with Francesca Urbinati
Name: Francesca Urbinati
City: Urbino, Italy
Comics: Niki Batsprite
Websites: furbina.it, nikibatsprite.com, facebook.com/nikibatsprite, nime080.deviantart.com
QRD – How old were you when you first got into comics & did you always stick with them or did you come back to them?
Francesca – I grew up amongst illustrated books, comic books, cartoons, & movies. However, I walked the path to cartoon animation & came back to comics after many years.
QRD – What was the first comic book you ever bought?
Francesca – As far as I remember, it was Disney’s Mickey Mouse. I really love Disney’s way to tell stories. Later I borrowed many other comics, like Dylan Dog & some mangas. This gave me a clue about the wide range of styles & stories that may fit into comics.
QRD – How old were you when you put out your first comic?
Francesca – I’ve always loved cartoons & studied 2D animation, so I use to consider every drawing a “frame” or a “panel” within a longer scene. However, I never showed off anything in my early years, I never felt ready until I matured with enough experience as a professional. That’s why I started my comic series, Niki Batsprite, so late in my career.
QRD – What decade do you think produced the best comics?
Francesca – I think each decade has its gems, not always from mainstream. Thanks to the digital revolution, today there are more comics than ever out there & hopefully more gems waiting to be found.
QRD – Why comics instead of just writing or drawing?
Francesca – Why choose one when you can have both? I want to be precise when telling stories; graphics are a great help in this. Cartoon animation is very expensive & time consuming, so comics became my natural choice because you can show everything you imagine - characters, moods, events - without Hollywood’s special effects.
QRD – Do you see mini-comics & indie comics as paths to mainstream comics or as their own unique media?
Francesca – There are different marketing rules, but nothing is stopping you from producing a top-quality comic if you’re indie. Self-publishing is not a sign of low quality or B-series comics anymore, today it’s a sign of freedom from publishers clichés. Niki Batsprite is a good example: we push paper, colors, inks, & printing to mainstream quality; while characters & stories are completely original, untouched by risk-afraid businessmen. & readers love this.
QRD – How many copies of your comic do you print in your first run?
Francesca – We print 300-400 hard copies for the Italian version. The English version is only digital for now. The project is growing fast & I can’t manage everything on my own. A publisher willing to print & deliver the english version would be greatly appreciated!
QRD – How much do you think comics should cost?
Francesca – Comics are not cheap to make nor print, but everyone expects them to be. This may sound bad to hear, but comics cannot be cheap, not in this global crisis time where surviving as an indie author is as troublesome as hell. If you like a comic, support the author so he can pay bills & make more comics for you, it’s a win-win deal. A lot of digital comics cost 0.50-2.00 USD, which is a way cheap price for all the efforts behind them.
QRD – How many books do you produce a year & how many would you like to?
Francesca – We publish 3-4 Niki Batsprite issues per year, plus weekly free online strips. I’d like to develop & publish other titles, too. Time will tell!
QRD – Do you think stories should be serialized or delivered as complete works?
Francesca – It depends on the story itself. Some kinds of stories can fit within a book & can be published into a single issue. Niki Batsprite is a longer story, so it’s split into a series.
QRD – How are comic strips different than comic books & which medium do you prefer?
Francesca – I’m for long & structured storylines & I greatly prefer comic books. However, it’s fun to work on weekly comic strips because they need a way different approach.
QRD – How long is it from when you start a comic until it’s printed?
Francesca – I need 3-4 months to complete a full color 34 page book. The actual work from scripts to print is 2-3 months, but there are many other things I must take care of: online presence & marketing, PR & closing deals, reserving tables at comicons, orders & shipping, business administration, freelance art commissions, etc. That’s why I usually need one month more to complete one book.
QRD – What do you do better with your comics now than when you first started?
Francesca – With all humility... layouts & colors. I came from 2D pencil animation where you don’t need either of them, so it took me a bit to practice on them. :)
QRD – Do you do thumbnails?
Francesca – Always. They help me fix the layout & mood of the page before drawing it.
QRD – At what size do you draw?
Francesca – Mostly 1:1. Backgrounds & smaller details are added digitally.
QRD – What kind of pens do you use?
Francesca – H to sketch & HB to clean. &, of course, a Wacom pen. ;)
QRD – What does your workstation look like?
Francesca – Big monitor, backup hard disks, computer case, drawing space on the table, piles of paper that I’ll take care someday in the future... & my cat. :D
QRD – At what point in the artistic process do you work digitally?
Francesca – I ink & color digitally. Most backgrounds are also full digital.
QRD – What do you think of digital comics & webcomics?
Francesca – This is a whole new world, individual authors & major publishers are still experimenting with solutions & formats. I think the real revolution, with imposing standards & best-practices, is still to come.
