Humberto Ramos lives and works in Mexico. He began his career in the 90s, working for Milestone on Hardware, with Dwayne McDuffie. After a few jobs at DC Comics, he finds his turning point on Impulse, with Mark Waid, and with the creator-owned series Crimson, for Cliffhanger. Since then his career has skyrocketed and he has been working with Marvel and DC, tying his name to outstanding characters such as X-Men and, most of all, Spider-Man.
Lucca Comics 2016. I meet Humberto Ramos in the backstage of the Panini Comics booth. Through his glasses he looks outside, towards the guests who are drawing for the public, and he smiles under his dark moustache. I approach him and we shake hands while I profess my huge admiration for him, since he has drawn the first Spider-Man issue I’ve ever read. “Oh, thanks, it’s a pleasure”, he answers with a bright voice.
Then he goes back to staring outside, looking at Silvia Ziche while she draws for someone. His eyes are sparkling. “These Disney artists are simply amazing!” he states in admiration.
This is my first impression of one of my idols: a professional known all over the world who still has the humility and the ability to be amazed by someone else’s work, still curious to see how much there is in his field. So, while we’re both looking at Silvia Ziche’s drawing, we begin our interview.
Hi Humberto, welcome to Lo Spazio Bianco and thank you for taking the time to do this interview.
Let’s start off with your latest work, Extraordinary X-Men with Jeff Lemire. You already worked on the X-Men on multiple occasions, but this time you radically redefined costumes and concept art. How were you involved in the project and how close was your collaboration with Lemire during the planning phase?
Well, when my run on Spider-Man came to an end, Marvel wanted to give a refresh to his title as they are doing every once in a while. So they offered me to go on the Extraordinary X-Men, the new title coming out after Secret Wars, which had a team with also Old Man Logan in it. It is always fun to, or trying to, reinvent characters as the X-Men, there will always be a new outfit to address the comic book with.
You were one of the first to introduce a hyperkinetic style in US comics, in line with 90s trends, developing increasingly deformed lines. What were the influences and the ideas that forged your style?
Arthur Adams was always a big influence for my art. To be honest, in the beginning I was never really into the manga style and influence, but he was. So everything that influenced him landed on me in a way. Arthur Adams is really into manga, anime, the big Japanese monsters, so this reflected on my work in the beginning. Just after studying his work, I started watching closely the manga world. Coming to the stylising and the deforming shapes, I think it just came by searching for my own voice, my own style. And, of course, in the years it was influenced by many other artists, like Carlos Meglia who has this cartoonish style that I fell for and from there I took a detour that shaped my style.
What are the tools you prefer to work with? Are you an author who sticks to tradition or are you more drawn to experimenting with tools and digital means?
No, I am a traditional guy. I have no idea how to use technological tools, apart from sending my emails. I like drawing with pencils and I will keep working like that until they tell me not to do it anymore.
Since you’ve been working for about 30 years in the US market, how do you think its mechanisms have changed and how has the audience evolved? What changed, in particular, in your work? How did you adapt to the times?
It’s 25, you make me feel older! (laugh) I should say that maybe the biggest change came both with the Internet and the apps on smartphone and tablet. Being able to download comic books on your device completely changed the play, but also with Internet the way we work and communicate changed completely. I live in Mexico, always have, and before the Internet I had to call my editor every single day to make them sure I was working, I had to send pages via fax so they could keep track of my work. Fax is something that you guys don’t even know (laugh) but with emails and so on, our work changed.
Over the years, you worked with many writers. Is there someone you worked with more closely, or who struck you the most?
With minor exceptions, most of the people I’ve worked with happened to like my work. And it could sound silly, but it’s really important because in the end you, as a writer, want to see your ideas pictured by an artist who you can trust. Sometimes it doesn’t happen like this, but I was lucky that most of the writers I’ve worked with were following my work and this way it was really easy. I won’t pick one, each one of them fed me with different things that helped me grow as an artist.
Speaking of characters instead, who is the one you’re tied to the most and the one that you’d like to draw?
It’s definitely Spider-Man. I can’t see me not drawing Spider-Man, I did it in the past and I always felt happy every single time and I felt sad when I left the book. And eventually I will come back to the book, I really hope so.
You career began in the 90s with creator-owned work and newborn publishers, such as Image and Milestone, and then went on into mainstream work. Considering the evolution we discussed before, would you like to go back to creator-owned books?
Yeah, in the 90s I did a lot of creator owned books, Crimson, Fairy Quest, Revelations, so I worked my butt. Right now my hands are full with Marvel characters and I am enjoying that. I would like to do some new creator owned books, but now I simply have no free time and I should say I am blessed, because having a full job drawing comic books is an amazing thing. So yes, I would do it but when… well, I don’t know.
Last question: besides Extraordinary X-Men, what else are you working on?
Actually I am not working on Extraordinary X-Men anymore, I left on issue 14. Right now I am working on the “Champions” book and that’s pretty cool because I am back with Mark Waid, my old time friend and mentor, one of those great writers we were talking about before. We worked on Impulse, which was a cornerstone for my entire career, so working again with him in Marvel on this project is exciting! It’s a team book with the most outstanding teenagers character in Marvel, like Miles Morales’ Spider-Man, Ms. Marvel, the daughter of Vision, Nova, young Cyclops and the new Hulk. So we have these young people trying to figure out how to be superheroes and that’s a lot of fun.
Thank you very much, Humberto, and see you soon!
Thanks to you guys!
Interview performed live on the 29th October 2016 at Lucca Comics 2016