This month Europe Comics is travelling to San Diego for its third Comic-Con International, this time with Spanish artist Efa, who will be there to present Alter Ego, as well as Monet: Itinerant of Light (NBM Publishing) which earned Efa an Eisner nomination in the Best Painter/Multimedia Artist category this year!
How did you decide to become a comics artist? How did you achieve this goal?
It was a natural choice for me. As a kid, I drew all the time, especially comic books, and as I grew up I became more and more interested in all the ways a story can be told: I became a role-playing dungeon master, I was in some amateur theater groups, I played and sang in a lot of rock bands, I wrote poetry, etc., so telling stories by using drawings as the main tool felt like the natural path.
For Spanish people like me, it’s not always easy when it comes to making a living by illustrating comics. Luckily, I live very close to the French border, so I went to France to meet some publishers during the Angouleme comics festival. It took me several years to find a publisher who wanted to work with me or support my ideas, but in the meantime I got to know the francophone comics industry, the dos and don’ts, and everything else I needed to know. This was almost 20 years ago, and here I am still working for the francophone comics industry.
Which other comics artists and writers inspire you? Who would you love to collaborate with?
A lot of them, and not just comics artists actually. I’m very fond of 19th– and 20th-century painters and illustrators, writers, photographers, and directors. But if I had to give a few names of people who always stick with me, try to imagine a mix of Norman Rockwell, Katsuhiro Otomo and Jean Giraud (Moebius).
I’m sure that working with Otomo, whose work I adored from the moment I discovered the American color edition of Akira 30 years ago, would allow me to learn a bunch of interesting things!
As an artist, which elements of a comic book do you find the most fascinating or challenging to draw?
Those that I don’t know how to draw. Drawing a comic has to be fun and risky, and I feel that drawing just the stuff you’ve already mastered is boring. So I try to challenge myself with each book I make!
Tell us about Alter Ego and the creative process behind it.
Alter Ego is something unusual given the way we usually do comics in Europe, as there aren’t just two authors — writer and artist — but two teams composed of two writer/creators, two lead artists, two or more background artists, and a bunch of colorists. All working on the same wavelength, hiding their egos for the best of the books. You don’t need to read the books in a specific order to get the story within each season. But we — the artists — needed to have everything under control as characters or scenes from one book could appear in another one, so we worked with timelines and were always careful about the consistency of the characters and backgrounds — or even cars! — from one book to another. The writers did a great job! And working on this project was a lot of fun. We’re used to working alone in our studios, but here, sharing the process with other artists was an enhancing experience, even if it was a kind of virtual studio. I learned a lot during the making of these books!
What are you currently working on, or what are your future creative plans? If it isn’t a secret!
I’m working on a book with Salva Rubio, with whom I made Monet: Itinerant of Light (now nominated for the Eisner Awards). This time we’re telling the story of the teen years of jazz legend Django Reinhardt, and the gypsy teenagers of 1920s Paris. We’re having a lot of fun! I’ve changed again the way I’m drawing and painting the book — I’m doing the coloring myself, and I chose watercolor for this one. Rubio and I have also signed for another book that we’ll do together when we finish the one on Django, but there I have to remain silent. And I’m planning a series with Denis Lapière, with whom I worked on Seule (Futuropolis), which was released last January in France and Belgium. And as a long-distance future plan I’m also working on some scripts of my own, it’s been a while since I did my last book as a complete author and that’s something I miss.
Header image: Monet: Itinerant of Light © Efa & Salva Rubio / NBM Publishing