Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Interview with Greg Ruth - comics, movies, animation and his works

Interview with Greg Ruth over his works since Caliber till now and how he sees movies, comics, animation, the future of comics and his works.

I remember on the 90's when I was younger searching for several titles and comics from Caliber Press.

I do remember being fixed on some that I've thought that were pretty good:

'Harlequin' by Steve Csutoras and Eisner Award nominee, Stefano Gaudiano

'Exit' by Nabiel Kanan

"Through the wood and beneath the Moon"  by Tom Pappalardo & Matt Smith

'Walk through October' by Jeffrey Brown and Matt Smith

'Kingdom of the Wicked' by Ian Edginton andDisraeli (who later worked on Neil Gaiman "The Sandman")

And of course on Saint Germaine, Deadworld among others like on the interview that I've made to Gary Reed on the previous post, but your title 'Sudden Gravity' was a gem to me at the time .

Sudden Gravity 1 - by Greg Ruth

Sudden Gravity 2 - by Greg Ruth

Sudden Gravity 3 - by Greg Ruth

Sudden Gravity 4/5 - by Greg Ruth 

1. When did you find Gary and how was the atmosphere then by being published and released by Caliber with all these great Authors? Did you swap ideas for stories with the other Caliber Authors? Which comic book by Caliber did you loved most at that time?

Greg Ruth:  Boy Let me think... I believe I came across them while trawling through books specifically looking at and for a publisher. There weren't nearly as many resources back in those days, far fewer small press outfits to break into as there is today, so I found just checking out books I liked, noting that many of them had consistently the same editors, and then tracked those poor bastards down nagging them with samples. I was already being sort of tutored by Lou Stathis at Vertigo, who was an immense encouragement, and I had done a couple of the Factoid books for Paradox Press, but for Sudden Gravity I had sent out samples and a rough pitch proposal, Gary was the one who had gotten it right away. He was just completely into it and understood what I aimed to do. Caliber was kind of the place to go if you were looking to do stories that weren't the typical cape tales that DC and Marvel were doing- I think a result of that is celebrated by their insanely long list of big career folk that all went through there at one time or another. They were available and ready to roll in many ways, and they loved their genre work especially. Iliked a bunch of what they were putting out at the time, it's funny to think back on it as I now know many of those guys professionally now. I think nearly everyone I liked is still working in comics today- which really says something. It was a place for people passionate about the medium.

2. How did you conceived this story ?(it seems to me that you've inspiration on it by seeing 'The Kingdom' by Lars Von Trier).

The Kingdom by Lars Von Trier

Greg Ruth: The Kingdom hadn't come out here in the US until around the second or third issue. They showed it in movie theaters in NYC all at once, maybe taking five or six hours to do it. No one was ever in those theaters except us, but I was mesmerized by it- and horrified as well. It was like seeing a film version of what I was doing in the comic, and it gutted me. As much as I loved The Kingdom, I couldn't reconcile the book with it as it was and suddenly, in mid stream, had to rejigger much of the narrative. They're entirely different stories, but where I could I felt compelled to cut out similarities- especially the ghost story aspects- Julius int he book was originally a ghost amongst other kids who had been experimented on by Dr. Bonticou, so I had to change that completely. I did read someplace that Von Trier got his inspiration to do The Kingdom from Twin Peaks- specifically the hospital in the town, and I think that explains a great deal as to the similarities. I remember Sudden Gravity getting started in earnest while watching the second season premier and thinking "I want to know more about that hospital"- hospitals always give me to willies- especially at night, and the sterile humanity there was rich soil for telling scary stories. 

Twin Peaks poster by David Lynch

  Have you done updates on the graphic novel that you released after the single issue stories on the drawings and on the story?

Greg Ruth:  When Dark Horse and I decided to collected the series, my editor and dear friend Shawna Gore agreed it was a good chance to take another swipe at the book editorially. It had been truncated quite a bit down from its original twelve issues and then had taken a second blow via Lars Von Trier and I think was severely messy as a narrative because of that. Plus I had now done a whole other never published book, other comics work and Freaks of the Heartland and was starting up Conan with Kurt Busiek so I felt a bit more schooled in comics and wanted a chance to retrofit Sudden Gravity from that new place of experience. The one rule Shawna and I agreed to entirely starting out was not to George Lucas this thing- there could be no new drawing for the book. I could cut and paste it in different shapes, and did that readily- even imported some unpublished work back into the story. Much of the dialogue was rewritten and even some of the plot threads were completely revamped, cut out or enhanced. It was like a class assignment in editing a narrative and I learned a ton from that process. We ended up using the never published sixth issue cover for the Dark Horse edition and after it was all said and done- I felt like I had finally told that story as best as it could have been done so given the circumstances.

