How were you able to bring APOSPEROS: MERCHANT OF SOULS to the States? How did you come into contact with Visionary Comics?
Nektarios Chrissos: I had worked on the general storyline quite a bit in Greece, had also published a short story with the main character here, in Azodd magazine, back in 2006. At that time, I happened to read about a new comics studio searching for artists and writers, namely Visionary Comics Studio, in a local website with comics-related news. I sent them an e-mail and made initial contact with the Studio's Head, Chuck Sellner. He liked the story and agreed to represent and help publish it. Then I met George through Deviantart, where we both have accounts, and we made a four pager comic which we sent to a contest here. That four-pager was later remade as a six pager. We sent it to Visionary; it was published as a side-story in Markosia's "Bitter Souls #3". Later it was published digitally as well. Now it's free, it can be found at http://visionarycomics.blogspot.com/search/label/Nektarios%20Chrissos.So Visionary Comics helped us start something in the States, and that's a really good thing for us.
Tell us about your careers in Europe. How long have you been working in comics? What kinds of work did you create? Have you two ever worked together before?
George Martzoukos: In Greece, there aren't any comic book magazines as far as I know except from one, maybe two, that host regularly stories from different creators. I have published work on other magazines that host comic book stories in their last pages. The first story was published on 2005 if i remember correctly. We are working together for the first time with Nektarios, although we have been co-published on the same issue of the same greek comic-book magazine.
NC: Well, I have been writing fiction since 1997, and I still write fiction quite a lot. I began comic scripting around 2003 because I always loved the medium and I thought it suits my storytelling, but found artists willing to work with me only in 2004. I have worked with Greek comics artists like George Baritakis, George Dimitriou, Kostas Frangiadakis, George Martzoukos, Ioannis Fidelis, Dimitra Adamopoulou and a few others in Greece and abroad. I have worked on sci-fi, horror, occult and sword-and-sorcery stories, most of them were short comics (4-6 pages), with the exception of Mythos, a sword and sorcery comic created by the Greek artist Kostas Frangiadakis, where I wrote three 48-page issues, the work-in-progress "Diary of the Last Wolf" that Ioannis Fidelis draws, which already spawns along five issues of 32-pages each, and the upcoming Aposperos 48-pager pilot-comic.
APOSPEROS is a supernatural crime story, but revolves heavily around issues of faith. What would you say are the important themes of the story?
GM: The visual unification of different dimensional realms is what technically draws my interest and it is a part of this main theme that involves faith, that fits very nicely with it. For example there are points where the scenery shifts and there is an unseen world that aposperos is overwhelmed by in his human persona based sense; as his greater part of what he is, is a different story. So you will see everything turning into something familiar yet out of this world. The colors are more vivid there, the relationship between color and materials of buildings or beings is more fluid. And I would say that it is shocking as you don't know what to expect.
NC: Aposperos's story, and the story of his allies and enemies, is a story about our faith and the loss of it, about our mistakes and regrets, about correcting the errors of our ways and about sacrificing parts of ourselves to find redemption. On a higher level, it revolves around our humanity and the true essence and importance of our souls. A friend has also said it's a story about futile fights, which is interesting, because it's a theme I have found to appear, one way or another, in most of my works. I respect futile fights and those conducting them; I consider them the noblest of fights.
The soul collector in the story is interesting, since he is human, not supernatural. What led to that choice?
NC: A supernatural being would really be the easy way, wouldn't it? But what about someone human that has to claim souls from his fellow human beings, despite being torn by his guilt about it? How and why would someone end up doing something so despicable, and even if he were strong willed, relentless about it, what would happen if he were to lose his faith and try to change his life's course, before he'd be consumed by his own inner struggle? In my opinion, these are interesting questions that can make an interesting story about interesting characters and their lives.
What was the approach to the artwork? It looks as if it started out as photographs which were then digitally manipulated.
GM: I decided that I would emphasize on the psychological aspects of the characters on Aposperos and skip the use of a matte, digital painting style. For traditional painting, there was no time for what we are doing with the book, taking in consideration monthly issues. If you look at the very first panels (the last two on the first page or on page 6 or 7, Magda Callidos' hand) you will notice that it is digital painting out of reference strictly realistic, on a very plain skin texture or non. But as I was working I thought: "Okay, let's hold on a second and not create something that has been done a thousand times, but let's just see instead how the viewer engages on the page and how the eye focuses on each panel". So I started experimenting with that flow, that fine art feel where the eye flows on the page based on the color wheel and where nothing remains static. I started re-painting more or less everything, like in oils in an impressionistic manner. I placed my attention on expression, emotion and mood. In this way time is saved, as, just in order to shift expressions and re-paint what looks as a photo, it's an 8-12 hours work for each page; Just by maintaining the basic characteristics such as the eyes in a way that their perspective is already set so that no unnessessary time is spent in outlines etc., including scenery etc. etc. is a 10 hours day work. The process of shooting the pictures only takes 2 days or something. This wasn't the problem. So, I have worked on many different facial expressions of Aposperos; for example you will notice that the faces are kind of different from panel to panel although you know that it is the same Character; Due to the mood, his face is getting more apocalyptic, more demonic according to the script. I hope if the project moves on, to be able to work more on the architecture of the unseen world and create very detailed apocalyptic sceneries on zbrush that will be later on retouched and re-worked in a fine art feel in photoshop. I would love that. So the technique is partially photography and partially scanned paint pigment. Both are blended in separate transparent layers in a way that the work looks neither as photo nor as dry matt canvas.
