The first four issues of Sarah Horrocks’ GORO delve into a family’s complicated, often-dark relationships. The series is threaded through with moments of black humor and accompanied by gorgeous, mostly black-and-white artwork, It touches on the deep scars loved ones can leave on our psyches and senses of self.

ComicsVerse spoke to GORO author and artist Sarah Horrocks about the first four issues. We got a few hints about what is next for the ten-part series. We also learned more about her sources of inspiration and creative process.

This interview has been lightly edited for formatting.

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ComicsVerse (CV): The first four issues of GORO, your latest creation, are out now. Within GORO, you dissect family dynamics and sexuality, as well as how one’s identity can be bound up with both. What were some of the sparks of inspiration that drew you to this story and these characters?

Sarah Horrocks: Well in terms of those general themes, they are ones that I’m pretty much always interested in. My family growing up was very repressed. The serious issues going on were rarely confronted, even now holidays are kind of a series of micro-passive-aggressions. So I’ve always admired these families that like can scream their problems out directly, and if they think something horrible, in a fit of anger, they will say it.

I love passion and directness. So for GORO it was more just leaning even more into those interests. I wanted a comic where people could scream, cry. And say hateful things toward one another — I wanted something that could express hysteria across the family unit.

I think and feel things very intensely I think. But, I’m too kind to live this kind of way. So I have to get that kind of thing out through my art. I would never scream in front of anyone, but with a comic… I can make everybody scream, and externalize what I feel stuck inside of me.

CV: GORO is envisioned as “a melodrama in 10 parts.” What are some perhaps surprising or unexpected themes or developments readers can expect to glimpse in upcoming issues?

Sarah Horrocks: I mean….it wouldn’t be fair for me to spoil anything. I can say that the first five issues on my map of the story that I have on my wall have all of this space. Then the last five issues it’s almost all ink. The last five issues I hope will really take on the aspect of the soap opera/telenovela of insane reveals and moments just laid one on top of the other faster than you can react to them. I hope the last half of GORO is completely overwhelming dramatically.

Sarah Horrocks
Image courtesy of Sarah Horrocks.

CV: And which of these themes, or which of your characters, surprised you the most as you continued to work on Goro?

Sarah Horrocks: I think Roddy’s speech to Beth in issue four was surprising to me. I knew in terms of the plot and characters what was going to happen. Still, that part where he says to her “my love has never been enough, no matter how deep I’ve loved” was surprising to me.

The notion that no matter how much you might love someone, you are still treated as a marginalized person. That that love still wouldn’t be enough to fix that imbalance. Meanwhile, someone like Beth, speaking from a place of privilege, would have every expectation that it is simply enough that she feels that she loves Roddy. But how can you love someone you don’t really understand? Her ignorance of the pressure Roddy would be under as the black man in a biracial relationship with white kids from the previous partner.

And, not just ignorance, but I mean she’s not even trying to hear him because her perspective is just that she loves him. He should be there for her, and part of that is that he should be her kids’ father — it’s so ridiculous. So, at that moment, it’s this thing where no matter how genuine Roddy might feel for Beth, that gap between them is very real, and I don’t know.

That way of expressing it, that in a society where you are marginalized sometimes simply loving is not enough. I didn’t expect that to happen in that scene. I mean one of the major themes of GORO has to do with the way white Americans, and even more so as privileged white Americans, have poisoned history for our own greed. The way that corrupts us both within and without, with further disastrous consequences for those on the margins.

There’s a cycle where we inflict horror on the world around us and ignore that we’ve done it. Then when there are consequences, we just use those consequences to justify and feel good about inflicting even more horror on the world. I do not feel that America has been a force for good in this world.

When we talk about America we are talking about a nation that is a white supremacist nation. Because of its military and economic might (which are a consequence of war profiteering), it has never been forced to reconcile that. And as white Americans, anything that even remotely questions the idea that we are special little eggs in world history is met with a complete violent shutdown. This is very much the story of the Tyson family.

CV: GORO’s pacing and scenes at times feel very cinematic. Within GORO’s acknowledgments, you list several influences from the film world, including Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar, Venezuelan actress Gabriela Spanic, and British actress and writer Joan Collins. What are some of the ways in which these specific artists have informed GORO?

Sarah Horrocks: Almodóvar like Sirk and Fassbinder is a master of melodrama. His films are so sublime just from a human drama aspect, but then they are also very complex in terms of their analysis of sexuality, gender, and religion. Which you can say with Sirk and Fassbinder as well.

