Showing posts with label Europe. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Europe. Show all posts

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Gypsy Omnibus review

by RM Rhodes

During the late 1990s and early 2000s, Heavy Metal ran six stories by Thierry Smolderen and Enrico Marini. The first of these, titled The Gypsy Star, was an immediate hit and was followed by the rest of the series over almost the course of a decade.

The art was the obvious draw of the story. Realistic, with an obvious manga influence, Marini could provide a cartoon flip to his line when it was necessary. The color scheme usually balanced a very orange red and a cool blue. The sequential storytelling was often clever and made for a compulsively readable feature.

The main character is called The Gypsy in the first series and Tsaigoi thereafter. He drives his eighteen wheel truck across a futuristic highway that spans the world. Sometimes he’s with his sister, sometimes he’s with other family members, and sometimes he’s alone. It’s a Mad Max setup with an unfortunate ethnic label and none of the pesky fuel shortage limitations.

Tsaigoi is an enthusiastic participant in capitalism. All of the stories are about him driving his truck through a problem area and getting caught up in local events, to his dismay. In every case, the stakes of the story are commercial in nature. And when it is called for, Tsaigoi will strap on his guns and take the fight to the people standing in the way of him getting his product to his customers.

Easily the best of these stories is a yarn about a caper in Germany during the final World Cup game between Germany and France. Germany loses badly due to a penalty shot 45 seconds into the game. Much comedy is made from this state of affairs and, in the end, Tsaigoi’s commercial instincts prove to be very very solid.

Tsaigoi is also a lover. I’m happy to report that every one of his sexual encounters (roughly one per story) is consensual. There is one problematic scene with a parapalegic woman, and one of the main characters is introduced by showing him running away from a giant man who wants to rape him. The way the character is drawn, he could be anywhere from a boy to his early teens. For the most part, though, it’s wholesome entertainment.

It is not difficult to find out what issues of Heavy Metal these originally appeared in, nor is it difficult to purchase them. The new Omnibus Edition of the six stories is, however, a much nicer product than the random handful of issues. It’s a hardback edition with a very nice slipcase. The extras are nice as well – a map of the world, showing the route of the highway, along with several pages of production art and sketches. It's the first thing I've seen from Insight Comics and its a handsome debut. The European edition must have recently been published.

The only real flaw in the production of the Omnibus is the title of the introduction. Dan Panosian remembers Gypsy from the pages of Heavy Metal and references a catchphrase saying that the main character utters when he is surprised or frustrated – “Dracu!” Except in the new translation for this edition, Dracu has been printed as Dracs.

Printed together like this, it is easy to see how well Marini’s art matured over the course of the series. The early stories have a sketchier aspect to the line weights, but the later stories are much more confident. The color got better as well – it’s almost as if the technology improved during the same period as the original publication.

Gypsy is a pretty solid action adventure comic. The creators did their best in the later stories to lean into the skid on the problematic name, but they were stuck with it. If you can get past that, you should be able to relax into the ultraviolence and over the top slapstick of it all. And if you can do that, there is a good chance you'll be very entertained indeed.


Why is this here? It's a long story. Mike Rhode first introduced himself to me when I first started vending at SPX. Over the years, we've talk to each other at Comic conventions around the DC area and never quite get around to sitting down for lunch. 

When I moved to Arlington two years ago, I didn't realize that Mike lived within a mile of my building. Nor did I realize that he lived next door to my girlfriend's friend from college. We also discovered, by accident that we work two buildings away from each other, because we work in adjacent organizations. The world is a very small place, sometimes. 

It really feels that way when I run into Mike at the local farmer's market. Naturally, that's when I pitch him article ideas. I'm reading the entire run of Heavy Metal in public (in blog format) because I happen to own the entire run of Heavy Metal. This means that I'm engaged in an ongoing study of the magazine. In addition, I have a diverse and idiosyncratic reading list that tends towards the weird corners of comics history. Sometimes one circumstance or another results in long articles that I don't really have anyplace to put. Mike has been gracious enough to let me publish them here.

