Hi there buddy, I just finished reading your latest graphic novel Roba from Uruk: Destruction of Uruk. I enjoyed the last one, Bob the Ripper, but I really loved this one. Such a beautiful artwork, better than ever. You must be very proud. How has the response from the audience been so far?
Hi Stewe! Thank you for asking, thank you for your own great contributions to Destruction, and thank you for the nice words; it's a very good feeling if people like my work!
Well, the reactions so far have been positive, and I think it's mainly because of the art work. Mostly I've heard that both the art work is better and that the story is easier to follow than in Bob the Ripper, but I've heard the opposite too, that the art work was better in Bob the Ripper. I don't want to argue about it; I just know that I tried to make my best in both of them.
Tell the fans a little about yourself.
You live in Israel but you were born and raised in Sweden, right?
Right. I was born in Trollhattan, Sweden, an industrial town at the time with 50 000 inhabitants. 6000 worked in the car factory SAAB and 2000 made up the working force at VOLVO Aero. The rest of the guys in and around the town delivered things for SAAB; one industry made car chairs, another tires.
Out of my 22 classmates in the 9th grade in school, 18 ended up at SAAB in one stage or another in their working carrier. I worked in 3 different industries right before and after the army; then I started to travel and study.
I hated Trollhattan and promised myself never to come back. I've been to all of Western and South of Europe, South East Asia, China, Nepal, Madagascar, South America. I lived in Germany for 3 years and in Spain for 4 years. One of my trips brought me to a kibbutz in Israel where I worked as a volunteer (something I recommend to everyone: pick fruit from the trees during the day and party in the evening!), then 11 years in Jerusalem, 10 years in Eilat. Although I survive in 6 languages I don't enjoy learning and speaking different languages, it's just a cultural necessity.
When were you last in a fight and who won?
Haha! My lawyer advised me to keep this answer short, and not to comment on recent incidents! I've got a background in Tae Kwon Do and used to train with some very good guys... add some booze to that and you'll get Mr Hyde! Like you said once, Stewe: To be proud of your old scars it's getting more and more difficult!
Anyway, here's a favorite from 1983: Place: Trollhattan, center. Probably November, Friday at 22.00. I went out with two bottles of wine and wanted to eat at the local Chinese restaurant with two friends. No, they didn't let us in, we were to drunk. Back to the center, without any friends (where did they go, anyway?) I spotted a bunch of punk rockers in cool black leather jackets with a big skull on the back of each and every one. I'd never seen the guys before. Fuck them; colored hair, Mohawk Indian. Did they want to take over Common Turf? I had to check it out! (screaming) -YOU! LISTEN! YOU WITH THE BLOODY SKULLS ON YOUR BACK! COME OVER HERE! (No reaction.)
-I SAID YOU WITH THE SKULLS! COME HERE!
Suddenly all four of them rushed in my direction, followed by their tiny little groupie girlfriends. They formed a half circle around me and one of the guys said a cool thing: We are four guys with skulls on our back, who exactly did you mean? Fast, from the left, a guy hit me in the face. With Bruce Lee speed (some of my Tae Kwon Do friends really believed he would rise from the grave in 1983, 10 years after his death, better than ever!) I didn't punch the guy who punched me, but the guy to the right instead. Surprise! Knock down! Only three left! All three of them started to kick me; I was pushed back and blocked their kicks and punches. And now, just like in an American movie: Two police cars came from nowhere, the officers jumped out of the cars, took control of the situation and forced all of us to put our hands against the cars (it WAS a movie!).
I was separated from the punks and had my own car. Checking if I had any weapons on me the officer asked me what happened.
-Those monkeys attacked me! He turned his head and watched the three guys with the skulls on their back, and with their Mohawk hair black, orange and green. Yeah, said the officer. Where do you live? Go straight home right now, ok?!
The three punks were taken to where punks belong, inside the police cars and driven away to the arrest! Wohoo!
Are you already plotting the next graphic novel, is there something you can reveal for us? Will Roba, Viki, the Crow and Ishtar return? Have we seen the last of Bob the Ripper?