I love the passion of melodrama which can impact us so much emotionally, and then tying it to very complex thoughts, without turning the work into a polemic. Spanic…let me tell you, watch a little show called La Usurpadora. She is a complete queen, just like Joan Collins in Dynasty. And Queens deserve respect! I wish I could do anything in my life as iconic as what those women have done.

CV: Can you describe some of the ways in which your work pulls from dynamic/non-2D art forms such as movies?

Sarah Horrocks: Composition. I think a lot of the composition of GORO owes a lot to Fassbinder and then like Italian films from the late 60s and 70s. Pasolini, Fellini, Pietrangeli, Bellochio, Antonioni (Brooke’s apartment is literally the apartment Mirella Ricciardi in L’Eclisse.), etc. Also, I like to look at film for set design stuff. It tends to be more innate than what people use in comics. And I think part of balancing my pages properly is occasionally drawing a good room for characters to move around in.

Probably the biggest impact is on my writing though. There are not many comic writers I like, but there are lots of films which are written in the voice in my head. I think sometimes I write in the accent of subtitles because I love that rhythm so much. But people like Almodóvar, Bergman, Zulawski have a huge impact on me as a writer. And when I think about the level of what I want to make, there aren’t comics that I’m trying to top.

I want to make things that are on the level of the works which have most impacted my life. I want to pay Bergman back for how I felt at 19 watching THE PASSION OF ANNA, and how art like that gives you life. And, I want to make comics that do that for others. That’s the only way I can repay those giants for all they have given to me. If I can make one comic that is as good as the best of their work, that’s all I care about.

CV: Does this influence the way you craft pacing or choose which details and angles to hone in on within your panel art?

Sarah Horrocks: Sure. Though I try to stay mindful that I’m making a comic, not a film. You have to think about things in both sequences and these kind of micro and macro compositions. More so than film, comics are a thing you look at. Not for as long as like a painting. But longer than a second of film. So I want to give people something to look at, while also telling a story. And it’s just kind of that constant friction that pushes the comic forward.

Though the cool thing about comics is that once people are far enough into a comic, the images are no longer the ones they look at, but the images that are in their head. So like if I just flip open a Daisuke Igarashi book and show you a page I think is cool, you will think I’m talking shit.

But, if I forced you to read the thing, then you will think that it’s the most beautiful image you’ve ever seen. So the aesthetics of comics work in this really strange magical way. That has nothing to do with film, and if you ignore it, you are an idiot.

CV: You list several other creators as being influential to your work, including Japanese manga artist Kyoko Okazaki, Italian creator Andrea Pazienza, Argentine artist Jose Muñoz, and American artist Bill Sienkiewicz. What aspects do you love about these artists’ work the most and feel the most inspired by?

Sarah Horrocks: Okazaki is the largest influence on GORO. GORO is ostensibly me trying to work through her influence. To find a way through what I love about her work to what I do with my stuff. So if you see her work, I think right away you can see the aesthetic influence. It’s in how she uses tones to be like another line, more so than exact shading. And how that creates this mood of “fuck you, I draw how I want.”

Pazienza as well is a huge influence on the book. He really hammered into me that no matter what style you switch to, it is still your drawing. So as a comic artist we are completely free to express moments the way that is best for their expression. Not just the way that keeps the style completely consistent.

To me, I want everything I put on a page to be the truth of that thing. If I draw a table, I want it to be the true table of that moment, and to express the emotion of that scene. I think Sienkiewicz is like this too to a degree. Something like STRAY TOASTERS flips styles to match whatever crazy thing is going on, and I’ve always liked that.

When a moment happens in a comic, I want it to be extreme! And I feel like while there is merit to the oppressive cumulative effect of droning a style page after page after page — that’s not me. I want my lines to speak too, not just my words.

Sarah Horrocks
Image courtesy of Sarah Horrocks.

CV: Did you consciously build any nods to their work into GORO?

Sarah Horrocks: I drew Col. Tyson like Sinner from the Munoz and Sampayo work. Other than that, I can’t really remember. I don’t think so. Monkey Punch is also a big influence. I don’t think I listed him. But his long torsos and spindly legs are very much in my wheelhouse.

CV: What were some of the first comics or graphic novels you encountered that piqued your interest in this art form?

Sarah Horrocks: My favorite early comics were like a lot of the Image founders’ stuff they did at Marvel. So like McFarlane’s SPIDER-MAN, Liefeld’s X-FORCE, and Jim Lee on X-MEN. I also read all of the CALVIN AND HOBBES and PEANUTS collections. But I stopped reading comics for a few years once I got into middle school.