In summary: this is an article about comics from someone in the DC area. 

Friday, November 23, 2018

Exhibit Review: The Very Best Of Slovenian Comics

Tomaž Lavrič
by Mike Rhode

The Very Best Of Slovenian Comics. Izar Lunaček (with translation assistance by Nejc Juren). Washington, DC: Embassy of Slovenia. November 2, 2018 – February 8, 2019. Open Monday-Friday 9 am-5 pm, by appointment via sloembassy.washington(at)   or 202-386-6601.

This no-frills exhibit of reproduction of pages mounted on foam core may not be the most beautiful  and certainly not monetarily valuable exhibit on display in Washington now, but it does provide an overview of a largely-invisible European comics scene. Lunaček, who visited DC recently to promote the Animal Noir comic that he did with Juren, opened the exhibit with a short lecture on the history of Slovenian cartooning both before and after the breakup of Yugoslavia. The exhibit itself is rather minimalistic in regards to explanatory text, which is only provided via Lunaček's cartoon history that runs along one wall. The exhibit would have definitely benefitted from additional panels explaining the transitions from funny animals to punk / alternative to the current wide variety of styles and stories. Having heard his lecture, I am able to put the images into context with the changing world including big issues such as the fall of Communism and the dissolution of Yugoslavia, to the small but vital anthology and cooperative Stripburger, which published many of the modern-era cartoonists in the show.
Miki Muster
From a recording of his remarks, he noted that a cartoonist could make a living in Yugoslavia just from comics, but that was no longer possible in the smaller Slovenian market. The first comic he showed in his lecture, not displayed in the exhibit from the first decade of the twentieth century was a political cartoon where aristocrats of the Austro-Hungarian Empire showed their massive penises, and looked as though it was influenced by Japanese erotic prints. Beyond that, and other satirical comics, their first real master creator, Miki Muster, was a cartoonist influenced by Disney and Walt Kelly's Pogo who created an influential series of over forty funny animal albums from the 1950s through the early 1970s. They still are the best-selling comics in the country.

Kostja Gatnik

In the 1970s, Muster's style was challenged by Kostja Gatnik, whom Lunaček referred to as a hippy and their "Robert Crumb." Three pages of material that was clearly from the 1970s showed Gatnik's range of styles, but to make a living he switched to illustrating children's books. In the 1980s, comics were tame in Slovenia with only Marijan Amalietti's erotic comics worthy of notice. The Slovenian scene was jolted out of its classical period by a journalist who died young in the war, but before that he wrote widely on European comics. The most famous cartoonist to come out of the new wave/punk music and comics scene was Tomaž Lavrič with his stories Red Alert (1993) and Bosnian Fables (1994). Fables was one of Bosnia's biggest international success, translated into European languages, and "is little tales of the Bosnian war, but from all sides." Two pages showed Zoran  Smiljanić's historical comics about the (fictional) last Yugoslavian soldier abandoned in Slovenia. The next panel was of Dušan Kastelic's short strip from 2000 about conformism and literally knocking down the one person sticking up in a crowd which he turned into The Box, an award-winning computer-animated cartoon in 2017. The exhibit then turned to alternative cartoonists who worked in their fanzine Stripburger in the 2000s. The magazine became the training home of many young cartoonists. Lunaček who also started there, put a couple of his newspaper comic strips in the exhibit, as well as some pages from Animal Noir. The exhibit ended with work from the last decade by Kaja Avberšek and her diagrammatic comics, Stripburger's current editor David Krančan and his Drunken Rabbit, and Miha Hančič.
Miha Hančič
Lunaček and Juren's translations of the comics are very good, as one might expect after finding out that they wrote Animal Noir in English first and had to back-translate it into Slovenian. The main problem for a viewer of an exhibit with a wide range of art like this is the unfortunate realization that very little of this material will ever be translated in full and released in English.
(This review was written for the International Journal of Comic Art 20:2, but this version appears on both the IJOCA and ComicsDC websites on November 23, 2018, while the exhibit is still open for viewing.)

