“Between the Panels” is a bi-weekly interview series focusing on comic book creators of all experience levels, seeking to examine not just what each individual creates, but how they go about creating it.
From being a child in Italy with artistic dreams, to working on their favorite video game property, to partnering with Scotty Snyder on a new creator-owned title, Valeria Favoccia’s professional path must sometimes feel like a dream. We spoke about early creative influences and how they formed the comic artist Valeria would ultimately become.
First off, the basics…
Your specialties (artist/writer/letterer/inker/etc.): Artist
Your home base: Milan, Italy
Fanbase Press Contributor Kevin Sharp: We always start with the same big question for each guest: Why comics? What is it about the comics medium that is appealing to you as a creator?
Valeria Favoccia: Hi, everyone, and thanks for having me! Growing up, I read tons of comics and manga and I’ve sunk into those stories, in their characters to the point that some of them stuck with me forever and helped me through tough moments. I’ve always loved the idea of being able to give readers the same feelings, the same chills and the same strength. I wanted to create stories that could even “just only” entertain people and make them feel something out of them. Also, I love the idea that comics are like making movies but in a less expensive way!
KS: On that topic, please tell readers a little about where you grew up and what types of stories you enjoyed when you were younger.
VF: I’m from a small city near the sea located in the center of Italy, and I was very slow on discovering things as my life was very simple; my family was never much into comics, movies, games, etc. and all the conventions were a bit away from my city. But I was always attracted to these kinds of things, and I’ve always found my way of experiencing them, no matter what.
I’ve always loved entertainment in every single shade. I loved TV shows like Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, Xena, Zorro — the more action and fighting, the better! In terms of books, I was really into Sherlock Holmes, Harry Potter —that’s also why I was very upset by JKR’s latest statements— and Tolkien. For movies, my favorite ones were Back to the Future, LOTR, Star Wars, The Crow, Gladiator, and Disney’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. I discovered anime when I was very little, and I was deeply in love with Captain Harlock, Saint Seiya, Sailor Moon, Slam Dunk, and Trigun.
But my favorite thing above everything else were games! Videogames were and still are one of my biggest inspirations ever, and it was very hard to make my parents understand that; besides the actual fun and entertaining part, there was a very appealing and inspiring visual side for me. That’s why I owned my very first console when I was 18 and I had to beg friends to play with their consoles when I was younger. Devil May Cry is one of the things that I love the most in my life. I loved also MGS, Final Fantasy, Resident Evil. When I was a bit older, I discovered Assassin’s Creed—that changed my life both in a professional and personal way.
KS: Do you remember when you first discovered comics?
VG: If I think about my life, comics were always part of it. But I think I discovered them at my grandparents’ house, as my uncle was very young and lived with them and used to buy several different Italian comics… Mickey Mouse — in an Italian Disney zine — Diabolik, Dylan Dog, etc., and left them all around the house, so when I was visiting, I always found one around and started browsing them before even knowing how to read them.
KS: Most readers discover their very first favorite characters early on. Who were yours?
VF: My first ones were from the animated series instead of actual comics. I think my very, very first favorite character was Ikki from Saint Seiya. In terms of comics, I used to love Spider-Man so damn much and I also loved Cyclops from the X-Men ‘cause of the ’90s animated series. It’s kinda funny — even if I still deeply love the Spiderverse, different Spidersonas, and Spider-Man in an artistic sense, I can’t stand Peter Parker [or] Cyclops after reading their stories! My favorite character from comics, after starting to read them, was and still is Tony Stark.
KS: Pre-MCU, that would have been something of a deep cut answer. When would you have first “met” Tony?
VF: It was for sure in a context with other characters, like in a Spider-Man or an Avengers issue. I thought that Iron Man’s design was badass, and I liked the fact that his only superpower was his smartness. When I sunk into his story, I discovered a character so human, fragile, relatable, and broken that I fell for him. I love that he always does his best to overcome his nature and save others. I think that Tony Stark most of the time is misunderstood; people think about him as selfish and a party animal, when he’s in fact just a lonely and depressed man always so close to self-destruction. I’ve always been attracted to this side of him, what makes him “human.”
KS: Was there a time when a comic book made you think, “Wow, I’d like to do THAT!” as far as being an artist?
VF: I think that one of my biggest epiphanies was when I was 12 and I discovered Alessandro Barbucci while reading his — and Barbara Canepa’s — W.I.T.C.H. At that time, I thought it was impossible to blend a European style with anime/manga, and then he showed me that it was not only possible, but even epic. Also, I’ve always loved majokko/magical girls, so I really wished I was able to create something like that. Another one was when I discovered Jorge Jimenez with the Super Sons series, 6 years ago. I think an artist always struggles [with] what they want from themselves and their style, and I was a bit lost at that moment as I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my career and my style. Seeing Jimenez’s incredible, dynamic, and fresh style made me think, “Man, I really want to be that powerful and fun!”
KS: Among these favorite character and artists, was there a particular comic story that really had an impact on you?
VF: I had plenty of them, and most are actually manga. I read tons of them in my middle/high school era, and I was always attracted by the heartbreaking/sad ones somehow. CLAMP are the authors of many of my fave stories: Clover, Tokyo Babylon, Rayearth, above everything else. They taught me a lot about emotions, empathy, bravery, and relationships.
