Friday, 12 November 2010


Interview conducted by smoky man, mainly focused on the Immonens' Moving Pictures graphic novel, on the occasion of the Italian edition published by NPE.
Answers received via email in September 2010.
Originally printed in Italy on the free press magazine Comic-Soon (N. 11, October 2010, Tespi Editore).
Presented here in English for the first time with the artists' permission.

Moving Pictures has been defined as “historical fiction”. Do you think this is a good definition, a good “label” for it?
Kathryn Immonen:  It’s as good as any. And certainly, we’ve been extremely happy to have been positively reviewed by places like The American Library Association and it helps that there’s content in the work that can be linked to school curricula. But really, Moving Pictures doesn’t even fall into the category of what’s currently derisively being called ‘faction’ in some critical circles.  It’s a small story that steadfastly ignores the larger events.  I’m pretty sure there were no fetching Canadians doing curatorial work-study at the Louvre.  And I’m sure we screwed up all over the place but, you know... there’s a big error in The Bourne Identity but it doesn’t stop it from being a terrific film.  But basically, like all fiction I think, it’s an invitation to think about something differently for just a moment.

Stuart Immonen: It's always been our feeling that the "facts" shouldn't get in the way of the "story," that is, if a story -- a fiction -- is what you want to tell. The period is already well-examined; we don't pretend to add to the historical record with Moving Pictures, but I don't think we alter it, either.

KI: Well... not much, anyway.

The book is set in Nazi-occupied France and one of the key element in the story is Art in itself. What led to your interest in this subject and setting? Where did the original idea for Moving Pictures come from?
KI:  Many years ago, I was reading Janet Flanner’s ... Paris was Yesterday, I think it was. She was the Paris correspondent for the New Yorker magazine during the war. And she was talking about the cleaning of the Louvre as a by-product of the shifting of the art out of the city. It was just so strange and funny.  I, like just about everybody, was familiar with those incredible photographs of the art hoard that was found in the  mine in the Austrian Alps.  But I really started thinking about those guys with the rags and the cans of Pledge and the buckets of ammonia water... small domestic  activities that were a side-effect of big global acts of violence and, in a lot of ways, imagination. 

Even if World War II is just mentioned in the story - and for example you don’t see any swastika but just black flags in the pages - MP is clearly “linked” to a well recognizable period of 20th century, but the focus certainly seems to be on the characters and their dynamics. What do you think the actual narrative core to be?
KI: At the beginning, the imagery was there on the flags and, initially, we got rid of it because it just looked so overwhelmingly obvious, somehow. 

SI: Right, this was another case of self-censorship, obfuscating the setting deliberately. It happened in the dialogue, too. In the original script, there were names of well-known historical figures that we eventually decided didn't need to be there, and in fact, got in the way of the story we wanted to tell.

KI: As we continued to kind of keep erasing signs, it started to function in a lot of other ways.  As a visual metaphor for blind spots (wilful or otherwise), as a literal reference to the actual blacking out of signposts during the war, as an impediment to wayfinding  of all kinds.

KI: In many ways, though, the setting just provides a solid backdrop against which to talk about things which are important to us as creators, not the least of which is the hierarchy and valuation of objects.  But also, it’s a historical moment that has been so explored, written and over-written that slippage seems unavoidable.  By which I mean that the fictional characters, in this case, inevitably have a kind of fundamentally unlocatable nature which I find really compelling. You can write about the history all you want, I’m not sure you can ever make sense of it... even as a collection of events. And certainly, throughout the story, the characters in a lot of ways have their backs firmly turned to it. At its heart, it’s a story about desire.

I think one of the strong points of the book is that is a story that you have to read and read again because each word, each expression, each single panel, could be revelatory. The reader has to pay attention. What do you think about this? While reading it, I thought it could work as a very European black and white movie, maybe with a spot, a touch of colour in some scenes… I don’t know if this could make sense for you…
KI: Yeah. I know there has been some vague hope that this property may have another life somehow but I don’t really see it as a possibility. I think the best description of Moving Pictures is still “one long strangled inhalation”. For Stuart and me, it is so thoroughly a comic, conceived completely to exist in that form and, hopefully, make the most of the medium. It’s such an incredibly ‘still’ work. Everything is internalized. And I continue to be amazed at how Stuart compellingly handled the storytelling in a piece where ‘action’ means a character glances over to one side or, if you’re lucky, does something really crazy like sit down and take their jacket off.

