As a part of the series of posts that El Fantascopio and Cuentos para Algernon are devoting to humorous SF&F, our beloved Cristina Jurado interviews Carlos Sisí and Ittai Manero, whose humoristic comic-book Midnight will be published in Spain later this year. You can read the interview in the original Spanish at Cristina's blog Más Ficción que Ciencia. I really want to thank Cristina for letting me publish here her translation of her talk with Sisí and Manero. Hope you enjoy it!
“Midnight” by Sisí & Manero:
A fantasy and humoristic comic for all ages
Internet is an space where reality unfolds, like a brochure spread out, which multiplies events. There, where social media blossom tangling us in a grid of crossed conversations, I found out the upcoming publishing of a fantasy and humoristic comic, aimed to all audiences. It is Midnight, with script by Carlos Sisí and illustrations by Ittai Manero, supported by Planeta de Agostini and arriving to readers next fall. Sisí, the writer from Malaga, is well known thanks to his zombie trilogy The Wanderers (2009), Necrópolis (2010) and Hades Nébula (2011), a psychological horror novel Edén Interrumpido (2012), the thriller La hora del mar (2012) and Panteón, a science fiction novel awarded with Premio Minotauro 2013. Born in Tarragona, Ittai Manero has dedicated his life to drawing, painting portraits and collaborating with fanzines. Now he works at Serie B Studio, where he combines his position as an illustrator with his job as a comic teacher. Next, we offer you an interview with the duo behind Midnight, just a few days after their appearance in the last Salón del Cómic in Barcelona.
Cristina Jurado: I would like to start asking each of you to introduce the other.
Ittai Manero: Here we have the Knight Don Sisí, who believed in me when nobody knew me. I talked to him about Magic Knight, its title then, which at the time I thought had a great potential. He is a fantastic writer and a better friend. He knows how to listen and tells you what you need at the right time, so you can get the best out of yourself. I just remembered, we got in contact in August of 2012.
Carlos Sisí: This hard working guy's name is Ittai Manero. The truth is that Midnight would have never seen to light without him… He came with few illustrations of Knight and we talked about the possibility of developing the comic. There was no contract, no guarantee, but he never doubted in investing a lot of talent, time and effort to go for something we both believed in. And it became true. The process was wonderful and fun: now we are very good friends. There is a moral in the story, even though I only can think about spicy sardines, I don't know why.
CJ: Carlos Sisí, what brings to Midnight Ittai Manero's style of illustrating? Ittai Manero, what did you see in Magic Knight that move you to draw it?
Manero: It was probably the fact that I'd read a few comic strips that Carlos had in is Facebook wall, as well as four or five pages of Magic Knight. The title was “Dan's strip” and I thought they were very clever. I also believed Carlos' illustrations had a lot of potential and I still feel that he could have achieved something very good by himself. I really wanted to be part of it and wanted to collaborate with him. Then, there was Knight. I started with for sketches and he loved them immediately.
Sisí: Ittai has given Midnight a cozy style, with enough level of details and, at the same time, very simple visually. And the use of color is glorious. Knight is very cool; it gets in your eyes, as people have said in Salón del Cómic and in Facebook. Nobody has read anything yet, nobody knows exactly what is it but there is already fan art, people ask about T-shirts and little rag dolls and there is a professional sculptor working on a doll. All that, without Ittai's illustrations, would not have happened.
CJ: What is Midnight for you Carlos Sisí? And for you Ittai Manero?
Manero: To me Midnight is like a son. And, if it wasn't, it looks very much like one because it was very hard to “give birth” to it. I'm lucky because Carlos' scripts are very fun to illustrate and he also gives me enough room to work in every page. In a more serious note, the most difficult was working on the project while I was doing nine hours shifts in a hotel in London. I imagine that, if I was in a Caribbean beach instead, it probably would have taken me less time and I wouldn't have felt so overwhelmed. In situations like this, after working so hard, you value the most all the good things that happened to you. I can say I cannot be happier because our “baby” is going to be published by Planeta de Agostini in Spain.