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Meet a Visiting Comic Book Writer: A Chat with Nejc Juren of Slovenia

by Mike Rhode

Early next month, DC will have the rare treat of two Slovenian cartoonists visiting to sign their Animal Noir graphic novel and open an exhibit of comic art at the Embassy of Slovenia. Last week, we interviewed Izar Lunaček.Today, we chat with Nejc Juren, the co-author of Animal Noir.

What type of comic work or cartooning do you do?

I write scripts. I'm so bad at drawing that I never dared to hope I could do any work in comics. However, I've always loved comics, and since I consider myself more of a storyteller then a writer, I jumped at the chance when Izar suggested we tell some stories together in comic book form. I truly believe comics are one of the best storytelling mediums. The possibilities here are endless.

How do you do it? Traditional pen and ink, computer or a combination?

I try to adapt to the process of the illustrator. If he needs a panel by panel script, I try to write it that way, but I prefer the process to be more loose. I tell the illustrator the broad story and then I let his visual ideas guide and shape the script. With Izar, the process was just incredible. When we did Animal Noir we spent a couple of months just world-building. We really went into the foundation of the world those animals created. Then we created the long arc of the story (which has yet to be told and I guarantee is really epic) and only then all the small arcs, the first of which came out last year from IDW.

When (within a decade is fine) and where were you born?

I was born in 1982. Slovenia was a part of Yugoslavia and a socialist country. Yugoslavia dissolved when I was 8 years old and I grew up watching a lot of American television.

Where do you live now?

I live in Ljubljana, our nation's capital.

What is your training and/or education in cartooning?

I always got the worst marks in drawing. But I also always got the worst mark in music and now I make ends meet by writing comic scripts and running a semi-popular swing band. As for formal education, I finished law school.

Who are your influences?

René Goscinny, Allan Moore, Joan Sfar, Christophe Blain.

If you could, what in your career would you do-over or change?

I don't think I'd change anything. I kinda take it like this: it takes around 20 years to become a good storyteller. So that's a really long journey. And the more you meander, the more you get lost and side-tracked, the more walls you hit, all that should - by this theory - just add to your journey. That's why I'm trying to cherish all the wrong turns I take.

What work are you best-known for?

In comics, it's Animal Noir. However, in Slovenia I'm more known as a musician. This is my band, Počeni Škafi, if you want to check us out. I write all the lyrics and most of the music. In English, it means The Cracking Buckets. Our original singer's surname was Škafar, which means the bucket maker.We have an album on Spotify and all the other streaming sites, but a good sample is here:

What work are you most proud of?

You'd make me choose among my children? Okay, check this video out. It's the first thing Izar and I did together. Dive is a short comic that was done as a music video for Fed Horses, a band I also write lyrics for. I'm really happy the way it turned out but I don't think the Youtube algorithm likes it too much.

What would you like to do  or work on in the future?

Izar and I are working on a comic called Thursday Girl that I think will be great. We're hoping to find a publisher soon so we can get our claws into it. I'm also preparing a collection of short stories that's going to get released next year.

What do you do when you're in a rut or have writer's block?

I stop and let my brain solve it on it's own. I have a constant writer's block and usually resolves it self around deadlines. Or I find that a long walk or a long shower really helps.

What do you think will be the future of your field?

Who knows? But stories will always be important. And if by some chance the world gets overrun by amazing storytellers and will have no use for me, I'll just go back into law.

What conventions do you attend?

I usually go to the Angouleme festival in France. It's super nice.

Have you visited DC before?

Yes. I visited in 98. I was an international student at the Governor's school of South Carolina and we make a field trip.

If so, favorite thing? Least favorite? If not, what do you want to do?

