Hello folks. Yesterday I published an interview with Lorenzo Ghetti and Claudia Nùke Razzoli about their new comic: Millennials, a wonderful spin off of TO BE Continued. As for the chat I had with Lorenzo, some time ago, since Millennials is available both in italian and in english, I thought it’d be nice to translate this interview so also foreign readers of the comic can enjoy it.
One last note before we start. I’m aware my english isn’t that good, and translating something from italian to another language is not something I happen to do a lot. For this reason it’s more than possible that you find, in this article, all sorts of writing errors and grammatical horrors. If (or more likely when) you do, feel free to let me know via email, in the comment below or in the Facebook page of Dailybaloon, and I will see to make it right.
Well, Dailybaloon’s readers already know Lorenzo because we had another long chat some time ago about TO BE Continued. So I’d start with you, Nùke, asking to present yourself: how was your life, how did you end up making comics and finally doing Millennials?
[Lorenzo] He asked me the very same question last time, don’t worry.
[Nùke] I basically always made comics. When I was very young I wanted to be a writer, but I also wanted to continue drawing. And after a sort of crisis like “how’s possible to combine these two things together?” I discovered the existence of comics! And that’s it. I studied at the International School for Comics in Florence…
After that and besides this project I’m currently working with Mammaiuto, you can see a lot of works I did with them online or on paper.
And how did you and Lorenzo met?
[Lorenzo] The very first contact was at the festival Chiamata alle arti, Call to arts, in Piemonte. It’s a festival about writing, about comics, and music… In the comics’ field there were the Mammaiuto guys with Lorenzo Palloni, Francesco Guarnaccia and Claudia; then there were Martoz ad I. This was the crew.
So we passed the week end in that place, speaking in congresses and conferences but also going out at night or by day, getting drunk with San Simone, a local alcoholic drink and dacne…
Seems like a funny place to be!
[Lorenzo] Very much! We had a lot of fun, and we got to know each other. So after that, at Lucca Comics&Games a couple of months later, I came out with this idea. It was a thing I was working on for a long time and I knew I wanted someone to do it with. And if I had to say one name, out of the blue, it was Claudia’s.
And how did you react?
[Nùke] Eh! I thought “live the dream, Nùke!”. ‘Cause I was a reader of TO BE Continued, and just imagine what is to be a huge fan of something and the author asks you if you want to collaborate making a spin-off. You find yourself thinking “what the fuck is happening?!”.
Good! Because the project worked out very well, and it’s very noticeable that it wasn’t something forced…
[Lorenzo] For me it was fundamental that she wanted to do this project.
This is also a little bit weird, so to speak, because Millenials is very different, in themes and rhythm, from the works that usually Nùke does. Those are more intimistic , more personal comics in some way. Did this difference scared you?
[Nùke] Absolutely not, about the opposite. In the end I always do the same things. For instance, speaking about the atmosphere of my comics, there’s always that intimate tune but with jokes, the everyday life, feelings, talking… But never proper action: it’s just people talking about themselves whit themselves, but in the end nothing ever really happens. But I also enjoy more yobby, it’s just that until now I never had the chance to elaborate them. So Lorenzo, with Millennials, arrived at the perfect time.
And how was to work with someone else? In a previous interview with Lo Spazio Bianco you said it was a nightmare. Is Lorenzo really this demanding?
[Nùke] No, no: I do all the nightmare by myself.
[Lorenzo] Nobody’s going to see this thing, but she did like 7 different versions of the first pages. 7 totally different styles of inking and coloring. I saw the first version and I was like “supercool!” and she was like “no, it’s shit. I’m doing it again”. She does the second one and I’m like “but it’s supercool!” and she again went “no, it’s shit. I’m doing it again”. This went on for six times.
[Nùke] At last I did six pages, ready to be printed. He thought that we were finally in peace, that I could move on to the seventh page. Instead I told him that I thrashed everything and I’m inking all the pages anew.
[Lorenzo] Then she arrived at the twelfth page and said: “I changed again, now I continue with this new style, but then I go back and redo the first pages”. All those things considered, the first book of Millennials took just about a month of work.
But obviously at the beginning working as a team could be difficult: we were both used to work by ourselves. So you know what you’re capable of doing, and you are aware of your timing. I, for example, know that if I’m late I can arrange a TO BE Continued episode in 24 hours. When you are working in couple that’s not that simple to know. At the beginning she waited so long because I did not send her the script, because I wasn’t sure about some things…
[Nùke] And I felt responsible. Up to now, graphically, if I did something worse, a little ugly-ish, it was only my business. The poor figure was noone’s but mine. Now I’m aware that everything must be perfect, because the potential poor figure is also his. I felt a lot this responsibility.
[Lorenzo] For me it’s the opposite. If I’m alone I just have myself as a judge of what I’m doing, instead if we are two or more convinced of something I feel stronger. We had a pact of sincerity and honesty, so if something doesn’t work we say it right away. And I also enjoy trusting her. Sometimes I prepare a storyboard and think that I’m not convinced. And she says “trust me”. And so I trust her. End eventually everything turns out to be just right. From this trust and communication came out something different from both my and her works. It’s a third, different and recognizable thing.
