You’ve published so much in Aces Weekly. Do you like everything the same or do you prefer some stories and some passages?
SANTULLO: That is a difficult question! It is like asking us to choose between our children. As a joke, I think the best is what we are doing now: this ambitious saga that runs through a possible youth of the sorcerer Merlin. It is our most extensive collective work in all these years of collaboration and the one that has given us the most satisfaction, I think.
JOK: The stuff we´ve been publishing in Aces Weekly all these years was produced in complete freedom and always counting on David Lloyd´s support, for which we´re absolutely thankful. Santullo and I really enjoy playing around with heroic fantasy, horror and sci-fi, and David gave us the chance (and room) to develop stories in this very advantageous context (he´s been our inspiration and benefactor all along). Aces Weekly´s business/creative model allowed us to produce the Dungeons & Burglars saga in full, adding up to more than 250 pages for that title alone (which also enabled editions in other countries). And we´re currently very focused on the Merlin and Hector saga, which might end up being (hopefully) longer. There are no favourites amongst my creator-owned projects, but the ones we put through Aces Weekly certainly have a plus. When David told me about Aces Weekly in 2014 I certainly felt something similar to the cooperative feeling that brought Santullo and I together in our younger days.
I’m asking you that because I feel at some point during Dungeons & Burglars you became very adept at getting everything right. All the elements fell into place at the right time the right way. Did you notice anything like that?
SANTULLO: Hahaha, I don’t know if that much but thank you very much for saying it. I do think that we were gaining experience and making a kind of method work for the Dungeons & Burglars short stories, which we were later able to make work for the long story as well. A tempo, or something similar, that was just right for the kind of story we wanted to tell, with the humour, action and tension we wanted to have. More than something conscious, that proper format for the stories was built in the very process of making them. A Dungeons & Burglars style, forged in the very act of making Dungeons & Burglars.
Let’s talk about your graphic style, Jok. I see caricature, exaggerated features of characters and sometimes of the settings too. Also very contrasted black and white, lots of lines, hatchings, and splashes of black. Do you use pen and ink? What can you tell us about your techniques?
JOK: About my graphic style, I guess it’s a mix of things I do wrong and things I tend to exaggerate. I don’t want my characters to look dead or just lingering on panels doing nothing. An actor once told me 80% of human communication is non-verbal and, as a comic book artist, it just feels right to take advantage of that. I like my characters to perform and use their whole bodies to communicate.
Regarding techniques, I´ve always been attracted to strong contrast and big black areas. I believe using strong and bold chiaroscuro on panels clarifies art reading (and narration), intensifies atmosphere and enhances composition. I use colour pencils for layouts and traditional pens, brushes and inks. Right now, I´m using a G-pen and some brushes I brought from my trip to China. For additional details, I use white ink, thin and brush-tip markers, and add some white touch-ups with the computer (and some general digital art tweaking as the last step). My method has not changed much through the years, Sometimes I use ink wash on pages but only on limited occasions.
I still prefer paper and ink as I like the touch of paper’s actual contact with tools and like to work with natural light in my studio. Too many hours in front of a screen sounds kind of boring to me and I really try to avoid spending too much time on the computer (as much as possible, at least).
I like the way you draw moons and suns. Am I right to detect a Hugo Pratt influence?
JOK: By all means! (this is such a big compliment!) Hugo Pratt is a big source of influence for most Argentinian artists (at least my generation and older artists). My mentor was a great fan too, so I guess there’s no escape from Pratt! His compositions, powerful sense of synthesis and sinuous strokes made his style magnetic and very recognisable. You can find a masterclass behind every panel.
To be continued Monday 22 March