I remember putting my finger into Einstein's nose.

If you've visited, what monument or museum do you like?

I guess the answer is again Einstein. I'm not into the big phallic monuments. I did enjoy the Air & Space Museum.

What can you tell us about your book that you're signing at Big Planet Comics?

One of Goodreads reviewers called it: so intensely overthought that it's hard to tell if it's good or just totally insane. I guess that's my work.

Did Animal Noir when we appear in the United States, or did it appear in your country first? How did you guys bring it to the attention of IDW? Did you do the English script yourselves?

Animal Noir came out in the US first. Some publishing houses in Slovenia liked it, but none wanted to risk the investment. The Slovenian comics market is very small. Our original plan was to find a publisher in France and the first few pages were drawn in a little larger format. When IDW showed interest, we adapted it to the floppy format and we re-wrote the script to fit it into 20-page episodes.

Izar met Ted Adams at the comics festival in Barcelona, pitched him the story and showed him a few pages. Ted liked it so much, he also took on the editing duties. It was surreal for us.

Yeah, we wrote Animal Noir in English. When in came out in Slovenia 6 months later, we needed to translate it into our mother tongue. Moreover, when we did the world-building we named everything in English with some reckless abandon, so we put ourselves in some tight spots when we needed to translate those names into Slovenian.

Do you have a website or blog?

No. But you can follow me on Instagram.

As Izar Lunaček noted on our blog last week:

The first days of November will see a double hit of Slovenian comics descend on Washington DC. On Thursday November 1st at 7PM, Nejc Juren and Izar Lunaček will swing by Big Planet Comics on U St., NW to talk about and sign their book Animal Noir, a comic thriller about a giraffe detective in a world of lion politicians and hippo mobsters that came out with IDW last year, and on the 2nd the same guys will open an exhibition on the vivid history of their own country's comics scene at the Slovenian embassy on California Street. Admission to both events is free and food and drinks might be served. Come on, come all, it'll be wonderfully fun! 

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Meet a Visiting Cartoonist: A Chat with Izar Lunaček of Slovenia

by Mike Rhode

Early next month, DC will have the rare treat of two Slovenian cartoonists visiting to sign their graphic novel and open an exhibit of comic art at the Embassy of Slovenia (which was part of Yugoslavia when I was young). As Izar Lunaček noted on our blog last week:

The first days of November will see a double hit of Slovenian comics descend on Washington DC. On Thursday November 1st at 7PM, Nejc Juren and Izar Lunaček will swing by Big Planet Comics on U St., NW to talk about and sign their book Animal Noir, a comic thriller about a giraffe detective in a world of lion politicians and hippo mobsters that came out with IDW last year, and on the 2nd the same guys will open an exhibition on the vivid history of their own country's comics scene at the Slovenian embassy on California Street. Admission to both events is free and food and drinks might be served. Come on, come all, it'll be wonderfully fun!

He was also willing to answer a slight modification of our usual questions.

What type of comic work or cartooning do you do?

Funny and thoughtful are probably my two mainstays. I love comedy and I'm a trained philosopher, so that's probably the stem of that. Within those margins, however, I've done everything from anthropomorphic newspaper strips to socially critical detective novels to autobio and science stuff.

How do you do it? Traditional pen and ink, computer or a combination?

I love drawing by hand, still, the scratches of the crowquill pen and the smooth waves of the brush intoxicate me. That said, I have started coloring mostly on the computer because it simply reproduces so much better. Plus, I like the stark look of computer graphics used sparingly.

When (within a decade is fine) and where were you born?

At the very end of the seventies in Yugoslavia. I grew up reading great local and Italian comics (Marvel was a bit off-limits because ... Communism) that you can learn more about at the expo opening. When I was 12, however, my birthplace broke up into a buch of smaller states, accompanied by a bloody war. Lucky for us, Slovenia only got off with a 10-day skirmish and a couple dozen dead. It has, however, lost the entire huge, cosmopolitan Yugoslav comic market and that's something we're all still recovering from.