SI: I know! It could be adapted, though. It's a very, very controlled reading experience, very deliberate in pacing and composition. For it to be re-imagined for a very collaborative medium like film would be interesting... but different. But that's the case with anything.

How much research did you do, both for the textual part and for the visual one? What about influences and references?
KI: The script was completed such a  long ago and any time I glance back at the notes I kept, I’m surprised by how much I read, how much I knew. I think I’d categorize it more as ‘reading’ rather than ‘research’. Typically, I don’t keep stuff either in real life or in my head.  So, while there was a lot of prep, I wouldn’t say that a whole lot of it found its way into the story in any kind of overt way.  It’s not a work that’s overridden with those kinds of details... at least I hope not. There comes a point, too, where you just have to put a stop to the research and it’s mostly because you are in danger of finding yourself wanting to include things that you find interesting but that  your characters couldn’t care less about.

SI: In a way, that applies to the art, as well. There are so many panels with simple black backgrounds that you might think very little research was required, but in fact, I collected as many period photos and documents as I could. But the drawing style I chose dictated how much could be shown. The details are so spare that when they are included at all, they represent a larger setting.

SI: I was thinking about the styles of German artist Ulf K. and French artist Stanislas when I began work on Moving Pictures, and there is something of Dylan Horrocks in there, too. Pretty shortly the style developed on its own, and drawing that way seemed natural instead of deliberate homage.

Originally MP has been serialized as a web-comics. You said - in past interviews - this was a way for you to be “forced” to meet a deadline. Then it moved to “classic” print. What’s the web for you? Is it a place for experimenting and to express yourself in complete artistic freedom?
SI: The internet is just a vehicle and doesn't necessarily influence the content. However, certain formats "feel" more appropriate than others. The half-hour comedy is no more suited to television exclusively than the daily strip on the web, but those platforms seem to work in those media. A cartoonist can certainly work without the conventions of print deadlines, sales, audience demands or editorial influence online and bandwidth is cheap, so experimental ideas are more likely to be explored, but I might suggest just as likely to fail as they would be in print.

SI: Right now, webcartoonists must supplement a frequent comic strip with sales of paraphernalia, prints or commission work, and they must be prepared to spend a lot of time promoting their product if they want to succeed. That's too much work for us; we just wanted to finish the work, and with both of us busy with jobs already, posting the comic on a schedule was a good way to ensure that would happen.
And print, in this modern digital era? I mean, the original plan was to have MP in print, wasn’t it? In any case, at least you were thinking to self-publishing as a possibility...
KI:  The intention was always to have it in print. And certainly we thought about doing it ourselves, which we’ve done a lot. But this time, we really felt like we wanted someone else to take it over, although all the lettering, design and production work was still done by us. We started to approach publishers and were happy that Top Shelf was interested. It’s been a very good fit.  The real benefit for us, though, was the editorial process. We had some long and profitable conversations with the amazing Chris Staros and there is absolutely no question that he made Moving Pictures a better book. The printed version is not enormously different than what appeared on line but it the changes we implemented as a result of the editorial relationship were invaluable.

Kathryn is credited as writer and Stuart as the artist; is it as simple as that or was it a more “complex” collaboration? I mean I am curious… for example who did the breakdowns and page layouts? Did Stuart do any editing of the writing process?
SI: The script was written with all dialogue and stage direction in place before I touched it. But it wasn't divided into pages or panels. We agreed to a simple format of three tiers of panels (or variations) which helped to determine the pacing. For example, if a scene didn't fit well in a multiple of six square panels, one might be given more "weight" by expanding it across the tier. So there was this intermediate collaborative step between writing and drawing where we both decided how to present the work visually. After the panels were drawn, sometimes I would do the lettering, and sometimes Kathryn would do it and there was usually an examination of the dialogue at that point. I guess that's complex, or at least, unusual.

Stuart, you are well known and admired, even in your superheroes works, for your “chameleonic” style, so in MP you used different approaches to the page: hatching for paintings, a clear but strong b&w line for the “real” story and spot blacks for photo collage. Why did you decide to use these three particular styles? Was it something you also discussed and planned with Kathryn?
SI: Well, thank you for the compliment, first of all. I'm trying to remember if we talked about it, or if I just "surprised" her... there was a period when the style was not concrete, and I drew the first half-dozen pages a number of times in different ways. I think I showed these trials to Kathryn as I worked, and she would tell me, as she usually does, that it was good, but I could tell that she knew I was still grasping at the final form.

