Today on Artist August, we talk with “Prophet” artist Giannis Milonogiannis. He’s been part of one of the great comic art teams of 2012, pairing with Brandon Graham, Simon Roy and Farel Dalrymple to make this Image Comics title one of the most diverse and exciting visual comics on the racks today. Milonogiannis should already be known though – the guy has an amazing webcomic series named Old City Blues as well that has been released in print by Archaia – and his art that brings all kinds of Western and Eastern comic influences to the table is a style that constantly excites us at MC. We talk to Milonogiannis about his role on the Prophet team, about Old City Blues, and much, much more. His art can be seen in this week’s Prophet #28.
Also, look for chats with Brandon Graham and Simon Roy from Team Prophet the next two days as well.
Can you look back on your life and recall the single moment or work that made you want to work in comics? Or was it more of a natural progression that led you here?
Giannis Milonogiannis: I’d probably say it was more of a natural progression than anything else. I remember ‘The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck’ having a big impact on my view on comics as a kid, but it was probably my just not being interested in anything else other than drawing stuff that pushed me to go down this road.
Who or what has influenced the development of your art the most? Your work, particularly Old City Blues, has a distinct manga feel to it.
GM: There are people working in comics from all different places whose work I appreciate, but I think growing up it was the Japanese comics that really got to me. Otomo, Shirow, Taniguchi and more recently Katsuya Terada are some of the manga guys I look up to. From the West, Moebius’ work is a constant lesson in comics. Pratt and Tardi are also favorites of mine.
Aside from comics, I try to keep looking at cool new things as much as I can. I was recently introduced to Lebeus Woods’ work which is really inspiring stuff. Also lots of videogame art, too — the Xenosaga games had great concept art. Really it’s just anything that catches my eye.
Your work, when we look at it, seems very organic. But in the digital age, new tools are available to artists of all types. How does that affect and expand your work?
GM: Thanks — I personally try to avoid using and relying on the computer too much. The technologies can make your life much easier when it comes to comics, but drawing on the computer takes a lot of the fun out of it for me. I’ll sit down and color or mess around on the computer now and then, but when it comes to actual pages most of the work is done on paper. That said, I do lettering and screen toning for OCB on the computer, but that’s about as much as I can stand to sit in front of the screen.
Does the feedback (both positive and negative) your receive from other artists, fans and critics via social media like Twitter and Tumblr push you as an artist? Does that aspect affect your art at all?
GM: It’s actually really interesting how feedback affects your work — and it definitely has an impact on my stuff as well. I think the biggest example of this was switching from hand-lettering the first OCB book, to doing digital letters from the 5th issue on. I’d heard a lot of people comment on how hard it was to make the dialogue out in places, for one, and when I had to edit certain parts, it became a giant chore to fix spelling errors or redo certain lines. Being really stubborn, it took me almost a year after finishing the first book to switch to digital letters.
I’d say both positive and negative feedback, as long as it’s constructive, is necessary for pushing your work further.
Predominantly, you’ve worked on your own comics, like Old City Blues. Now that you’ve worked in the sort of hybrid creator-owned/for-hire world of Prophet, how does the experience differ between those two?Continued below
GM: In some ways it’s completely different, and in others it can be exactly the same as working on my own stuff. Like you said, Prophet is more of a hybrid than an clear-cut work-for-hire gig — there’s lots of leeway in the things we can do and change as we go. So in that way, the day-to-day work on Prophet pages is really close to how I work on my own stuff — there’s no one watching over my shoulder, changing every line I draw.
On one hand it can be stressful — if I’m late with my pages, I make it harder for Brandon, Joseph and Ed to wrap up the issue with colors and letters — but on the flip side of that, it’s a nice change, not having to lift all the weight of a book on your own.
Speaking of that, working off scripts from another talented artist like Brandon Graham must be a different one for you. What have you picked up from working with him that you may use in things like OCB going forward?
GM: What’s cool about working with Brandon is, for one, he mostly avoids writing detailed scripts and sends me layouts to work from for Prophet. And we’re pretty much free to add or change things as we go. It’s a kind of freedom I’ve been bringing into OCB — I’d been pretty rigid with working from my own layouts and scripts in the past — and something I’d hopefully be able to bring over to other projects as well.