Where do you live now?

In Ljubljana, Slovenia's tiny capital. It's a beautiful little town with just over a quarter million folks, but all the perks of a capital, from well stocked bookshops to possible investors to great party venues. It has a river winding through downtown where you can sit and drink and sketch and chat, I love living there. The only downside is the minuscule market that can't really support comic creators - not even commercially-bent ones - hence my regular job-seeking trips to France and the US.

What is your training and/or education in cartooning?

I studied classical painting. Mainly because all of my favorite Slovenian cartoonists (TBC, Miki Muster, Magna Purga - you'll  learn about them at the exhibit 😊) attended the same Ljubljana academy of fine arts. It's not really an "Art School;" it's more of the army crossed with apprenticeship; you had to be there the whole day, no excuses, from morning til night, and somebody was constantly shouting at you while the whole class stood still and didn't dare object too much. It's very classical, with obligatory attendance to daily session of drawing naked old bums posing for cheap and learning how to mix your own paint and stretch canvases and listening to lectures on art history. But it was great; together with my PhD in philosophy, it's given me a wonderful grab-bag of crafts and ideas to do comics with.

Who are your influences?

Apart from the local guys mentioned above, I read a lot of newspaper comics as a kid - Calvin and Hobbes, Pogo, Krazy Kat - and later moved on to more mature stuff by Alan Moore, but also Moebius and the madmen gathered around the Parisian mag Charlie Hebdo. I'm currently freshly charmed by French new wave comics with guys like Joann Sfar and Christophe Blain, but have also been discovering American gems I'd overlooked before - like Mignola. I guess an unlikely combo of whimsically loose and fatefully blocky art is what drives me at the moment.

If you could, what in your career would you do-over or change?

Maybe I'd have gone to New York for a few years in my twenties which I always dreamed of, but was stopped by a bad relationship at home. It'd be fun to have gotten some isolated, unanchored, bridge-burned work done at that time. Other than that, everything's been pretty great.
What work are you best-known for?

In Slovenia a whole generation grew up on my newspaper comics in the early 2000s and I still get patted on the back for that at parties. Internationally, I made a tiny splash with an intricate webcomic called Paradise Misplaced that was later published in book form both in Spain and the UK. And in the States, my one claim to fame is IDW's recent Animal Noir series I co-wrote with Nejc Juren, a fantastic Slovenian writer and good friend. We're trying to get more stuff published over here, but meanwhile, we always have our home public as a grateful if not always paying recipient.

How does one pronounce "Nejc?"

Nejc is pronounced Neyts (j is like y and c is like ts in Slovenian). It's short for Jernej so Jerry basically.

What was your comic strip about?

The newspaper comic was about two tiny animals, the inquisitive, species-unidentified Professor and his unwitting helper Hedge the hedgehog. They'd live at the edge of a human city, discover human artifacts and devise ingenious theories about them. Or put on a theater show for the other animals or talk about politics etc, etc: in short, philosophical mayhem infused with a whole lot of silliness.

What work are you most proud of?

I currently just love working on my biweekly blog for a Slovenian web-paper. I think I've broken new ground there like I haven't felt in a long time. And the five people who actually read comics in Slovenia all love it.

What would you like to do  or work on in the future?

I'd love to do some more ambitious stuff for France or the States, just to kick me into gear for a bit and get me to test my boundaries. Working on Animal Noir for IDW was really rewarding, so another project of that scope would be wonderful. My co-writer and I on that are currently working on a slice of life romantic dramedy set among the Ljubljana student population; that's fun and might get greenlit by a British publisher soon. While waiting, however, I just spew out pitches on everything from Greek monsters to killer Santas and cities populated entirely by birds and I'll jump into any one of them with gusto the moment I get a bite.

What do you do when you're in a rut or have writer's block?

