Monday, 3 November 2014

Hollow Crew interview

U.D.W.G. N.2 cover by Miguel Angel Martin.
U.D.W.F.G. is an underground comics anthology - focused on dark weird fantasy stories - conceived by Italian publisher Michele Nitri and printed by his Hollow Press. The biannual publication (in English) features 5 serials written and drawn by the extraordinary Hollow Crew: indie guru Mat Brinkman who is back to comics after a long absence, Spanish star Miguel Angel Martin, Japanese sensation Tetsunori Tawaraya and the Italian acclaimed artists Ratigher and Paolo Massagli.
The Hollow Crew: toy version!
The first issue has received good audience response and positive reviews.
UDWFG is a perfect collection of dark and sinister shit. And most importantly, it contains some creepy comics from one of my favorite artists Mat Brinkman. Grab yourself a copy before they all sell out! [Johnny Ryan]

The dense use of black throughout reflects that sense that the reader has picked up some kind of forbidden, arcane tome.  [The Comics Journal]

It feels like the next Creepy or Eerie for a new generation, filled with raw talent and stuff of nightmares. In the end, I felt like I was being buried alive under dark, weird, fantasy grounds, and I loved every moment of it as the dirt filled my lungs. [Bleeding Cool]

The second issue of U.D.W.F.G. has been premièred during the last edition of Lucca Comics & Games (30 October - 2 November).
The interview has been conducted via email in August-October period.
Translation from Italian by Antonio Solinas.

