In addition to the twist conclusion of Ed Brubaker’s entire run, Daredevil #500 features an addendum that happens to bring with it a hope for tomorrow. More precisely, the pin-up section includes a piece by Rafael Grampa that can only be described as fucking amazing.
Grampa’s Daredevil (pictured above) is both refreshing and reverent — the old yellow/red costume has never looked more vibrant or alive, full of that indefinable essence that readers perceive as artistic enthusiasm.
Staring at the pin-up for quite some time, I became enamored with its realistic depiction of Matthew Murdock. Although much more impressive than my scrawny frame, the physique of this Daredevil appears to be no greater than that of any modern mixed-martial artist. Furthermore, the bootlaces, shirt, leather straps and boxing gloves summon the same spirit Paul Pope conjured for Batman Year 100, the notion that maybe, just maybe, superheroes could exist.
Having never heard of Rafael Grampa, I decided to find out for myself whether he was just a rip-off artist of Paul Pope (of whom I have invested much of my fanboy stock) or a legitimate talent. After making my way to his blog, I am now ruling in favor of the latter.
Rafael Grampa, which (according to my nonexistent understanding of Portuguese) roughly translates to Raphael Grandfather, is apparently quite the sensation in Brazil. He is a well-known graphic artist, designing not only comics but t-shirts, animations, toys, and even concepts for ESPN ads. The man even has a column at the website for MTV Brasil, which I would check out if English weren’t my only language.
So once I understood Grampa to be a respected (rising) star of sequential art, I made the egregious mistake of wondering, “What other superheroes can he draw?!?!” It didn’t take me long to find this:
In my estimation, that is a sick Batman and an even better Robin. I really love the over-sized mask and the band-aid on Robin, adding an element of youthful inexperience which is generally overlooked. Again, this style does have a tinge of Pulphope in it, but not to the point that accusations should be flung.
With my urges to see men in tights and capes subsided, I was able to look into the Grampa’s more substantial work. As I discovered shortly thereafter, Rafael Grampa created 2008’s Mesmo Delivery, which tells the tale of an ex-boxer turned transporter and is tinged with a Twilight Zone otherworldliness. The one-shot has received crazy critical acclaim and is actually sold out. This puts me in a shitty situation, as I can either wait until Dark Horse reprints it next year or shell out some serious cash. I’ll probably suck it up and spend the money now, as I can’t stop looking at whatever previews/teasers I can find:
Deep down, I really hope that Rafael Grampa does whatever it is that he finds artistically fulfilling. But I’d be hard-pressed to deny the appeal of that Daredevil pin-up. In my ideal world, he’ll do what a lot of artists find themselves doing — both the artsy stuff and the commercial properties (which pay the bills). It is my belief that when genuinely talented creators put fresh spins on the dependable franchises, the readers finally get to see their favorite characters elevated (if only for a brief period) to higher strata.
Here’s to hoping Rafael Grampa sticks around to help us get to those upper echelons.