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Exclusive: Rodolfo Damaggio Talks About Storyboarding Captain America and More

Brazillian artist Rodolfo Damaggio grew up far from America, but moved to Los Angeles and started in the comic book industry before working in Hollywood. After working with him on "Green Arrow," legendary comic writer Chuck Dixon called Rodolfo Damaggio "one of the greatest natural draftsmen ever to draw comics."

You've seen Damaggio's handywork in Iron Man (2008), The Scorpion King (2002) and Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones (2002). Most recently he's worked on Captain America: The First Avenger (2011). He agreed to do an email interview and talks about working with Joe Johnston on Captain America, why all artists should draw comics and what's wrong with American comic books.

Q: When someone asks "what are storyboards?" what do you tell them?
I tell them storyboards are like a comic book adaptation of the script, suggesting the framing of each shot , what kind of movement the camera is doing, finding new interesting ways to tell the story and keeping a good pace.

Q: Your storyboards for Captain America: The First Avenger are some of the most dynamic I've ever seen. Explain how you plotted out the action and visuals in them.
I first sit down with the Director after reading the script and take his notes which often are enhancements of the script pages and also his overall take on the movie.

He might have some specific shots in mind too that he's committed on doing.

After that I'll talk with the Production Designer and get a feel of his artistic direction for the film, all the artwork done at that point as well as looking thru all the research material and location photographs if they have any selected .

I then go back into my office, if I have one, and start roughing out the shots and start pinning them to the walls.

Usually I'll have a sequence roughed out in a week and get the Director to take a look at it and get his reaction, see if I'm in the right track.

I've used a 3D program to help me lay out the street chase for Captain America, it's really time consuming to draw all the cars and buildings in a timely fashion.

Using a 3D program is also a great aid in finding your shots and getting the right angle, I might even rough out a 3D set in the computer to plot out the action.

Q: In your Captain America boards you have him using his shield a lot more than in the film. For example, using it as a sled and glider. Was this in the script and cut out or was it something that came up in the designs for the film?
(Image: "POW Rescue" Captain America: The First Avenger)
At the beginning Joe was a little reluctant about overusing the shield, maybe he didn't have a whole grasp on how to use it and make it work with the action early on.

The gag of him using the shield as a sled during the motorcycle chase was Joe's idea but somehow he decided to remove it, I don't really know if he actually shot that and later ended up cutting it out.

Sometimes it might look good in a drawing but not as cool when you shoot it I guess.

Q: While in your biography you say that you were more attracted to European comics like "Tin Tin" than Marvel. Did you have to do a lot of research to understand the characters for the films Iron Man, Fantastic Four and Captain America?
(Image: Iron Man (2008))
I know very little about most American superheroes and I learn a little bit throughout each production but is not something that should really be required, even other storyboard artists might not be familiar with a specific character.

We surround ourselves with all the information we can get and in most cases is enough to start boarding and there's always enough time to return to a sequence and add something new.

Q: Have working on these Marvel films, and comic books for DC, changed your mind about American comic books?
No, I still don't read them, except for the ones that I had to draw,  it's just that I was attracted to more realistic normal characters caught up on a fantastic adventure.

I have to be clear too that European Comics such as "Tin Tin," "Asterix," and "Blueberry" had an entire story in one book and a lot more written dialogue that could entertain a kid for hours.

Primarily, I buy comic books for the artwork and not the story, I study the drawings and try to learn something from it.

Q: You once said “If you really wanna know how to draw ..DO COMICS.” How did your artistic skills changed after working on comic books?
That is a fact, the guys who are real good today spent countless hours studying the human anatomy and striving to represent them in a convincing way.

On top of that you have the deadline weighing on your shoulders every month.

Now of course it might take years to achieve a high level of realism which only comes with a lot of practice and constant studying.

I made a lot of drawing mistakes on my first issues and I still make them today, but I think you can see a progression on the skill level from issue to issue.

I can't think of any other field today were you have to draw so much every week, back in the old animation days when everything was done buy hand was also a great way to polish your skills, today it's all in 3D, still terrific but the drawings are only for character development and concept illustrations.

It's just too bad that comics don't pay as much as it used to, but I still recommend  to any young artist in his or hers 20's.

I started as an animator, so my style evolved from cartoon to realistic figure drawing to get work in comics business and then more towards painting, then painting in Photoshop and now 3d.

It is a natural progression for an artist, you try learning everything you can but also you try to find the highest paying job.

Q: Working on Book of Eli, your concept art has a very dark, washed out look. What was the feel that you and the directors were going for? How did you achieve this?
(Image: The Book of Eli)
Yes, Albert Hughes was very specific about how he was going to shoot the movie, I tried to stay faithful to all his notes and I know if after a few revisions he's still not 100% satisfied he will take your illustration into Photoshop and a adjust it himself to his liking.

For the Book of Eli was just a matter of desaturating the colors and adding  some noise "Grain" to the illustration in Photoshop.

Q: You've done art for films for over a decade. Is there one job that you feel is the most memorable to you?
(Image: 13 Days)
Yes , my first film was 13 Days about the Cuban Missile crisis with Kevin Costner.

Not only was my first experience with an Art Department but also the Historical subject was very interesting to me, I love that more than fiction, it's more fun too because of the research part of the work  and how much you can learn about a new subject.

I love drawing period stuff, that's also why I loved working on Hidalgo.

Q: Who are the artists that inspire you every day?
(Image: "Paying homage to a great painter Jean Leon Gerome" Hildalgo)
Well there's a lot of different artists working around me everyday, from set designers, art directors, model makers and illustrators, I learned something new everyday, from each one.

I get inspiration from them not only in the artistic level but also in their professionalism,work responsibilities, respect to others and themselves and how they might handle some work troubles.

I tend to look at my conceptual artists friends and keep up with them, I get a lot of inspiration thru their work and also I have to stay competitive.

There are some great talents in the film industry and sometimes they are sitting right next to you.

Q: How does the work of European artists like Moebius influence your work more than American artists?
I just thought that Moebius and other European artists had a more realistic and natural way of drawing their figures and all the detailed research they put into their comics with the scenery, costumes, etc.

In American comics and artist is not allowed for such luxury because of the tight deadlines.

Now there are plenty of American artists today that influence my work , and some from the past, a good example  is the work of Alex Toth, although his style was so much more stripped down to the bare essential lines, contrary to European, he was capable of capturing it all , effortlessly....that's the hardest, to draw less and end up with more.

Q: Being from Brazil, how do you think your art is influenced by your multi-cultural background?
(Image: Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith)
I think everyone is influenced strongly by their surroundings but you can only grow once you throw yourself out into the world and see other cultures too.

I have things that I bring from my background into my art but everyone has that too.
I just wished I was exposed to more artists at an earlier age, being in Brazil had many drawbacks , mostly getting my hands on some good books.

I only came to know Andrew Loomis, Dean Cornwell, Alex Toth, Robert Fawcett and others after I came to United States, I was 25 and that's too late already.

Q: Where do you see the industry in five years from now?
That's really hard to imagine, I think we are all waiting for the next big thing, we are probably drained out of the Super Hero genre, it may be reaching its end soon.

Is Video Games next? Perhaps.

I just think that the mentality of the studio executives have to change and give us some more original and smart material out there instead of these dumb down one week out movies that don't inspire us or makes reflect about our lives and our world.

I'm sure there's a lot of good scripts out there in some producer's office but they rather bet on a sure please all movie.

Thanks Rodolfo!
Make sure you visit Damaggio.com for more awesome concept art, storyboards and more!
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Write by: Arek - Tuesday, August 9, 2011

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