Rafael's Charming of the Chakra

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It’s like a delicious coffee stain on your brain. That beat from that one song you can’t scrape away from your memory. You are sitting there, in perfect harmony, but the thousand petal’d crown, the Sahasrara chakra, won’t open—pure consciousness eludes you. But there is a way to dive into the violet colored vortex of unity...that wheel of possibilities.

Rafael Grampá’s exquisite poetry with a pencil will enlighten you. It will make you complete. And all of your seven chakras will be spinning in perfect harmony.

BF talks to Grampá right as his book
Mesmo Delivery is released by Dark Horse.

BROKEN FRONTIER:  What's the comic book scene like in Brazil? Is it widespread, is it sparse? What's it like compared to over here in the states?

In terms of market range and consumers, Brazil is [like] an ant and [the] USA is [like] a horse, but that isn't the best way to compare [them]. We have a lot of good cartoonists and good publishers, and we have a long history of making comics starting in the 30's. In the 50's Brazilian comics drank a lot on the American production with comic strips and cartoons. In the 60's it became more political, contesting the dictatorship of 1964.

It was at that time that our strongest authors appeared with a fresh Brazilian strive, but it was more restrict[ed] to newspapers. In the 70's that verve still went on, but with a bigger underground production (just like in the USA), the first authorial magazines [started to appear], mostly raw humor. In the 80's we had our peak, with magazines selling more than 100,000 copies.

Brazilian authors like Maurício de Souza, Angeli, Laerte, Ziraldo, Henfil, Luíz Gê and a lot of genius cartoonists were big at that time and were very [well] known in Europe and Latin America. In the 90's the market shrank and the new generation started to work for the American super hero market. Now we have a new panel with comics approaching literature, and a lot of new expressions and all the media is turning their spots to the new authors: the twins Gabriel Bá and Fábio Moon, Rafael Coutinho, myself, Allan Sieber, Fido Nesti, Rafael Sica, André Dahmer and a lot of other new talents.

We also have an extended indie market that is raising the bar of our tradition, with guys like Rafael Albuquerque (that is also very known in the USA), Elcerdo, Gabriel Góes, LTG, Edu Medeiros, Mateus Santolouco and many more.

Today, Maurício de Souza and his Turma da Mônica, a really famous comics for kids--and maybe the first influence of my generation of artists (everybody read when we were kids)-- is selling more than 500,000 copies; and our biggest publishers are investing in comics more and more everyday. I think we're at another peak.

BF: It seems that whenever politics dramatically shift, it always brings forth a great swelling of artistic voices--an artistic surge of sorts.
You mentioned Maurício de Souza being an inspiration to your generation. Let's talk other inspirations. In your art I see traces of the great Moebius, Geoff Darrow, and perhaps a nod of Frank Quitely and Paul Pope. But I feel my scope is narrowed. Who are some other inspirations, whether they are working in comics, film, or any other walk of life?

RG: Moebius is a real influence. He was always an influence for me, since I was a kid. I can see the same influence in Quitely's work, and he's amazing. Everybody likes to compare my work with Darrow's work, and it's one of the most flattering things that people can say, but I think it's just because our same obsession for detail. Paul's brush work is an influence, as Jeff Smith's is. Suehiro Maruo. Frank Miller, Jamie Hewllet, Goseki Kojima, Walt Disney, Patrice Killoffer, Angeli and Laerte are huge influences.

My storytelling is more influenced by movie directors than comic book authors, I guess. Directors like Sergio Leone, Sam Peckimpah, Quentin Tarantino, Takashi Miike and Francis Ford Coppola inspired me a lot when I was writing and creating the storytelling flow of Mesmo Delivery*. Today I'm more inspired by Katsuhiro Otomo, Akira Kurosawa and others Japanese and Chinese movie directors.

Music is also a huge influence. I love 60's and 70's rock bands, stoner rock, folk and bossa nova. When I'm thinking about a story, I always try to imagine if the style of the story is music, what type of song it would be. Mesmo Delivery is country music mixed with death metal, and sung by Elvis Presley.

BF:  Yeah, man, I can see Tarantino's influence in Mesmo. The stylized violence, the pacing...I can even picture David Carradine playing Sangreco.

RG: Yeah, every time I watch Tarantino's films I feel like I'm enjoying a really great rock n' roll show. I feel different with Leone's movies; watching his films, it's like a spiritual experience for me, something religious. I study Leone's films like an interested and curious kid dissecting a frog. It's important to me when the readers perceive this influence, because I feel like I'm learning well.

BF: So, your new cinematic focus--is that playing a part in Furry Water? If so, how?

RG: Yes, totally! My main characters in Furry Water are Japanese, and the oriental culture was an instant influence after I decided this approach.

