorist by Moonstone Books for The Phantom (my childhood hero!) and Buckaroo Banzai franchises.
By 2010, I join Graphikslava Studio (lead by Jesús Aburto aka Aburtov) and start a career as ghost colorist, during my time there my interest in comic book lettering flourished. I left a few weeks before 2012 after my firsts therapy sessions with the sole goal to start Fixionauta, a “workshop of graphic fictions” where I’m the sole owner and worker… yes, sometimes I’m tempted to expel myself. For whatever reason, between 2004 and 2012, I collaborated on other people’s visual art and comic book projects, self publish a few short comics and zines of my own and work on some editorial design for magazines and movies.
Since 2017, I’ve trying to build a career as full time letterer working on short stories for a few Heavy Metal issues and Zenescope pages, some indie projects in United States, France, Poland and México and tons of pages here and there as ghost letterer (it seems I have some talent as “ghost”). After years of ink shortage I start to draw again in 2015 and now I’m close to feel confident enough to work on personal comic book projects as full creator.
Q: What is your contribution to Tales From The Cave?
I’m the letterer on the 12-page short comic “Not All Cats Go to Heaven” set in the Battlecats series.
Q: Which Battlecats character would you say you resonate with the most?
Battlecats universe is vast, so I’ll stick to “Not All Cats Go to Heaven”. At first I wanted to say Diara, because it seems she’s always confident of herself, and certainly knows how to fight and defend her peers. But if I’m honest, I think I’ll be closer to Falstine. As him, I tend to be a realist (people often confuse this with pessimism) and I bet he takes his time making even the simplest decision.
Q: What does your creative process look like, and where do you draw inspiration from?
I like to be fully involve once the final script is finished. I read in silence a first time, then I read it again to identify each character and setting. If available, I read character profiles or previous story arcs. I tend to look for the artist’s portfolio or social media to see artwork samples to get an idea of how it works (style, storytelling). I wait for final black & white pages to read art and script at the same time, it helps me to choose the right dialogue font and a proper set for onomatopoeia’s fonts (brush textured, angular forms or whatever it needs).
I have this master Illustrator file that serves me as starting point for any lettering project, ready for A4 comics because I love that format… but don’t worry! I keep a version that fits in U.S. standard comic books:
This file is set with a lot of common technical stuff, fonts are in a readable size with optimal leading, kerning and tracking. When Mad Cave sent it own preferred settings I made a few tweaks to be ready to work. My Mad Cave master file looks like this:
“Mad Cave settings” layer is usually off but I made it visible just for the screenshot, guides are already there and have no need to keep that layer. As soon as the black & white artwork is finished I start with the lettering. At this point, and thanks to previous work, a clear idea about the lettering is already in my head. This is my first version for “Not All Cats Go To Heaven” pages 1 to 3:
Next, a close up to page 1, I think this resume my lettering style:
As you see in preview art, changes were done, for example, my personal choice for burst balloons is a simple balloon with some minor bursts close to the tail (sometimes with full bold-italic text), a “minimal” approach if I have to name it, I changed it for a red outline variant after editorial feedback. One thing that didn’t change was the title and credits design:
I’m not sure if inspiration is the right word, but some references at work are Todd Klein, Nate Piekos (for obvious reasons), Raquel Marín (since orthotypography is great for emphasis and appearance of dialogues) and books about Graphic Design and Typography I’ve collected for years. To focus on my work I listen massive amounts of music from artists like Brigitte Fontaine, Charly García, Jacques Higelin, Silvio Rodríguez, Gaye Su Akyol, Tom Waits, Juliette Noureddine, Mercedes Sosa, Goran Bregović (just to name a few) and podcasts as Todo Tranquilo en Dunwich, Retronautas and Post Apocalipsis Nau.
Q: As a winner of Mad Cave Studios’ Annual Talent Search, do you have any advice to aspiring creatives?
I am not sure I’m the one with the credentials to give any advice to anyone! But… I tend to think in Comic Books as a sum of parts, a puzzle where each piece is important to obtain a good result, because of that I try to learn how every part of it works. I’m no master on anything but since I can understand (roughly) how dialogue, artwork and color work I can develop my lettering in a better way.
If you want to make comic books cultivate yourself beyond comic books, read and read a lot (novels, poetry, essays), listen music far away the frontier of “genres” and watch movies outside the mainstream. If you want to draw, draw every day! whatever you want (a funny bunny, an old tire, a copy of a masterpiece), just draw and don’t wait for Inktober. If you want to be a sequence artist, draw sequential pages.
Have you seen color palettes from artists as Diego Velázquez, Édouard Manet, Saturnino Herrán, Berthe Morisot, Joaquín Sorolla, John Singer Sargent, Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun, Egon Schiele or Phil Hale? As colorist (and member of the humankind) I admire those artists! More than once art works has been useful for my color work.
Q: Any projects or events on the horizon that we should be looking out for?
Yes! I’ll try to stay alive in a city with a severe water scarcity (Climate Change is real!) an… oh, you mean comic book projects? Well, I recently bought a nice black & white printer to get back to self publish my own comic books and zines, probably I will work on some digital editions for those. Most will be printed in my native language but I’ll try to slip at least one or two in english.
More projects I’m involved to: Labyrinths Borne, an upcoming 82-page graphic novel with writer Frederick Luis Aldama, artist Itzel Argil Aguilar, inker Nicky Rodríguez and me as colorist, letterer and designer, as well as Proyecto A comic book, with writer Gabo Sosa and artists Reik López, Enid Balam, Eme de Armario and Oscar Pinto which will be released this year; there are also a couple of comic books in the States, currently in embryonic phase.
Of course, I cross my fingers to get more pages from Mad Cave titles, it seems like a vibrant comic book publisher with a bright future and I (certainly) want to be part of it. Also, I’m open to contribute with my lettering skills, for a fair rate, in whatever formal project someone want to send me!