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You’ve published so much in Aces Weekly. Do you like everything the same or do you prefer some stories and some passages?

SANTULLO: That is a difficult question! It is like asking us to choose between our children. As a joke, I think the best is what we are doing now: this ambitious saga that runs through a possible youth of the sorcerer Merlin. It is our most extensive collective work in all these years of collaboration and the one that has given us the most satisfaction, I think.

JOK: The stuff we´ve been publishing in Aces Weekly all these years was produced in complete freedom and always counting on David Lloyd´s support, for which we´re absolutely thankful. Santullo and I really enjoy playing around with heroic fantasy, horror and sci-fi, and David gave us the chance (and room) to develop stories in this very advantageous context (he´s been our inspiration and benefactor all along). Aces Weekly´s business/creative model allowed us to produce the Dungeons & Burglars saga in full, adding up to more than 250 pages for that title alone (which also enabled editions in other countries). And we´re currently very focused on the Merlin and Hector saga, which might end up being (hopefully) longer. There are no favourites amongst my creator-owned projects, but the ones we put through Aces Weekly certainly have a plus. When David told me about Aces Weekly in 2014 I certainly felt something similar to the cooperative feeling that brought Santullo and I together in our younger days.

I’m asking you that because I feel at some point during Dungeons & Burglars you became very adept at getting everything right. All the elements fell into place at the right time the right way. Did you notice anything like that?

SANTULLO: Hahaha, I don’t know if that much but thank you very much for saying it. I do think that we were gaining experience and making a kind of method work for the Dungeons & Burglars short stories, which we were later able to make work for the long story as well. A tempo, or something similar, that was just right for the kind of story we wanted to tell, with the humour, action and tension we wanted to have. More than something conscious, that proper format for the stories was built in the very process of making them. A Dungeons & Burglars style, forged in the very act of making Dungeons & Burglars.

Jok's deskJok’s desk

Let’s talk about your graphic style, Jok. I see caricature, exaggerated features of characters and sometimes of the settings too. Also very contrasted black and white, lots of lines, hatchings, and splashes of black. Do you use pen and ink? What can you tell us about your techniques?

JOK: About my graphic style, I guess it’s a mix of things I do wrong and things I tend to exaggerate. I don’t want my characters to look dead or just lingering on panels doing nothing. An actor once told me 80% of human communication is non-verbal and, as a comic book artist, it just feels right to take advantage of that. I like my characters to perform and use their whole bodies to communicate.
Regarding techniques, I´ve always been attracted to strong contrast and big black areas. I believe using strong and bold chiaroscuro on panels clarifies art reading (and narration), intensifies atmosphere and enhances composition. I use colour pencils for layouts and traditional pens, brushes and inks. Right now, I´m using a G-pen and some brushes I brought from my trip to China. For additional details, I use white ink, thin and brush-tip markers, and add some white touch-ups with the computer (and some general digital art tweaking as the last step). My method has not changed much through the years, Sometimes I use ink wash on pages but only on limited occasions.
I still prefer paper and ink as I like the touch of paper’s actual contact with tools and like to work with natural light in my studio. Too many hours in front of a screen sounds kind of boring to me and I really try to avoid spending too much time on the computer (as much as possible, at least).

I like the way you draw moons and suns. Am I right to detect a Hugo Pratt influence?

JOK: By all means! (this is such a big compliment!) Hugo Pratt is a big source of influence for most Argentinian artists (at least my generation and older artists). My mentor was a great fan too, so I guess there’s no escape from Pratt! His compositions, powerful sense of synthesis and sinuous strokes made his style magnetic and very recognisable. You can find a masterclass behind every panel.

To be continued Monday 22 March


Jok and Santullo, how did you get to know each other?

SANTULLO: If I’m not wrong, it was over 20 years ago! In the Argentine city of Rosario an event called “Legends” was organised and I brought my first publications made at that time. On that trip we met with Jok and since then we have formed a strong friendship. We started working together a few years later, in 2005.

JOK: We were really young and I remember it was a time (the late 90s) when indie creators really collaborated with each other, displayed a good amount of organisation and stood together in constant contact, despite the absolute lack of social networks (as we know them today). All the big local publishers had disappeared all of a sudden and fanzines and indie publications flooded the scene. Santullo and I made friends with each other and with many other colleagues in that context… Those friendships still last today. As young, inexperienced creators we needed to struggle for attention in those days, and I believe this made colleagues more cooperative than competitive, and it was really easy to make good friends under those circumstances (despite living in separate cities). Later, along the way of festivals and other activities, we met our beloved translator Magnus, who is also a multi-talented creator in his own right.