I love the relationship that [the] Japanese have with art and pop culture; and it's [im]printed in the majority of their films. I identify myself a lot with this relationship, which is also [im]printed in my work. They created a new style of fighting choreography and it interests me very much, because I can't do an action or fight scene without thinking about the choreography. They go very deep and far in their weird themes and I wanna go deep, too.

Also, they have a strong tradition of honor--that changes everything, making their conflicts and characters more complex, and I'm trying to do the same thing for Furry Water. But we also have a lot of other inspirations that are defining the style and storytelling of this new story.

How weird could be [that] two Brazilian dudes--the other guy is Daniel Pellizzari--writing about Japanese honor? What combo could result in blend[ing] Cangaceiros--north eastern Brazilian nomads and bandits--with [the] samurai code of honor? It's just a small example of how this new Japanese inspiration will influence Furry Water.

BF: If you haven't seen his movies already, you should give Chan-wook Park a try. He's directed some great movies like Old Boy and Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance. Very stylized, very brilliant. Much like you, he makes violence look artistic. Tarantino is actually a huge fan of his--which is equally cool.

RG: Totally. I forgot to mention Park as an inspiration too. Old Boy is one of my favorite movies. His corridor fight scene is one of the best things that I've ever seen. When you think you've seen everything in fight scenes, [Park] creates something new and amazes everybody. That's the reason why Japanese, Korean and Chinese movies are influencing me a lot for my new project.

BF: Man, I love movies! I'm glad to be speaking to somebody who's just as passionate about them.

RG: Yeah, I like to learn movie techniques to apply in comics. This translation is one of my tricks. Talking about script[s], for example, and even not agreeing with all the theories of Robert Mckee, David Mamet and Syd Field--just to cite the most known screenwriter and movie director gurus--I'm always learning and applying some of their concepts in my stories.

BF: So what else can you tell us about Furry Water? Right now, it's a bit of mystery beyond the promo piece you guys presented at Comic Con.

RG: Furry Water and The Sons Of the Insurrection is my new son, and I'm REALLY excited about it. We are holding the buzz around Furry Water because we still have a lot of work to finish. The post-Apocalyptic saga is set 70 years after the "Furry Water" plague hit, and the survivors remain ignorant about the cause of the devastation. Against this backdrop, we meet the Nobunagas, a family of outlaws who have a family obligation to re-start the insurrection against an "optimist oppressive" regime. At the same time, four brothers and a sister are searching for the fifth brother, who may or may not exist, and that is destined to lead the insurrection. It's a violent poetry about brotherhood, honor and faith.

BF: "Nobunagas"--great name. So I imagine we'll be seeing some cinematic action--maybe some swordplay--against the post-apocalyptic background...?

RG: No! No swords in Furry Water. It's not a story about samurais fighting in the future on ruins. It's too obvious; and we're trying to create something really different. The Nobunagas create their own weapons, and it's my chance to design a lot of strange and cool guns, and create very different action scenes. Nothing is obvious in Furry Water. Our post-apocalyptic vision is also very different. When somebody says "post-apocalyptic" people already imagine destroyed cities, deserts and dirty people. We don't want [to] do it again because [it] doesn't make sense for our story. Everyone is very fashion conscious and wants to be as beautiful as possible because fashion is one of my inspirations. You know, I'm obsessed for details and why not to take advantage of this and design cool clothes and accessories for my characters? But don't think it's just embellishment. It's like the story making choices by itself; we're just going with the flow.

BF: I'm glad to hear you guys aren't going with the tried and true version of the post-apocalypse scene. I'm a bit tired of movies ripping from Mad Maxx. 

RG: Yeah, who needs another rip off? The post-apocalypse genre is sci-fi and fantasy--people can imagine whatever they want, and it’s a tale about the future! We can't be so pragmatic, because it can plaster our imagination.

BF: Who's your favorite character in the story so far?

RG: All the characters are great, man. Ok, I'm suspicious, but all of them are my favorite. All the characters have their peculiarities and things that I love. I'm working with [the]characters of my dreams, you know? It's my dream team!  I had a lot of experience with the feedback from the fans of Mesmo Delivery. They love Rufo and Sangrecco. I didn't know how charismatic these two characters could be. I receive fan art all [the time] and because of that, I created a blog to post all of these amazing pieces. And now I want the same experience with my new characters.

BF:  You like fashion, huh? Me? I'm a sucker for good shoes and clever jackets. I just bought a pair of Steve Zissou shoes, and I'm on the lookout for the same jacket Han Solo wore in Star Wars.

RG: Of course! There are great designers in fashion. These shoes and jackets you like exist because somebody drew them! And drew them so well it makes you want to buy them!

Some fashion photographers inspire me too. Have you ever seen the work of Chen Zhun? It's a Chinese photographer, and his work is very influenced by manga. He does the translation from manga to fashion photography and created a really original look. The work of those kinds of artists inspire me.