KI:  Sure. I would say that I always know when Stuart’s already made a decision even though he’s showing me options and, similarly, we’ll have conversations about things and Stuart makes a decision at the end but I know that the next day I’m going to find the whole thing in the garbage. I’m the same way. To each other, we’re absurdly transparent. It seems like 80 percent of our so-called collaborative process is just listening to the other person work through their own problems.

SI: Finally, I discovered a method of drawing I could maintain for the online serialization, but it wasn't right for the art. In the script, the art works are described as being shown to the audience, but not necessarily as tangible objects, rather like projections. It simply made sense to divorce them from the main characters and settings stylistically as well as compositionally.

In the Italian edition, we decided to maintain the title in English, as in the original book. Because, apart from its literal meaning of "pieces of Art packed and relocated" which is an aspect of the story in itself, I think it evokes more than that... For example, I think it's also connected to the people and their behaviour... it's intentionally "ambiguous", in a good way... What can you say about this aspect of the book?
KI: We liked the title because the literal meaning is the one that applies to the book but it is primarily used as an old fashioned term for film and movies which really has nothing to do with the story. I guess, in many ways, it was a way to defeat expectations right up front and it establishes an environment for the story where meaning and intentions can be slippery or difficult to locate.

Can you tell us pros and cons of work-for-hire jobs for mainstream, big companies and working on your more personal projects?
KI: The personal projects are, in a lot of ways, much easier, mainly because we don’t have to co ordinate with anyone or anything else. But we would both say that working in the mainstream has made our independent work better and vice versa.

SI: Yes, absolutely. The saying in English is, "A change is as good as a rest," and it applies in this situation. Thinking about storytelling in a different way prevents one from becoming stale, or from relying on convention or laziness to solve a problem.

Can you reveal anything about your next “big thing” Russian Olive to Red King?
KI: It’s about a woman who may or may not have survived a small plane crash (it’s clear that she dies at some point but exactly when that happens to a character, who’s still walking and talking all the way through,  is for the reader to decide), the man who’s caught not knowing, and Chekhov. It’s a ghost story. With petroglyphs. And writer’s block.

What about your current or upcoming superheroes works? Uhmm… do you like superheroes, don’t you?
KI: I love superheroes but really, the most interesting thing about a superhero character is not the superpowered part. Patsy Walker is the strength of Hellcat and not the other way around. Bruce Wayne is a lot more interesting than Batman. I think that goes for most characters. Except maybe Superman... I still have trouble figuring out what’s interesting about him. But Lois is a smart girl... so there must be something. Stuart and I both have some really really fun and interesting work for Marvel in the pipeline (unfortunately, not together!) but I think this interview is going to appear before either of us can say what that is. Too bad!!

SI: But we did collaborate on a story for the Image Comics western anthology Outlaw Territory 2, which will be available in October 2010.

A “classic”, final question: what does it happen when your artistic partner is also your life partner?
KI: We’ve been together for an embarrassingly long time (so long that the number got applause at our panel in San Diego... embarrassing) and we’ve been making comics together for almost all of that time and sharing a work space while doing it.  Both those things are our preference. Working together is the easiest thing in the world and, on the days that it’s not... the dog gets extra long walks. 

Wednesday, 16 June 2010


A one-page story that should have been published on the Alias comics section of the Italian newspaper Il Manifesto, but did not make it because of possible copyright issues.
Written by Antonio Solinas and drawn by super-artist Matteo Scalera (Deadpool), it is presented here for the first time ever in English.
The theme for the Manifesto contribution was "Let Us Out", so, rather than turning to political territories, I decided to do something a bit more pop and "out there".
At the time I was delving in my "pikey" obsession, a phenomenon so typically British (I love typically British things), therefore I thought I would make Pikey Mikey, an original creation, the main character. Unfortunately Matteo and I forgot that our alien race might bear more than a little resemblance to other, more famous (and copyrighted) aliens...
Enjoy (and, as usual, click on the pic to enlarge it)!