I walk around town, I chat to people and I sketch and doodle and play. Chasing the zing but not so hard to chase it away. But that's when I'm between projects. If I have a deadline, I usually just plow through it, goggles on, engine revving, and it usually works, more or less.

What do you think will be the future of your field?

My hope is for comics to get increasingly accepted by the general populace. I love the French way where everybody reads comics resulting in a wide range of genres from art to trash to non-fiction to mellow pop. That's my hope but I think it stands a chance too; telling stories in graphic, easily graspable form is very much a trend now and I'd be willing to bet it's a long-term one.

What conventions do you attend?

I go to either Angouleme or St Malo, the two biggest French comic festivals, every year. Those are great for just seeing all these personal, passionate stories enabling their authors to survive on the sales. I went to San Diego Comic-Con for the first time last year to sign Animal Noir and it was a soul-sucking experience to see an entire art form get trampled by its own geeky spinoffs. This year, I'm planning to stay in the US long enough to attend the Comics Art Brooklyn festival and I'm guessing I'll leave with a much better aftertaste.

Have you visited DC before?

Once, a few years ago. It's where a girl lives who I've been pen-pals with since we were 13. I visited her and played with her kids and baked burgers with her hubby on the back lawn. I hope they'll have us over this year too.

 If you've visited, what monument or museum do you like?

I visited some strange sights during my first visit. I asked my hosts to take me to Baltimore and to the Chesapeake River and Cooke's Point in Maryland, because I'd been translating John Barth's The Sot-Weed Factor novel into Slovenian and really wanted to visit the intricately described geography of the book I'd been living in for a year.

Can you tell us about your book talk at Big Planet Comics on U St?

On November 1st at 7PM me and Nejc will be signing Animal Noir, a hardboiled thriller starring a giraffe detective loose in a city of lion politicians and hippo mobsters. We'll be talking about making the series too, writing the stories and creating the complex world enabling a range of African animals to live in relative harmony. The book came out last year with IDW and the company's legendary founder, Ted Adams, to whom I'd pitched the idea at a Barcelona comic festival, served as the series' dedicated editor for its brief four issue run. The book wasn't a huge hit, though, so it wasn't renewed for a second series, but we're shopping around for someone to get it running again 'cause we just love it. It got some really nice reviews too so I guess we're not the only ones.

Who does what on Animal Noir and how do you divide up the work?

The basic idea (giraffe detective in a world of mafia hippo, exploited zebras and some ruling cats) was mine and Nejc infused it with lovely details on how the social system was sustained -- from periodic zebra riots, to hunt porn, and struggles between political fractions. We were world-building over coffees for months before getting to the stories, which were also a joint venture. Nejc took care of the narrative and emotional structure and I provided the surface texture, but we constantly edited each other's contribution. I then broke the story down by pages and Nejc would do dialogues on the go for the spread I'd be working on that day. Once I did the linework and colors, we'd go over it again several times to trim the tone and rhythm here and there. It was a wonderfully intertwined, fun enterprise where we climbed on each other like rungs, ending up higher than either one of us could reach on their own.

Can you tell us about your history of Slovenian comics presentation?

The day after presenting our book - on November 2nd at 7PM - I'll be opening an exhibition of the best of Slovenian comics at our country's embassy on California street 1210, just a stone's throw from Big Planet Comics on U St, NW. Over 30 oversize prints of pages from our local masters of the medium will be on display and I'll bring a bunch of original books too. Translations will be provided and I'll open the expo with a brief talk on the history of Slovenian comics to give some context. Ours is a small country but the comics medium has produced a handful of truly class A creators that are really worth getting acquainted with, I promise. Again, there might be food and wine, so ...

Do you have a website or blog?

