Talking with Joel Furtado About Working With Marvel and Queer Representation in the Gaming Industry
Today we have the incredibly talented Joel Furtado with us. Check out our exclusive interview with the artist where we talk a bit about his previous work, his role in Marvel: Contest of Champions, queer representation in the gaming industry, and future projects!
Many of you might know Joel Furtado because of his popular X-Men: Danger Room Protocols. Other than creating that awesome series, for the past 10 years he has worked as an Animator and Art Director mainly in video games. He has worked for a number of large organizations like Electronic Arts and Microsoft on products like Halo 4, Star Wars Kinect, Kinect Sports, Skate, and Need for Speed. His day job can vary quite a bit, from doing concept design, to 3D animation or even directing Motion Capture shoots.
I am a fan of Joel Furtado’s work and I’m glad to have had the pleasure of interviewing him for TheGeekairy.
As a kid what made you get interested in animation and pursue it as a career?
As a kid I was always really into animation and comics. I did a lot of painting, drawing, sculpting, pretty much anything creative. My dream had always been to become a comic illustrator. As I got older I decided instead to go into animation and did an animation degree here in Vancouver. Since then I’ve been working as a commercial animation and art director for over a decade.
Who is your favorite fictional character from Marvel and/or DC and why?
So, on the Marvel side my favorite bunch has always been the X-men (if that wasn’t obvious) and the character I always gravitate towards is Storm. I think she’s a great character, and example of a minority comic character doing great things. I think when I was reading comics as a kid having a powerful African-female leader of a superhero team was a rare thing. X-men was always good for that, and dealing with themes of racism/prejudice.
For DC I have to go with Batman. I know that’s an easy answer, but ever since the 90’s cartoon he was always a close second for me. I would love to do a project with him someday.
Let’s talk about X-Men: Danger Room Protocols. What made you decide to pick the X-Men as a subject for your art work?
So, as I mentioned I’ve always been a fan of the comics, and grew up with a huge passion for all things X-men. I wanted to do a fan project of some kind, and decided this would be a good opportunity to create something I would love to make, and also the fans would love.
Do you feel that doing an animated series rather than just regular fan art (images) played a role in the reaction Disney Marvel had regarding the project?
I think so, yes. It’s hard to say 100% but as soon as artwork is walking and talking it adds another additional element to copyright infringement. Companies need to protect the brand, even though it’s allowed in the context of a parody, but not in something that is intended to represent the source material (which is what I was attempting).
Moving on to your other project, how did working on Marvel: Contest of Champions occur?
I knew a lot of people working at the studio, having worked in the industry locally for a number of years. When I was looking for work after the X-men project, I was interviewing quite a bit internationally and locally. After meeting the team here I decided to stay in Vancouver and be part of the Contest of Champions roster. The job is very much ‘up my alley’.
You designed Nightcrawler and Beast for the game. Were you given free creative reign? How does the art process differ (if it does) when working under someone?
So, typically the animator handling the character will design the visual language for the character. So, that involves choreographing all their moves, their posing and movement style. It’s very much a ‘free creative reign’ situation which is great, and allows for the best results in my opinion.
I’ve found in the past having worked with art directors, and as one, it’s always best not to micromanage people and allow them to do what they’re good at.
What is next for you? Are they any new projects we should know about?
At the moment I’m working on 2 art books that I will be announcing later this year. I have some comic-cons happening in the fall locally here in Canada as well. As far as any new animation series, that’s not on the horizon at the moment. I’m always updating my Instagram though, with new animated clips on a daily basis.
You recently posted fan art for The Legend of Korra on your Instagram. Have you watched the whole show? How do you feel about the creators confirming Korra and Asami to be bisexual female POC characters?
I really loved both Avatar animated series, and think they’re some of the best animated projects in a long time. I remember reading that after the show regarding Korra and Asami. I think it’s cool they did a nod to it, but I think the fact that it was so ambiguous is still problematic. It could’ve been taken as just a friendship. I think if that was their intention from the start, they could have done more to develop that as part of her character.
As a queer man yourself, who has experience working in the gaming industry, how has LGBTQ+ representation in media changed over the years from your perspective?
Tricky question really. So, media is a big spectrum, but in terms of the gaming industry which I work in, it hasn’t changed. I feel gaming is still trying really hard to create content that is more inclusive and representative. It’s come a long way in a short time, but has a ‘loooong’ way to go. As far as I know there aren’t any games with openly gay characters.
The prequel to The Last of Us is the only one I can think of (Ellie, the main character is revealed at the end to be a lesbian). I think gaming in general is still struggling to represent women in a positive way. See Feminist Frequency. Might be a few years before we see any lead queer characters in a game. The fact that the gaming industry is still predominately hetero-male driven, in creation and consumption, isn’t helping. Prove me wrong game industry!
Feel free to share any thoughts you might have.
Farid has a Masters in Psychology and an M.Phil in Molecular Genetics. He is the author of numerous books including Arousing the Legacy, Missing in Somerville, The Game Master of Somerville, and The Escaped Murderer of Somerville. He gives us insight on comics, books, TV shows, anime/manga, video games, and movies.
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