Sisí: Midnight is a "labour of love". The main character, Knight, was born during my adolescence. I used to draw him in the chalkboards of the school and in all my textbooks. I did many comic strips and illustration of all shapes and sizes. It was a symbol, more or less unconscious; it was an “I” locked in an armor, somebody with a very rich inside world, dormant magic, an explorer of a changing world. I surrounded him with all the things I liked: a tower in the middle of a lake in a forest where is always night, tea parties, and a very special friend called Alicia. To see him now in a book, professionally designed and with this wonderful appearance, is a great sensation that reveals: “If you work hard in following your dream, you can achieve it”.
CJ: What is Midnight's audience? What do you want to achieve with this comic?
Sisí: As I said before, Midnight is a “labour of love”. We could have done something more commercially viable: I have the universe of The Wanderers, or stories like Panteón that could be translated into a comic, but Midnight is something we already had and wanted to pursuit. It's a very exciting project. To be able to show Knight's world to anybody who wants to know it is very motivational. This comic is born from an essential need, basic and pure, to create something beautiful and cozy. We were very careful to develop it so it was suitable for children, but also fun for adults. We really have fun writing and illustrating it, and want to keep on doing it. And we have hidden a lot of allusions and geek references in its pages!
Manero: I believe Midnight is an ode to adventures. It wants to make adult readers smile while learning about the many and friendly characters who live in its pages: Knight; his cat Agatón; Dwain, the warrior; Banshee, the ghost… What we really want is to make the younger readers follow the adventures of our “blue chickpea” and his friends, making them feel like they are part of a journey full of quests. As Carlos said, we made sure people of all ages could have fun with it, at different levels… And the geeks can find many allusions to the fandom world.
CJ: Ittai already talked a bit about the characters. Could you introduce us to them?
Sisí: With time, I really became fond of Banshee. He's a tormented spirit, a ghost who committed terrible things during his life and now is trying to purge his sins helping Knight solve the problems that arise in the first book. I like his expression, always stern and reflexive, and his capacity to face difficulties by phasing, going through walls and throwing ectoplasms. That tires him a lot, so he has to rest from time to time. I think that, from all the characters close to Knight, he is the wisest one.
Manero: We have Knight, guardian of the King and protector of the Kingdom, as a connecting threat of the story through which we learn about the other characters. One of the first ones to appear is Banshee, but there is also Dwain, a Tesobithean warrior who will help Knight and company in more than one occasion. With Banshee and the “blue chickpea”, they are the central group of main characters in Midnight, as well as many other secondary characters.
Sisí: We have an internal joke. Ittai prefers Dwain and I, Banshee; I always threaten him to make Dwain disappear in a future book if he does not attend to my crazy requests.
Manero: Knight has a cat called Agatón, who is much more than what it seems. There are ghosts, ghouls… There are also some other characters we cannot reveal because then the story wouldn't be funny.
CJ: Writing novels or short stories is very different from developing a script for a comic, where the story is never totally resolved (I'm talking about the adventures of the main character continuing ad infinitum) even though each chapter is self-closing (each adventure starts and ends). What are the decisions involved in writing a comic that are not present in a novel?
Sisí: It might surprise some people but, to me, one thing is not so different from the other. Novels are a way to tell stories as much as a comic is. In terms of the story, composition and execution, etc., they aren't antagonistic worlds. I visualize things and describe them with words in both cases. Ittai only interprets them and gives them life though his pencils, the same a reader does in his mind while reading a novel! It's similar to taking a picture of a toy… I tell stories playing with composition and light. If I had other ways in my hand, I would also use them: a technical and artistic team to develop movies or videogames, for example. Inventing and transmitting is what we do. Midnight is very different from other things I've done but is sweet and fun: the images, the colors, etc., help a lot in this case.
CJ: It is clear to me that you had a blast working on this project, hadn't you?