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

JEFF SMITH interview

Interview by smoky man and Antonio Solinas. Answers received as mp3 files in June 2009.
Transcription by Antonio Solinas.
Originally printed in Italy on Scuola di Fumetto magazine (N. 70, October 2009, Coniglio Editore).
Presented here in English for the first time with the artist's permission.
Above: Cover for Bone N.1. Bone is copyright and trademark Jeff Smith.
Jeff Smith site:

Talking about your last work, the sci-fi series Rasl. I read the first issues and I found them really intriguing with an unusual main character: an art thief able to travel within dimensions with a personal history full of mysteries to be discovered. Can you present this new creation of yours to the Italian audience?
RASL is the first real project I have worked on since Bone that was my own. It’s the story of an inter-dimensional art thief, who is not really a hero: he is more of an anti-hero. He is a man who is trapped. What I am trying to do is to mix science fiction and noir together, and I thought it would be more interesting to have a bad character, rather than the usual hero.

I know you did tons of researches for this new comic, that you read many scientific and physics books. You also went to Arizona and visited the local desert for research. So, what’s about the initial seed for the story? What’s about its working in progress, its development?
As it was my desire to mix noir and science fiction, the science part comes from my own love of physics: I love to read about string theory and M-theory. Some of the ideas scientists have, are pretty far out there, they involve parallel universes, and that’s the real science. The fringe science is just as interesting, but it’s a little more conspiracy-driven. Nikola Tesla creating death rays, and Albert Einstein completing his unified field theory in 1928, but withdrawing it because the human race was not really ready for it yet: I love all that kind of stuff, and then when you mix that with noir, you have those tough, brutal, primal characters trying to just survive. I started to like this idea of this character who has these portable thermo-magnetic engines on his shoulders and then I was off.

Rasl seem to be quite a departure from the “all ages” subject of Bone, isn’t it? Were you worried that your established audience could be a bit surprise by it? Or do you simply don’t mind because this is the story you want and have to tell?
You know, I really wasn’t that worried that the people who read Bone would be upset about a more grown-up story from me. I mean, it’s just a story I want to tell and I assumed that if I just did the same thing, and if I did another Bone story, that would be lame. So the fact that it worked out was kind of lucky and there were people that were a little shocked, but I think that everybody is dealing with that alright.

What’s about the schedule for this news series? How big in scope is it? Will it be another 15-year opus as Bone?
This will not be another giant 1300 book. I probably had only one of those, I mean. I am not going to live long enough to do another book that big. I guess probably RASL will be around 350-400 pages. It depends, you know, on how the story rolls out in the end.

Let’s talk about Bone. It has been – and still is – an incredible (and well deserved) success all over the world. It’s obvious that Bone is gained the status of an evergreen comics, one of the gems of this Art form. How do you feel about that? Also, what’s your feeling to be “labelled” as the guy who creates comics accessible to kids?
You know, I don’t really think about being labelled by kids cartoonist or something like that. I just did Bone because I wanted to do it, it was something I wanted to read when I was a kid, but when I was doing it I approached it as an adult (book) talking to other adults, with classic cartoon characters. How someone wants to label it, that’s all marketing.

Regarding Bone - and I suppose a similar thing could be applied for Rasl - I have always been curious to know how difficult it was for you to manage all the different production and promotion aspects on your own. What was the most difficult part of self-publishing, for you?
The early days of self publishing require an awful lot of different... hats. You have to wear a lot of different hats, you have got to make sure your books are shipping to the right places, that you are dealing with invoices, and distributors: there is a lot of travel involved. I remember being overwhelmed by all the paperwork that was involved in the early days.
And that’s not even counting writing and drawing a strip that is liked by anybody beside your own mother. That’s always a struggle. Of course, now I have my wife, Vijaya, my business partner: she handles a lot of that stuff, as well as Steve Hamaker and Kathleen Glosan, and Tom Gaadt. I mean, I have a pretty good team that takes care of a lot of that stuff for me now, so it’s not quite as tough as it was in those early days.

You always mention Pogo by Walt Kelly as one of your major influences. Is there any other comic or cartoonist that plays a major role in inspiring you in this phase of your career?
Nowadays, one of my favourite cartoonists is Paul Pope, who does sci-fi/noir/fantasy comics, like Heavy Liquid and 100%. And whenever a new comic comes out by Paul, I get really excited and I kind of try to keep up with the level of intensity and depth that he gets in his stories and in his frames.

