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

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

Last year I began a rather lengthy interview with artist Michael Zulli. Unfortunately, due to prior commitments on both my end and his, we haven’t been able to wrap it up as planned. So until the day in which we can both commit to finishing up our conversation, I’ve decided to run a few excerpts for you to enjoy. I’ve loved working on this interview so much, that it pains me to have the portions that are complete sit dormant in my hard drive collecting “virtual dust”.

This interview was conducted via email in September of 2012.

John Rovnak: What is your earliest comic book memory?

Michael Zulli: I honestly couldn’t tell you my earliest comics memory, as that would be lost to the mists of time. But I can tell you one of the most memorable. I lived in Tennessee most of my childhood, and we had just moved to New England, and I had just bought a copy of The Brave and the Bold starring the Gardener Fox and Joe Kubert Hawkman, the one with the Dragonfly Raiders on the cover. I was sitting in the waiting room of some doctor’s office for a reason I forget. It was in an old Victorian home, so I was surrounded by beautiful old wood paneling, and utterly enthralled in this precious thing, stunned by the art and story. Such a great time for comics, the so called “Silver Age”. I’ll never forget it. I had a nice binder of Silver Age Hawkman and The Flash comics that I had asked somebody to try and sell for me back around 2002, that I never saw again. I sometimes wonder what happened to it. Oh well, live and learn.

Rovnak: I find it interesting that when asked to recall your first comic, the majority of your answer actually had very little to do with comics at all, but more about the “where and when” of your life. I find that comics have a sneaky way of seducing more, if not all, of our senses that just our sight. Comics are a visual medium, but I find that most times I equate sounds, tastes and smells with a good comic, or comic experience, more than just a visualization. It’s sort of the unspoken power of comics… Do you find this to be true also?

Zulli: Oh, without a doubt. Case in point would be the long and deeply lamented Storyteller by Barry Windsor-Smith. The size ration of comic-to-hand was frightingly close to being ten year old or so and pulling a new comic from a spinner rack. What contact I have with actual comics these days, they seem these over-bright, reflective little things with no sense of mystery, as they used to. Whether this is a symptom of a generalized malaise on my part or me catching a glimpse of the “man behind the curtain” from the corner of my eye, I wouldn’t know.

Rovnak: Were comics accepted in your household growing up, or were they looked down upon? Describe for me what your upbringing was like, and how comics fit into it.

Zulli: As for comics in my home while growing up, they were totally accepted without question as my father was not adverse to picking up a copy of Sad Sack now and again, and reading in on a Saturday afternoon, laughing until tears rolled down his face. Some of the fondest memories of my father.

artwork © Michael Zulli

to be continued…

Interview © John Rovnak

We interupt our regularly scheduled blog posting for a special announcement…

The Fracture of the Universal Boy by Michael Zulli

Longtime friend of Panel to Panel, artist Michael Zulli, has recently released an amazing new graphic novel entitled, The Fracture of the Universal Boy.  Written and drawn by Michael Zulli, and published by Eidolon Fine Arts, The Fracture of the Universal Boy has been described by Neil Gaiman as, “…really beautiful, moving, strange and harrowing.”  Weighing in at 200 plus, 9″x12″ black and white pages, this gorgeous hardcover was solicited to the comics industry back in July 2011 with this description: “After twenty odd years making art and comics, Zulli believes that there are universal truths to be found amid the struggle and calling to make art, and indeed, to life itself. Often brutal, sometimes a bit funny, and always surreal as it examines life from a different perspective, The Fracture of the Universal Boy is Zulli’s personal reflection on love, life and art; and both the damage done and the possibility of transcending even the most dire and difficult of times. Part one of a three graphic novel set called The Dream Suite, Zulli’s The Fracture of the Universal Boy is the beginning of a journey we all take in one way or another. “

© Michael Zulli

So why this special announcement here on Panel to Panel?  Well it seems that many people are having a hard time getting their hands on this amazing book, and we’d like to help change that.  You see we feel Michael’s beautiful vision deserves the largest audience possible, so for the forseeable future, copies of his book can be ordered right here from this blog posting.  Just click on the convenient Buy Now button below, and for the affordable price of $27.99 US (plus shipping) this book can be yours.

 

And, while supplies last, each copy will include this special exclusive signed bookplate, from a Panel to Panel promotion back in 2007.  These Michael Zulli images were originally created to promote his collaboration with Neil Gaiman, The Facts in the Case of the Departure of Miss Finch.  But now they can be yours with the purchase of The Fracture of the Universal Boy.