The Best Fantasy, Horror and Sci-Fi Comics in the Universe

Creator Spotlight: A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Guillermo Fajardo

Creator Spotlight: A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Guillermo Fajardo

, by Jake Abbate, 12 min reading time

Halloween has come and gone, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s always Spooky Season here at Zenescope HQ, especially when we have artists like Guillermo Fajardo around to deliver some of the most spine-tingling illustrations currently on our shelves. Born and raised in Peru, Guillermo has been a proud member of the Zenescope family for a few years now. And in that timeframe, he’s become an indispensable part of our creative roster. Some of you may have first encountered his work while flipping through select issues of Grimm Fairy Tales circa 2020. But since then, his star has had nowhere to go but up thanks to his acclaimed stints on other titles like Man Goat & the Bunnyman and Oz: Return of the Wicked Witch.

Of course, we can’t talk about Guillermo without mentioning his stunning cover designs. Beginning with last year’s Grimm Universe Presents Quarterly: The Black Knight, just about every cover he’s drawn for us has proven to be a hit with readers. However, I think it’s fair to say that his 2023 contributions have won him a ton of new fans (including yours truly) because they run on pure nightmare fuel. Aside from a quirky artistic sensibility that makes him perfect for offbeat stories like Oz and Man Goat, Guillermo also possesses a keen instinct for horror that shines through in his variants for Mystere Annual: Spawn of the Abyss, Sleeping Beauty: The Nightmare Queen, and next week’s Lovecraft: Call of Cthulhu, to name just a few. In fact, it’s that same penchant for the macabre that led Zenescope’s top editors to enlist his services for both of our new horror box sets, which are available in our webstore here and here.

Guillermo’s style has continued to fascinate me ever since I first set foot in the Zenescope offices back in May. And wouldn’t you know it? He was nice enough to let me pick his brain about some of the work he’s produced over the last several months, including plenty of noteworthy covers and our yet-to-be-concluded Oz: Kingdom of the Lost miniseries, which picks up where Return of the Wicked Witch left off and once again teams him with writer/editor-in-chief David Wohl and colorist Walter Pereyra. You can check out what he had to say below.

Zenescope's Horror Boxed Set (Left) and 2023 Horror Comic Book Box (Right) - On Sale Now!
Your artwork for Zenescope’s new horror boxes is getting a big response from fans. How did you come up with the designs for both?
Wow, that's awesome to hear! But I can't take all the credit here. Dave [Franchini] sends over the initial ideas and concepts for all the covers, and then I dive in and start sketching out some thumbnails. During this creative process, I love scouring for extra references. For this project, I was diving into horror movie posters to get inspiration for the compositions and lighting treatment. It really helped me get a sense of the mood and atmosphere I wanted to bring to each one. And for these covers, I went all out with some fake lighting to give them that extra dramatic, theatrical vibe!

Do you consider yourself a horror fan? Were there any specific stories (movies, books, etc.) that influenced your style when you were developing your skills as an artist?

I'm not a die-hard horror movie fan, but I have to admit I really enjoyed the IT movie, especially since I'm a Stephen King reader. Now, when I was a kid, I was all about the Goosebumps book series. What got me super excited were those classic spooky-thriller covers. They had this almost realistic yet classic handmade painting vibe to them. And if you take a look at the covers for Night of the Living Dummy or The Curse of Camp Cold Lake, you'll see where I drew some inspiration for the color treatment in my own covers.

Robyn Hood: Dark Shaman - Cover B (On Sale Now)

How did you first link up with Zenescope? Where else has your work been published?

I got into Zenescope all thanks to my agent, Pepe Caldelas. He connected me with Dave, and from there, the ball started rolling. Before this gig, I worked on a Kickstarter for a sci-fi graphic novel called The Wild Cosmos and then on a documentary novel called Venezuela for Planeta Comic in Spain. So, I guess you could say that my first taste of the American comic world was with you folks, and I'm thrilled it turned out that way.

On many of your covers, I’ve always thought your use of muted colors and shadows is unique because they add a sense of “grittiness” to the image, giving it a haunting and unsettling (but in a good way!) quality that doesn’t often show up in your interior work. Is this intentional?

Absolutely, and the reason for that is the difference in the functional intent between covers and interiors. When it comes to covers, you want to convey a whole idea in a single illustration, and for horror-thriller themes (which most of Zenescope's covers are), shadows and colors play a significant role. On the other hand, working on interiors is all about storytelling and rhythm, and the recent stories I've worked on didn't require that extra level of grittiness, especially when compared to the pages I created for the Halloween special in 2021 (those were very dark). Additionally, the difference in interior colors is because they're skillfully done by the incredible colorists I’m paired with.

