Earlier last month I had the pleasure to cover Gustavo Duarte’s “Monsters! & Other Stories” right here on Big Shiny Robot. The book is wonderful and something you really need to consider picking up. You can find it on Amazon or just about any other online retailer but I’m a local first kinda guy so if you have the time, go into your local bookstore/comic shop and have them order it if it isn’t already on the shelf there.
In between the review last month and now Mr. Duarte was kind enough to have a back and forth with me over email. He is a well-spoken man and an incredibly insightful artist. He answered my crazy questions and I’m sharing his answers with you, the Big Shiny Robot reader. So sit back and read through Gustavo’s answers and ogle his art from “Monsters & Other Stories”.
Mark Avo: I’d like to chat with you about your fabulous story-telling, your sense of humor and your jaw dropping illustrations. First though, let me just say that I read the digital preview but it was nothing like holding your stories in my hands while I flipped through them. I’d like to thank you and Dark Horse for sending me a copy. I’m pleased to inform you that I shared that copy with my mother and I’m never getting it back from her. She absolutely loved it. Now, let’s discuss your work.
I find your art similar to the strong lines of Roy Lichtenstein but with the creative panache of Dr. Seuss. Who were inspirational artists to your style? Was there a particular work of theirs you couldn't put down?
Gustavo Duarte: It is nice to read your words. Thank you and your mother. My work and my style have a lot of influences. I could write a lot of lines about them but instead I will name some of them:
Al Hirschfeld (The Line King)
Will Eisner (His work changed the way I see comics)
Charles Schulz (The man who makes me want to work as a cartoonist)
Bill Watterson (Calvin and Hobbes is the best comic strip ever made)
Sergio Aragonés (Genius. With or without words)
Jim Henson (Not a cartoonist, but a big inspiration)
Laerte (Brazilian cartoonist)
Cássio Loredano (Brazilian caricaturist)
Mark Avo: I can see a little of each of them in your art and Jim Henson isn’t someone I would have thought as an inspiration for your work. Now that I know that though I can totally see him there too.
Gustavo Duarte: Yep, Jim Henson is a great inspiration. He could do a sock act better than much of the actors I know. In my opinion, he is one of the greatest geniuses of the 20th Century.
My choice not to use dialogs came in my first longer story (Có!).
MA: I love the light coloring you chose for Monsters! & Other Stories. Did you choose that color set specifically for those stories or will your future work use a similar pallet like many of Francisco Francavilla's works do?
GD: The color was chosen specifically for Monsters! that was published alone here in Brazil. Editors note: Also now published in the US by Dark Horse with two other stories by Gustavo.) But it is a pantone I think that works with my style because I have put in the other stories of the book too. I will not necessarily use this color palette in the future but it can happen.
MA: Even though most of the best stories in the comic book medium have fantastic art, they also have fantastic dialogue. Your style is primarily silent with the occasional sound effect. Why did you make the choice to take the hard route and depend on your illustrations alone to lead the narrative?
GD: The illustration is always important to tell a story in (a) comic book – with or without dialogue. My choice not to use dialogs came in my first longer story (Có!). As it was my first work with more pages in comics, I opted to do something without text, as the cartoons I used to do this way were my favorite. I liked the result. And, after that, I have been trying to improve this language in my work. It's something I want to do more often, besides using stories with dialogue, too.
MA: Your stories are full of terrific comedic elements. Many of them are slap-stick or visual puns but others are a bit grim. I think the variation is a testament to your comedic range. Where do you get your sense of humor and why do you think the jokes in Monsters! & Other Stories are universally understood despite cultural differences between you and your American readers?
GD: I always thought about doing comics without thinking of a specific audience and not in a specific region or country. But talking about comics, we have a lot influences from US here in Brasil so because (of) that, I don't think we have many problems.
I don't know where my sense of humor originates. I think it is from everything I read, see and listen. It can come from classic American cartoons like Woody Woodpecker, Looney Tunes, Tom and Jerry. It (also) comes from Jerry Lewis and Three Stooges movies and from Mad magazine. As you can see the American influence is reasonable here in Brasil ... :)
Certainly there are always cultural traits in a person’s work, especially with the references in the artists’ stories. What I always look for is that the references do not cease to exist, but never disturb the understanding of history as a whole.
MA: So to clarify, you mean that the artistic inspiration or reference from history is present in a work but can’t be the focus of the work because it takes away from both the new art and the old?
GD: What I have been told is that we all have a lot of references and inspirations. That’s good, that’s what makes us what we are. We need to find our way to make our work <our own> despite our inspirations and references. The external references that I use I need to pay attention to <so that they> never disturb the understanding of the story as a whole. For example, use of reference inside the story. Like the “Spectreman” in the police office’s TV in “Monsters!”. If the understanding of the whole script depended on that scene, <those that> did not know the “Spectreman” would not understand the story. As it is, it is only a reference – a tribute. If it was really essential it would be a reference that everyone would have to understand.
MA: An artist with your level of talent can continue to create their own stories but they can also be a highly in demand creator by studios like Dark Horse, DC, or Marvel. I'd love to see a Gustavo Duarte Batman Black and White, but I'd also like to see you bring a story to life like Skottie Young did for the world of Oz or like Stan Sakai did for The 47 Ronin. Are you able to talk about your future work? What's on the horizon for you and is any of it something readers can expect to pick up in a monthly title?
GD: I like all of those roads. I would like to make a Batman Black and White too. :)
I find it interesting to work with my stories and my characters, but I also think it can be very cool to create using classic characters or bring other stories that already exist to the comics. Talking about a monthly title, it would also be an interesting experience. I would like to work with all those possibilities. I think I can learn with all these scenarios and it would help me to grow as a professional.
About future works, now I am working in a short story for Dark Horse and a 32 pages story for a compilation with some of my other stories here in Brazil. Furthermore, I have three new ideas for other books. I would like to choose one to write and start to draw (it) this year. But I'll see what happens along the year.
MA: Do you have any convention plans for US conventions?
GD: Yes. I should be at New York Comic Con in October.
Gustavo has an incredible intellect and was a delight to have a conversation with. His artistic endeavors will be a delight for you so remember to check them out now and then go pick up his book after. You can find Gustavo’s work on Instagram here and visit his blog here. Interact with him via Twitter @_gustavoduarte. For more information about “Monsters! & Other Stories” please visit the Dark Horse page here and my review of the book can be found on this very site by following this link.
Image From Gustavo Duarte's Blog