And then someone in high school heard I used to read comics, and made me read THE WATCHMEN by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. I had always wanted to be a writer, but that was the book that made me want to write comics. That was the first time I felt the potential of what you could do with a comic, that it could be something complex and for adults. I’ve read that book so many times. I think I’m in the 30s in terms of cover to cover rereads. I never get tired of it. It’s one of those comics you can’t believe was made by humans.

CV: In addition to artistic influences, who are some of your favorite authors (within comics or other genres of writing) who you feel influenced and inspired your love of storytelling and even the ways you craft stories?

Sarah Horrocks: In comics, Kyoko Okazaki, Blutch, Inio Asano, Daisuke Igarashi, Shuzo Oshimi, Julia Gfrorer — outside of comics, Gertrude Stein, Cormac McCarthy, Thomas Pynchon, Celine, García Lorca, Mayakovsky, Akhmatova, John Milton, William Blake, and Percy Shelley. I’d like to do an adaption of Prometheus Unbound someday.

CV: Some of GORO’s characters are constantly questioning or analyzing aspects of their own identity, as well as their relationships with those around them.

You capture this really well in your art. You highlight characters’ body language and expressions, such as a panel that just shows a character’s eyes, mouth, or abs. What were some of the ways you feel these characters’ bodies may have become an important part of the narrative?

Sarah Horrocks: For me, the body is the border of the soul, it’s like this prison we warp with the screaming of living. So I always think about that with a character. What is their form? How can I express their form in a way that makes you feel that their skin might pop off from the fires underneath? I don’t know how great I am at it. But it’s certainly a focus.

CV: In terms of your creative process, how do you go about building a fleshed-out piece of work once you have the spark of the story in your head?

Sarah Horrocks: I start with the idea. Then I will write down the main components of a story. All the things I want to happen. Then I kind of fit together what fits together. Add more detail. And just drill down further and further until I have a script. Then I just get up every day, look at what the script says for the day, look at some of the previous pages, and then draw the page. Day in and day out, and then eventually you have a comic.

A lot of people do thumbnails in advance. I actually write a script for myself. I like having the spontaneity on a given day to figure out a page. So if I do thumbnails, it’s to scratch out a page I’m struggling with on the day I’m working on it. But generally, I’ve thought a lot about the page between that page and the previous page. So, I have a strong idea of how I’m going to draw it before I get to the table.

Sarah Horrocks
Image courtesy of Sarah Horrocks.

CV: You do all of your own coloring and lettering. What aspects do you enjoy most about the creative process? And, what do you find the most challenging or time-consuming to build on your own?

Sarah Horrocks: I like penciling because when you pencil, there’s all of this possibility for how great the page could be. But, the farther along you get in the process, the more disappointed you are. Lettering is the thing I don’t like to do. If I were rich, I would hire both a letterer and a color flatter.

But on the flip side, I hate digital lettering, so I have to do it myself. Plus I do a lot of rewrites in the lettering stage anyways. So it’s for the best that I do it. I just don’t like doing it. And coloring, coloring is fun to me when I get to the stage of messing with the palette. But the mechanics of it are definitely mind-numbing.

CV: When can fans expect issues 5-10 of GORO, and what are some other projects you are playing around with now?

Sarah Horrocks: Well the second digital collection, collecting issues 3 and 4 drops 3/1. Then the next print issue is number five, which will be out 3/29. Issue six is I think quite a bit longer than number five. And, I have to do pitch on the comic I’m doing after GORO in March, so issue number six will be out by May. I’m going to TCAF in May, so I will probably debut the issue there. So maybe a bit of a wait between issue five and six. Third digital issue collecting five and six will be June. July and August will be seven and eight. September will be the fourth digital issue.

And I’ll be bumbling around at Thoughtbubble that month. So October and November should see the close of the series with issues nine and ten, with December being the final digital issue. As far as other projects, I just had a backup in Twisted Romance #1 for Image and did a cover for that.

So if people want to track that down…I’m sure there will be a collection at some point. Beyond that, we’ll see. Like I said, in March I’m having to pitch the comic I’m doing after GORO. So there will be a sneak preview of that, with hopefully the first issue of it in the first quarter of next year. It’s going to be called AORTA, I think. It’s a mecha comic. So a very big shift from GORO. But probably a needed palette cleanser. I think that’s it.

CV: What are the best ways for fans to find you and more of your work?

Sarah Horrocks: As always, for links to my store and various web portals, my site is:

Sometimes I write comics criticism for The Comics Journal. Or just myself. I also have a Patreon where I dump art and writing:

CV: You can also follow Sarah Horrocks on Twitter: @mercurialblonde

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The first two issues of Sarah Horrocks’ GORO are available now. Issues three and four are available digitally from March 1. Find them here digitally or as print copies.

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