Hollow Press site: here.
Art by Mat Brinkman.
How did you get involved in the project?
Mat Brinkman:
The story has been brewing for many many years, Michele stepped forward looking for exactly what the story offered.
Miguel Ángel Martín: Michele Nitri asked me how it would seem to me drawing a “dark weird fantasy story”. He knows I am a fan of William Burroughs, like Nitri himself. I understood  what he wanted. My idea of “weird fantasy” is Burroughs, not Lord Dunsany. I showed him some old drawings and illustrations. Nitri loved them and he said “go ahead”. I never did “dark weird fantasy” before. Thanks to Nitri I am enjoying drawing The Emanation Machine so much.
Tetsunori Tawaraya: One day, a friend of mine told me that someone in Italy bought all of my comics online, from the most popular underground comic shop Tacoche and also from independent publisher Sweet Dreams Press. And he eventually contacted me to find some more stuff and we talked about his future publication. Yes, it was Michele himself.
Ratigher: I have known Michele, the man behind Hollow Press, for a few years. We live close to each other and share a love for all things deviant; we also have different opinions on certain things and that keeps our conversations fresh and vibrant. He thinks he can teach me to drive with the handbrake on and I try to force him to read Shakespeare highlighting the text with a yellow marker. In this project I have been his right hand man (or at least his right thumb man, shall we say): I am in charge of the book and page design of the magazine and I am always the last one to hand in my story; to be fair I do this to show him the problems with D.I.Y. publishing. It’s some sort of comics-related rite of passage.
Paolo Massagli: Around that time, I was busy self-publishing my own comic, O.Z., and Michele got in touch because he was interested in my style. He told me about his project about doing a fanzine with very famous underground creators and I said yes immediately.
Art by Miguel Angel Martin.
Can you elaborate a bit about your story? Can you reveal anything about its genesis and inspiration behind it? What’s about the main theme of the tale?
Mat Brinkman: I can't elaborate on the story, as that's what the story is for. If there's a theme for the tale it's "Shit Happens".
Miguel Ángel Martín: The story is improvised. I´ve got some ideas before starting to draw but is totally improvised. Now I've got a basic idea for the third chapter but no idea about the next. I can´t reveal anything because there is nothing to reveal. I only know the end of the story,  but I don´t know how long the story will be. I think  the main theme is the search of something important, a classical theme, like the Grail. But the real thing for me are the characters and situations.
Tetsunori Tawaraya: Mine started out in the 1st issue with cut out scenes of images that connect into the second episode. After the second issue, you will get to find out what's going on.
It's basically the adventure of Mr. Rotten Donuts but things will go twisted and weird.
Ratigher: My series is called Five Mantles. The driving force is the desire to tell a story of pure adventure and action. Unlike my usual comics, the way I want to deal with the story is to use script tricks that will keep the reader on the edge of the seat. I would like the story to be read by twelve year old kids who will then dress in rags, paint their faces and go to build shacks in the wilderness near home. Five Mantles is set in a world made only of dungeons, in the best tradition of role-playing games ad game-books. The original inspiration I think is just the game: for one, I am playing with the characters. I do not know what will happen to them, I have a very vague idea of how to continue the adventure, I am looking for plot twists that will surprise me first. The world of tunnels usually goes hand in hand with fantasy set-ups, while I will take the liberty to insert monsters and aesthetic choices that are far from classic fantasy, because I'm always playing and I make the rules. Setting everything in dungeons allows me to play with a different feeling, one that I have always considered the most important that graphic novels can stimulate: the claustrophobic feeling.
Paolo Massagli: My story, or rather, my stories, "Hell", will always be different for each issue. The only thing in common is that the landscape and, as the "Hell" title says, are all set-up out in hell (a version which is more fantasy than horror), with different themes and characters.
The story was born because Michael told me that I needed to have the world in which it was set, rather than the people in there, as the main character. I hope I succeeded.
Art by Tetsunori Tawaraya.
Which are your feelings to see your story side by side with the other ones? Can you see some kind of “dialogue” going on between them or is it more a sort of “artistic” challenge with the other artists or… simply the intrinsic nature of an anthological book like this?
Mat Brinkman: Dialogue I think would derail any of our stories and visions.
Miguel Ángel Martín: I’m used to publish my stories in comic magazines along with other artists for years. This is not new for me. The first comic magazine I started to get my stories published was ZONA 84 (by Spanish Toutain publisher) a magazine of classic sci-fi. My Ballard-like idea of sci-fi was not understood by the readers at that time. I’m talking of the first years of the 90’s.
Tetsunori Tawaraya: My first story is almost like a "flashback" of Mr. Rotten Donuts so it's obviously hard to understand, but things will start rolling in the second issue. 
Ratigher: In my opinion, it's too early for a “dialogue. We all started with very different ideas, but with the next issues, for sure we will influence each other. I think the "artistic challenge" is also missing, as we did not start as a united group, and usually you want to “crush” your close friends more than your colleagues. But even in this case, the "challenge" will arrive, or, better, has already arrived.
In particular, I am very excited by Brinkman’s presence. I have been a fan of his for many years and I consider him an innovator of our medium, like Chris Ware. I think he is one of the few people blessed by the god of comic book stories: this almost seems like his “native language”. Many years ago, Tuono Pettinato and I managed to find his phone number in Providence and phoned him to ask him a story for a ‘zine that never saw the light of the day. A roommate of him answered the phone and gave us his email, something like Tuono and I were so happy he had such a fabulous email address.
Paolo Massagli: I am very happy that my work is presented next to these other great creators. To me, this is not a challenge and neither it is a dialogue. It’s just an occasion to learn the graphic and storytelling techniques of the others.
Art by Ratigher.
What are your expectations for UDWFG, in general? 
Mat Brinkman:
Honestly, none. All involved have taken a big plunge, and are not really sure how deep the water is.
Miguel Ángel Martín: I'm very motivated and excited with the magazine. I don't know any other like it. I think Nitri has created something very special as a publisher. It is a pleasure for me to share a publication with so great and original artists.
Tetsunori Tawaraya: It's giving me so many new opportunities to draw new characters and great inspiration by the other 4 artists. Everyone in this project seems like my new family. I dig it.
Ratigher: I hope to build an exciting adventure and make friends with the other guys involved, so when we will meet we will be able to drink “caipiroska” cocktails and do a bit of sword fighting.
Paolo Massagli: My expectations have already been filled. As I already said, I am proud to be part of such and excellent group of nice underground artists.
As for the rest, now it’s up to readers. I hope they appreciate our work.
Art by Paolo Massagli.