Let’s talk about some technical aspects. What drawing tools do you use in your work? What do you think about digital art? Have you ever resorted to Photoshop? What’s your approach to technology?
My approach to technology is almost like a double-headed coin: on one hand, my actual comic pages are pretty old school. Two-ply Bristol board, plate finish, pencil, and I use a Number 1 horse hair brush dipped in India ink: I just use that one size brush. Pretty straightforward when it comes to that. However, in the early days of Bone, I would use xerox copies or something, to replicate something in the background if it was absolutely necessary that it stayed the same. I think Photoshop is just the new version of that, so sometimes I use Photoshop to move things around: I am not afraid of it. My feeling on technology comes out of this: if you can use something in the comic and the reader doesn’t notice it or it doesn’t stop the story, then use it.

Before jumping into comics you worked as an animator. Have you ever thought about going back to doing animation, now that you are famous and respected?
Fuck no!!! [laughs]

Let’s talk about your approach to creating a story. Given that you do everything by yourself, how do you normally proceed? Do you work with a full script, or do you just write down an outline of the story? Do you always employ the same method or does it change, from time to time?
My methods are pretty consistent. I start with an outline: key element, though, is that I really like to know the ending, before I start, so usually the first thing I do is to write down the ending, and then write down the beginning, and then the middle, and then maybe find two more spots to hit on in the outline. And then... then go, baby!

A question about the visual side of your work. You normally ink yourself. How does this affect your pencils? Do you draw loosely and then put the finishing touches when inking, or do you do most of the work in the pencil stage?
I do always ink myself and because of that I draw very sketchy and very loose, and I really do the final drawing while I am inking. Sometimes I have young cartoonists asking me if I have pencils so they can have access to my pencils so they can practice inking on, and I always have to tell them that my pencils are worthless: you just couldn’t possibly ink them unless you were there when they were pencilled in my brain.

Bone was definitely a plot-driven story, a choice that doesn’t seem very common in an era where “decompressed” storytelling and cool dialogues seem to be the norm. What was the reason for this choice and what do you think about the whole “decompressed” storytelling thing?
Decompression: I just don’t think it’s that easy to label stories, you know. I am very guilty of taking whole issues for a scene, and sometimes three issues to tell one scene, as early as 1993 or 1994. I just think it depends on what the pacing of the scene is. I mean, I think people can tell if you are full of shit and you are trying to stretch something out because you don’t have a story. But if you are telling a story, and it takes a nice long time to tell it, then decompress it. If not, don’t.

Do you still have the time to read comics? Which comics and cartoonist do you follow regularly? I have always admired you for your support to the indie comics scene…
Well, the kind of comics that I like to read aren’t really mainstream comics. I don’t follow books that come out on a normal schedule. The guys I like are like Jeff Lemire, who did the Essex County Trilogy and has got a few more projects coming out that are very interesting. I mentioned Paul Pope, he is also very sporadic. That’s what I like. I like the guys that are doing stuff and when they come out they surprise me and I got to find them.

After years of rumours about an animated Bone movie, it seems that you received an interesting offer from Warner Bros. What about the status of the deal? What can you reveal to us?
Yeah, I am working on a movie with Warner Brothers right now. I learned a hard lesson last time I had a movie deal and I was working with Nickelodeon and Paramount, and so I don’t really like to talk about it. If Warner Brothers want to talk about it, they can talk about it. But they are working on it.

For a long time, your work has been published in black & white. Then Bone was coloured for the Scholastic edition and you wrote and drew the Shazam! miniseries. Did colour affect your approach to comics in any way?
I don’t think so. I had completed Bone in black and white before we even started to consider doing colour. But Shazam!, when I wrote it and drew it, I knew it would be in colour and I like to think that I would do it the same way, but you know I was aware that some things, like night skies and things like that would be a lot easier to communicate in colour. There are a few scenes where Mary Marvel and Talky Tawny are talking by the river at sunset, and I could evoke a mood with the golden colours and I knew I would get that. So, yes, in a way it gives you a little bit to lean on.

