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