I have this blog but it's in Slovenian. The best way to check out and follow my work right now, I think, is through Instagram, where I regularly post works in progress and finished stuff. My username is giraffedetective. Go figure.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Meet a Local Cartoonist: A Chat with Vanessa Bettencourt

by Mike Rhode

Last weekend, I briefly stopped in the Hooray for Books bookstore in Alexandria on Saturday to meet Portuguese cartoonist Vanessa Bettencourt who was doing a drawing workshop for children, and I enjoyed seeing her interact with the kids in the audience. She agreed to answer our usual questions about her journey from Europe to northern Virginia.

What type of comic work or cartooning do you do?

My comics have a lot of humor and fantasy and a mix of manga and Disney styles together. When I'm not working on commissions for business, websites or people who want their portraits as comic characters, I work diligently on my personal projects.

I work daily on my free webcomic series,

It started as an effective way to communicate with Jon, my fiancé in a long-distance relationship, and became a way to share my life with those who stayed behind at home after I moved from Portugal to the USA. Now I share my daily adventures as a freelance artist in the USA.

In 2015 I set a goal of a year to write, illustrate and completely finish a graphic novel on my own. I accomplished the goal. Polly and the Black Ink is 520 full-color pages that I divided into five paperbacks. The first three volumes are already available.

Sometimes I take commissions to do political cartoons (as happened with the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence), but between social and political I favor social issues.

How do you do it? Traditional pen and ink, computer or a combination?

For Polly and the Black Ink, I drew and wrote it all in paper for a few months first, then I scanned it and edited before the digital process of inking, coloring and adding the text. I write the text as I draw the scenes, instead of having a script. This way I have a better sense of space and where the text will fit in each panel.

This is my first graphic novel and I learned a lot, especially about writing short but meaningful sentences when sometimes I feel the character has so much more to say. For I only work digitally. I have my format and I stick to it. Commissions can be digital or traditional. I use Photoshop and I recently upgraded from an Intuos3 to a Cintiq 13HD.

When (within a decade is fine) and where were you born?

I was born in December, 1979 in Lisbon, Portugal.

Why are you in Washington now? What neighborhood or area do you live in?

I moved to the USA in 2015. I met my fiancé in 2012 when he hired me to draw all the covers for his epic fantasy series Heir of Scars, including chapter illustrations and maps. A few years later we started the K1 Visa (fiancée process), which I describe with a lot of humor in He was currently working in DC so we decided to stay. I'm a freelance artist so it's easier to adapt. We live in Alexandria near the Potomac river. As a Portuguese soul, I miss the ocean a lot, so the river is nice to have nearby.

What is your training and/or education in cartooning?

I have a degree in Portuguese and English literature. I became a teacher and worked for publishers as a fantasy illustrator Then, I returned to college for Fine Arts while I worked. I'm self-taught when it comes to comic books and cartoons. I started drawing this style for fun. A simple away to share my day with Jon then it became more serious. I intend to continue to learn, share and create more stories and worlds.

Who are your influences?

For fantasy illustration: William Bouguereau, Larry Elmore (and all D&D art), Luis Royo, Donato Giancola, Prince Valiant by Hal Foster…

For comics and cartooning: Calvin and Hobbes’ Bill Waterson, Bones by Jeff Smith, Asterix, Turma da Monica by Mauricio de Sousa, Hagar the Horrible by Chris Browne, W.I.T.C.H fantasy series, Naoko Takeuchi (Sailor Moon), Akihiro Yamada (Junni Kokki - The Twelve Kingdoms artist), all Disney, many manga, anime and fantasy books.

And for the surreal humor with a lot of nonsense: Mortadelo & Filemon by Francisco Ibanez Talavera, Guillermo Mordillo, Janguru wa Itsumo Hare Nochi Guu manga.

If you could, what in your career would you do-over or change?

Sometimes I want to go back and retouch finished work. In the beginning, I wished I had more time to finish a cover or a project, but to get the commission we have to go with the publisher's schedule.

What work are you best-known for?

Notfrombrazil, because for the past two years I’ve been uploading thrice a week online, on the usual social media and in platforms such as tapastic and LINE Webtoon.