Let’s talk about Shazam! For years, you have been the embodiment of the independent attitude in comics. How did it feel to cross the barrier and work for a big publisher, such as DC Comics?
Oh, it felt alright! DC Comics called me, as I was getting near the end of Bone and asked if I wanted to work on a superhero comic, and when they suggested that I would work on Captain Marvel, I thought it was a pretty good fit. Let me just point out that they called me the week before 9/11, so I returned their call a couple of weeks later, in 2001, and I thought that superheroes were actually invented to be propaganda against the Axis, in World War II, and I thought that Captain Marvel would be a great way to talk about fighting an enemy like that. I mean, half the enemy was our own government [laughs] but it seemed to be a useful kind of thing to work with.

What was the reason behind your decision to work with DC? How was working with an editor, after years of total freedom?
I had a great experience working with DC. My editor there was Mike Carlin and to be honest with you, I kind of expected him to give me a little more trouble than he did. But really, they gave me a free hand to work with Captain Marvel, and I think Mike is a really good editor. The comments he gave, he would state them in such a way that he would make me think it was my idea, so it was a pretty good experience all around.

Why did you pick Captain Marvel, of all the DC characters?
What was really interesting to me about Captain Marvel was that he was a character who had not undergone through a revamp, one that all the characters seemed to have gone through ever since Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns, making them very melodramatic and giving them problems and a lot of darkness. That happened to Captain Marvel’s enemy, I can’t remember his name, he’s got Captain’s Marvel suit in black instead of red [he is referring to Black Adam]. He has been updated and so he is horrible. He actually rapes and kills people, which to me is a stupid thing to have in a comic book: I don’t even understand why someone would do that, or want to read it. But Captain Marvel was not like that. He was almost like he was trapped in amber or something: he had been suspended since the early Golden age of comics and I was intrigued by working on something that would connect me so directly to the dawn of American comics.

What can you say about your soon to be released children’s graphic novel Little Mouse gets ready? How did it start? What’s the story about?
Little Mouse Gets Ready: this really is a children’s book. The idea of the Toon books series is to create graphic novels for emerging readers, I think we are talking about between 5 and 7-years old. This is the brainchild of Francoise Mouly and Art Spiegelman, and they asked me if I had an idea for a story. And the idea came up with Little Mouse. It is kind of based on a character that I had around when I was very young, sometime between six and seven or so. I just had this mouse wearing a red vest, so I thought that I could try to do something with that and concentrate on the story on a very simple level and try to draw kid to a comic from panel to panel. It was kind of fun!

A personal question. Your wife is from India and last year you went on tour there. How do you think the close interaction with a culture so different from yours had influenced and still influences you both as human being and as an artist?
I think that’s a big question. Because Vijaya’s family is from Southern India, we have been over to visit a number of times, and I think it’s had a huge effect on me, both in terms of my art and as a person. Any type of travel outside your country is going to be an eye-opening experience and most likely a good thing. I mean, I love to visit Italy or Spain and since I am usually a guest at a comic show I am always lucky enough to have people that want to take me out and get me a good meal and show off the local cuisine. It’s mind-expanding: I think it’s good for you. In terms of my artwork, in America there are certain kinds of things to see, you know, we have the mountains and the desert and the skyscrapers, but in Europe some buildings are over a thousand years old, thousands of years old. And in India, those old temples and churches are still living, and the gods are still residing on the street corners, and I think quite a bit of it made its way into Bone, especially the final act, where they are in Atheia.

A political question. I am curious to know, which are your feelings about Obama as the new USA president? I think it’s a great opportunity of change, not only for USA but for the whole world…
Well, I think you can probably tell from my answer to the Shazam! question that I was not very happy with the Bush administration. I am very happy about the Obama administration coming in and I think it’s a miracle that he kept the US economy and probably the world economy from going down the toilet, because clearly Bush and Cheney were lighting oil fields on the way out of office just like Hussein when he was leaving Kuwait [laughs]. I am very hopeful and I hope the world can forgive us for letting those bastards hang around for as long as they did.