3. I know that you did also a book with Steve Niles called 'Freaks in the heartand', was it a different experience for you while working with Steve on another publishing company? It's a story of loneliness and the way people see different individuals (like 'Freaks' by Todd Browning), do you see yourself a bit of a 'freak' on the Comics market?

Freaks on the Heartland GN with Steve Niles

Freaks on the Heartland - 1 - with Steve Niles

Freaks on the Heartland - 2 - with Steve Niles

Freaks on the Heartland - 3 - with Steve Niles

Freaks on the Heartland - 4 - with Steve Niles

Freaks on the Heartland - 5 - with Steve Niles

Freaks on the Heartland - 6 - with Steve Niles

Greg Ruth: Totally different. It's been like that with every publishing house I've worked at- each place has a different culture, different folk, and each book for me at least, has been a different genre. I kind of love that to be honest. The variance keeps things interesting. Working with Steve was completely different than working with Kurt or even for Spencer on the Matrix Comics in those days. They each brought something entirely different to the table and I learned a million tons of wisdom from each of them. I remember when I was in Lou's office at Vertigo once- he'd ask me to do a few pages of something, maybe a Hellblazer story he'd given me, or just pages from Sudden Gravity,  and then I'd go back in and he'd review them and help me make them better. it was like my own personal art school- but Lou once said that I was a total freak int he industry and it would be hard for me as a result. The work and perspective just didn't fit easily into what most folk were doing but it was important to keep going because while it make take a while once I convinced publishers and readers to take a serious look things would flourish... but it would take a long time. And it turns out, as with most everything Lou said, he was totally right.

Matrix comics with a short story by Greg Ruth

A page from Matrix comics

Greg Ruth: I think the loneliness and isolation of the characters in SG, and even in my new book, The Lost Boy, are more a reflection of growing up in Houston. I was kind of a weirdo there- not really into sports at all, which then was almost the entire culture of the place, so I spent a great many hours alone in my room chasing down my imagination. I think that sense of self-isolation informs all my stories and work - it's there in many of the covers and spot illos I have done over the years. Even the music videos now that I think about it. 

The new work by Greg Ruth

4. Doing a comic book is different compared to doing a movie over one art being static and the other in movement, do you think that a certain image creates more impact on a comic book rather than on a movie over this?

Greg Ruth:  Oh absolutely. There are panels I can recall from books I read twenty years ago that come up in my mind as crisp as the day I read them. Scenes like V leaping in silhouette from a rooftop from V for Vendetta, or Sebastian O lighting a cigarette, The Doom Patrol falling into a DaDaist painting, Doctor Manhattan yelling at the tv studio in Watchmen... I can even recall the exact page and panel sequence from the Dave McKean's Cages where I decided I didn't just love comics, but wanted to do them for a living. Thanks to Allen Spiegel and Dave, I now have that original page up in my studio and I look at it everyday as a reminder of that moment. With comics the reader is on control of time in a way they aren't in movies, or even prose. You can affix yourself upon a single image and pause and soak it in, in a completely different and unique way in comics, and pick up the pace again when you're ready to go without a hitch. Will Eisner always said that comics happens in the space between the panels- and he's totally right (Will was right about just about everything too!). Comics is something that happens in your head, and the page and the art and words are really triggers for that moment. But with comics you lead the reader more because you have the opportunity to shape that narrative with images. You work in partnership with a reader as a comics writer/artist in a way that is very special and specific to the medium. it's probably the medium's greatest strength and also the hardest to accomplish well.

V for Vendetta by Alan Moore and David Lloyd

Doom Patrol by Grant Morrison and Richard Case

Sebastian O by Grant Morrison and Steve Yeowell

A panel from Dave Mckean "Cages"

5. With almost all the work today being digital, how do see you this? Do you think that texture's needed nowadays on Comics? 

Greg Ruth:  Well I don't worry about that too much- the digital stuff is getting overdone a bit, but that's what happens with any new toy in a medium. It gets overused via the excitement of it and then settles  back into its own arena where it belongs. I  much prefer to see hand drawn material and that still overwhelms the medium as a staple. The work being done on tablets is not my thing at all. I got a wacom a few years ago and gave it a try to help me better do Conan, and I just hated it. It's not my thing, and that's fine. I use the computer a great deal to make my books, but I don't draw on it- I just need to feel the tactile experience of ink and paper, and I think it makes for better work because it allows for accidents to happen. You can't have accidents in a digital sphere- not really, and so that kind of organic handle is important. We're not digital creatures so I think we relate better to likewise work. Books are of a certain size because of how they fit ergonomically in the hand. We live in a physical world and we need to touch things, smell things and not just see them. So I think there's nothing to fear or loathe in digital stuff- it leaves me a bit cold sometimes, but it's just another tool for telling stories and I think that just contributes to the overall ethos. It's ultimately additive and if it brings in more people to the medium, then I think that's great. A great example of the two sides working well is Jeff Smith's Bone books from Scholastic- his hand drawn art and the absolutely stunning digital color just sing together in perfect pitch. Whereas I find the exact opposite to be true of The work in The Dark Knight Returns. Like any tool you just need to recognize where it's strengths and weaknesses are and use it appropriately. Some people use it as a crutch or get dazzled by what i can do so easily and forget that in the end, you still need to know how to draw and paint in order to use that tool properly. The best digital artists comes from organic, practical training. 

