Comics BOOM! Meet Rafael Rosado, the city's next great all-ages fantasy comics creator

Justin McIntosh, Columbus Alive

Chances are, more than any Columbus comics creator save for maybe Jeff Smith, you're most familiar with the work of Rafael Rosado. A longtime animator and storyboard artist, Rosado has worked on plenty of cartoons you've most likely seen before. His IMDB page credits him with 35 different shows, including "Animaniacs," Bugs Bunny, the Adult Swim hit "The Venture Bros.," various Transformers, Scooby-Doo and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle cartoons, Curious George, "Teen Titans," and the list goes on and on.

Perhaps less well known are his actual comics. Rosado's wonderfully fun debut graphic novel "Giants Beware" is an action-packed all-ages yarn featuring the delightfully outspoken and courageous flame-haired Claudette and her pug sidekick.

On May 12, the comic's equally fun sequel, "Dragons Beware," comes out, and with it, Rosado's childhood dream gets one step closer to being more fully realized. Even after all his success animating cartoons, comics are still it for him. He doesn't watch cartoons, but comics, man, that's where it's at.

"Believe me, I'd rather be drawing Claudette all day," Rosado said. "When I have a solid stretch where I'm drawing Claudette for days, I'm the happiest. As soon as I get back into it, it's like I'm back with my friends."

The route from childhood dream to reality wasn't easy, but it usually never is. Early on, Rosado had hopes of drawing superhero comics, but it never seemed to click ("I got plenty of rejection letters to show it").

The rejections were fortuitous though. For one, it gave Rosado a chance to reset and rethink his approach. He began to realize he'd rather draw monkeys than, say, robot vehicles ("it feels more natural") and there was this one girl, this jubilant, loud-mouthed, red-haired girl who wouldn't go away, who was constantly appearing in Rosado's downtime sketches.

The books also give him the chance to work in some of his childhood influences, which he can't do in animation, work that requires him to adapt to the source material ("I have to be able to draw in all kinds of styles"). Those influences include the comics he loves to read now, and those he read as a kid, stuff like the French, Mexican wrestling and American Disney comics he often read in Puerto Rico.

The French comics, in particular, called bandes dessinées, are rife with inspiration, Rosado said.

"The artwork is amazing, there's a different sense of pacing, and the backgrounds are more detailed," Rosado said. "When I'm doing these books, I'm trying to do a cartoony bandes dessinées sort of thing; I put a lot of detail into the backgrounds, or I cram the pages with too many panels."

It's also a way for Rosado to incorporate his storyboarding experiences.

"That's what I do for a living, telling a story through single panels," Rosado said. "It's not like you translate one from the other, but there are a lot of elements that overlap from storyboards [to comics]. You learn how to set up a scene and what's important, what's the one set piece you need to feature. When I do these comics too, I like to show a lot of acting and play things out over several panels to show the character's motions. That definitely comes from my animation work."

The next few months are an important time for Rosado. His publisher would love nothing more than to see entire bookshelves of Claudette books, and if "Dragons Beware" is successful enough, that could happen. Rosado and his friend and comics co-creator, Jorge Aguirre, have years of storylines mapped out.

"I'd certainly do these the rest of my life; I'd drop everything I'm doing to do these books," Rosado said. "That'd be the ultimate dream … and in a way it's already happened."

Photo by Meghan Ralston

Rafael Rosado

Age: 48

Neighborhood: Worthington

Hometown: Puerto Rico

Influences: Jack Kirby, Jeff Smith, French comics, "animation, but indirectly"

Describe your work in one sentence: "My work is traditional in an old-school, cartoony way, but influenced by European comics and 2D animation."

Twitter: @rafael_rosado1