A final question, a fan question. Any chance that you will return – sooner or later – to tell new comics stories of the Bone cousins?
I am a big fan of NOT doing sequels, but the Bone cousins have been such a big part of my life for so long, I am sure I will find some excuse to do something with them again. So, fingers crossed! [in July 2009 Jeff Smith said something more about this. Read the details at his blog]

Saturday, 23 January 2010


Interview by smoky man and Valentina Serra. Completed in June 2009.
Originally printed in Italy on Bang Art magazine (N. 4, Sept-Nov 2009, Coniglio Editore).
Presented here in English for the first time with the artist's permission.
Above: illustration (c) Jasper Goodall.
Jasper Goodall site:

One of your latest works is a series of images titled Poster Girl, which is a very catchy mix of artwork and photography. Also, as it’s usual in your imaginary, there are several explicit erotic references combined with a strong ironical element. How important is, in your production, the right balance between eroticism and irony?
I think it is vital to have a mix of humour and irony with eroticism. I think that for a very long time erotic art and photography has an easy job to do. Sexual imagery is inherently 'interesting' to humans, whether we like it of loath it, it often produces a reaction which is what you aim to achieve in producing artwork. Erotic art can be titillating or shocking all by itself, it hasn't had to think, just to reveal some skin. BUT now I think we are seeing so much more sexual imagery, it's becoming more and more mainstream. Pornography is all over the internet, music videos are getting more and more sexual and advertising is using sex too, especially in fashion. I think it's not enough anymore to produce artwork with revealing imagery of girls. How is that different to all the sexual imagery around us now?
In my more erotic work, I try a little to comment on the sexual imagery in pornography and erotica. I like to play with and question the clichés that we are presented with.
Like why are nuns so often twisted into a sexual role? Why is pink 'sexy'? why is Latex rubber 'fetish'?
But also I think that using humour and irony is very important for the viewer and the way the work is perceived; it stops the work being purely a sexual image to be turned on by (like Porn), and pushes it into an area where it makes a comment and has intellectual content.

What do you think about the “massification” of eroticism and the gratuitous display of the female body in fields very distant from Arts?
I have mentioned these issues in the above answer, but I guess I have a mix of feelings about it.
On one side I am all for everybody hanging up their guilty feelings around sexual imagery. People do find sexual imagery a turn on, so I like that we are starting to accept that.
However I think the 'massification' as you put it, is quite shallow and cynical. The bottom line is it makes money, I think more so that exploiting women involved in it on whatever level, it exploits us all in a consumerist way.
It uses our human desire to make money, whether in a music video, a perfume advert or a porn movie. But you can say that of our 'western' consumerist society anyway, the whole of the modern worlds economy is basically built on desire, is it not? most of us want to own nicer things, have a nicer house, eat tastier food, make love to the person you think is most attractive - its all about wanting (desire) and a huge percentage of media is now devoted to exploiting out wants to make money. Sexual imagery is just the most obvious and gratuitous manifestation of this.

The “line” has a key role in your art. It’s clear that you absorbed the lesson of Masters such as Aubrey Beardsley and Erté. At the same time, there are Sixties recalls in your subjects and in their sensuality such as Barbarella creator’s Jean Claude Forest or 007 Bond’s girls… The colour seems to show affinities to the Eighties. What’s about your studies and formative years? How did you develop such a variety of references?
That’s a hard question to answer. I think the simple way is to say that I love images. Whatever area, fine art, Photography decorative art, fantasy art, ancient art.
I am fascinated by the capturing of energy and ideas in an image.
So I look at a lot of things, I have a lot of books of all sorts of stuff. I think it's vitally important to have a broad and deep sphere of influences. It worries me that I see both students and illustrators looking in a very singular direction at contemporary illustration. As it has grown over the past decade there are more and more books and websites to reference and people make the mistake of thinking that because one persons style is popular that they ought to emulate it in order to be successful and get work.
I think this is a lack of proper education and a lack of imagination. I say to all my students and to all aspiring illustrators out there: "stop looking at contemporary illustration, go out and buy books from second hand stores, look at images that are hundreds of years old, images that are 20 years old, images that were made by people in another part of the world, maybe for a spiritual reason, soak it all up and be inspired, and make work that you care about that says what you have to say, not what you think will make you money".

Modern Art has showed that what is Kitsch or Camp is not necessary ugly or “bad taste”. Which is your link with the concept of Kitsch?
Kitsch... It can be used well, or it can be purely indulgent. I think used well, to make a comment it is valid. I think it does enter into my work on some levels, but only if it had a good reason to be there. I think certain pieces of my work like 'Bad Bambi' use it and comment on it at the same time.
I think Kitsch is very close to nostalgia which I use sometimes to a small degree, like in the 'Pornogothic' series using gothic horror books movie themes to comment on sexual clichés.

