Music is a universal language, so it makes sense that one of Shadowline's most successful recent series, 27, was created by a Canadian and an Argentinian. This week we head South...very South...to give the 10 Questions treatment to artist RENZO PODESTA as he's busily working on 27: Second Set.
1) How excited were you with the success of 27: First Set and then finding out that a sequel was given the green light?
Well, the success of 27 : First Set really took me by surprise. Who knew that two almost unknown guys could get second printings, a lot of speculation and crazy prices on eBay, huh? It was uncommon, but if you read the books you‘ll see we just did our work with love, passion and humility from the very beginning and fortunately the sales reflected that. We received mountains of positive feedback, reviews and a lot of support from readers, and that is just great. At the end of the day you work to make people happy, and if people are happy, then you are too, right?
I was even more surprised when Charles (Soule) and Jim (Valentino) asked me, “Hey, what about a sequel?” At the end of First Set it was as if everything flowed to that ending, and everything ends right because Charles did his job amazingly well. But on the other hand, we explored some strong concepts, concepts which had yet to fully evolve. So here we are again, expanding the adventures of Will Garland and I couldn’t be more happier with the results.
2) You're a native Argentinian and English is not your native language, so have you ever found it to be difficult to work on drawing a script that was written in English?
Oh no, not at all. I studied English since I was a kid and I’ve been working on American comics since 2003, so I’ve seen a lot of comics and scripts in English. It’s funny, because I was used to reading scripts that were well-written but told below-average stories or great stories with a poorly-written script. When I started to work with Charles, I was really into the language and I was happy to see a really good script that allowed for the artist to participate and told a multi-layered story. That’s what I like to read, whether it’s written in English or Spanish or French… well, I don’t know French, but you get the idea!
3) Do you play any instruments?
Yes, I’ve been playing drums since I was teenager and I’m trying to learn guitar. In fact I used my guitars as reference for 27. I have my own musical project called Dedocorvo, and our new album is coming out any moment. (You can listen and download the albums at http://dedocorvo.blogspot.com)
4) How did your involvement with 27 begin? Were you involved in coming up with the concept?
I always wanted to work on a comic with music or musicians as topic. That was something I felt that I owed to myself since I’m also musician. When I met Charles and he told me about an idea he had for a guitarist dealing with strange forces, it was hard to say no. It was that and it was the fact that I always wanted to draw dead pigeons coming to life! But I always try to connect the stories I work on with something about myself. I knew I had to empathize with Will Garland. I mean, if I had to be in his shoes, if I had to stop my work because my hand was not able to respond anymore, it’s unimaginable. My work is my life and I felt the emptiness, the suffering of this guy from the beginning. I don’t know if I could be Will’s friend, but I can understand him. Will is, in a way, is just a guy learning the lesson of his lifetime. In fact he has to learn a lot yet.
The concept of the 27 Club is widely known, and here in Argentina we have some members of that club as well! But I believe 27 is not JUST about that concept and we can see through the Second Set.
5) What is it like being a comic book fan (& creator) in Argentina?
Wow, that’s a great question! You have to picture Argentina’s culture as a machine trying to balance things. There is nothing in Argentina that can be called a comic industry, but it’s a country with a lot of talented people. So if you are an artist and you want to work on comics, you have to show your work in ways that maximize the exposure and allow you to earn some money in the process. You can submit work to the U.S. or Europe and just hope that you’ll get a name for yourself, then a career, and then maybe a future and a life without economical pressures. Here in Argentina is really difficult to build up any of these four points and that’s sad.
But that sadness is balanced by the result, which is aesthetic diversity. Look at Eduardo Risso, Ariel Olivetti or Juan Ferreyra (just to name a few) and you can see that they developed three different styles, three different ways to think about comics. That notion of difference is the rule here. You create your own thing, no matter if belongs to a particular market or if doesn’t.
But there is a community anxious to read those experiences, and that’s a good thing. And there is a community of artists anxious to show their art and they are trying to change things, opening doors, making a path for other. We’re in constant evolution, so it wouldn’t surprise me if we have something called a field in a few years. I truly hope so.
6) You changed up your art style a bit from the first series to the second; was that done on purpose or is this just your talent evolving?
I have bug up my butt all of the time and I’m very critical of my own work. I don’t like to repeat my style (or at least I like to believe I’m not repetitive) so I’m always trying to learn something new. It allows me to vary my style, but I have to think about visual identity as well. In the case of 27, I had to deal with Will’s own particular identity, all of those textures, the mood and the page composition… even the shape of the panels! So when Charles proposed that we work together on a second story, I told him “Of course, I’m in, but I’ll work it slightly different than on First Set”. So I kept some aspects like the page designs and the semi-realistic anatomies, but this time I strongly focused on color and weight. In Second Set I worked without inks and I painted directly over the pencils just to see what happened. I don’t know what the readers think, but I’m truly happy about the results.
7) Who is your favorite dead musician?
Oh, there are too many, from Ian Curtis (Joy Division) to Mark Linkous (Sparklehorse) and everything in between. From Argentina I have to say Luca Prodan, the lead of Sumo, a great Argentinian punk-rock band from the 80s which mixed a Velvet Underground vibe with a sort of dark reggae. He was born in Italy but he grew up in UK and then after the punk years, he moved to Argentina and created Sumo. He sang in English and in Spanish, something really rare back then but his music defined the future generations of rock bands. Oh, and Elliott Smith. We can’t forget Elliott.
8) Is there anything you want so badly that you would consider making a deal like the one Will Garland made in 27?
Haha, nah, I’m good for now. I have everything I need. And I agree with Will at the end of First Set, when he realizes that effort and constancy makes you an artist, not something magical or supernatural. You sit and make art until you’re happy or dead. And that’s it.
But I would like to go to a bar with Erebus one day. He’s the best!
9) Do you get to attend any comic book conventions?
Through the years I was more a Bill Watterson kind of guy, I guess… you know, anonymous and without a face. I’m like a hermit living with my cats, so I barely attend conventions here in my country… I just go when they invite me. But nowadays it would be great to attend some of the big U.S. conventions, just for curiosity. I’m really curious about the convention after-parties…HA!
10) What do you enjoy more -- writing a comic or drawing a comic?
Oh, I enjoy creating them in the purest sense of the word. I mean, the whole process from thinking of an idea to making something out of it is just fantastic. When I work on my own stuff I can’t separate one thing from another because creating comics is a language on its own. I take advantage of my drawing skills and I write my comics by first sketching them. There are no scripts, just page patterns and pure visual storytelling. Of course there is text and word balloons and captions, but they are floating always around a visual concept. I like to write literature as well. I have a couple of books published in Argentina containing poetry and short stories. And I’m always reworking my novel which I hope to finish someday. But for now, it’s comics and more comics!
Follow Will Garland's latest chapter in the second issue of 27: Second Set, which was released this past Wednesday.