How well do you get along creatively? Do you disagree sometimes or do you entirely share a common vision?

SANTULLO: We generally work very well together. In fact, I rarely remember that we were not quick to agree. I think it helps a lot to have the same background, or at least a very similar one, of reading, references, or movie culture. All this allows us to share an imaginary world. Then there’s all the time that we have been working together, which also has given us a lot of practice.

JOK: Santullo and I kind of share the same influences and love for genres (there’s so much to explore!). I completely trust his skills and determination, and we seldom express any doubts or concerns to each other. Having shared the creative process for so long allows us to face any kind of endeavour without hesitation. It’s almost a miracle to have fully grown creators getting along this way… having known each other for more than twenty years neutralised our egos completely, I guess.

The scoundrel team - Magnus Santullo JokThe scoundrel team: Magnus, Santullo, Jok

What brought you two to comics? What is your goal when you propose a story to the public?

SANTULLO: In my personal case, it was a natural process. Just as I enjoyed reading short stories and started trying to write my own short stories, the same process occurred as a comic book script writer. I really enjoy telling stories in any format.

And I really hope that that same enjoyment, which I now find in writing as much as in reading others, is transmitted to the readers: the emotion, the fun, the pleasure of a story told as best as possible to the extent of my capabilities.

JOK: I´ve learned to read with comics (by myself) and have been producing my own comics and characters since I was around 5 years old… I’ve never been detached from the medium ever since, it’s just part of who I am. Devoting most of my time to it was not a conscious choice, I´ve always been exposed to comics as a reader, fan and student… All pretty natural steps of evolution. Of course I didn’t know I´d make a living out of it, but my love for the medium was never in doubt. I believe this made things easier for me when I did decide to drop my former day-job for good in order to jump into professionalism.
My goal as a creator is to provide a convincing world inhabited by attractive characters (both protagonists and antagonists). Readers should feel drawn to keep turning pages, enjoying the ride and wanting to know more about the world and characters I´m depicting page after page. I try to focus on keeping scenes interesting but also pay attention to backgrounds also featuring characters full of life and expression. I know it’s quite an ambitious goal, but it keeps me healthily busy!

What do you think comics can bring the world?

JOK: In comics, you can show the inside world as accurately as the outside world… This allows you, as a creator, to tell all kinds of stories. It’s a very rich medium and you can rely on text as much as you can lean on images (and everything in between and in every possible combination). It’s a very valid means of communication and expression with a lot of potential yet to be explored (even for non-fiction contents). I wish world-wide markets would reflect this power… Maybe digital publishing does the trick, let’s wait and see!

SANTULLO: I think comics are something unique. A language that allows the enjoyment of image and word in unison. A language that contemplates the reader’s reading times like no other. And comics have shown something in their more than a century of life: they are capable of telling any type of story, any story, of any genre. For me, comics imply absolute freedom.

Why are you so drawn to fantasy?

JOK: Since I was a kid, I fell in love with movies and cartoons, as well as books and comics, such as The Never Ending Story, Conan, Masters of the Universe and some local characters (Wolf, Nippur, Or-Grund, The Magician and The Moving Fortress, if you wanted to look them up). But I keep enjoying the genre as an adult too (I´m a big fan of George R.R. Martin´s novels and I keep enjoying Alcatena´s art as much as I did in my younger days). I know some readers might find fantasy´s boundaries a bit tight (or outdated) today, but I feel very comfortable adding condiments to the mix in order to “degenerate the genre” just a bit. For example, the Dungeons and Burglars series features a Tarantino/Ritchie-esque touch we really enjoyed developing. Regarding the Merlin and Hector saga, we´ve kept a more classical approach, but adding a modern twist on the art and making some personal choices (and taking some risks) along the way of touring the legend.

SANTULLO: Fantasy is one of my favorite genres. And in particular one for which I feel very comfortable working with Jok (the other could be terror). In particular, what we are doing with Merlin is a kind of historical fantasy, because it contemplates both the magical legends that surround the character and the possible “real” story that could have been his temporal context (all interpreted in our own way, of course).

To be continued Monday 15 March