And working from Brandon’s layouts has been easier than I’d thought at first — we both use a three-tiered page layout a lot. And it’s fun to do some of the playful layouts he does in his own work, which is something I don’t really do on my own.
One of the big reasons we love Prophet is the insane talent working on that book. With you, Simon, Farel and Brandon all supplying art, it’s absolutely gorgeous and unlike anything else on the racks. Do you feel like working on a book with such gifted artists has pushed you on your own art at all?
GM: Yeah, absolutely. The guys all have really particular tastes and styles, and I was worried about how I’d fit in. Seeing how they work and how they translate things into their own has been great fun to study. Drawing the first pages of #25 was terrifying for me, but seeing readers not rioting in protest to my being on the book helped me push it further.
Let’s talk about Old City Blues. More content is being put on the site as we speak, and there’s a print version of it that was released from Archaia as well. For those that aren’t aware of it, what can you tell us about OCB? What’s it all about, and why should readers check it out?
GM: OCB is an ongoing futuristic cop comic set in a post-apocalyptic city called New Athens in 2049. It follows a Special Division of the city’s police dealing with cybercrime, technoterrorists and cyborg killers.
If you’re into fast-paced crime-solving, giant robot fights, car chases and sprawling cities, I think you might find something you’ll like in OCB.
It’s a sort of love-letter to 80’s sci-fi and cyberpunk — Shirow’s work, AKIRA, Yoshiaki Kawajiri’s OVA’s like Cyber-City Oedo, Neuromancer, Blade Runner.
This book started out online, but as we said was picked up by Archaia for print. Before you moved the title online, did you try pitching it to publishers, or did you develop content online earlier on specifically to make pitching print publishers easier?
GM: I started putting OCB up online without any sort of plan in mind. I’d tried pitching other things before OCB that didn’t pan out. I realized the only way I was ever going to finish a book was if people were actually able to reach it, so that’s how I ended up putting it on the internet. Once the book was online, I started getting into pitching it. I’d already pitched the book at Archaia, when they found it online on their own, which was an interesting coincidence.Continued below
Do you feel that working from Greece makes it any more difficult for you to break in to the comic industry prominently? What is the world of comics like in Greece right now?
GM: I guess it would help getting to conventions every year and meeting people, but the internet is a great alternative for that. I think regardless of where you live, using the net can do a great deal for your work in every way. Comics is one of the few creative jobs where you can work from anywhere you like — literally — so I try to keep saying that if you want to do comics, just do it and put it online for people to see.
As far as I know, there’s little actually happening in Greece regarding comics. But there are plenty of solid greek artists doing work abroad currently — Mike Dialynas, Ilias Kyriazhs, Vasilis Lolos and probably others I’m not aware of.
What would be a dream project for you? Any particular writers you’re dying to work with or titles you’d like to take a stab at? Perhaps a personal project you just want to see come to fruition?
GM: OCB is kind of my current dream project, I’d say. Being more or less on your own with a book is a great lesson in drawing, writing, building stamina and confidence, learning how to promote your work. It’s a sandbox I can do anything in, and I think that’s what makes it interesting to me, long-term.
Desert Island question: one book, one album, one film and one comic. What do you take with you?
GM: Book would have to be Gibson’s Neuromancer, just because of how dense it is.
Music, I’d be probably be happy with anything by Thee Michelle Gun Elephant.
A film is hard to choose — probably something by Kurosawa most likely.
And it’s not really a comic book, but I’m currently really into Otomo’s Genga book. It’s a good book to have on a desert island.
Who are your favorite artists working in comics today?
GM: A lot of my favorite artists that are putting out work now are young people really trying new things and pushing their work in cool places. All the guys working on Prophet, everybody involved in Spera, Emma Rios, James Stokoe, Hwei Lin Lim, James Harren, all my Brand New Nostalgia brothers… I could go on for a while.
Besides more OCB, what projects do you have coming up?
GM: I’ve got a chapter in Volume 2 of Spera that we did with Spera creator Josh Tierney back in ‘10 — that’s coming out in October I think.
We’re also talking about doing some cool things with the guys from Brand New Nostalgia this year, like a little book. That’s going to be really fun.
I don’t have much aside from Prophet and OCB that’s ready to see the light of day yet. I’d like to do some more stuff on my own, either on the internet or otherwise, but that’s still far into the future for the time being.