ComicsVerse’s Rachel Davis talks with Fabien Nury and Brüno at NYCC 2017! They talk Atar-Gull, Tyler Cross, and upcoming projects they may be working on!

Rachel: Welcome to New York Comic Con 2017. My name is Rachel Davis. I’m with the dynamic duo themselves, Fabien Nury and Brüno, and you are listening to Comicsverse. How are you both enjoying the con so far?

Fabien: It’s great, thanks. It’s entirely new to us. It’s overwhelming, so many images, so many people, so many costumes. We’re not used to that in France, so it’s a bit of a revelation, and we’re enjoying it.

Brüno: I don’t know what to tell. Fabien tells everything we felt about it.

Rachel:  Well, I’m glad you both are having a great time. Now, you two have worked together now on multiple books, Tyler Cross and Atar-Gull, what is it, like collaborating together, and what do you enjoy about working with one another?

Fabien: Well, we’ve become friends over the years, so it makes things actually even easier. Our first book together was Atar-Gull, so it’s a very, very dark story about slavery, and adapted from a novel that is, that was written 200 years ago, but that happens to be the fiercest, meanest piece I ever read about that thing. So it was kind of, it was so daring at its time, and it remains entirely relevant, I think, nowadays.

I wanted to adapt it, but I never found the right art and the right artist, because a more realistic approach than Brüno’s, it would have been gruesome, it would have been repelling, in a way, and I didn’t feel, it didn’t feel right. So I kept looking, and then I knew of Brüno, I knew his books, I enjoyed his art, and I told myself, “Hey. With him, I wouldn’t have to cut out the darkest parts.” His style, which is a bit symbolic, enables us to touch on the subject without horrifying everybody too much really. So I started this way.

Fabien Nury and Brunö

Rachel: And Brüno, what is it like collaborating with Fabien?

Brüno: It’s like a symbiotic collaboration. And to speak about Atar-Gull, when Fabien sent me the script, what I love most it’s that the main character is a very dark one. Usually, in slavery stories, you found a black guy who is a coll one and here Atar Gull is the son of a king, and because of slavery, he became quite a psycho killer. And it’s a, I think it’s the real power of this story, that our main character is a really original point of view about slavery, and what slavery makes to people.

***Missing question from Rachel***

Fabien: Just, of course, beyond the obvious condemnation of slavery, I think there’s a very interesting approach by Sue in the original, is that it is a story about revenge and not rebellion. Rebellion is a positive thing, the purpose of which being freedom. Now, revenge is a negative thing, which is, in the case of Atar-Gull, very understandable.

But it also destroys him. And in the end, he could be free, and he wishes to remain a slave to go through that revenge of his. So, in the end, he is the slave of his own revenge lust, and I thought that was the darkest point that Sue had reached, and I hadn’t read it anywhere else, and I thought that was very interesting. And also the fact that the slavers actually think of themselves that they’re good guys, and they never see themselves as the villain of this story.

They think it’s normal; they think it’s, that this system it’s been going on forever, so why shouldn’t it last? And also I thought it was a very good reminder of how young liberty is. You know, liberty’s like 200 years old. So, that’s a baby. I mean, slavery grew 4,000 years old before that. So we should not take freedom for granted, and we should always remind of what slavery does to every one of us, including the slaves. And this is something I had not seen, in particular in the Hollywood films, for examples.

Rachel: And can I just say, the last page of Atar Gull is haunting. It was one of the most haunting books I’ve ever read, quite frankly, in my life, and everybody should read that book.

Fabien: Thank you very much.

Rachel: No, my goodness.

But getting back to what you don’t see in American media, both of your collaborations, Atar-Gull being a slave narrative, and Tyler Cross being this kind of heist comic, you don’t see those kinds of genres portrayed in American comics as much. What’s the appeal to both of you of working with those kinds of genres?

Fabien: Oh, we love, I can say that we both love classical genres. The noir, the adventure, the crime and adventure, war stories, spy stories, and they’ve become part of our culture. I mean, after 80 years of being fed American culture, some of it has become ours. It’s just like the western film became Italian, in a way, because Sergio Leone he has probably made the most influential westerns ever, and I mean this guy, he did not even speak English, and he shot them in Spain, so that’s very funny.

And with Tyler Cross, which is a gangster story, we were trying to do our own spaghetti crime story or Euro crime. It’s like this Italian coffee was there’s no water left, only coffee, and it’s very bitter, it’s very dark, but it’s also kind of energetic. And we love those aspects. Well, the two are different, first off because, well as French people, slavery does concern us too, mostly as slavers because some French cities were entirely built on slavery.

I mean, you have cities over the seashore, along with the Atlantic, that, I mean, they made fortunes with that. So, you know, this is the third end of the triangle. Yeah, have Africa. Yeah, have America. But then you have Europe where all the trade came from, and we also need to be reminded that, as Europeans.

Now, Tyler Cross is more our love letter to a specific genre of American culture, which is the gangster film and the gangster novel and, I mean, we’ve loved that forever. I grew up with those. Maybe a little bit more than you, you did not grow up with gangsters as much as I did maybe.

