Thursday, February 18, 2016

Interview 2

...for Spanish magazine Doze, from 2013:

  • Your stories, regardless of their theme (drama, comedy...), always have a flavour of adventure, as if you were looking for the unexpected, the surprise in the plot. Does it come naturally or is there a deeper reason to create your comics in that way?
  • I like melodrama. With the exception of Hey, Wait... I think there's been a gun in all of my books. I like writers like Raymond Carver and Tobias Wolff. But if I use those kind of characters, I put them in other stories. Possibly he's a divorced alchoholic, but at the same time he's fighting monsters from Mars or zombies. I like that mix of everyday reality and fantasy. And I improvise my stories, so I don't know where they will end up.
  • What about romance? You’ve always shown a big inclination for love stories, in the purest style of classic Hollywood movies...
  • I don't know where that comes from. I've probably seen too many Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers films.
  • In fact, cinema references constantly appear in your comics. What kind of directors and movies have enriched you narrative world? In which way?
  • I like a lot of old films, from the 20s to the 70s. Silent films, film noir, westerns. And I like minimalistic directors like Jim Jarmusch and Aki Kaurismäki. Or quirky directors like Hal Hartley and Wes Anderson. Directors that have a vision, and you see their personality in their films. I'm less interested in committee made films like what you often see today.
  • Talking about movies, in your comics you like to play with b-side movies characters, like androids, vampires, zombies, werewolves... Do you especially like that genre?
  • Yes, I like working within a genre. Even in a b-movie style, from old horror movies or old science fiction serials. They're fun to do. And you can play around with the genre, go in different directions, combining two different genres and so on.
  • Besides movies, litterature is also very present in your works. How do you feed yourself from writers like Hemingway or Scott Fitzgerald, who appeared in “Werewolves of Montpellier”?
  • They appeared in a book called Hemingway, not Werewolves of Montpellier, but yes, I'm also inspired by books, not only movies. Hemingway is one of my favourite writers, especially his earlier books, and I had read a lot of biographies about him, so I used all that information to tell a story, but making him a cartoonist to create some distance to the real Hemingway, giving me more freedom to invent. And of course, Athos from The Three Musketeers I put in Werewolves of Montpellier. I liked the idea of him in an old science fiction serial like Flash Gordon.
  • In your stories you usually play with a laconic, even cynical humour. Black humour, to sum up. Where does that influence come from? Is it the same humour that you personally have?
  • I don't know where that comes from. I'm not necessarily a fan of black humour. A show like SouthPark, that I see as having kind of a cynical humour, doesn't appeal to me. I liked The Simpsons or Friends, stuff like that. I don't watch much sitcoms anymore, but when I did, it was pretty mainstream stuff. There might be a dark element in my humour, but I hope it isn't meanspirited. I hope in the end it's uplifting, positive.
  • In 1995 you published “Pocket full of rain”, a comic made with a realistic style of drawing. How do you recall those early jobs, before developping your characteristic anthropomorphic characters?
  • In my late teens and early 20s I tried to copy lots of different cartoonists. My taste changed every week. So I tried to copy Berni Wrightson, or Barry Smith or Hermann. When I did Pocket Full of Rain I tried to copy Jaime Hernandez and Hugo Pratt. That was the combination I was going for, poor fool that I was. And I was not that happy with the drawings. They look clumsy to me now. Plus, it took me a long time to work in that style. Usually it took me a day to do one panel, a week to do a page. The whole thing, 48 pages, took about a year and a half.
  • You started to develope that anthropomorphic style in 1997 with “Mjau, mjau”, your own comic-book. How did you come up with that idea?
  • It came from being unhappy with the realistic style. I wanted something easier, that would take less time. And discovering the animal characters, I discovered they fit better to the kind of stories I wanted to tell. Like Hey, Wait... I don't think that book would have worked as well in a realistic style.
  • Do you consider that your drawing style is still evolving? I mean, it looks like you have a very solid style, almost immovable.
  • I guess it's quite evolved. I don't see any big changes in the future. But I still do some experimentation. In Athos in America I went back to using a brush in some stories. I work with a wider pen, giving the drawings less of a ligne claire look. I think I'm moving towards a slightly sketchier look. I don't want the drawing to look pefect. I find that perfect look to be kind of boring. And I experiment with using a colourpencil., to colour the story myself.