QRD – Do you prefer working in color or black & white?
Francesca – Color, always! Colors are part of the story; they have something to tell as well as words or facial expressions.
QRD – How many different people should work on a comic & what should their jobs be?
Francesca – The complexity of the comic is really important: a single person can manage everything smoothly or burn out in 3 months. If we’re talking about a full color comic series like Niki Batsprite, 3 people may be enough: an author/artist/editor, a colorist/letterer/editor, & a PR/marketing/business man to handle all non-artistic tasks.
I & my partner are just 2, but we’re a good team because he know the comic market & have PR skills & I have marketing experience from a previous job.
QRD – How do you find collaborators?
Francesca – Our italian website has a dedicated page. Artists can send us drawings & proposals anytime.
QRD – How tight do you think a script should be as far as telling the artist what to draw?
Francesca – I think it’s common sense. If a scene is crucial or there’s an important detail in the background corner, the writer must point that out in the script. Everything else can be left to the artist, as long as he has the “movie-like eye” to portray the scene. Such artists may even discuss things with the writer & help him to improve the story.
QRD – What comic book person would you be most flattered to be compared to?
Francesca – Everyone. I don’t wish to be compared to any established comic artist. I’m just doing what I feel I must do & I think each artist is unique.
QRD – What do your friends & family think of your comics?
Francesca – They love Niki & help me a lot to keep the project going: business matters & decisions, further steps, attending comicons, etc. I’m really thankful to them.
QRD – What do you think of superheroes?
Francesca – Of course I love them, though I’m a bit tired of all the hype around them.
I believe you don’t need superpowers to save the world - or your inner self - & live happily. You already have your own will & that’s the only superpower you’ll ever need. ;)
QRD – Marvel or DC?
Francesca – Both, for different reasons.
QRD – What comic characters other than your own would you like to work with?
Francesca – I love drawing animals over humans, so any furry character will do.
QRD – Ideally would you self-publish?
Francesca – I do self-publish &, despite all the troubles, I’m happy with it.
QRD – What conventions do you try to attend & why?
Francesca – I can’t attend conventions outside Italy so far, but I’d really like to. I choose events where visitors can enter for free & there’s a fair price for exhibitors. In 2013 I’ll attend Mantova Comics & Games (8-9-10 March), Riminicomix (end of July), Narnia Fumetto, & a couple of others if I can. For bigger events like Romics & Lucca Comics & Games we usually team up with our distributors & partners to show off.
QRD – What do you do to promote your books?
Francesca – Everything I can. I publish online weekly strips, get in touch with fans & readers on a daily basis, write & spread press releases, & attend comicons every time I can.
QRD – Do you think your comics are well suited to comic shops or would sell better elsewhere?
Francesca – I think comic shops are becoming a place for established comic readers who hardly ever try something new. If you want a different or wider audience you must advertise & place your comic elsewhere. Niki Batsprite is a humor/adventure story, with deep meanings for those who peek between the lines. It appeals to kids & adults alike, who aren’t necessarily used to reading comics. I do my best to offer readers a wide range of possibilities about distribution so that everyone can reach & enjoy the comic.
QRD – What other medium would you like to see some of your comics made into (television, film, games, action figures, etc.)?
Francesca – Cartoon series please. Niki is an acrobatic flying athlete, seeing him in action would be just wow! I can’t help it, but working on a short animation myself (so stay tuned! ;D). I’d like to see some clothes & figures around, too. I’m looking for licensers; in the meanwhile I’m trying to produce some small gadgets on my own.
QRD – Do you consider yourself a comic collector or a comic reader or both?
Francesca – I’m the comic reader, my partner is the collector.
QRD – What do you see as the most viable mediums for comics distribution 10 years from now?
Francesca – I think most titles will be digital, with POD or special printed editions from time to time (anniversaries, comicons, etc.). The old business model is suffering badly & is doomed to change... maybe in 20 or 50 years, but it will.
QRD – What would you like to see more people doing with comics?
Francesca – Authors: get out from major trends -superheroes, manga schoolgirls & ninjas, zombies - & do their own, truly original stuff.
Readers: read more, it can be as thrilling as watching an action movie on TV. Also, try reading something different from time to time.
QRD – Anything else?
Francesca – Some very important advice for aspiring artists & authors out there: never ever work for free & never do spec work! Ever! Value your art & skills; value your lifetime & charge money if you want to do art as your job. You don’t need more exposure - the client found you, right - & promises of future jobs are a plain lie. If you want exposure & respect from the industry, work on your own original stuff, show it off over internet & charge for commissions as a professional artist should. If you work for free & don’t value your art a cent, nobody else will either.