I'm currently working on a collection of short stories, called Tales from Uruk. The stories are between 6 and 12 pages long and feature Roba in small dimension crashes, dreams and magic situations, and she will meet people from all times, places and different cultures. The first short story is finished, and it will be printed in the Swedish fanzine Ebola 3, hopefully out in a few months. In that story Roba meets a Jew in the middle of an East European pogrom...The second short story, on the drawing table for the moment, takes Roba to Old China, where she watches a slave being whipped by her master...
A fun thing with short stories is that it's possible to send to different comics anthologies, and then collect all of them and print as Tales of Uruk. Last year I had short stories in (the Swedish) Plutonium Comics, Ebola and Home Made Comics.
Regarding the next graphic novel: Yes! Roba, Viki, the Crow and Ishtar will return! Bob will not be a part of that one, either. The tension between Uruk and Babylon isn't over, neither in the world of Mankind or in the world of the Gods!
This might be hard to explain; but I dream up most of the chapters in the graphic novels as well as in the short stories. When I need a story I just go to sleep, wake up in the middle of the night and write i down. Sometimes it works; sometimes I have to alter stuff in the dream to fit the story.
When I read your work, some of the great French comic writers come to mind, especially in the cosmic and surreal parts, but the constant topless Roba also reminds me of Axa by Romero. What were your main influences to start writing your own comics and has it changed over the years?
Romero is a great artist, and for me he's the best artist on Modesty Blaise. I've read all the Modesty Blaise stories in the Swedish Agent X9.
Axa I'm familiar with as well, maybe 10 or 12 adventures, in Spanish. Both these heroines were written for the British daily press, which is sad, because I think Romero would be so much more fun to see if he would be given the same freedom with the page layouts as all the French, Spanish and Italian guys had in Metal Hurlant and all the other copycat magazines in different countries. I saw one Axa in color (Swedish Magnum??), where Romero was allowed to do the layouts as he wished to, but it was quite stiff; he's been forced into the small ugly daily strip panels for all of his life, and he isn't able to get out.
My real comix heroes are Crepax and Esteban Maroto; Crepax because he's a psycho and Maroto because his fantasy worlds are so fantastic! I like all the Metal Hurlant-guys too, who draw in a more or less realistic style; Caza, Druillet, Manara, Bilal...
Back to Roba being topless I think it comes from another comics I liked a lot in Agent X9; Garth, and his own goddess Astra (Garth is only readable when it's made by Martin Asbury!).
But my inspiration comes from outside comics too. I like a lot of mainstream art; Name a painter and I've got a book of him (always a he!) in my book shelves. I think both Astra's and Roba's decorative hair are highly influenced or Art Noveau.
Last but not least: you teach music as a living, name five records that changed your life?
Yes, I've been teaching guitar for more than 25 years; classical, rock, blues, folk, fingerstyle, flamenco...This question is really a kind psychoanalysis! The first albums I listen to a lot was from my parents collection. Johnny Cash; San Quentin stands out. My parents liked Elvis and country. For me today, Johnny Cash is still good!
The very first album I bought on my own was Kiss: Hotter Than Hell, and it was a proof that cool covers sell albums! It was 1974 I think, I was 10 or 11 years old and in to horror comics, and their costumes and makeup hit me! Kiss opened up the door to Hard Rock, and from there I bought things from Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, AC/DC...
At the local library for kids and youth I used to sit and read Tintin, Asterix, Lucky Luke while listening to the Swedish band Nationalteatern: Livet ar en fest. I think they got their message through: There's a class struggle going on and I was born on the losing side.
A few years later came the Punk, and Ramones: Rocket to Russia. The punk made a lot of kids all over the world buy an electric guitar, and to learn the one and only Power Chord that you need in life! I bought my first guitar at 13.
After the army service in Sweden I started to travel a lot and met a lot of people who listened to Hippie Music and more 60s and 70s in general. Neil Young's Harvest was the album that opened up the door to folk music; Peter Paul and Mary, Nobel Prize winner Bob, Simon and Garfunkel. Then came Janis Joplin, The Mamas & The Papas...and inside this Woodstock bunch I finally found Jimi Hendrix; who was a major influence on the hard rock bands I started listening to as a kid, but didn't really reached out to. It's interesting how all roads lead to Rome!
Thanks Cadial for a really great interview. Buy your very own copy of The Destruction of Uruk by mailing: email@example.com