BF: Y'know, I think Rufo and Sangreco spoke so well to readers, was because they were so different, while still being recognizable. That, and you can tell you love your characters. There's a huge difference, I think, when a creator loves their characters, and cares about them, versus someone who's just writing them and drawing them because their editor tells them to do so.

RG: It's totally different. But in both situations you have the same obligation of doing the best you can.


BF: Let's talk more about your art, my friend. A good friend of mine, artist Jorge F. Muñoz, found out I was interviewing you, and he commented on your stippling technique, and your use of it.

To me, I think it gives your characters this "beautiful demon" effect--everyone is both attractive, and frightening at the same time. I've seen the con sketches you've done, and the Daredevil pin up that's been circling the web, and I think a lot of that feeling comes from your use of this effect.

RG: Good observation! I love the fact that something that I did can suggest this kind of sensation. It's almost like a Christian approach/technique to attract people! Like those Via Crucis paintings inside churches--you never know if it's beautiful or bizarro. When I see them, I always ask myself "Why [do] I love see[ing] this nice dude being tortured?” I felt the same sensation when I read Suehiro Maruo's "The Laughing Vampire".

People are attracted by brutality when you give some artistic aspect. It's cool to see that I can propose these kind[s] of feelings with just texture. And it's exactly why I chose this technique effect. Because it totally fit[s] with Mesmo Delivery and Furry Water's vibe. It's one of the things that I'm looking for as an artist and comic book creator, to work with a lot of different layers of graphic communication.

BF: I totally agree with you, man. Great art will always evoke certain emotions--great art should haunt you.  So how did you get started in the arts?

RG: I started drawing when I was a 3 year[s] old. One of my first drawings was Batman, [and] my mom thought it was a little rabbit. Since this feedback my major goal was to make people understand what I'm drawing. I grew up, and now my goal is to make people understand what I'm telling and saying.

BF: Why comic books? You seem like a very affluent guy with different artistic inspirations, and it just seems comics are lucky to have someone with your understanding of the craft.

RG: Comics are the most interesting kind of art these days, man! Okay, we have the commercial way to make comics and we have the artistic way. I decided to become a comic book creator because of artists like R. Crumb, Art Spiegelman, Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima, Daniel Clowes, Chris Ware and some others. What they do is totally art. The artistic vein in comics.

All I want is to be read and offer some art[istic] experiences, feelings and entertainment. Some people read Mesmo Delivery like entertainment, [others] read it like an artistic book. Popular culture is art and art can be just entertainment. We can see Tim Burton's stuff at MoMA and Takashi Murakami selling millions of license based on his art. Today the concept of art is totally abstract.

BF: Who are some writers you'd like to work with on future projects?

RG: It's very difficult to respond [to] this question because I'm so focused in writing my own stories right now, and I have plans to write more comics in the future. I had a really cool experience working with Brian Azzarello in 2008. He's awesome! And I love Matt Fraction’s and Grant Morrisson’s ideas, too! I would love to work with Kazuo Koike but I'm not sure if he is writing anymore. But if Cormac McCarthy decides to write a comic book, I'm here!

BF:  I can't believe you name dropped Cormac McCarthy! Hands down one of the best authors for my money. Especially Blood Meridian. 

RG: I love this book. Love No Country For Old Men, The Crossing and The Road, too.

BF: What characters would you like to take a stab at? Now, if I were an editor, I'd hook you up with a Wolverine or Punisher mini. Maybe a revamp of Authority or Wild Cats. Give them a proper shot in the arm.

RG: I love a lot of Marvel and DC characters like Wolverine, Thor and Batman. It could be awesome to draw a story with Lone Wolf and Cub, or Conan, too. It's always fun to draw your own version of the characters you've known since your childhood!

BF: Last question, man, and it’s a bit random. I love to travel, but I've never been to Brazil. If I had a week to spend down there, what would you suggest I do? Likewise, if you were to spend a week in Texas--where I'm from--what would you want to do?

RG: Man, Brazil is [a] HUGE country! It's the most difficult question you could [ask] me! Well, you should enjoy our beaches--we have the most paradisiacal beaches you've ever seen. [The] Amazon could be a really nice adventure. But if you are an urban guy, I suggest Sao Paulo and our cultural scene, museums, parties and restaurants to make some really good friends.

I would like to know West Texas and the Guadalupe Mountains. Some day I'll visit El Capitan for sure.

Mesmo Delivery is published by Dark Horse Comics, and released February 3, 2010.

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  • ripsterling

    ripsterling Feb 4, 2010 at 5:12am

    wow, amazing interview, amazing stuff

  • Andy Oliver

    Andy Oliver Feb 4, 2010 at 1:07pm

    Good stuff Ryan. Well done.

  • Bart Croonenborghs

    Bart Croonenborghs Feb 5, 2010 at 4:42am

    much love to Grampa, great interview!

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