Belle: Cursed - Cover B (On Sale Now) and Lovecraft: Call of Cthulhu - Cover B (On Sale 11/15)

Personally, I think your “body horror”-style covers for Belle: Cursed and Lovecraft: Call of Cthulhu are some of the best-looking variants I’ve seen this year. Not only because of the shock value, but also because they’re so intricate and rich with detail. Did you always know the finished products were going to turn out this way, or did they evolve as you continued working on them?

Thanks a ton! You're too kind! You know, those are actually some of my favorite covers, and they were also the ones that gave me a real run for my money when it came to the painting. Normally, when I'm working on the pencil and ink part of a cover, I can get a pretty good idea of how it's going to look while I'm creating the sketch. But I'm always a bit less confident when it comes to the coloring part. I have to experiment with different textures and lighting to find the one that satisfies the concept. In these two particular cases, nailing the skin texture was crucial. I had to make it look just right, as they would have to be stretched like pulling gum, and the faces were pretty big compared to other covers. So, I had to show enough skin texture details without making it too noisy or distracting from the overall image.

A lot of your covers feature characters with evil smiles on their faces (like the recent Sleeping Beauty one-shot and Van Helsing: The Syndicate). This has become something of a trademark for you. Why do you like using this expression so much?

You know, I'm actually just realizing that now – I do use that expression quite a few times. So when I draw the faces like that, initially, I'm thinking of a character with a high level of evil, like they're relishing in the pain or suffering they're causing. But it's also a way to make them look devilish while still keeping some attractive features to make it an appealing cover.

Grimm Universe Presents Quarterly: Sleeping Beauty - The Nightmare Queen (Cover B, On Sale Now) and Van Helsing: The Syndicate - Cover B (On Sale 11/22)

What’s it been like to return to the world of Oz with Kingdom of the Lost? Has your creative partnership with David Wohl changed in any way since Return of the Wicked Witch?

I absolutely love working with David, he is a comic legend! And as an editor and a writer, he's awesome. Plus, it was fantastic to return to Oz because the first time around, I really wanted to draw the Tin Man but didn't get the chance. It's like revisiting old friends with Dorothy and the gang, and I'm very comfortable with them by now. But there are also a bunch of new characters for me to dive into, which keeps me on my toes with new challenges. As for Kingdom of the Lost, this time around, David is giving me more freedom with a general idea for the page script. It's a bit of an experiment, so let's cross our fingers and hope it works out well!

The Oz books are always interesting because aside from introducing new heroes and villains, you get to re-imagine existing characters from L. Frank Baum’s original stories (e.g., the Hammerheads and the Patchwork Girl), often with a deadly twist. Is it more fun to create your own creatures and characters, or play around with something that already exists in a lot of people’s minds?

I really dig the fact that I get some creative freedom with the new characters and monsters. Like in the Wicked Witch storyline, all those flashbacks with the armored warriors and other wizards were insanely fun. I kind of went wild with my Magic The Gathering fan inspirations there. I love this mix of drawing existing Zenescope characters and adding my own style to them. It gives me a great canvas for storytelling. Plus, throwing in a few new character creations allows me to broaden my horizons.

Interior from Oz: Kingdom of the Lost #2 (On Sale Now)

You also had the chance to revisit Man Goat & the Bunnyman this year with the 2023 Spring Special. Does the wacky nature of Phil and Floyd’s adventures force you to make any changes to your typical artistic approach, or is it more or less the same way you approach other assignments?

First of all, Man Goat & the Bunnyman hold a special place in my heart because they were my very first complete miniseries for Zenescope. Now, to answer your question, they all exist in the same universe. Although some of them live in other realms like Dorothy in Oz, I like to think that someday they could crossover. So when I'm drawing Floyd, for example, I'm thinking about making him a big, cartoonish rabbit who can also hang out with Thorne and Skye. So, yeah, you could say I approach them in a similar way.

Interior from Man Goat & the Bunnyman: 2023 Spring Special (On Sale Now)

What has been your favorite Zenescope title to work on? Are there any characters you haven’t drawn that you’d like to take a crack at in the future?

To be honest, I'm the kind of artist who tends to like the most recent thing they've worked on, but if I put that bias aside, I'd say it's Oz: Return of the Wicked Witch #3. And yes, there are several Zenescope characters I've got my eye on and would love to illustrate in a full book. I've drawn them briefly in Grimm Fairy Tales, but I'd really enjoy diving deeper into their stories. Robyn Hood is one – I love drawing archers, and I've been in the fantasy realm for quite a while, so I'd love to visit the city. Another one on my wishlist is Sleeping Beauty – the story and character design are fantastic, and I'd really like to give them a shot.


Be sure to follow Guillermo on Instagram at @guillermo.fajardo.s, and look for the final chapter of Oz: Kingdom of the Lost to hit stores when issue #3 arrives in January 2024.

Which of Guillermo’s covers rank among your favorites? Tell us your picks in the comment section below!

Leave a comment

Leave a comment


Forgot your password?

Don't have an account yet?
Create account