Sisí: It's super exciting, Cristina. I can't explain it with words, and I suppose to earn my living using words! The day I will see it in my shelf… Not so long ago, an author told me: “Man, it's a very bad time for comics in Spain. If you had written it about something different, it would sell a lot better…” But it's not for this comic to work at that level. It is not about the sales, it's about putting it out there, to make the appropriate people came in contact with it, so they can have it in their homes and take a look at it from time to time. That is a lot. It's everything.
Manero: I had the time of my life. It's true the graphic part is a lot of work, very hard at times. But, looking back, I enjoyed a lot.
CJ: Can you describe the working process between both of you?
Manero: For personal reasons, this has been a project we've developed in our spare time. The working process was different than what it supposes to be. Normally Carlos writes a script in a page. Then I do some sketches that I send them to him, and we go through them together. If we agree, I apply the ink (in the traditional way) and the color (digitally). In some occasions, after applying the ink, the vignette looked better and we've had to repeat it, but the truth is that we get along very well and this has almost never happened. Then Carlos writes the next page and we continue. Sometimes, he saw how busy I was and then took advantage of the situation to write two or more pages. We try to have fun as much as possible during the process, so that's why we say Midnight is a "labour of love".
Sisí: To sum up, ninety percent of the time, I look over Ittai's shoulder to see how he works. Writing scripts is great, I love it.
CJ: Who are your narrative and visual referents?
Manero: Some referents are Adventure Time, the first comic strips of Super López by Jan, and I would add The Smurfs by Peyo and Atlas & Axis by Pau. And many, many more.
Sisí: Let's see: Adventure Time, Terry Pratchett, classic tales like Alicia in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz or The Neverending Story, the first comic strips of Super López by Jan, Dungeons & Dragons, many old videogames and some of the modern ones like The Hall of Things, the adventures in the caves in The Hobbit, Colossal Cave. It's a mix of all that and more.
CJ: Carlos, can you tell me something about Ittai Manero than nobody knows? Ittai, can you do the same about Carlos Sisí?
Sisí: Ittai is a hard working guy. And deep down, he is incredible. Midnight would have never came to life without his passionate dedication, illustrating at night, after his job, tireless. He doesn't mind to rework on something to enhance it. If he saw something susceptible of being improved, he reworked it and then I used to tell him: “If you change that, you'll have to change the prior thirty pages” and he replied “So what?” Many would have cracked or have chosen more immediate projects. I believe in bizarre synchronisms that push life forward. Ittai came to my life at the right moment. I'm so happy about it…
Manero: Oh, well, this is not easy. Carlos is the warmest guy. This is something the people who follow him in social media know, because he is a very friendly, open and honest person. It's easy to get close to him, something very unusual in the literary world, and I will always thank him for it. He didn't hesitate to share his time with me when we didn't know each other and didn't realize we will collaborate in Midnight. We used to talk about the potential of the characters, which he loved (anybody could tell). It seems to me he was thankful I noticed the project. I'm not sure we've created something good, but I had the constant feeling of working on a very exciting project. I sincerely wish, when it gets to people's hands (adults and children) they will enjoy it as much as we did developing it. That would be priceless. Nothing could have been achieved without Carlos humble and approachable attitude, that August of 2012, when I wrote to him a private message telling something like: “Hey, the pages of your Magic Knight are really cool. I see great potential here!”
About Cristina Jurado: Cristina Jurado Marcos writes the sci-fi blog Más ficción que ciencia. Having a degree in Advertising and Public Relations by Universidad de Seville and a Masters in Rhetoric by Northwestern University (USA), she currently studies Philosophy for fun. She considers herself a globetrotter after living in Edinburgh, Chicago, Paris or Dubai. Her short stories have appeared in several sci-fi online magazines and anthologies. Her first novel From Orange to Blue was published in 2012. Some of her short stories are forthcoming in a number of anthologies to be published later this year.