What work are you most proud of?

Polly and the Black Ink. I am really happy that I was able to create a compelling world, story and characters with a lot of adventure, action, mystery and fantasy parallel worlds that children, teens and adults feel compelled to read and discover. Also, the new art for the Heir of Scars book series.

What would you like to do or work on in the future?

Continue to get as many commissions as possible so I can make my dreams come true. HaHa!
I will focus on finishing my epic novels so there’s not a gap between publishing Polly’s 5th volume and my next project. I will continue to work on the next covers for the Heir of Scars book also. My husband and I decided to agglomerate our projects under the same name, Violet West Entertainment, as we build our brand together.

I want to be proud of my projects, control the outcome as much as possible and be sure it's something memorable. I might return to Polly and the Black Ink for a second arc too later.

What do you do when you're in a rut or have writer's block?

Because I work in so many different projects and styles I got used to having an escape, but there are times that I can't work at all and I need to watch animation, movies, read, learn a new technique, go to a museum or a park, do something completely different from my daily routine and refill my batteries.

What do you think will be the future of your field? 

Things change so quickly now. Everything has an up and down side. The system or the rules change without notice, and we're forced to go with the flow or stay behind. Artists and authors will always create and try to reach their audience.

The Internet allows us to publish our books, to see people engage daily with our process and become part of the process. What we do is starting to be seen more as a job. We are professionals.

Also, the audience is starting to learn how to give back. It balances all the free entertainment or work they've been having access to. That's why it's important to support artists. Kickstarter and Patreon are good examples of making it possible for an artist to work full time on their craft and support themselves.

What local cons do you attend? The Small Press Expo, Intervention, or others? Any comments about attending them?

I attended Katsucon last February as an artist with Polly and the Black Ink debut. I got a table and it was a great experience. The audience reacted very well to the books. We'll be attending Awesome Con DC again in June with Polly and the Black Ink and the Heir of Scars books and art. I will have book III available at our table.

Next event will be Small Press Expo. We've attended it as visitors before, but this time in September we will be managing a table with our books, including Polly and the Black Ink volume IV. The downside of having a table is to be stuck behind it and miss the panels, the contests, etc.

I also attend local events as much as possible, from bookstores to street art festivals when schedule allows. I had a great opportunity to publish one comic page on the Magic Bullet #14 and I intend to keep going.

I also have an invitation from Alexandria's Duncan Branch Library, where I taught a comic book workshop last year. I will be drawing people's portrait in my cartoonish style on the street and raise money for the library during the Del Ray Street Art Festival next September 7th, 2017.

Polly and I are available to attend schools, libraries and other events to share my experience as an independent author, but also to share my process and give some tips (ages 5 up). You can reach me on my official website or contact me at

What's your favorite thing about DC?

I love the free museums and the food diversity.

Least favorite?

The business, political stiffness and mood of the city.

What monument or museum do you like to take visitors to?

The Lincoln Memorial. The size of the sculpture helps, but the entire area has soul. There are many good museums. The National Museum of Natural History is my favorite to visit over and over. I get so much inspiration from it to draw and come up with new storylines. And I have to visit the Zoo. I haven't had the chance.

How about a favorite local restaurant?

I love food. It's hard to pick. Each day is a different mood. From Asian to Americana. There are good seafood places in Old Town, but being Portuguese, I also miss some of the fresh and diverse seafood that we don’t have here.

Do you have a website or blog?

I keep two websites. One as an artist and another for the free webcomic series notfrombrazil.
My website has a blog where I share news of my creative process, tutorials, articles with events and book releases.

People are free to subscribe to get news of the next events or book releases.

For those who wish to get a weekly reminder of subscribe to the website I add new episodes every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

You can also find the following pages on Facebook: @pollyandtheblackink, @notfrombrazil, @vanessabettencourtart and @heirofscars up to date.

On Instagram: @vanessabettencourtart where I host giveaways.