Fabien Nury and Brüno

 

Brüno: Yes. Because, in fact, when, after Atar-Gull, when we speak about a new project, I come with a, with a movie like a redneck movie, “Hey, it will be cool to make a redneck comics.” And Fabien told me, “No, no. Look at this picture of Humphrey Bogart in High Sierra.” And in fact, there was a terrific picture of Humphrey Bogart with a shotgun, in black and white, and those pictures were very, I had a crush on them, and I say to Fabien, “Okay. We’re going into that, into a classic gangster film.” And [inaudible 00:08:42] and Sons will wait.

Fabien: We kept the rednecks, but not Charlie Bronson. So we went, rather to 50s movies, than to Mr. Majestic, 70 mo–

Brüno: –70s movies.

Rachel: What I find so compelling about both of these titles, and there are so many reasons to love both of these titles, is the framing of black bodies, or in female bodies, in these tacks. So, how do you go about framing with words, and in images, these bodies of these characters that are treated as slaves, in the literal sense for Atar-Gull, but also you’ve used the word slaves in Tyler Cross to describe the Hispanic workers of the town. How do you go about framing these characters?

Fabien: Well I knew that, for example, one of the arguments of working with Brüno, is that he loves African American culture. The music, the imagery, he’s been there forever. And he’s been living in this universe long before we met. And this is something very important because it gives more life to your project.

He’s got a lot more knowledge than what is strictly required for one specific project. And Brüno, he had done the Inner City Blues, which is pure blaxploitation, he had done all those titles, and I knew that, and I hoped that he would take pleasure in taking those alternate takes on the genre.

Yes, there’s a lot of suffering from female characters, or from the African American, especially in the second title cross, where this is the angle, state penitentiary in Louisiana. And, well we always come up like, “Okay. We have this gangster badass. Where is it interesting to send him through?”

And after the first book, it was like, okay, so he’s got the suit, he’s got the gun, he’s got the hat and the tie, and everything, let us just strip him naked and see if the character survives. And the best place to strip your character naked is jail.

So we sent him to jail, and I started researching about Angola, and what, the most amazing thing that I discovered about Angola is the business aspect of it. The fact that at some point, it’s not entirely true, but some character says, “This is no jail. This is a business.”

And as a business, it is a good one because what you have is actually prisoners working for free, and the prison selling their work to enterprises and companies. And, if you want to go further into the irony, what if those companies actually belong to the mafia? Then you have the state penitentiary being turned into a mafia racket. And we thought, “Okay. That’s a very ironical way of tackling things.” So, we can go on.

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And then, I mean, the suffering comes with the genre. And not all the characters we like, because we’ve got to kill a bunch of them on a regular basis. But it’s always like crime is the crime is only a version of human ambition, you know, a violent one. But somebody’s got a gun, somebody’s got a suitcase and, yeah, both get results.

Rachel: True. Brüno, what is it like framing these bodies of other people? What comes to mind? How do you go about doing this?

Brüno: I look a lot of movies before I start to — before we start working on a book. We have a sort of reference movie…

Fabien: Influential films.

Brüno: –we talk about. And I work mostly with these movies, and I make a lot of research on the internet, which is a very good tool to find pictures which are very stimulating for my [inaudible 00:13:07]. It’s, you know in the processing of making Tyler Cross the staging is very important because our main character is a very classical one. He hasn’t any superpowers or special gun, he’s very classic: a tie, hat, and classic gun. And so what is crucial in Tyler Cross is the way we tell things.

And with Fabien, he sends me the text, I send him a storyboard, and the work begins. We were calling each other, and he told me he has new ideas about my storyboard. He writes again, I redraw, and so, and so, and it could take a long time. And in the end, I think we must reach a fast-paced narrative without daytime. It’s, I think it’s an essence of Tyler Cross. Dead bodies but no dead times.

Fabien: Yeah. We always try to reach the maximum intensity. Every sequence, every page has its own rhythm. And with this type of stories we do, we don’t work on 2,000 pages, graphic novels like. So there’s a short amount of frames if you start counting them, so every frame counts. And we have to be like sharp, incisive ways, of reach the maximum intensity, of like saying, “Okay, this is a very clear page, but it lacks impact.” And it’s all about impacting the reader, creating emotions. And many times, I mean, Brüno will draw the entire set piece and a lot, he’s a very generous type of guy. So, I mean, he’ll do this entire jail, and I’m like, “Hey. Why not just this wall and the flag.”

And it’s very funny because it brings us back to the ways of the B movies, where they did not shoot the entire set because they did not have an entire set, because they were pool films, B series, and they didn’t have that much money, but they were daring. Because I mean, they were a bit working in darkness and I think a bit of that darkness protected them, in the way the Dawn Seagals, the Robert Aldridge, those great directors of the 50s, 60s, and 70s. They did that, I mean, in a short amount of time, with their means and they were so efficient. Small means, big effect. And that’s the type of work we’re trying to do together. From, and every page is this way.

