Fernando Dagnino Talks bringing out his inner Killers for the New Valiant Series

Killers #1

With art by Fernando Dagnino, five deadly assassins are recruited into a game of cat and mouse by their former sensei, the mysterious Jonin!

But what does the Jonin want from them, and what do they gain out of helping him?

Each of these assassins can channel their ki—the spiritual energy within all beings—in different ways, granting them incredible powers, essentially making them “superninjas”!

Coming July 31st is Killers from writer B. Clay Moore, art by Fernando Dagnino, colors by José Villarrubia, and letters by Jeff Powell.

We got a chance to talk to Fernando about the new series and letting the art tell the story.

GP: Killers follows a cast of characters who haven’t really been seen too much, if at all, before. How much creative input did you have with their design?

Fernando Dagnino: I took the concept art done by AJ Jothikumar for the Ninjas as an initial reference, but then I was given freedom to adapt the designs while maintaining the idiosyncrasy of the characters. My reference was the sort of underworld portrayed in such films as John Wick or Atomic Blonde

Fernando Dagnino Killers #1

GP: I’ve never been to Italy, despite having grown up in Europe, but the backgrounds of those scenes were immediately recognizable to me as a Mediterranean setting. How much time do you spend researching the locations in the series?

FD: In fact when I first read the script of #1, one of the things that shocked me most were the settings, in particular, the Italian scene because I had traveled to Burano two years ago. So I knew perfectly well how it looked like and how to render the scene. Burano is a beautiful island near Venice, Italy, where all the houses are painted in beautiful saturated colors and of course it´s crossed by channels just like Venice. I found it to be really original and daring to set a crime scene in such a colorful scenery.

But the constant change from one gorgeous scenery to the next one is an essential part of story and describes perfectly well the lifestyle of these sophisticated killers. In that sense building up well documented settings provides a greater realism to the story.

Fernando Dagnino Killers #1

GP: The first issue features quite a few moments where the narration allows the art to tell the story, especially within the opening sequences. As an artist, how do you approach these pages when you see the script?

FD: I’ve felt really comfortable working with B.Clay Moore´s script from the beginning because it allows space for the art to tell the story. I personally prefer to work like that. It makes me feel like I´m part of the storytelling too and I really get more passionate and excited about the story.

GP: Do you know roughly what you want to do for each page before you start the thumbnails and rough layouts, or does it take you a few different tries to find the best choice for each page?

Fernando Dagnino Killers #1

FD: When I first read the script I make some illegible thumbnail layouts on the paper on which I have printed the script. I got stuck in the ’90s, I still print and read!

Then, taking those cryptic thumbnails as a reference, I begin drawing on the Ipad an initial layout that would be halfway between a layout and a pencil.

In these layouts I also mark the grey scales so I get a better idea of the composition and the atmosphere of the page. That´s what I send the editors for approval and then I go on to the final art.

Some pages really come out easy whereas others I tend to resolve not so gracefully or rather using mechanical resources, in those cases I like to give a second or third try in order to step out of the way so that something simpler and more direct comes up.

GP: How much freedom do you have with the layouts and page construction with this series? Do you prefer working from a full script, or do you prefer the “Marvel Way”? 

FD: I really must thank the editors Karl Bollers and David Menchel because they have placed total trust on my narrative skills and I have felt part of the storytelling from the beginning.

Fernando Dagnino Killers #1

As you´ve mentioned some scenes are left open for a looser interpretation of the narrative, and personally not only do I feel much more comfortable from a creative point of view, but it also helps me get more involved in the story and with the characters. B.Clay Moore is to thank here for understanding the nature of the process in comic books so well. 

GP: You’ve also worked with the Walt Disney Company Imagineers. How does that experience influence your approach to comics, if at all?

FD: That was back in 1998 I was really young when I worked for the imagineers.  It was a wonderful experience being in L.A. (Glendale and Burbank). I had the chance to visit the old studios in Flower street and they even sent me to Disneyland one whole day to conduct research!

It has influenced me a lot professionally as it was my first contact with high level artistic professionals and with a working process full of talent and excellence.

Fernando Dagnino Killers #1

But I was already a comic addict by then so my main influence has always been comic book artists and writers.

GP: Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the final question; which is better? Ninjas, cowboys, aliens or zombies, and why?

FD: That´s a tricky question. To be honest, the idea of brainless hordes of undead trying to eat the remaining freethinkers of the world resonates to me now more than ever. So I go for zombies.

GP: Thanks for chatting and excited to check out the series!