The ending seems to indicate that there could be a sequel to APOSPEROS. Are there any plans for that?
NC: The ending is really only the beginning! I really hope the first, pilot issue goes well, because it will give us a good motive to unfold what I consider, a story worth telling. I have tons of background information on file, new characters and settings and a storyline I consider solid enough to be interesting and worth reading, perhaps in an arc of 8 to 20, or even more, issues!
You guys are releasing APOSPEROS in both print and digital formats. What would you guys say is the role of digital comics in the modern day marketplace?
GM: First of all to be reading a comic book on the computer monitor, is much more clear, in a sense of being able to see every little detail under a light source. I don't recall how many times i have put printed artbooks under the sunlight in order to be able to trace painted finish and eye-read a technique. It certainly is magical.
NC: I think Aposperos will initially be published in digital form only. I believe in this new format, it is very promising in my opinion, now with the upcoming iPad and various other e-book readers.There are pros and cons to it, of course; an obvious advantage is the minimal costs of publishing and marketing. They are ecological as well, I might add. The immediate availability to everybody having an internet connection is a big plus, of course. Disadvantages? A big one: It's not paper. A book on paper, a printed comic is something entirely different, for me it's an artifact, I feel something when holding one in my hands, something which an e-book might never give me. When I have read it and put it in my library where it belongs, the feeling is very rewarding. And then there's the matter of piracy, which I really feel can hurt comics artists more than, say, movie studios or music producers and artists. Comics' piracy is way easier in digital format, and I don't or wouldn't like to see comics creators (especially small, like us and VCS) falling to their knees because of it. On the other side, I believe in the freedom of circulation of information and creation so as for it to be available for bigger audiences. I really hope a fine line can be found between the two tendencies (freedom of information and copyright issues) that would benefit both comics creators and readers alike.
As you see it, what are the biggest differences between American comics and European comics? What are some similarities? What is unique about comics in Greece specifically?
GM: I believe that Europeans work more with architecture and scenery rather than anatomy, or facial expressions. I think they're much more cartoon oriented regarding comics and directed towards technical design, rather than having realistic painting influences. I don't reject space and perspective but i don't find much meaning in it, (as it tends towards technical drawings that have less to do with art) if there is no color depth behind the art or strong design of characters and proper filling of the interior beyond the traces of the outlines. The outlines should not even be there if textures where there for example. And that is one main reason for which i had been avoiding comics when i first started drawing. Nektarios: European comics, I think, tend to be more 'artistically intriguing', less 'mainstream', so to say, than American comics. It's an analogy that applies to both art and script. That is not to say, of course, that there are no exceptions to this rule both in Europe and the States; but these are the two different norms, in my opinion, and quite frankly, I like them both for different reasons! I believe I personally have been more influenced by the American Way than the European Way in comics, but I try to "merge" elements of both styles in my scripts for the benefit of my stories and their readers. Many writers and artists from both sides of the Atlantic seem to be doing the same, as they can easier exchange visions with the help of the Internet and market globalization. This fact is not without its dangers, of course, but the result of this mix of styles and elements can be very interesting at times. Now Greece in particular has a very interesting, indy-like, comic scene. There are some really strong politically-oriented, philosophical and autobiographic-like comics artists and writers here. However, new styles and directions pop up all the time as new aspiring artists and writers try to create comics in a small, not really rewarding scene, that offers little chance of making local careers, I'm afraid.
What are your ultimate goals for APOSPEROS?
GM: I would like to work on it for as long as it influences and excites others.
NC: And I want what possibly every writer wants with their stories: The characters to 'touch' people, mine (and their) thoughts to give them food for thought, the story to entertain them and help them escape from their daily routines and ultimately, perhaps, fuel the inner spark of their own souls, giving them power to deal with their personal worries, problems, issues, or life events.
Is there anything else you would like us to know?
NC: Well, I only want to say that the story beginning with our first, upcoming, 48-pager, will become even more interesting as events unfold. To sound cliched, I personally consider Aposperos's completed storyline to be a hell of a roller-coaster ride, full of twists and turns!
Any websites, blogs, etc. where we can find out more about you and your work?