Brazilian writer and artist Caio Oliveira is quickly stacking up credits on a number of rather inventive titles. Here he talks about his passions and interests, and his new comic from Magnetic Press, SUPER-EGO.
Caio, were you the sort of kid who was always drawing and doodling, or did the art bug not bite you until later on in life?
The drawing type. I was always that introverted kid in the back of the classroom drawing things on the books instead of learning something from them. It came from my dad, who used to draw with me and my brothers when we were very young and gave us lots of comics even before we could read them.
Did your brothers pursue professional creativity too, or were you just the one whose persistence paid off?
My younger brother also draws and writes, and eventually we did some jobs together, mostly institutional comics and stuff like that. My older brother is the white sheep of the family, he quit his drawing and became a lawyer…okay, maybe not so “white sheep” after all.
Ha! Well, what were some examples of culture that really captured your imagination in your formative years – were you into particular movies, cartoons, toys, games, etc? What were the comics that you first obsessed over as a fan?
Superheroes were always my favorites. I was a fan of Disney on TV but my comics were mostly superheroes stuff. I remember watching Tim Burton’s Batman 5 times in a row on my VCR. I lived in a small town with no cinema, all my friends gathered at home to see the movie, and we had 5 sessions that day. I had tons of action figures of G.I. Joe and He-Man, an old Atari and lots of comic books, the usual. But then came Mega Drive (Sega Genesis) and I forgot about comics for a while! All I wanted to do was play Mega Drive. I guess if it was not for the comics, I would like to be in the games business (maybe one day…).
But a couple of years later, I read Peter David’s Spider-Man 2099 and my comics passion returned, full power!
Peter David and Rick Leonardi together really created something special in that run. I think your own storytelling style can be just as innovative. Was NO MORE HEROES your first major assignment?
Thanks, as a huge fan of Rick Leonardi’s work and someone that used it as inspiration, I really appreciate the compliment.
NO MORE HEROES was the first comic I drew that got printed, yeah. And it was so well received by the critics and readers that Gordon McLean and I are scheduling a one-shot prequel. But before that I did some good pages for Mike Kennedy’s Prophet Hill and Vivid (you can check those out on sequentialink.com), and I’ll do more of these in the future.
Browsing your DeviantART gallery I see all kinds of gold. You look to have tried a number of different genres, and you do them all effectively. And you seem to have a sick sense of humor in all the right ways. But the flow of your storytelling really is your biggest strong-point, I think. Your pages are laid out so smartly, moving a lot of plot along – without sacrificing any energy. What has been the most difficult mountain to climb in terms of getting to where your style is now?
Yeah, my DeviantART is a messy place. Thanks again! But I guess my style came naturally observing the artists I admire, such as Rick Leonardi, Barry Windsor-Smith, Eduardo Risso, Frank Quitely, etc; and being stubborn enough to avoid emulating Jim Lee back in the 90s. By the way, THIS is the highest mountain I’m still climbing! You can imagine how hard it is to be a foreign artist trying to make his way into the USA comic business without emulating the hot artist of the moment. I always wanted to have a recognizable art style, something readers look at and say, “That’s a genuine Caio Oliveira”! Not there yet, but I’m trying.
Very wisely put. So talk about your new comic, SUPER-EGO. Were the ideas something that had been with you for a time? I mean, the synopsis sounds pretty original, but the pages I’ve seen really make this look like the total package, like a book that will rip eyelids wide open. You’re making legitimately fun comics here, which I think many people have been craving lately.
Glad you like it, Richard. In its earlier concept, SUPER-EGO was supposed to be a funny comic strip about a therapist treating famous superheroes from their traumas like, “What would happen if Spider-Man got rid of his guilt complex for letting his uncle get murdered”? Maybe with no great guilt comes no great responsibility. So he probably would throw his costume in the trash can. I was planning to do this thing with a lot of superheroes, when I realized I could do something bigger than just strips, so I decided to do a four issue mini-series (and more to come, I hope).
