Monday, October 14, 2013

[NYCC] Fireside Chat with Ulises Farinas and Erick Freitas

Behold!  Some of that New York Comic Con coverage I keep talking about!  The first two people I was able to sit down to speak with at convention were the affable and inimitable Ulises Farinas and Erick Freitas.  Longtime friends, the two came together late last year to collaborate on Gamma, a short comic that originally appeared in three parts over in Dark Horse Presents before being collected in Gamma #1 this past summer.  We chatted Gamma, their new series Amazing Forest, Twilight, and more.  Pull up a chair and we'll see you on the other side of the cut. 

Of late, Ulises Farinas' art can be seen in Dark Horse's Catalyst Comix. Erick Freitas is a writer and producer who works on films and comics.  Gamma was there first collaboration published by a major publisher. The two are once again coming together to work on a new series from Monkeybrain Comics called Amazing Forest. It debuts this Wednesday, the 23rd of October.  [This interview took place the morning of October 11th, 2013]

Grant McLaughlin: Thank you both for taking the time to talk with me. How are you guys doing today?

Ulises Farinas and Erick Freitas
Erick Freitas: I'm going great. I'm feeling good.

Ulises Farinas: I'm good. Having a good time so far. It's morning, so a slow start.

GM: And what brings you to New York Comic Con this weekend?

Farinas: You know, the usual: video games, Twilight -- [laughs]

Freitas: Twilight's not even popular anymore.

GM: Yeah, you're late if it's Twilight.

Farinas: Well what's cool now?

GM: You're asking the wrong guy.

Farinas: Then I'll go with self-promotion.

Freitas: That's the honest answer. Self-promotion and monetary gain.

Farinas: Yeah, I want to make more money in my life.

GM: Who doesn't? So what exactly are you here to promote then?

Freitas: We've got Gamma and Amazing Forest. Those are the two issues we've got coming out.

Farinas: Well, Gamma came out, but hopefully we'll get more Gamma in the future. Right now we're doing Amazing Forest, which is coming out from Monkeybrain. The comic comes out on the 23rd, but you can pre-order it now if you want – which I don't understand how that works because it's digital.

GM: I guess it's like the Steam model, where you can pre-order things and it downloads them in advance to be ready for you when it comes out? I don't really know either.

Farinas: Either way, we're going to be doing Amazing Forest for the next year and then hopefully we'll go from there back to Gamma.

Freitas: So if you like Gamma, please, please get on the internet and tell everyone about Amazing Forest.

Farinas: It's only a dollar. How can you not spare a dollar for a 32 page comic?

GM: That is some good value. Could you tell us a bit more about Amazing Forest to help people understand what it's about?

Freitas: It’s like a throwback to pulp comics and the Twilight Zone. It’s essentially the most horrible ideas mixed in with the most beautiful concepts that me and Ulises could think of. And they all kind of have that Twilight Zone ending oomph where it’s kind of like – “Ahhh!” – you know?
Farinas: I would say that it’s kind of like a cute Twilight Zone.

GM: A cute Twilight Zone?

Farinas: To me, I think it’s cute. It’s like how Gamma is cute, but then it’s also really messed up the whole time.

Freitas: Yeah, exactly. It gets sad. Really sad. After we started getting some of the artist pages back, I would look at it - I was reading some of the pages at night at 1am – and I was like “This is sad” and I’d be cleaning my eyes off, like “Oh my god”. It made me wonder – are we [he and Ulises] sad people inside?

Farinas: The first issue is 32 pages. 4 different artists. Matt Rota, Melody Often, Julie Dufour, and Yumi Sakugawa.

Freitas: And Paul Chadwick is doing the cover, which is pretty cool.

GM: Where did the decision come from to work with other artists instead of doing it between the two of you?

Farinas: Well, me and Erik have so many ideas between us and I can’t draw them all, so we just kind of want to get these stories out there. We want to make stories no matter what, so that’s kind of what we do – team-up with all different artists to get as many stories out as possible.

