On a long deserted stretch of highway, there rides a lone semi-truck. At the wheel is an ex-boxer named Rufo and his friend Sangrecco. Sangrecco’s no driver, however – the most he contributes is conversation on the long runs and his penchant for impersonating Elvis. They’ve criss-crossed the country countless times, but their next drive has more than just a few bumps along the road as a group half-crazy drunks try to steal his cargo.
Released earlier this month, Mesmo Delivery is more than just a story. Although every comic by virtue of being a comic is art, this book is bound to standout. Lushly illustrated by Brazilian cartoonist Rafael Grampá, it is one of the freshest pieces of work in the already vibrant comic scene. Originally released in 2008 by boutique comics publisher AdHouse Books with a limited run of 2000, the book returns with added features, higher quality printing and bigger stock thanks to Dark Horse Comics.
For the lucky 2000 who picked up the original edition or those who’ve seen his work in Daredevil, Hellblazer and some select anthologies, Dark Horse’s deluxe re-release of Mesmo Delivery is worth a second trip. For more, we talked with the cartoonist by email from his home in Rio de Janeiro.
Newsarama: Let’s start with an easy one, Rafael. What are you working on today?
Rafael Grampá: I'm writing and drawing a issue of Furry Water & The Sons of the Insurrection, a 6 issue series that I'm creating and will be published by Dark Horse Comics.
Nrama: Which is also the name of your blog… but before we get into the future, let’s look into the recent past with the release of the Dark Horse edition of Mesmo Delivery. Put it in your words – what’s it about?
Grampá: Mesmo Delivery is a "road thriller" comic book and I tell the story of Rufo, an ex-boxer that accepts a job transporting a mysterious cargo and signs a contract that forbids him to open it. By his side is Sangrecco, a former Elvis impersonator that is there to watch if Rufo will fulfill the contract or not. But nothing is as simple as you might think. After an innocent pit stop, things that rustle the devil from his sleep start to happen. It's a very violent story in an artistic format.
Nrama: So what’s different about this Dark Horse volume than the previous AdHouse Books edition?
Grampá: The AdHouse volume was printed here in Brazil, in Rio de Janeiro. I printed just 2.000 copies and it was a little chaotic because we didn't had time to do the right treatment for the color archives to release it for the Comic-Con International 2008 in San Diego, so the colors of this AdHouse volume are not so good. This was not AdHouse's fault because they didn't print it, they just accepted to distribute it, and Chris Pitzer and his crew did it very well. But I didn't know that the book would [sell so quickly], and I didn't imagine the [reception] of Mesmo Delivery by the artists, critics and audience. It was a great surprise for me. And now you can buy this AdHouse volume at eBay by almost $ 200,00. People are saying that this volume will be a cult comic book!
So, When Sierra Hahn [Editor at Dark Horse] knew that the publishing rights of Mesmo Delivery were open, we started to talk about re-publishing it by Dark Horse Comics. This new print is so awesome, the colors are perfect, Tony Ong's book design is amazing and now we have an incredible introduction by Brian Azzarello and 20 pages of extras, including pin-up art of some of my favorite comic creators like Mike Allred, Eduardo Risso, Craig Thompson and Fábio Moon. And a behind-the-scenes look at the making of Mesmo Delivery.
Nrama: So this is the ultimate edition with all sorts of added features.
Getting into the story, have you ever worked as a delivery person, be it trucker, bike messenger or something else?
Grampá: Hmmm... no. But my father was a trucker when I was a kid, and that influenced me a lot to chose Mesmo Delivery’s genre. I love road-movies and the "trucker genre" because it's like the pirates genre, you know? You can find all kind of strange tales on the road just like you can find it on the sea. Both are really rich genres.
Nrama: Which of the characters from Mesmo do you relate to the best, and why?
Grampá: It's difficult to chose just one of them, because all the characters are part of me. Sounds cliché, right? But it’s true. For example: Sangrecco, one of the main characters of Mesmo Delivery doesn't know how to drive because I never learned how to drive too. His phrase "An artist can't be his own chauffer" is a joke that I created to answer people that bother me saying that I need to learn how to drive like everybody else. So I included it in the story and totally fixed with the character. I'm not sure, but maybe this phrase was the starting point to create Sangrecco.
Nrama: With all the detail in your work, how long does it take for you to complete an average page?
