Let’s get back to your own work. Jok, about the texture of your drawings: what kind of paper do you use? what format? and what ink?
JOK: I´ve always been fond of ordinary stationary. Currently, I try to use good materials, but nothing too fancy (some of my colleagues have become stationary sybarites; going the opposite way gives me some silly sense of freedom).
I usually like regular Chinese ink (that I buy in Buenos Aires´ Chinatown) but lately I’m using liquid watercolor (black… and gray on some occasions). For paper, I’ve just bought a big ream of paper (120 grams) which is quite common. I know this answer can be a tad disappointing, ha! Some sybarites around me just can´t stand my proud vulgarity!!
Dungeons & Burglars: plans never work, characters end up with little or nothing; there are no admirable heroes, everyone’s at least partly ridiculous: to what extent does it fit your vision of humanity?
SANTULLO: Well, I don’t think they are in themselves a vision of humanity. In fact, I have a rather optimistic view of humanity. In the case of these characters, the circumstances in which they end up being involved and the consequences they have to put up with are also part of the narrative fabric. That is, if they succeeded and got what they wanted, that would be the end, it would not make sense for them to continue having adventures. Also, I think that in general we all like to cheer up for the underdog, for the loser. There is also the aspect of humour, of generating humour from the repetition of failure, of constant defeat. And finally, seeing that the characters never give up, it seems to me that it also grants them endless willpower, which I think makes them very attractive.
Did you base yourself on what you’ve observed in real life, or is it just a way to be fun? Perhaps it also reflects a certain cinematic tradition?
SANTULLO: Once again, it does not reflect so much a personal opinion, but rather it is due to the very nature of the story. When we thought about making Dungeons & Burglars, our idea was to generate something not seen exactly as the traditional heroic fantasy and that is how the idea of combining the epic tale with the classic stories of criminals, which belongs to the noir genre, arose. And it is from the crook stories that the main protagonists come out: criminals, thieves, marginals. That kind of character’s point of view works better with the combination of genres than anything else.
For me Dungeons & Burglars got more ambitious. It was like the beginning was warming up, and you went from mock epic to genuine epic.
SANTULLO: It can be, yes, of course it can be. I think that once the universe was defined and the characters were developed, everything was set up to become more ambitious and even epic, why not.
Is there one of your characters you’re particularly fond of?
SANTULLO: With the passage of time and the development of the stories, I became fond of Bolgir and Ednor. They are a lot of fun to write.
I like the joke of Ednor as the character who only expresses himself in questions. What were you trying to do with him?
SANTULLO: His origin was primarily a joke, but in a way he was transformed into a moral compass with his constant interpellations. Ednor is not really a thief. He is not a criminal. He is there for friendship and he would never abandon the rest, that makes him different, so it was logical that he should communicate differently. So he is always asking questions.
Getting a bell from a monastery, or a magic eye from a castle: they act in an organised way, as a group, so it’s also a kind of heist, isn’t it?
SANTULLO: Of course. As I said before, it is the sum of two genres: heroic fantasy and crook stories. The context is that of the worlds of magic, fantastic beings, castles, elves and princesses; but the practical application, let’s say, is that of robberies, assaults, detailed plans, etc.
Is Magnus the character the same as Magnus the translator?
SANTULLO: Yes, he is. It is our humble tribute. Only the real Magnus is a great person, generous and warm. Nothing to do with the trickster Magnus from fiction.
Flashbacks, different points of view on the same event (for example Baladir leaving the battle): do you have conscious goals in the way you tell the story?
SANTULLO: At least I try not to reiterate formulas. I have the anecdote in mind and then I try to develop it. I use all the resources that I can for this. And I always try to make it funny, because I think humour is the main thing in these stories. I usually have a clear ending, the closure, and I try to get there organically.
What else is available by you (in any language)?
SANTULLO: Well, in Spanish I have about seven published prose novels and about forty graphic novels, much of it published in Argentina and Uruguay. In English there is everything from Aces Weekly, of course, and also Dengue (Humanoids), 40 Coffins (Space Goat) and all the books that were released by Virus (the Heavy Metal label) last year: Sleeper, Band of Orcs and Dungeons & Burglars. Dengue (Les Humanoïdes Associés), Far South (Glénat), Quarante Cercueils (Mosquito), etc. also came out in France. In Italy we have been publishing a lot with Jok in Lanciostory magazine. Denmark, Brazil, China, we try to reach everywhere.
As a reader I imagine you doing a western with some heroism but mostly lots of ridiculous characters. Or a purely humour-based comic set in everyday life. What do you think?
SANTULLO: Well, western is one of the genres we haven’t gotten into yet but I’m sure we’d really like to do it, don’t you think, Jok? And one of humour and real life we did once! It was called La Liga and it came out online here in Uruguay several years ago. We had so much fun doing it, it was a short daily strip.
JOK: It´d be great to put together a Western, of course! I bet we could find a way of doing something fun. However, the most complicated thing about creator-owned projects is enabling sustainable production. But if any publisher asked for a western from us, I believe we could put something together pretty fast!
To be continued Friday 2 April