The Art of Rodney Fuentebella

Photo credits Rodney Fuentebella. The Avengers’ images courtesy of Marvel Comics and Rodney Fuentebella










By Vivian Fuentebella Sanchez


It was a smiley face or rather several smiley faces, drawn all over a white bond paper by a 2 year old toddler that made his 10 year old sister jump for pride and joy.  Rodney drew the most perfect smiley faces I had ever seen. We were living in Manila then and I vividly remember grabbing the paper from him with one hand shaking it up the air conditioned room of our parents and running into the humid living area, shouting to the rest of the people in the house what I magically discovered. Something like a scene borrowed from the movie Willy Wonka where Charlie Buckett was waving his hand up in the air with glee on his fortune of finding the last golden ticket.

I knew then what I know now – my baby brother is an artist.  Fast forward to 32 years later and the awe struck emotion felt by my 10 year old self was the same feeling I had when I saw my brother’s art work come to life in this year’s hottest and highest grossing movie Marvel’s The Avengers.  My brother, Rodney Fuentebella, is a concept artist and senior illustrator at Marvel Comics.  Prior to that he worked at Electronic Arts, Dreamworks and a few startup companies but it is with Marvel that the whole world gets to see his art work realized in the big screen.

Growing up, Rodney was the youngest of 6 and having immigrated with the family from the Philippines to a new home in South San Francisco at a young age, a new school to boot and our parents working hard, drawing became his escapism from the unfamiliar surroundings and chaos of a full house.  He constantly loved pretending he was one of the characters he just drew and his world of imagination must have been a very colorful, sometimes gray but interesting one.  Rodney was meant to pursue his dream of being an artist and after graduating from UCLA and a brief work stint Rodney soon enrolled at the prestigious Art Center in Pasadena, CA.  He was always a doer more than a talker and even when he was in between jobs, Rodney managed to sell many of his art paintings in galleries.

True to his unpretentious personality, it was no surprise that he down played his contributions in The Avengers movie. Needless to say, while seeing The Avengers, I was blown away by Rodney’s important contributions to this blockbuster film. The key frames he conceptualized where vital in the movie: Loki with his staff and his encounter with Captain America, Thor’s first scene standing atop the jet, Hulk versus a jet fighter on the helicarrier, the Leviathans and of course, the unforgettable scene where Tony Starck aka Iron Man suits up while falling mid air in his new mark 7 costume.

If the movie wasn’t enough there was a gallery reception that honored Rodney and his fellow brilliant illustrators as well a coffee book aptly called The Art of Marvel’s The Avengers.  Did I forget to also mention that he and his wife, Vina are parents to a one year old daughter, Haley?  To be honest, I don’t really know exactly what went on inside my brother’s head when he was pretending as a young child but I am so glad Rodney’s reality nowadays is a vibrant and exciting place where he can share and celebrate his creative talent to the world smiley faces and all.



Can you describe being a concept artist?

A concept artist role is to create visuals that help solve the problems of bringing ideas to fruition. As a concept artist, I am tasked with doing a lot of different jobs, solving whatever problem needs attention. My main role on Marvel’s The Avengers is creating compelling key frame moments. These are illustrations depicting a key moment in the script before any production work has started. These serve as inspiration for the director and the rest of the production team to help show the tone and spectacle of the moment.



What is your favorite scene in the Avengers?

The great aspect about Marvel’s The Avengers is that there are multiple awesome scenes.  For me, it’s like picking a favorite ride in Disneyland. I loved the Hulk moments because of the humor and payoffs like the end with Loki and Hulk. Hulk does things that are unbelievable and so fun to watch. The two moments I worked on of Hulk versus the jet in the helicarrier and the moment when Tony Stark gets his Mark 7 suit are fun and memorable for me because not only are they great scenes but I helped with those moments as well.


Who would you choose to be in the avengers? Why?

I think I will go with the masses and pick Tony Stark (Iron Man). He has it all…smarts, wealth and cool toys.


Reaction when you saw your work in a billboard, film and in a book?

The first time I saw something on The Avengers with my contributions on a public venue was The Superbowl extended trailer.  Seeing The Superbowl extended trailer online was crazy.  I must have seen it a dozen times that night. I felt like a little boy on Christmas morning.  It was great to be able to talk about it with friends and family after they saw something tangible.


Earliest recollection of your art work?

I did a paint by numbers clown when I was a little boy. I did not stay in the lines but I did not care. It was fun.


Favorite app and video game?

I love the God of War games and Uncharted 2. Angry Birds and Cut the Rope are fun apps too.


Favorite Filipino dish?

Chicken Adobo.


Favorite Tagalog word?



Most cherished painting?

It changes depending on my mood.


Favorite time of day?

Waking up seeing my baby/when the baby is asleep ;)


Best indulgence?



If you were not an artist what would you choose to be?



Advice to give for struggling artist?

Love the pain.


For more on Rodney’s art go to

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