For those keeping a relatively close eye on the world of comics and comic book publishing, 2009 held some significant stories. Disney’s acquisition of Marvel, just approved by shareholders at the tail-end of the year (complete with jackassy headlines, may be at the top of the list. There were also significant works published to wide notice, like Robert Crumb’s ‘Book of Genesis’, his translation of the bible, from which sprung museum exhibits and critical acclaim.
But many of the most interesting stories going on in the comics world fly well below the radar of the general public. Just as many of my favorite comics come from creators and concern characters that have yet to come to widespread acclaim, so do some of the most interesting perspectives on this beloved, yet extremely varied, industry.
To that end, I asked a handful of creators to offer their own perspectives on 2009 and do a bit of prognosticating for 2010, both as it pertains to their careers and, if they like, to wider industry.
A Conversation with Kako
During the past decade, a number of Brazilian artists burst onto the American mainstream comics scene. It’s a movement perhaps ushered in by the ever-expanding success of Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon, the twin artists who most recently have teamed for ‘Daytripper.’
Illustrator and graphic designer Kako is one of their countrymen, and has recently been a part of significant comics projects like Comic Book Tattoo. When speaking of 2009, the São Paulo-based creator says it “was at the same time the best and the worst year for me in overall.”
“I think the most exciting event in 2009 for me was receiving the news that Comic Book Tattoo won both Eisner and Harvey Awards for Best Anthology. We all knew at the time we were doing it that it was something special and Rantz Hoseley deserves all our gratitude for the herculean job he did.”
But with this highlight came some harsh realities.
“It was supposed to be a year to rest, take things easy, but as all things in life unexpectedly went the other way,” he told Osmosis Online. “Already in January I was invited to work on covers for both DC Comics and Vertigo, which was the best way to start the year, I waited a long time for opportunities like these and I simply couldn’t decline them.”
However, when it came to opportunities, Kako found himself with perhaps an embarrassment of riches.
“At the same time my illustration works were also being commissioned internationally more and more, which is great but working internationally demands an incredible effort dealing with new ways to manage your business . . . it’s a different timing for each country your work for (especially when it comes to payments and currency exchange ) so you have to reorganize your life entirely almost week after week until you reach the transition where the business regulates itself.”
Correspondingly, not being sure that his payments would be coming in a timely manner, he sought to fill the gaps with more work from his Brazilian client. Accordingly, he was never able to take a much needed break.
“… I had this serious problem on my back and from time to time I had to stop working to make the pain go away, but the more I had to work, the more it hurt . . . and the more I had to stop. So the cycle only got worse to the point that many jobs had to be delayed. It was horrible. So I decided to stop everything for at least a month once I finished everything I had to do in June/July.”
The fallout was that while he managed to finish most of what he had to deliver, Kako says “unfortunately the bomb exploded on Vertigo’s hand.”
“Man, this was the worst thing that happened to me in my entire career. I remember I finally had cleared all my schedule and had two entire weeks to work for [Vertigo] alone on the [ed. note: fantastic!] Greek Street covers. Ideas and sketches were all approved and by the time I was finishing one of them I had to be hospitalized urgently.”
Kako only remembers going to the hospital and asking his wife to contact his clients to cancel pending work. He was sedated for an entire week due to the pain.
“Will Dennis and everybody at Vertigo totally understood what I was going through and managed to call [ed. note: well-known cover artist] Jock in time to pick up from where I left. After that ‘blank’ week I was able to talk to Will and we decided that we should wait to see how I was going to heal because I was still on risk of surgery.”
Kako was fortunate to avoid surgery, but had to stay on bed rest. ‘Greek Street’ would have to wait. While his editors at Vertigo were on board with this decision, “it hurt,” he says.
“It hurt even more than the pain I had in my back, because that’s something that was left incomplete inside me and I won’t deny that for many times I thought about doing all the covers even though they won’t be published.”
“Maybe I will.”
He emphasizes that what hurts the most are what he perceives to be his “bad decisions” — like not resting the way he should have and not seeking medical attention sooner.
But, after about a month and a half of rest, Kako was back in business — and he’s ready to tackle 2010. He’s pondering an independently released book that he hope “to start in February but with no rush to finish,” he says.
“It’ll be my first book . . . I’ll let you know more later,” he promises.
Taking a look at the industry, Kako was recently impressed with Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis.
“It is an amazing book about her youth in Iran during the Islamic revolution and her years studying in Europe,” he shares. “It’s that kind of story that brings you elements that are totally new in many aspects: the culture, the country, the history of that particular time. I think it’s important that people produce and release books about their own culture and it’s wonderful when you have the opportunity to read them.”
“I believe comics are such a good way to make people learn and books like this are a good example,” says Kako. “Her black & white artwork is so simple and yet so striking … I love the way she draws the characters’ eyes. Definitely something to read again and again.”
He’s also excited to read the aforementioned Moon and Ba’s ‘Daytripper.’
“From time to time during this year they showed me pages,” he says, “and I can tell that it’ll blow your mind.”
Kako also says he’s “dying to see” fellow Brazilians Rafael Grampa and Daniel Pelizzari’s “Furry Water and The Sons of Insurrection.”
“I don’t know when it’ll be released yet, but the sooner the better!”
Stay tuned for Part II, when we chat with Alex Robinson, creator of ‘Box Office Poison’ and ‘Kidnapped Santa Claus’, and his podcasting partner Mike Dawson, creator of Queen (the band)-centric memoir ‘Freddie & Me’ and the online comic serial ‘Troop 142.’