And this identity of Millennials is very noticeable, even if it’s clearly part of the TO BE Continued universe. It would be so much easier to throw it upon the principal series like second class little story. I don’t know, like the TO BE Continued’s Robin. This identity is instead very clear, both narratively and graphically. How was it to define and create this individuality?
[Nùke] At the beginning I had no idea about how I wanted to work. I started saying that I would never wanted to draw digitally, but in the end everything was done digitally. But I knew this: I wanted to do something super pop. So step by step I adjusted the mire, because I wanted the drawings to be as much yobby as the story was. So: digital painting, super flashy colors, very choreographic things. And I studied a lot the anatomy. Usually it’s not so important if my characters have or not bones under their lovable pattern sweaters. Here I wanted figures to be more solid. I wanted visual impact.
[Lorenzo] I can say what it was from the narrative point of view. In this project there’s definitely the will to go back to TO BE Continued’s first season. Because it had some themes I was really interested about, but then in the second season I had this timespace mess idea…
And I’m sticking with it, but fundamentally I changed genre. I really like stories with a fantastic element which is, in the end, almost superfluous. I’m thinking about Black Mirror, about a certain kind of sci-fi where there’s this element characterizing story and world but, in the end, you’re talking about something else. Millennials is exactly like that: we could have written it without superheroes, talking about an ordinary talent show. In fact main characters never use their powers, at least in the first issue…
But in this case, and this is a deliberately provocative question since I know what you think about superheroes, why putting in superheroes anyway?
[Lorenzo] Well, this project was born from a series of characters I created for TO BE Continued and were left behind. Besides Elise, which we created together for Millennials, all other characters pre-existed. And I wanted to work with them. And I want to work with them not only as a group, but also singularly. The TO BE Continued’s character group is like a single character with multiple voices. Sometimes I get closer to a single one of them, but never too much. Here instead I want to focus on every one of them: what are their problems, what they want and don’t want, how others can help them overcome their difficulties.
Then case wanted that they’re all female characters. And something beautiful that many told me is that you barely notice it!
[Nùke] This is absurd to me! Maybe it will be more obvious in the second issue because we emphasize that point… We say it “hold on, we’re all women!”.
[Lorenzo] But this is amazing: we achieved doing something with only female characters, ma the thing per se is gender neutral.
Anyway, they’re superheroes because they were created in that framework, and then the superpower becomes something to exploit certain things. For example the generational matter, from which the title (we’ll get to that).
At the beginning the project should have been about a grant request, but then Mauro, my ferocious editor, told me it didn’t work: it was boring and, in the end, a poor copy of TO BE Continued’s first season. But he also told me “now talent shows are very popular, you should make your project about talent shows”. If you want it’s the most trivial idea in the world, but no one ever did it. To be honest there’s this one comic, America’s got powers, but it’s ignoble…
And everything comes together with the title. Some months ago, articles about the Millennium Generation started to became visible. It’s a brand-new term, before there was Generation Y. Sociologists started just now to study our generation, from early ‘80s to late ‘90s, and the basic things are: we’re a generation obsessed by success and recognition; we’re an optimistic generation but in a childish way; we’re a narcissistic generation.
The title, Millennials, relates exactly on this. And Born to be heroes is provoking. It’s us telling ourselves that we’re the coolest guys ever, that we’re at the center of everything, that we’re going to do the cultural revolution. And being superheroes emphasize this illusion of power our generation feels. We’re the ones of “you can do everything”, and superpowers is a way to hyperbolize and take this to the extreme.
[Nùke] Besides TO BE Continued, I never read a single superhero’s comic…
[Lorenzo] And I liked the idea to see how she could manage this kind of things. I wanted her “virgin eye”, so to be sure not to fall into clichés. For instance, there’s this strip I really like… I said to her “she’s going to perform a very technical, very precise exhibition”. Maybe someone more superhero-oriented would have made a girl with four arms doing something completely different. Instead this is perfect, very gymnastic in a perfect way, because it comes out from a different point of view.
In fact I find very interesting that a comic about superheroes such as Millennials, at this qualitative level, comes from people very far to the usual superhero genre. Is this your being outsiders the strength of the project?
[Lorenzo] 90% of superheroes stories are inside a box. A box existing for the past 50, even 80 years. Now there are a lot of projects of this particular genre that are outside that box, but that came out from people who grew up inside the box. But we didn’t, and this makes a difference. Then for me superheroes do not mean only action and fists: it’s a guy with some kind of abilities… and so? How’s his life? The world superhero makes me click in a very different way.
[Nùke] It’s a matter of taste. A fictional character interests me for his everyday life, his “normal” side.
[Lorenzo] So, in the case of a superhero, how his power affects this “normal” things.
