Comics are a lot like the music industry. You have blockbuster acts by the major labels and a thriving independent scene. Sometimes those independent artists segue into the big time, and other times major names take a chance and do a side-project that some of their fans may never even hear about.
Released under the radar last year by Oni Press, Mondo Urbano is an anthology of stories put together by rising star artist Rafael Albuquerque (American Vampire, Blue Beetle) and his friends Mateus Santolouco and Eduardo Medeiros. Originally published as a miniseries years ago in their native Brazil, this 128-page graphic novel tells a raucous story of music and the people that make it. The three artists trade out art duties and art styles, mixing music stars, cursed guitars, sex, drugs and crazy groupies.
Albuquerque has become one of the fastest rising stars in comics with his blockbuster collaboration with Scott Snyder and Stephen King on American Vampire, and Mondo Urbano shows him and his two studio-mates writing and drawing their own material, on their own time, for their own enjoyment… and yours too, hopefully.
Newsarama: What can you tell us about Mondo Urbano?
Rafael Albuquerque: Mondo Urbano is the first volume of the new graphic-novel series that Eduardo, Mateus and I are putting out through Oni Press. It features different groups of urban characters that are connected, in a direct or indirect way.
The main character would be Van Hudson, a rock star who is found dead in the bath tube after a huge concert.
Nrama: This book is right up my alley – talking about musicians and the world they find themselves in. Are any of you musicians yourselves? If not, how'd you find out the particulars of playing music and that scene they live in?
Eduardo Medeiros: We definitely are not musicians; we all try to play some acoustic guitar but it's a horror show. I'm still trying to join a band, but it is hard to find some charitable soul who wants to play with me.
We grew up in the 90's, when grunge was on top, listening to bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Faith No More and Alice in Chains. I think the book definitely came out from these influences.
Nrama: This is told through series of vignettes with names like "PowerTrio", "Overdose", "Cabaret", "Encore" and "Bonus Track". Why'd you decide to do it as these short stories and not one long & drawn out epic?
Albuquerque: When we started to talk about this collaboration, the first story that came up was “Eds in Trouble” (that will be in vol. 2). However [those longer stories] would take too long to be made and we wanted to see the reception for these kinds of stories and see if our chemistry would fit well printed. So we decided to do one single book about rock 'n' roll. Cooking the idea, we decided to make the stories connected, then we expanded the whole thing for a trilogy, then we decided to do one more, like a conclusion (“Encore”). Took probably the same time we would need to do “Eds in Trouble”, in the end, but it was really interesting to get the feedback from the readers while we were doing it.
Nrama: I know the work of drawing comics can be laborious at times, but what's the most thrilling part of it for you?
Mateus Santolouco: Laborious indeed. But I have different thrills, as you said, in each step of the process. It's fun to come up with ideas and compositions in the breakdowns and layouts. Inking can be very therapeutic sometimes covering all with black and white. And seeing a piece completed is just a great feeling and it's probably the most rewarding part of the whole thing.
Nrama: Can you tell us who does what in this book?
Albuquerque: About the art, Eduardo has this amazing cartoony style, and handles comical and dramatic scenes really well. Mateus, brings a cartoony, but more realistic style, and handles the action & humor really well. I do the more realistic and dark style in the book, doing most of tense parts. So, we tried to get the best characteristics from each one and put in the stories that it would pop up better.
For writing, we create and discuss everything together. It’s just us, beers, and a lot of talking, until we get the best ideas, that please everybody.
Nrama: Mateus, if I’ve got my facts right, this is the first time you’ve done something creator-owned – all your work up until now, at least in the USA, has been work-for-hire. What’s that like for you?
Santolouco: You're right. This is my first creator owned comics in the U.S. Working as a creator on a project like this it's just something else. You have the freedom to do everything as you want and the limitations in the story and art are just your own. After all these are your characters coming to life. So I can say that creating is the pure and true satisfaction of working in comics.
In case you're interested I have a webcomics section in my blog that I update now and then. One of them is featured in Mark Millar's Clint Mag #2. Check them out here: http://santolouco.wordpress.com/webcomicsenglish/
Nrama: Eduardo, you fit this in between your day job as the in-house cartoonist at A Folha de Sao Paulo -- how’d you fit it all in?
Medeiros: There are some days in the week that I have to save for Folha de São Paulo's work. I've been doing a lot of illustrated books, and magazines too but comics is my passion and I'm always doing it. Trying to do anthologies, Mondo Urbano, and updating my blog's comic strip.
Nrama: In addition to this you have a auto-bio comic out in Brazil called Sausage Soup – can you tell us about that, and the chance it might be in English someday?
Medeiros: Right now I’m doing two weekly comic strips: Friquinique, published in www.ideafixa.com (with three other awesome underground artists) and my own biographocal comics called Sausage Soup (Sopa de Salsicha), that is a biographical comics about me and my (little) wife Aline. I'm publishing in my blog it since 2008 and we have several readers.
Nrama: You mentioned you three have already put thought into a second volume; can you give us a taste of what'll be in the new volume?
Albuquerque: Yeah, we have a basic outline for 5 volumes already, but “Eds in Trouble” (vol 2), should be bigger and will probably have a different dynamic. We are now writing a detailed script and the idea is start the art process in a couple of months, I get some time out from American Vampire.
Nrama: This book is also the first chance most people will see of you writing and drawing, but it's something I know you've been wanting to do more of for some time. Can you tell us about your evolution as a writer, compared with being popular as an artist so young?
Albuquerque: Writing is pretty new for me, and I’m trying to learn as much as I can doing this. Mondo Urbano is really nice cause its collective creation. I really like that, especially because you have to handle with different ideas and this "conflict" tends to be positive for the story. Drawing is something I have been doing for way more time, so I can handle it with more confidence. Hopefully someday I can do it with writing too. Meanwhile, I’m developing a couple of other ideas myself and I hope I can publish it someday.