Freitas: And it’s pretty good, because it kind of works like 28 pitches for stories we would love to expand on to, so hopefully there are publishers out there who like one or two of them and want to see more.

GM: And how did you end up with that book at Monkeybrain then?

Farinas: We, uh – 

Freitas: We pitched it to them.

Farinas: Yeah, we asked them.

Freitas: “Hey, do you like this?”

Farinas: Basically that’s how it works with any comic job. “Hey, can I work with you?”. And if they say yes, you’re good to go.

GM: You make it sound so simple! Let’s move over to Gamma for a moment. Generally, where did that crazy mixture of everything emerge from?

Farinas: I watched a lot of Power Rangers when I was younger, and the first question I always thought was “why don't you send all the monsters at once?”. I don't understand it. You could just ruin the world. So that was the first idea: “What if everything went wrong?”

And you watch Pokemon, it’s like “What happens to these little animals that they’re forcing to fight?” It’s like cockfight. It’s not cool. So really there’s these uncomfortable ethical questions in the Pokemon universe and it’s really just building from that.

Freitas: That’s perfect. I can’t really add to that.

GM: That's a good description of the book. It's this intense mixture of all these different things, but the whole feels like something more than the sum of its parts.

Freitas: We’re taking the gaps of logic of all these things and throwing it in there. It’s like you have a donut and there’s the hole in it and you have a Munchkin to fill that hole. That’s what our story is. It’s a bunch of Munchkins to fill those holes.

It’s like children’s stories – “what would happen if this?” We’d use that in the comic. “What would happen if that?” We’d use that in the comic.

Farinas: In the 90s, you had all these Japanese shows that came to America and I find it weird because no one has really continued telling stories in that genre. They don’t really make Power Ranger comics, you know? Or Pokemon comics. They don’t really exist, so I was like, “I want to do this genre. I want to do it how I would do it though.”

Freitas: For me, my big approach is that I wanted to write something that my Dad and Ulises' Dad would be into. And that’s why it has that almost Western feel, like a Clint Eastwood Unforgiven really ugly redemption story. So the question was “can you take this content and this concept and make it for people who usually wouldn’t like it?” So there’s a little bit of that, too.

GM: Gamma itself is filled with weird and fantastic creatures. They're pretty much everywhere, taking up every panel on every page. How long did it take you to come up with all those visuals, characters, monsters, and everything else?

Farinas: One night.

GM: One night?

Farinas: Yeah, I just sat there with a pencil and I just doodled. I have a lot of my drawings from when I was a kid and I just have monsters up the wazoo, so I’d jut go, “This one’s going to have lots of horns and this one’s going to be made of ice cream,” you know?

GM: That’s really impressive.

Farinas: Thank you.

GM: You said you hope to have more Gamma down the line?

Freitas: We would love to. If everyone that liked it goes on Twitter and Facebook and requests it, it would mean a lot to us.

GM: Well, I definitely really enjoyed it. I hope you get that down the way.

Just to finish things off, at The Weekly Crisis, we like to conclude our talks with what we call the Literary Rorschach Test. We usually go with 10 words, but because there's two of you, I have five. Your job in all this is to say the first thing that comes into your head for each word.

Farinas: Oh, this is going to be bad.

GM: We’ll see.  So the first word – or term – is the nineties

Farinas: Assholes

Freitas: Saved by the Bell

GM: Collaboration
Farinas: Fuck you.

Freitas: Fighting.

GM: World building.

Farinas: Blimps.

Freitas: Encyclopedia.

GM: Challenge.

Farinas: Accepted.

Freitas: Algebra.

GM: The end.

Farinas: ...the beginning.

Freitas: Done.

GM: Alright, that’s it. Thank you both very much for your time.

Farinas and Freitas: Thank you.

Ulises Farinas and Erick Freitas' new series, Amazing Forest comes out Wednesday on Comixology.  If "a cute Twilight Zone" sounds like something you'd be into, you can pre-order it here.  As Ulises said, it's only a dollar, a hard value to beat.

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