[Nuke] But maybe people who usually writhe these stories are simply not interested in such aspects, such sides of the story. Maybe they just want to see how the guy uses his power, his gift. For example I watch a lot of movies, movies of every kind, but I simply cannot stand superheroes movies. The only one I like is Super, the one with Ellen Page and Rainn Wilson…
[Lorenzo] And this Super is a very indie thing about a guy out of is mind that decides to be a superhero, wears a suit, grab a wrench and stars beating the shit out of people. It’s a bit like Kick-Ass, but in discomfort.
[Nùke] And he has no superpower, he’s married and 40, he works in a fast food… It’s very sad. The movie has this indie glow like some Sundance Film Festival’s movie. But in the meantime they really beat themselves up, and that part’s very funny, very entertaining. But it’s not the focus. The focus is everything else, the plot development…
I thought that this is the way superheroes movies should be. Even when there are true superpowers involved, we’re still talking about people, with feelings and difficulties…
[Lorenzo] For instance, when I started writing TO BE Continued I like the fact that Rouge, who has electrical powers, can only use dry shampoo because otherwise with water she makes a short circuit… I enjoy this kind of things. With Millennials I want to bring up the relationship we have with ourselves, with our hopes, with feeling powerful. And I want to explore how a superpower fits in the argument.
So the first thing is that Millennials offers a different point of view on superheroes, outside the box we said earlier, in the way also TO BE Continued’s first season did. The other thing I wanted to talk about is that it’s a self-published comic, so it’s also outside the box of traditional publishing.
The self-publishing scene is a fascinating one, and a fascinating concept indeed. Because if in the classic literature world, the DIY approach is very badly seen, a poor trick to avoid confrontation with editors and quality check, clearly for comics it’s totally different.
Why an author chooses to self-publish himself rather than go to a publisher?
[Nùke] Well… My first objective when I seriously started making comics was to arrive to a publisher. It seemed a pretty obvious objective: I don’t want to say it seemed like the finishing line, but surely a milestone to say “now I’m a real author”.
I published two books whit two publishers, one was a commission for Kleiner Flug and the other is Effetto Casimir [we can translate it in Casimir effect] for Rizzoli Lizard. This galvanized me, I was happy. But self-publishing has something more. You do not have any limitation, you can express yourself 100%, and this is fundamental. Moreover, self-published books are going really well, both qualitatively and economically. I don’t know the reason, but it’s true. Years ago, at Lucca Comics&Games, the self area was filled with badly stapled and poor printed fanzines. Now we’re talking about books of great quality.
[Lorenzo] But there’s people criticizing this. They say you’re not a real self-publisher, you’re mimicking real publishers.
[Nùke] But it’s not the printing quality that makes you a “true”, in the sense of traditional, publisher. It’s something else. Quality is just having invested energy and resources to obtain it. I don’t see anything wrong in doing it.
The only thing a publisher gives you is distribution, advertising, press office… But that’s a thing only if you’re interested in that kind of visibility.
Economically, on the other hand, I can’t find any relevant difference. In the traditional publishing framework I’m very young, a newcomer, and the gain is proportionated to this fact. And in the end is pretty much the same gain I have with self-published books. It’s with this in mind that I say self-publishing is going well: you make the same money (without the distribution) that you make with a traditional publisher.
[Lorenzo] Another thing that should separate traditional and self publishing is the editing process. A publisher should cultivate you, making you grow. But that’s not easy: true editors are rare, in Italy, and finding them is real fortune. The first thing I’d want to go with a traditional publisher is an editor I trust.
The relation between traditional and self publishing may be very various. For many people the DIY it’s just a way of becoming known to approach a publisher. For others it’s the other way around. Then there’s who stay in the middle. For instance, I really like the fact that Aqualung, despite being published with Bao Publishing, appear first in internet, for free. It’s not trivial when you have finally reached a publisher. This is a choice.
[Nùke] Now my relation with editors is only about rights. Mammaiuto, for instance, is working with Shockdom which is buying rights from the single Mammaiuto authors. In my case it was about the Diaries. So they bought the rights but I had total freedom on paper, dimension, extras…
And do you like it this way?
[Nùke] I love it. I’d like to go this way, self-publish and then rights bargaining, forever. I hope it works out also for Millennials.
[Lorenzo] I’m a bit rigid on this point. Because for me everything has its shape. I can make various projects, and every one of them will have his particular shape. In my mind Millennials was meant to be in a comic book format, 26 to 28 pages. And this format, I knew it, was impossible for the traditional publishing and distributive system, for how it works in Italy. I surely could have done a more standard single book, graphic novel style, but the rhythm would be inevitably different.
When a collected edition will finally find its way to existence, it will be a single book of 260 pages, full color. And it will not cost more than 25 euros. All the comic books together will cost you around double that price. But that’s its shape, that’s how it has to be read in my opinion. Am I asking you to spend more? Yes. But it was the only way I had to make it. A publisher will allow me to keep Millennials in stock, available for a very long time. But they will be two different things in two different shapes.