David Messina: I was introduced to Chris Ryall by a common friend (Alexandra DeCampi) who told me that Chris was looking for someone to draw an upcoming miniseries based on a tv show: Angel.
The funniest part was that I'm a longtime fan of Angel (I've learned English watching the TV show DVDs) and when Chris contacted me, I had just finished some sketches of Angel that I wanted to show to the Dark Horse's people (I was ignoring that Angel's licensing passes to IDW) so I sent those sketches to Chris.
Messina: It's like I started a long journey, and it's still unfinished! When I started, I was really concerned about the likeness. So with "The Curse" I was really concerned to be realistic, to nail the likeness with the actors, and I was afraid to become stiff... Then I started to work on "Old Friends" where I tried a different way. My favorite artist in those days was Chris Sprouse and all the old Disney animation school, so I try to make my style more cartoonish and grotesque. I exasperated Angel's body (really bulk) and every characters likeness in order to make them more recognizable. But I was still unsatisfied... Each series was an experiment. An attempt to make the characters recognizable and find the best way to tell a story, which is the most important thing in this work. I had try different tools, for example Auld Lang Syne was almost entirely inked with common pen instead ink pen!
I start to feel in the right path (but even now, I don't know where it will bring me) during the work in progress of Star Trek: Mirror Images...
Preview pages for Only Human
Messina: I'm really proud of her! I teach in the most important Italian school of comics, and I meet a lots of young people that loves this work. Several of my best pupils have become great artists. Aside from Elena, I'd like to remember Mirco Pierfederici (Doctor Who, Angel: First Night and now at Marvel) Sara Pichelli (with me on Mirror Images and now on her arc on Runaways) and Andrea Fattori my inker on Angel The Curse and now one of the greatest artist in the most important Italian Publisher.
I was often at work on several projects at the same time and I work with my best ex pupils as backgrounds finishers or as inkers. All those collaborations also become the start of a beautiful friendship.
With some of them I share a lot of passions, especially with Elena, we are great fans of Angel, so it was really fun working together on Smile Time, where we enjoy filling the pages with Easter eggs and details.
Smile Time B&W page
Messina: It depends of what I need;I usually have a straight idea of how the book should appear, and I know very well the weakness and the strength of my assistants, so I choose them to help me according to their skills, without losing my mark on the book. Usually they work with me as inkers or background finishers.Smile Time was different: I had start with a rough pencil of the pages that Elena finished, then I supervise each page, and she starts with the inks that I finish. But sometimes you can find pages done completely by me because they are particularly exciting to do.
BCR: You've worked on many Angel books, as well as countless others for IDW. Out of all your work, what miniseries or one-shot are you most proud of?
Messina: Mmmm....usually I'm really hard with my own works. I'm really picky, but if I have to tell you which book I prefer I can say the Illyria short story and Spike’s First Night 'cause they had great stories with some of my favorite characters; and then my last work Nero where I'm not only penciler and inker but I paint most of background by myself...
BCR: I noticed that the September solicits have at least one thousand comics with your name on them. How do you find the time to work on all these books? Does your hand hurt? Are you magic?
I'm not magic...but honestly sometimes my hand hurts! I was working on Spock: reflections with my longtime friend Scott Tipton, when Scott Dunbier (my Star Trek editor) told me about Nero's series. The Nero's series was a project which Mike Jhonson (one of the two writers of Countdown) spoke me about when we meet at NYCC and I was so excited to draw it! So I shared my work on Spock with Federica Manfredi (in the same way I do with Elena Casagrande on Smile Time) and I started to work on Nero (where the secrecy of most of the references didn't allow me to work with any assistant.
After a couple of pages of Nero (and an issue of Spock:reflections) Chris Ryall (who maybe knows me better than everyone else!) told me if I was interested to work on a Illyria/Gunn's book...
I'm a really great fan of the character of Gunn and I'm really in love with Amy Acker and the Illyria characters, I thought to say no, for almost 2 seconds, then I put together a team with Ilaria Traversi at the colors and one of my pupils (Gaetano Carlucci) at the inks and I started to work on this other book too!
So, after I've done all the layouts of each issue of Spock: Reflections, Nero and Angel: Only Human, everyday I do the pencil of a page and ink one page of Nero, and I do another pencil of a page of Angel Only Human, and the late night I supervise the work of the colorists, and the pencils and inks of Spock's series...
...and I'm not mentioning Wide Awake and another secret project for another publisher...
Messina: Illyria most of all! She's beautifull, creepy, and sad at the same time. She's an old one demon with the memories of the most sweetest girl you could imagine...how is it possible to not love her?
My other favorite character is Wesley. He's a great character grown episode after episode, season after season. The playing of Alexis Denisof is awesome, he carried Wes from a comic support character to one of most dark and sad characters of all, I really love his work.
Messina: A lot of crazy action and some interesting revelations about Illyria and Gunn's past.
It's a story about the memories of who they were, and about who they'll become...
...and there's a lot of COOL demons!
Have I already said about the crazy action?
BCR: After that miniseries, is there any more ANGEL stuff we can expect from you?
Messina: Yep! It's something related to the new arc of Angel and a new really exciting challenge for me! He's called Eddie Hope, and he's the main character of the Angel's backstory in Willingham next run. It is a strong story of revenge and redemption in perfect Whedon's style and I think that Angel's fans will love him, and I'm pretty sure that they will ask for more.