KS: What kinds of art did you enjoy making for fun when you were younger? Did you ever try making your own comics?
VF: I always had this thing to create my own OCs when I liked something very much. I had my own Spidersona before I even knew it was a thing, I had my own characters from the PKNA — Duck Avenger for the US — universe, and so on. I liked to create my own alternative stories and make them into comic pages, it was very fun! Also, I’ve always loved Formula 1, so I made small comics about races and rivalries about that too.
KS: Many kids have hobbies in the arts, but far fewer of them actually decide to pursue it as a career. Aside from the inspiration you found in the artists, can you remember when you had the idea of being one yourself professionally?
VF: When I was a kid, I had a friend younger than me that could afford lots of toys and comics and he was always eager to share them with me — kudos to him! He introduced me to Spider-Man for the very first time and the PKNA series. Then, this friend one day showed me a PKNA special called “PKOne” that basically was a BW edition of a PKNA issue, with layouts, storyboards, and script. I realized then that it was an actual job and that I wanted to do that growing up. I went straight to my parents and said, “I wanna draw comics.” I was 12 years old.
KS: Did your parents support your career idea?
VF: Luckily, yes. My dad has always been my lighthouse in a storm of uncertainties; even when I wanted to give up, he always had my back, saying that I had to believe in my dreams and if I couldn’t, he would believe in them harder for the both of us so I could reach them someday. My mom was afraid ‘cause she couldn’t really see it as a “true” job. She was afraid I would struggle and not be able to afford a life, but in her way, she made me make my own choices. Even when she couldn’t understand or 100% agree, she always trusted my decisions. I also have a very supportive big sister; she’s the best of my friends and she’s always by my side.
KS: Was there a clear path of how to make that art dream happen from where you were growing up?
VF: I knew that there were art high schools that I could attend, and then I discovered through conventions and internet that even actual comic art schools exist. Back then I thought that if I tried very hard, committed with all my efforts, and learned as much as possible, I could make that happen. [Little did I know] how long and hard would be the path to be an actual comic artist. I did an art high school in a city one hour away from my house, and then I moved to Rome to attend the International School of Comics. But the real struggle began after that, finding a job and starting my comics career adventure!
KS: Do you remember the first time you ever got paid for a piece of art you made?
VF: I do remember the feeling when for the first time I was paid to do something that I’ve always done for fun: my first work for the Assassin’s Creed saga. It was unreal to be chosen to create something related to a series that I was so attached to. It was one of the most fulfilling feelings in the world. I thought that finally my path was always the right one and that everything was just meant to be.
KS: How did that job come to you?
VF: I spent lots of years trying to find a place to break into this industry. I had lots of portfolio reviews, sent hundreds of emails to different publishers, did several sample pages that most of the time led to nothing, and so on. I was always a big fan of Assassin’s Creed and I knew that Titan Comics was publishing the comics series, so I had the chance to meet them in person for a couple of portfolio reviews — one in Italy and another one in UK, months later — making test pages and then being asked to do the Assassin’s Creed Last Descendants: Locus covers! But it was when they chose me for the 10th anniversary comics series called Assassin’s Creed Reflections that felt unreal to me. Among other artists, they picked me ‘cause Ubisoft knew my fanarts that I’d always shared into the community and via socials and they said that I knew how to channel the true Assassin’s Creed soul.
KS: You’ve been involved in many high-profile projects since then. Can you give us a general idea of how gigs typically arrive these days?
VF: I have lots of interactions/proposals on socials and via my portfolio site, even if I’m not that popular on socials. Scott Snyder hit me up on X (Twitter) and my first thought was that it was a fake profile, haha.
KS: When you look back at your earliest comics work, what’s something that you see as different from the artist you are today? It doesn’t have to be worse, just different.
VF: Of course, I lacked experience, but this also means that I was very “innocent” in terms of style and scene direction. I was very eager to show what I was capable of even when I was frightened of not being good enough. I had tons of fun, but I was very slow and sometimes I didn’t even know if I would be able to draw certain scenes. I’m not gonna say that now I’m 100% sure that I can draw anything, but I’m less terrified about the challenge.
KS: How about a hobby of yours totally unrelated to art or comics? Something you study, collect, practice, etc.
VF: I enjoy a lot playing videogames, even if in the last years I don’t have the proper time to do that decently. I love watching F1 races on TV and on the actual track. I like watching documentaries about true crime, and I really have fun doing cosplay, even if I keep this part mostly private ‘cause lots of people in my field think that it’s almost impossible to be a professional comic artist and a cosplayer for fun. I’m not ashamed of that; it’s something inspirational and creative and I keep it very separate from my actual job.
KS: Finally, please let readers know what you have out now and what you have coming in 2024 which is almost upon us.
VF: If you want to know me better, you should really get a look at By A Thread, the original Comixology series that Scott Snyder, his son Jack, and I created together! This is the series that I am most proud of and the one that I really put everything that I had into it. It’s a post-apocalyptic story about a teen group of friends against a world that’s collapsing. It speaks about hope, dread, fun, and fighting for a better future. I have plenty of things going on for the new year, but I can’t really talk about them ‘cause they are still not announced. I can just say to follow me on socials to stay updated.