Dark Knight strikes again by Frank Miller

Bone by Jeff Smith

6. Which are your main tools while creating comic books? And does the stories that you provide are stuck for a long time on your brain?

Greg Ruth: For me it's sumi ink, paper the scanner and photoshop for assembling and editing the drawings. I use water color and other paints and textures as layers in my color comics, and in some of my black and white work too, but overall I like to mostly just use the computer as a glorified paste up machine. Provides a level of freedom and editorial power unmatched anywhere else. My rule for the computer is if you can't do it in a darkroom, you probably shouldn't do it on a computer.
As to the second question- Oh my yes. I can recall in detail just about every panel of every comics story I have ever drawn or written and drawn. It's why I can't really ever read my own books- not even Sudden Gravity after all these many years- it's just impossible to experience them as a reader would having made them myself. They never go away, not ever.

Sudden Gravity page

7. You draw lots of Universal monsters by comission, what do you think of that period of the movies with Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney, Bela Lugosi among others?

Dracula with Bela Lugosi

The bride of Frankenstein with Boris Karloff

The Wolfman with Lon Chaney

Greg Ruth:  Oh I love them of course. LOVE them. When I was a kid in the wayback times growing up in the 1970's and '80's, before the internet and even cable tv, Sunday afternoon Mystery Theater, or the Creature Double Feature were like my church. Those and the old Westerns too. But Godzilla, Frankenstein, Dracula and the Mummy... these were the gods of my personal Olympus, so getting to do portraits of them all for Comicon this year was a spectacularly fun exercise in honoring those old movies. 

Frankenstein by Greg Ruth

Bride of Frankenstein by Greg Ruth

Wolfman by Greg Ruth

Nosferatu by Greg Ruth

8. Do you like the works by Hayao Miyazaki over being less digital than the common animation nowadays or do you think that perhaps it's something that's stuck on our mind over his movies that we saw when we were kids?

Greg Ruth: Of course I adore Myazaki- absolutely. Maybe because he comes from comics too, or just for his insane imagination... But Chuck Jones blows me away and especially so some of the older Disney stuff. 101 Dalmations in particular, or the Sorcerer's Apprentice for the scratchy pencil lines and free form movement of the characters. I could watch those films with the sound off. Even Akira and that combination of digital art with hand drawn cell animation is great stuff too. But I also adore animation like Bob's Burgers or even the Star Wars: Clone Wars show... maybe the latter for the kind of Thunderbirds are Go approach. Maybe all of it due to some form of nostalgia... I really love the work at the end credits for most Pixar films- that kind of mod-1960's style flat animation. They did some great stuff in many of the side projects for Kung Fu Panda that also work remarkably well. But the touchstone overall has got to be the old Fleischer stuff- the SUperman cartoons, Popeye, Betty Boop... they are just so fundamentally weird and wondrous

Akira Movie
Chuck Jones - Grinch

Miyazaki - Princess Mononoke

Walt Disney - Sorcerer's aprentice

Thunderbirds are go

Fleischer - Superman

Miyazaki - Nausicaa - Comic book

9. Was the process of making Lost boy similar to Sudden Gravity?

I think in some ways it was- It was my first return to a 9-panel grid approach since Sudden Gravity, so there's that. But it's similarities more reside in how the characters grew themselves and how the narrative expanded and the world-building was done. Genre similarities aside, I felt like I was more a conduit for the story than its master, and the characters after a short time started dictating tome what they wanted to say and do rather than the other way around. For me that was both the most fun and the most difficult part because it means you get to fall into your story like Dorothy  tumbling into Oz, but as a storyteller, you can't do that entirely and you have to be the Wizard too in order to keep the narrative mechanically functioning and the pace moving along. It can be all to easily to be lured by the siren song of your own creation sometimes- especially when you're world building, but it's important to remember where the sirens lead you, and steer clear of listening to it too much. I think a big difference can be found in that with The Lost Boy I had a strong editorial team mercilessly whipping me along the road, whereas I was more or less on my own with Sudden Gravity. I think The Lost Boy Is a far more successful story as a result of having that oversight. Knowing David and Adam, my editors on that book tethering em to shore let me swim out further and test boundaries in a way I couldn't have otherwise. Fence can sometimes make us freer.