Rachel: So, what do you both think comics can do as a medium, and what should they do as a medium?

Fabien: Two things. Comics can do anything. I mean, I’ve been re-reading last week The Sandman, Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman, and it really makes you feel small, you know, as a writer. You’re like, “Okay. These guys, they can do, the Gaimans, the Moores, they can do anything. They can tell any story.”

And I think it’s very important that comics should remain a space of freedom, a space of diversity, and, okay, I’m like everybody else, I like a good franchise if, with a good creator who has a point of view. But I think that too many franchises kills the industry, kills the creation, and I think that we should also help talent, not to remake and reboot and always revive the same things and that those franchises should be paying for creation instead of paying for more franchises because we definitely need the new blood.

Brüno: I have nothing to say more about this subject. But I can say about Sandman and all the great comics writers, when I, it’s cool because they make you feel small. But it’s also an excellent source of, it’s very stimulating because you close the book and you say to ourself, to yourself, “I must do better than those guys.”

Rachel: What’s the difference between your interactions with American comic readers, such as this convention, and their reactions to your work, and French comic readers and their reactions to your work? Do you see any differences or any similarities?

Fabien: Well, they all like a good story. And they all are, they’re very fond of art. And, I mean, much of them are real connoisseurs. I think, and they have now this background, this culture after 60, 70, 80 years and that’s a very good thing. Like, I did this The Death of Stalin thing that’s becoming a film, and it’s like, “What a silly subject. I mean, who would go researching, like, some serious history stuff with no explosions, with no beautiful girls.”

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And I’m like, “Yeah, it’s not sexy. But it might be entertaining, though.” And things like that. And what was interesting is that a few comics writers and artists, they come to us and they tell us, “Oh my God. The liberty you have.” Because you can do whatever you want, you can go and sell a period piece, or another fantasy, and you have this space of liberty that, of course, some labels in America have. But some of them tell us that they feel it to be a little harder on them, than on us.

Rachel: And Brüno, same question. Do you notice any differences in your interactions, or discussions, or the questions you receive, between French comic readers and American comic readers of any of your books?

Brüno: Yes. To say a word about Fabien says, about freedom of creation, it’s partly true because I make a book called Lola. Which is a love le–my love letter to B movies and Russ Meyer movie, and in that book I mix, I have a few pornographic scenes and, but it’s not a pornographic book.

And I don’t know if in the United States you can mix sexual, sex scenes and adventure. In Europe I, for inference, I can do that, and I think it’s very important to, could do what, you have total freedom. You could do what you want. Even the cover, the cover it represents a tall woman, it’s a tribute to the Attack of the 50 Feet Woman. You know that?

Fabien: Oh no, she’s naked.

Brunö: Yeah. She’s totally naked. And even in France, I don’t know if there are so many books with totally naked women on the cover. But it’s cool to have total freedom to have that.

Fabien: And it’s logical if I might say because she could never come up with the clothes. I mean she would have to, like, tear up a building to cover herself. And I was always like, “Why was the 50 Feet Woman dressed?” It wasn’t logical, so he made that right.

Rachel: And lastly, can you tell us about any upcoming projects that you’re working on? Again, Death of Stalin.

Fabien: Oh yeah. With great pleasure, we’re working on the third Tyler Cross, because we’re really enjoying it. So, it’s always a lot of hard work, Tyler Cross, but it’s always a lot of pleasure too because you have to discover a new universe. So, after the rednecks in Texas and the desert, there was the jail in the swamps in Louisiana, so we had to come up with an even darker place than those because Tyler only works where evil rules.

And so, we started looking and thinking, “What’s the darkest place than, that we could find, that we could come up with.” And, well actually, the Miami real estate business felt right. You know, because it’s, how can you turn paradise into a concrete jungle where mostly. I mean, there must be like booze from the prohibition, or drugs, behind any building there. And if you look at the story, you know you’re right, and we’re getting this huge kick in visiting Florida with Tyler Cross.

Rachel: And you, Brüno? Any upcoming projects?

Brüno: Only projects with Fabien. This I must finish Tyler Cross three, in Miami. And after maybe we have Tyler Cross four.

Fabien: Yeah. Looking, thinking about a place.

Brüno: Yes. And other projects with Fabien, but it’s all development.

Fabien: Yeah. We’d be also looking into a, you know those island castaway stories, they could be interesting too.

Rachel: That would be.

Fabien: And all those things about some other type of psychedelic spy stories that happened in the 60s. You know, this MK Ultra projects, and things like that, they’re kind of fun too. So we’re still working on the American culture partly. And also European culture, which is that island we found happens to be French, but very far from France.

Rachel: If by the end of this interview you haven’t downloaded Tyler Cross from Europe Comics, what are you doing? You need to be reading this series. Thank you, Fabien and Brüno so much.

For more interviews, as well as reviews, analysis and more, make sure to check out ComicsVerse.com. My name is Rachel Davis, and I’ll see you next time.

Check out Tyler Cross and Atar-Gull, both published by Europe Comics!

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