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Natacha Bustos and Carmen Carnero.
Natacha Bustos and Carmen Carnero. / SUR

The future of Marvel, drawn in Malaga

  • comic books

  • Natacha Bustos and Carmen Carnero are now among the Stormbreakers, the legendary company's group of elite artists from all over the world who will lead it into the future

It was a stroke of luck that she registered for that particular course, to gain some credits towards her Fine Arts studies at Granada university. She had done some work as an inker in the past, but when she began her degree she almost forgot about the world of comic cartoons. Then, one of her teachers at the university saw some of her work and told her, "You really ought to draw."

Carmen Carnero still can't quite believe what has happened. She started focusing on that type of work again, went to endless fairs to showcase her skills, then to London for an interview, passed through the doorway at Marvel, and now she is one of the Stormbreakers, the new group of eight artists from all over the world who will be working on the future of the graphic novel. Carmen is now at the forefront of her type of art, and will share the privilege with Natacha Bustos - also from Malaga. "Now you have another superpower," she says, winking at her.

The editor-in-chief at Marvel, C. B. Cebulski, and creative director Joe Quesada, have said the company is thinking of giving its biggest projects to the group to "identify them as the next generation of elite artists" at Marvel. As well as Natacha and Carmen, the group includes Patrick Gleason, Josh Cassara, Juann Cabal, R.B. Silva, Iban Coello and Peach Momoko.

Their countries of origin, and even their opinions, are important to this project, Natacha says: "I think they were looking for another type of profile, with artists from different places and with different styles, and I think this diversity is really cool."

So, the Stormbreakers are taking over from the Young Guns programme which Marvel launched in 2004 to promote its most promising artists, all of whom fitted a similar profile: white, American and male. Now, all the focus is on the work of these eight creators.

"Marvel sets you a target, and puts the spotlight on you. Now I look at the people who were in Young Guns and if I become half of what they were, that would be more than welcome," says Carmen.

This 37-year-old has worked on series such as Captain Marvel, Spiderman: Miles Morales, X-Men, Hellions and Stars. "To be honest, I have no idea what my style is," she says, laughing. "I don't think it's defined yet, and I wouldn't like it to be already determined. I feel that artistically I am still young and before defining myself any more I would like to try a lot of different things, like using paint in the comic, or photography, or print... I'd like to be able to incorporate all these influences in my work".

The future of Marvel, drawn in Malaga

In response to the same question, Natacha says she is comfortable with a definition of her work that she heard some time back: pop realism. It is a style inherited by the cartoon aesthetic and she has exercised it in titles such as Spiderman: Miles Morales, Black Cat, and above all Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, the Marvel series in which she has participated since it began in 2015, and of which there have been more than 40 issues.

Born in Ibiza in 1981 and brought up in Malaga, Natacha came back to the province after studying Fine Arts at Granada university and trying to make a name for herself in the comic industry from Barcelona.

"I'm really grateful to be part of this group," she says. Like Carmen, she believes it is very important to "keep your feet on the ground", even as one of the Stormbreakers.

"If you work professionally in a particular market and you're paid for your work, you can make a living from comic books, but it is always going to depend on the jobs you're given. You really have to put a great many hours in on this. I set myself a challenge some time ago to make a living this way, and it looks as if I'm on my way to doing that now," she says.

Job stability

The contract with Marvel is a blessing for these artists as it provides job stability, as the Stormbreakers are to be given different commissions over the next few years.

"It feels like being chosen as part of something like the Dream Team, and now we have to set to work," says Natacha. "It's really enjoyable. Nearly every day there are emails saying things like 'Today we're going to draw front pages in the style of certain influences', for example Black Panther. Right now it seems like a game, not as serious as we thought it would be, and much more fun. Also, when you know you have work coming in for the medium term, that gives you security," she says.

For Carmen, the surprise of being selected as one of the Stormbreakers has still not worn off.

The future of Marvel, drawn in Malaga

"I'd been thinking that they wouldn't keep me on at Marvel," she says, "I still can't get over the fact that I am now part of this group, when Spain has so many incredible cartoonists."

She is also well aware that it isn't going to be easy. "You have to work really hard. You can be here today and not tomorrow. You have to work, and work, and work... you can't sit back and relax".

For now, though, Carmen and Natacha are both living their dream, as elite artists at Marvel.