Lost boy art by Greg Ruth

10. Who are the comic book artists that you admire most? 

Well Jim Woodring first. To be able to do what he does with little or no dialogue is amazing. Tony Millionaire's Sock Monkey comics are someof the best ever... so is Ernie Bushmiller's Nancy and Sluggo comics. It was Kent Williams, Dave McKean and Jon Muth who got me wanting to do comics into he first place- J's sumi drawings continue to be a perpetual influence. But Jack Davis, Harvey Kurtzman, Frank Quitely, John Ridgeway, Mattotti, Goseki Kojima... I could go on for ever with a proper list. There's so much great work out there and so much more being done now

Tony Millionaire

Jon J. Muth

Flex Mentallo by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely

JIm Woodring

Adicionar legenda

Kent Williams

Mattotti - Murmur

Goseki Kojima - Lone Wolf and cub

11. Do you see comics as a vehicle that could help other Arts or are they merely 'comics'?

Well I think both is more likely true. Comics are their own thing to be sure, and its a medium that still has a lot of self exploration to do and still has major benchmarks to reach- I think that's much of what excites me about the medium: the sheer potential it still has to tells tories. I think they can inform tremendously other mediums and vice versa. Carl Dryer's The Passion of Joan of Arc is one of the most important comics narratives on film for example, and I think something like Watchmen as faithful as it was to the book and successful in capturing much of the graphic novel shows the failures and limits in doing that too. Anytime you take a story from one medium to the other you lose something and gain other things. Much of the time what has to be left behind is what makes the story work, so you must for this reason alone, make big changes to how the story is told. I think a lot of film people don't understand comics and as a result when they adapt them into film, fail to do it well. Anytime a film person says comics are like storyboards for a movie, that tells me they don't understand comics on a fundamental level... or the comics they are referring to are poor at being comics. As a writer and creator of a comics narrative like The Lost Boy, I am the director, editor, cinematographer, choreographer and special effects department all rolled into one. In film you never have that kind of control or power- not ever. I can create a giant ten story tall elephant structure in a fast field framed by ancient trees and am never restricted by physical laws or budget the way one is in film. Jim Woodring can create insane otherworldly landscapes and events impossible to achieve on film, and the effect of reading those books is more dreamy and effective than any film could ever achieve. Every medium has it's powers and pitfalls and if you're going to move a story from one to the other, it's wise to be familiar with those aspects in order to make the transition as smooth and as effective as possible, otherwise it suffers from being overly loyal to the source, or becomes unrecognizable to it. 

Watchmen movie scene

Carl Dreyer - Passion of Joan of Arc

12. Do you prefer to read and create comics for continuing limited issues or graphic novels?

I dunno... I guess both. It really depends on the story being told. I love The Invisibles or Lone Wolf and Cub for their episodic structures, but The Lost Boy would be terrible told in that way. I think Sudden Gravity works better as an uninterrupted tale too- I think because it's also about being in a place and a mood and that requires a sustained presence to achieve. So I think you have to let the story tell you how it wants to go, or be familiar with the vagaries of episodic storytelling versus long form graphic novel forms and adapt accordingly. I did a series for Vertigo that got killed before we went to press called Edentown, that while can be rejiggered to work as a long form graphic novel, worked best as a series of 22 page arcs. There was just something splendid about how the narrative unfurled itself that way and it harkened back to the old serial stories they'd tell in movie theaters before the feature started. I love seeing a tv series all at once in a marathon form, but I also like having to wait for the next installment. I think this is what made Watchmen work as a comic and fail a s a movie- it's just too much not to have time to pull away and absorb it. The film is kind of a miserable experience and maudlin, whereas the book as dark as it is never falls into that trap I think because the way it's broken up. So ideally I'd like to see both continue going forward, and I think we will. We don't really lose forms of media as we just add to the orchestra and for this I am not at all worried about ebooks or digital media, interactive gaming etc... I think it's all just more ways to experience narratives and that's a plus. We're a storyteller-species and we;ll always need and want to hear each other's stories and that means there will always be a place for us as storytellers to do out thing. How ever we do it
Lost Boy - Page

Grant Morrison and Jill Thompson - Invisibles

Lone Wolf and Cub - Page 1

Lone Wolf and Cub - Page 2

The Invisibles - By Grant Morrison - 1

The Invisibles by Grant Morrison - 2

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