A Work in Progress: an excerpt from an interview with Michael Zulli Part 2

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More with artist Michael Zulli…

This interview was conducted via email in September of 2012.

John Rovnak: What kind of response, if any, do you strive to create in your comics?

Michael Zulli: Easy… I mostly want some sense of the mysterious, not always directly, but most often a sense of “what is that about?” or “I’ve never seen anything like that, what does it mean?” I want a kind of off-center curiosity to set in as fast as possible.

Rovnak: What was the defining moment for you when you decided to make comics your chosen medium?

Zulli: Well I’ve told this one before, but the truth of it remains, so let me dust it off and have one more turn ’round the dance floor. Sometime in the early nineteen eighties I was in a kind of artistic freefall, and try as I might, nothing I thought through seemed have the kind of “spark” I need when I make art. Until, this kid I knew who’s family lived over the local [bar] I used to frequent, when I still frequented those places, told me about this new thing (at least to me) called, “a comics shop.” Apparently they sold nothing but comics! What a gloriously silly idea. I simply had to see this fabled thing with my own eyes.
To condense a bit, I found one all right. In a smallish mall like place, was a shop (as I more than likely mis-remember) called Moondance Comics.
It was there I discovered, after a few weeks of browsing, the second book in Bryan Talbot’s Luther Arkwright series and Barry Windsor Smith’s short story, “The Beguiling.” I told myself that if work like this could be made, and actually be sold, then I’ve found my game. Period.

Rovnak: What drew you to comics?

Zulli: What draws everybody, the odd strangeness of them. The colors and words that swirl in wonderful patterns as you stand at the rack thumbing through one. Some people seem to get caught right away, while others have a bit of a fling with them and move on, and others still never seem to get the concept at all. I think it takes a certain willingness to be impractical, to be okay with giving control over to the story and letting it carry you along.

Rovnak: Do you have any sort of rituals before sitting down at the drawing table, or is it like punching in and out of a job and it’s just a daily routine at this point?

Zulli: There was a time, say a decade ago, give or take a few years either way, that I had been sitting in that chair in front of that table under those lights that I simply couldn’t bring myself to do it. And yet deadlines loomed large, and the subtle inflections of editors voices implying they weren’t happy. And the, “You know how things work around here!” speech would get dusted off, waiting in the wings for just the right amount of rebellion. So I sat down like a good boy and did my job. Everything about that picture is wrong. Wait here, I will make a point of actually answering the question… At the time, I was absolutely riddled with OCD behavior before, during and after working. The lights got turned on in a certain order, at which time the subject was placed as square center on the drawing board as possible, etc, etc… until eventually real drawing happened somewhere in the ritual mess. And yeah, even today after spending ten years or more trying to “un-learn” the bad habits of twenty years or so of exposure to (in my mind anyway) the toxic minefield that the working artist must endure in comics. Hey, maybe things have changed a lot since, but I suspect it’s the same turd in the center just a different candy coating.
Oh, the little rituals I keep these days are because I want them there, and not some nerve steadying dram of guts.

Rovnak: Describe your studio/workspace for me, and what sort of environment you find most productive?

Zulli: Comfortable as possible. Whatever that is… as long as it fits with both my headspace, and the [physical] space itself. Right now it’s quite plush and colorful. My next space might be very spartan. Ideally, I’d like to have several spaces I could move between as the work changed, so then would the mood and setting.

Rovnak: Do you have a different mental approach to a comics page versus a painting?

Zulli: Short and sweet, much to my shame… no. Shame? Well, in the sense that they are so needy in such different ways. But I pencil a comics page the same way I would lay down the composition on a thirty by forty inch canvas. Most inkers would do almost anything to get out of inking me.

to be continued…

Click HERE to read Part 1.

Interview © John Rovnak

The Return of the Panel to Panel Bookplate!!!

Dotter of Her Father’s Eyes by Mary M Talbot & Bryan Talbot, is now available with an exclusive signed and numbered bookplate.  These unique bookplates are limited to only 50 copies, and are available only here at Panel to Panel!

Part personal history, part biography, Dotter of Her Father’s Eyes contrasts two coming- of-age narratives: that of Lucia, the daughter of James Joyce, and that of author Mary Talbot, daughter of the eminent Joycean scholar James S. Atherton. Social expectations and gender politics, thwarted ambitions and personal tragedy are played out against two contrasting historical backgrounds, poignantly evoked by the atmospheric visual storytelling of award-winning graphic-novel pioneer Bryan Talbot. Produced through an intense collaboration seldom seen between writers and artists, Dotter of Her Father’s Eyes is smart, funny, and sad-an essential addition to the evolving genre of graphic memoir.





Every Time I Think I’m Out, They Pull Me Back In.

So the other day I get an email from Bryan Talbot asking me if Panel to Panel is still in the business of producing bookplates?  You see a couple of years ago, Panel to Panel had teamed up with Bryan to produce signed, limited bookplates for Alice in Sunderland and Grandville.  Since that time, Panel to Panel had moved away from retailing (and producing bookplates), and moved towards publishing (as is documented in this very blog).  But as I told Bryan in my replay email, “There’s an old saying here, that I’m not sure if you’re familiar with?  It goes like this…  ‘When and if Bryan Talbot contacts you about doing a bookplate, always say YES!’ :)”

To which he replied, “Yes, I’ve heard it, I think it dates back to the Civil War.”

You see, in my opinion and the opinion of most other people, Bryan Talbot is quite possibly one of THE most talented and important figures in modern comics history.  From his classic epic The Adventures of Luther Arkwright, to The Tale of One Bad Rat, to his work on Neil Gaiman’s Sandman and Tom Veitch’s The Nazz, to his very own Alice In Sunderland and Grandville, Bryan Talbot has produced an amazing body of work.

It was at this moment that I realized that whether Panel to Panel had stopped producing bookplates on a regular basis or not, the chance to team up with Bryan Talbot again had inspired me to go back to P2P’s roots, and say yes to his offer.

So to make this official, I’m proud to announce that for the February 2012 release of Dotter of Her Father’s Eyes by Mary M. Talbot & Bryan Talbot (from Dark Horse Comics), Panel to Panel will be offering the US Exclusive signed bookplate edition, limited to 50 copies.

A link to purchase the book and bookplate will be made available soon, as well as a link to purchase Bryan’s previous P2P bookplate editions.  You can preview the upcoming book HERE, and view Bryan’s website HERE.

So now that Panel to Panel is back in the bookplate business, what about the Panel to Panel book?  Where the hell is that damned book!?!?  Right?  Well it’s been one fiasco after another, and it’s been a real crazy learning experience for me, but I can say with complete and utter confidence that the book in question will finally begin shipping next week!  The first batch of printed copies are expected to be delivered on Monday 12/12/2011, and orders will begin being filled shortly after.  I apologize for the delay, and I thank you all for your patience.