Pronto Presents: Artist Miguelangel Ruiz
By David Rondinelli
Miguelangel Ruiz is one of the newest artists at Pronto Comics. His debut story, “The Black Skull Cowboy,” will be featured on Pronto’s website and in print in Deathology #4. Ruiz has developed a distinctive style that gives The Black Skull Cowboy a brittle, old-west look for his first solo tale featuring the character. Writer Steve Lucarelli collaborated with Ruiz on the project to craft a tale centered on bad blood between family ties that escalates into some dirty revenge.
Originally from San Juan, Puerto Rico, Ruiz moved to New York with his parents when he was 4 years old. His interest in art and comics developed early right along with his talent. After being accepted into the prestigious Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts (aka the Fame school), he continued his graduate studies in college with a focus on art history and studio art. Now an art teacher himself, Ruiz passes along his skills to his students while working on his own projects.
Pronto Presents: Tell me how the idea for The Black Skull Cowboy was born? What excited you about bringing the character to life?
Miguelangel Ruiz: The Black Skull Cowboy came to me in a dream (or nightmare), and I just tried to match what I remember seeing in the dream. As it turns out, he’s just a skeleton dressed in your typical dusty cowboy outfit but with dark rusty colors and a supernatural intensity. Like the Grim Reaper, but in a leather duster with guns.
PP: Tell us a bit about this first story for the Black Skull Cowboy?
MR: The original story for Black Skull Cowboy is somewhat different than [the original idea.] Originally, he was a Shadow-Masque. Shadow-Masques are a shape-shifting alien species, characters from my creator-owned project, Mythography Comics. I intended him to be one of the villains in the main story arc, but decided to spin him off into his own set of stories.
PP: What is your process for laying out a page for the pencils?
MR: Sometimes a page just comes to me in a dream or while I’m riding the bus or train. I get a picture in my mind and draw it out as best as I can remember. It’s never the same, though. I also do a lot of research by looking at other comics; sometimes I make a photo collage that I sketch from.
PP: What do you think makes for a visually striking page?
MR: It’s hard to say what makes for a striking page. I try to follow the story and give emphasis where I feel the story calls for it.
PP: You collaborated with the writer Steve Lucarelli on this project. What is it like collaborating with a writer? What do you think is the best communication strategy for good teamwork?
MR: I haven’t worked with many writers, so I can’t really give you a definitive answer. I especially like writers who write comics. I can’t see myself working with a writer who writes like a novelist. I sometimes have trouble visualizing other people’s words, so it helps when the writer knows a little about how a comic page is supposed to look.
PP: Of all the pages that you’ve drawn for this character, which one was the most challenging, and which one did you like the most?
MR: [The team and I] got a look at my skeleton of a story, and we totally revamped it and came up with a fantastic revenge tale. It has a very cool twist at the end. Steve is one of those writers who knows what a comic page is supposed to look like. So it was a pleasure matching my images to his words and descriptions. I think the most challenging thing was coming up with a design for the supernatural shotgun from Hell that Steve wrote into the script. That was fun.
PP: What got you into comics? Why this medium as opposed to other artistic endeavors?
MR: I’ve always liked comics, but I never thought of ever working as a comic book artist. That’s only happened recently. I’m not even sure if I’m “in” or “into” comics per se. I’m still pretty much on the outside of the industry, as I’ve only done independently funded projects and anthologies to date. I like making pictures and art, but I’m primarily interested in telling stories, so comics made sense.
PP: Is there a character or story that is the most influential for you?
MR: Well, I feel there is no more important or influential character in comics than Superman. The whole idea of a super-powered protagonist changed the comics industry and opened up possibilities for artists to explore different ideas and concepts in the field of illustrated pulp fiction.
PP: Do you work in any other mediums or pursue any other fields, like music, writing, or painting?
MR: I teach art part-time. I don’t make much money from my creator-owned projects so I need to keep my day job. As for different media, I use whatever tells the story best. Sometimes having little money and lack of resources dictates what medium is used, but if you can communicate what you want best in a painting or a video or a novel, then that’s what you should use.
PP: What do you think of the comics industry today in terms of breaking in? What do you feel is a good path to follow when making your own books?
MR: The comics industry today is just so damn big. The phrase “too big to fail” comes to mind, but it seems to get bigger by failing. I really don’t know what to say about it except it appears to be an insular club of sorts. I know some creators who are privy to it and even they seem to act like outsiders. I suppose that’s how they keep it insulated—by pretending to be outsiders. If you really want to see your work in a comic book, then make a comic book. It may not sell as well as a Marvel or DC title, but this is the digital age and printing a comic book does not have to cost you an arm and a leg. But keep in mind that you just might lose an arm and a leg when you try to get someone to sell it or distribute it.
PP: How did you get involved with Pronto Comics?
MR: I first heard about Pronto Comics at a convention I was exhibiting in. They were doing a workshop on breaking into comics, but I was tied to my table so I never saw it. A few years later I sat in on one of their panel workshops at the New York Comic Con. It was called Creator Connections. That’s when I first met [Managing Editor] David Rondinelli and [Editor-in-Chief] Dominic Sparano. At the same convention, I also showed my work to Jimmy Palmiotti, who works with Marvel and DC, and purely by coincidence he mentioned that I should go see Pronto. So, I did.
PP: What are some of the upcoming projects that you have in development?
MR: Well I’m still trying to get issues 5 and 6 of my Mythography Comics main story printed (which would conclude the story), but that’s been sidelined by other projects. I’m also working with indie publisher Luis M. Cruz of Cruzin Comics, whose character Jennifer the She-Wolf is one I helped design. I am always looking forward to what’s next. Stay positive and hope for the best.
To see more of Miguel’s, check out his websites:
And don’t forget to pick up a copy of Pronto Comics’ Deathology #4 featuring The Black Skull Cowboy, debuting this weekend at New York Comic Con! (Pronto booth 966)