Grampá: It depends a lot. When I was finishing the 8 page story that Brian Azzarello wrote for the special edition of Hellblazer #250, I made the last four pages in four days. But I already made pages that took me five days to do. But the truth is that I'm not a monthly guy. I'm in another business, I've been building a career as a comics author, creating my own stories and it's totally different of making a monthly book.
Nrama: What do you think influences your comic work?
Grampá: Well, I think I could answer this question for the rest of the week.
Nrama: That’s fine with me! [laughs]
Grampá: I'm influenced by a lot of different things, like movies, classic and contemporary arts, photography, architecture, music, TV shows, animation, graphic and motion design and, for sure, comics. I'm a learner, I'm always searching for different things that could turn an influence on my work. But my storytelling is more influenced by movie directors than comic book authors, I guess. Directors like Sergio Leone, Sam Peckinpah, Quentin Tarantino, Takashi Miike and Francis Ford Coppola inspired me a lot when I was writing and creating the storytelling flow of Mesmo Delivery. Today I'm more inspired by Katsuhiro Otomo, Akira Kurosawa and others Japanese and Chinese movie directors. Music is one of the major influences. I love 60's and 70's rock bands, stoner rock, folk and bossa nova. When I'm thinking about a story, I always try to imagine if the style of the story is music, what type of song it would be. Mesmo Delivery is country music mixed with death metal, and sung by Elvis Presley.
Nrama: Rafael, you seem to be part of a big group of Brazilians cartoonists hitting American comics – does it feel that way to you?
Grampá: I don't like to think that way because all the Brazilian cartoonists are totally different from one another. But of course I'm happy to have a big group of close friends making success with comics, but we don't have the plan to hit the American comics industry all together, as a movement. It seems like a movement, but it's not. For sure we have great talents here in Brazil and the fact is that the American comics industry is bigger than the Brazilian comics industry, and we all want to be read by the largest number of readers we can. We have the Brazilian dudes that are hitting the superhero scene - that are hitting it since the 90's - and we have a new group doing [creator-owned] stuff, but we are very different. I like to think about me doing my own stuff without a flag or being part of something. We're all individuals, no matter where we're born, and we have totally different artistic aspirations.
Nrama: Since the release of Mesmo Delivery originally, you’ve been all over the place – Hellblazer and Daredevil, for instance. How did the release of Mesmo affect your career?
Grampá: It was crazy. Nowadays, every time I read some article about Mesmo Delivery, it says "the critically acclaimed full-length debut of Rafael Grampá". I wasn't expected for all of this. I was just trying to see if I really could tell a story and being understood, and that was it. I did it my own way and it's amazing that the readers embraced it. In Brazil was also crazy, because after the Brazilian version of Mesmo Delivery, a lot of really cool things started to happen to me, like the invitation to host a column at the MTV Brazil News, transmitted for the whole country and a very important and serious magazine appointed me as one of the 100 most influential Brazilians of 2009, between politicians like Lula - the president of Brazil - athletes, celebrities and artists. And, man, Brazil is a huge country and we have a lot of talents here. Crazy! I never expected this kind of recognition.I think Mesmo Delivery will always be a very important twist in my life. Now I have invitations and projects for the next three years and I wanna do all of them really well to not disappoint the readers that have been supporting me since I released the independent version of Mesmo Delivery.
Nrama: And coming full circle talking about what’s next, tell us about Furry Water & The Sons of the Insurrection?Grampá: For this project, I invited Daniel Pellizzari, a Brazilian writer, very talented, to create and write the story with me, we're co-writers. We are holding the buzz around Furry Water because we still have a lot of work to finish. The post-Apocalyptic saga is set 70 years after the "Furry Water" plague hit, and the survivors remain ignorant about the cause of the devastation. Against this backdrop, we meet the Nobunagas, a family of outlaws who have a family obligation to re-start the insurrection against an "optimist oppressive" regime. At the same time, four brothers and a sister are searching for the fifth brother, who may or may not exist, and that is destined to lead the insurrection. It's a violent poetry about brotherhood, honor and faith. And also I'm creating an art book for AdHouse Books, but this is very embryonic for now.
Chris Arrant is a freelance writer that's written about comics for Newsarama, Publishers Weekly, CBR, TOKYOPOP and Marvel Comics. For more, visit his website at www.chrisarrant.com.