Nowadays it’s not uncommon to see artists from comics or illustration working for fashion companies. You collaborated with Gucci but also for Adidas and Nike. And, sure you designed a cool sold-out bikini collection, JG4B. What can you tell us about these works?
Well not much really! The work for Gucci didn't ever actually go to press. They asked me to design a set of playing cards for them. But what I did was too edgy/modern for them, I toned things down but in the end they were just too conservative a brand to go with it and they backed out of the project!
Nike and Addidas was very much advertising, not really collaboration on fashion wear.
And JG4B lots of people love it, we make very individual bikinis. All the print is designed by me, and most is placement printed on the bikini - not a repeat pattern. They are fun, cool, different to most of the boring swimwear out there. But getting a fashion brand of the ground is very hard, we are hoping to have a new collection out next year, but things are very much in the balance right now.

Can you talk about your processes? What kind of material do you use? What’s about the starting point of an idea?
The starting point is almost always writing. I make lists. I don't really sketch much. I look at books with an idea in mind and sometimes that makes my idea change or re-form.
Then I sometimes make photo-collages on the computer from lots and lots of reference images I have collected. Then I print these out and re-draw them then scan them back in and trace them with at path. I draw some stuff in Illustrator, some in photoshop, some by hand some on the mac.
I take photographs of textures sometimes and use them in the. Obviously for the poster girl series I had large prints and one acrylic cutout made and shot them in a studio with a model. So my process is very eclectic. But always uses the computer as the central point of a number of ways of working.

You are a Brit and considering how old you are, I am curious to know if you were in any way influenced by the growing new wave of British comics like 2000 AD, Judge Dredd, Tank Girl…?
Yes I think I was, I loved 2000 ad. I think Simon Bisley's ACB warriors and Slaine was the best.

What’s about your ultimate dream project?
A show in New York? I'd love to use my creativity in other ways - collaborate on a film maybe?
I went to Paris recently and went to the Crazy Horse cabaret show there. It would be cool to work on branding for them or even a new act in the show - I liked how inventive it was - not just stripping!
Really I think I want to be selling my prints and starting to make original pieces and move in a more gallery oriented direction. If I can be lucky enough to keep producing work that people like and want to own I'll be every happy... thats the long term aim!

JUNKO MIZUNO interview

Interview by smoky man. Completed in May 2009.
Originally printed in Italy on Bang Art magazine (N. 4, Sept-Nov 2009, Coniglio Editore).
Presented here in English for the first time with the artist's permission.
Junk Mizuno site:

What do you think about the scene of art toys and collectable vinyls? When and how did you start? What's your current involvement?
I'm just surprised at how the scene has grown so big.
I started designing toys in 2002 by request of a Japanese toy company Art Storm. As for current involvement, some characters from my graphic novel Pure Trance will be released as a series of mini figures from Kidrobot in June [2009. Editor's note: The figures are sold out now.].

In the past you worked for important art toys companies like Toy2r and Kidrobot. What can you tell us about those experiences?
It's been challenging for me. At first, I was nervous as it seemed to be very difficult to work on 3D objects with people who I can't meet and communicate in person like I used to do with Japanese companies. But they were very professional and I'm happy with the products I made with them. There are a lot to learn from them and it's been a rewarding experience.

Do you think that toys are a good way to express your Art vision or what? I mean, in respect to comics and illustration...
That's a difficult question as I'm doing it just because it's fun...
What I like about a toy is that it has a different impression from 2D work. It feels fresh and inspiring to see my characters in 3D.

Also, which you consider the best toy you created or the one you are most attached to?
It's too hard to choose. They are all my babies.

You created and still create toys. I am curious to know are you a collector too? And if you are (and I am pretty sure you are or at least you had been one), what do you collect?
I used be a collector of girl's toys from 60's to 80's but I've slowed down now...
I have no more room in my place. I still like going to check toy stores and toy events for inspiration, though.

Recently you have started a collaboration with Japanese company "GARDEN" creating a new line of products under the label Mizuno Garden. The concept says: Mizuno Garden is a paradise of erotic fantasy where the fruits of love are always ripe. The crops include beautiful lingerie, costumes, condoms, lotions, vibrators, and more!” Till now you created the gorgeous package for condoms and lotions, but I suppose there are plans for some toys. Can you reveal anything about it?
We've been planning to do some massagers, lingerie and costumes but the project is going very slowly due to both my and their schedules. So unfortunately, there's nothing I can reveal to you at this point...