  • Don’t you have the curiosity of making something completely different, a comic that can surpirse both you and your readers?
  • I hope my stories are still different. Different styles, different genres. I hope the reader will not be quite sure what they're getting when they pick up a new book by me.
  • Why do your characters tend to be so quiet?
  • They're not talkers. Maybe because I'm not the most talkative person myself. But also I find a quiet character more interesting than someone who constantly talks about himself. Well, Athos, from The Last Musketeer, is an exception. He talks a lot. I like to write his dialogues. Or monologues rather. I like that he's so deluded, not being able to see reality in the eyes; He's living in a fantasy.
  • I’ve read some interviews where you talked about how hard it is for you to write the dialogues of your charachters. Has that part of your work become easier through the years?
  • Yes, somewhat. I find it easier to write dialogues now than in the beginning. It was a challenge to write text, something I wanted to try. And now I find that is the part of doing comics that is most interesting. Creating characters, and writing their dialogues, not the drawing.
  • Besides they don’t show strong gestures or facial expressions, your characters always transmit the feelings that the scene requires. How do you manage to get that narrative precision?
  • Yes, that's the paradox. By not giving the characters easily readable feelings, the reader has to put his own feelings into the character. I think it works better that way, the minimalistic style. I don't want the characters to overact. For a character to just lower his head a bit can be more effective.
  • Just one doubt: why don’t you draw the pupils of your characters?
  • In the beginning the characters were all black – they were cats or crows -so they had white pupils. Later I gave them also white skin, but kept the white pupils. I like that they don't show a lot of emotions. That's something I probably stole from Buster Keaton, or from Aki Kaurismäki, who doesn't allow his actors to show emotions.
  • You’re a quiet person. Would you say that, in some way, you represent yourself in your comics and characters?
  • Sure. That's hard to avoid. You put yourself in the story, even if it isn't necessarily autobiography.
  • How do you use silences in order to prevent a boring, too slow rhythm of the story?
  • I like the use of silence. Why does there need to be text in every image? If a sequence works better without text, then fine, I don't use any text. And I usually avoid thought balloons. I prefer to let the reader imagine what the character is thinking or feeling.
  • I would like you to talk about the way that you build your stories, with some gaps that the reader must fill in to understand the whole plot. Why is that? Do you have the feeling that, some times, you demand too much from the readers?
  • No, I don't think I ask too much of the reader. And I don't want it to be just one interpretation of a story. If three readers see it in three different ways that's fine, that's what I want. I find it boring if I'm told everything, in a comic or a movie. I'd prefer to do my own interpretation. If I have one rule I work by, it's: leave a mystery. Don't tell the reader everything.
  • Why don’t you colour your own stories, instead of working with a colorist (Hubert Boulard)?
  • Because I'm very happy with his work and because I'm not familiar with photoshop or doing colourization that way. But with my next book, Lost Cat, I did the colouring myself, using a red colourpencil. So it's black and white plus red.
  • Unlike all your previous works, in “The isle of 100.000 graves” you collaborated with a scriptwriter, in this case Fabien Vehlman. Why did you decide to change your work process? How did Vehlman contribute to this book?
  • I wanted to see how it was working with a writer. And Vehlmann is quite well known in France so I would hopefully reach a wider audience. I was not involved in the script. Vehlmann did the whole thing, but with me in mind. So it has maybe a kind of Jason feel to it.
  • Would you repeat the experience, with Vehlman or any other author?
  • Yes, I expect at some point to work with a writer again. Maybe Vehlmann or maybe someone else. Hubert, my colourist, is also a scriptwriter, so it would be nice someday to work with him.
  • The other way round, have you thought about the possibility of writing a script for other cartoonists?
  • No, I don't think so. I don't write scripts for myself, so I wouldn't do it for anybody else. My books are always improvised, often drawn directly on the original. I don't do the traditional script, sketch, original, in three stages like that. Usually I go back and forth, sketching a bit here, then inking it, sometimes imagining the dialogue while I'm drawing. I would be bored if I knew the whole story before starting.

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