Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá are the industry's most popular twin creators, and their next big project is something that some might say fits them to a tee. But for the Brazilian brothers, it's more than that.
On October 14, Dark Horse Comics publishes Two Brothers, a new graphic novel by the duo adapting the classic Brazilian prose novel of the same name by Milton Hatoum. In the novel, twin brothers Omar and Yaqub are pulled apart by personal differences along with political strife, only to be reunited years down the road to find the tension still thriving between the two.
Moon and Ba spoke to Newsarama from their São Paulo studio, discussing how they discovered the novel personal and then years later came to adapt it professionally, along with the international appeal they see in the landmark Brazilian novel.
Newsarama: Gabriel, Fábio -- what are you working on today?
Fábio Moon: I’m drawing the fifth issue of Casanova: Acedia, and Bá is working on the first issue of the third Umbrella Academy series, as well as the backup stories on Casanova: Acedia, written by Michael Chabon.
Nrama: So that's what your working on -- what are you thinking in your head that you'd like to work on but don't have the time, yet?
Moon: We’re talking about what we’ll write next, what type of story we want to do, but with these series going on, and with all the promotion we’ve been doing with Two Brothers here in Brazil and abroad, the new ideas are on hold.
Nrama: And that's what we're here to talk about, Two Brothers. Given your closeness as brothers, some might assume it's something you two have written but its actually based on the novel by Milton Hatoum. How'd you land on doing an adaptation of this book?
Gabriel Bá: We were invited by the Brazilian publisher to adapt this novel, which is a modern classic of Brazilian literature, and besides our experience in comics, I think the initial spark came because the editor saw us talking with Milton at a literary festival and wondered how would an adaptation of Milton’s story about twins would look like made by twin collaborators.
Nrama: Normally high profile creators such as yourselves are hired to adapt a high profile, well-known book. The Two Brothers prose novel is very well-known in Brazil, but outside of that, not so much. What led you to decide to do this and release it internationally?
Bá: First, I think it’s a great story, so we decided to adapt it because it had the depth and dramatic intensity we wanted to show in a comic book, and we believe good adaptations work even when the reader has no idea it was based on something else. We felt we could do a great graphic novel out of this story, and that it’s a story that, despite the very exotic setting – exotic also for most Brazilians who never went to Manaus or to the Amazon Forest –, it’s a very relatable story about a family struggling to find and keep their bounds.
Moon: Milton is a high-profile author in Brazil and Two Brothers is a high-profile book, so this is a big deal for the Brazilian comics market. Even though this novel has been translated to 13 languages, we believed there’s a lot of new international readers that will discover the story with our adaptation. This story deserves to be read by as many people as possible and we would be very glad to help to achieve that. And when I think that two of my favourite adaptations were Parker, by Darwyn Cooke, and City of Glass by David Mazzuchelli, the fact that I had never heard of Parker before or that I haven’t read the Paul Auster novel didn’t stop me from being interested in, and later fascinated and mesmerised by these incredible graphic novels.
Nrama: This deals with brothers serving in war, and a criticism of military governments. Have either of you served in the military, or considered it?
Moon: Every man in Brazil has to enlist when he becomes 18, but then you can be drafted or released. Lucky we were released, as we didn’t have any intention of serving. But it’s one of the interesting layers of this story, the relationship with Brazil’s history and how the military dictatorship plays a part in the characters’ fate.
Nrama: How did you work with Hatoum to get the rights to do this adaptation, and did he participate at all in the adaptation process?
Moon: We were invited by the Brazilian publisher, in front of Milton, at that literary festival, and he was interested from the start. He had seen another adaptation we had done and was curious to see what we would do. The publisher is the same one that publishes his novels, so they had the rights, and then Milton gave us complete freedom to do our job.
Bá: He was generous with his time when we wanted his input, and gave us suggestions of places to visit and people to see when we travelled to Manaus to do research for the book, and then offered his opinion when we first showed him character sketches, but then he just trusted us to know how to do a good graphic novel.
Nrama: Getting back to what I was saying earlier, brotherhood. While you're far from the first siblings to work on comic books, you two are closer in your comics work than anyone I can think of. I know for you that's normal as it's what you've known your entire life, so how is it for you to see other siblings not be so close in their worklife?
Moon: We really like to work together, and we share a lot of similar interests, but still we’re two different people, and sometimes people think that twins are the same person and think the same, and what we really liked about the twins in the story is how clear it shows how twins can be different.
Nrama: Together and individually you each have done a lot in comic books, both in doing your own stories, adapting others whom you enjoy, and doing licensed and work-for-hire comics. Do you have further goals yet to accomplish?
Bá: We always look for new challenges and subjects we believe can be talked about in comics but are not. We love the fact that, today more than never, comics are a global medium that talks to different people from different cultures all around the world. We want to keep pushing these boundaries, breaking these frontiers.
Nrama: Where do you see yourselves in five years?
Bá: We could try to be logical and say we want to have at least two more arcs of Casanova done, two new Umbrella Academy series, another follow up story on the BPRD universe with Simon Anders, one or two new books all our own. All of the above will happen and could happen in the next five years, but we never know. What I like to think is that something could happen that we never expected to happen and it can be completely different from anything else we’ve done or seen. I always expect the unexpected to happen and takes us to a new direction.
Nrama: You live in Brazil, but have either of you ever put thought into relocating, (temporarily, maybe) to other parts of the globe to further your interest in comics as a global medium?
Moon: The peace of mind and confort we have living in Brazil would be very hard, and maybe impossible, to find anywhere else, just because we have spent a lot of time building our homes here. But we're always curious about other corners of the world, other markets, other cultures. I think we don't have to live somewhere to further our interest in comics. We can research on the internet, we can learn other languages, and right now the increase in invitations to festivals all over the globe has been taking care of our needs.
We've been to Angola, India, Algeria, Sweden, Germany, Argentina, Portugal, Peru, Bolivia, Italy, Canada, Germany, France and the U.S. (several times) in the last five years. We're going to Mexico in September, going back to New York to release Two Brothers during New York Comic Con, then off to Italy to release Two Brothers in italian.
We pick up something new every new trip we make, but it's good to have a home to go back to.