You’ve mentioned some of your visual influences, but what about regarding the story for SUPER-EGO? Did you do any fancy research to better explore the many tropes of the superhero genre? What was the structure like for you, handling the full load of creative duties all on your lonesome? Were the story and art done in unison, or did you script out the chapters before putting pencil to art-board? And for that matter, do you use tried and true pencils, or are you a proud product of this amazing 21st century?
When I decided to do a whole new series about a professional therapist, I wanted to spend some time talking to one myself, but it never happened. So, in the end I just made some basic research in libraries and Google about ego, id and super-ego. About complexes, traumas, and disorders. It’s not that difficult because I don’t want to be very didactic about it and become boring, so my approach is very subtle. I met some people, professionals of the area, who are comic book fans and offered some insight on sequels that I’ll use for sure.
About doing the whole thing alone…well, I recommend the experience to every creator! I’ll always do my inks, because my pencils are very dirty, messy, loose. I let a lot of things left to do in the inks, so, it has to be done by me and my art is only completed after the inks. And I’ve been doing fanzines for a loooong time, always writing, always doing comic strips here and there.
I admire writers because my process of writing is a mess, really! I can’t sit and write things like, “Okay, page 1, panel 1, open shot, the hero wakes up.” It doesn’t work for me. First of all I write the whole story on a notebook (hand-writing with a pen as I can’t write on a computer). I write it down as a novel, all the scripts for the entire mini-series. After that I separate it into chapters and start doing the layouts on an A-4 sheet. This is the worst part, because as the script is written down as a novel, and not as a comic book script, I have to make it fill 22 pages, but I have no absolute control of it! Sometimes I’m on the beginning of the script and I have almost 50% of the pages, so I’ve got to be more concise, but sometimes I’m at the end of the script and in the beginning of the pages and I have to do more splash pages and action scenes. It’s a HELL…and I LOVE IT!
As I said above, I can’t write on computers, and I can’t draw on them either. To tell the truth I can’t even read on them! I’m a paper lover, almost a neo-Luddist!
I hear you on being the Luddite. And fanzines are hellacool! Do you still dabble in the DIY publishing, or do the professional/paying gigs demand the full stage in your life right now?
SUPER-EGO had a nice campaign on Kickstarter (thanks again, Mike!) and I’m planning to do a Brazilian version of the comic using crowd-funding myself. Today, self-publishing is the real deal and a lot of great professionals are showing their best using crowd-funding. But I’ve gotten some page rate jobs once in a while also.
Oh, I am a firm believer in the idea that crowd-funding is possibly the perfected model for self-publishing. Short of robbing a bank. Still though, with small press there is a genuine security net that many self-publishers do not acknowledge nearly often enough – the complete necessity of competent editors, of persons who understand marketing and promotions, etc. Someone can be a top-class writer or artist but a total idiot when it comes to accounting or publicity or whatever other nuances of business. Self-publishing means a lot more control, but there is a downside to that just in not having anyone to hide behind when “the fit hits the shan”. That said, was it daunting for you, having SUPER-EGO be such an early release for the new Magnetic Press label? Does it feel like being the first cop having to kick the door in and run into an apartment full of drug-dealers with your gun out? Or did Mike Kennedy do his usual thing and streamline whatever rough patches along the way?
SUPER-EGO has been ready since 2009. I tried all I could to let people know it and get interested in it but nothing happened. I totally SUCK when it comes to selling my job, that’s the truth. It was just when Mike decided to show it on sequentialink that I had to take it out of a shelf somewhere. Mike put this project under his wings, and the thing just happened, and I just had to watch it fly. He found a great colorist (thank you for your great job, Lucas!) and decided to use it as the spearhead in his new label. That’s quite a responsibility for a newcomer, which proves Mike is confident of SUPER-EGO’s potential. (Thank you for that again, Mike!)
Does SUPER-EGO end on a definitive note, or is there any chance of a return to that world in the future?
I’m writing the second four issue mini-series right now. I would like to write at least 12 issues (3 mini-series of 4 issues each) and call it “Season 1”. There are a lot of superheroes archetypes I want to work with.
So SUPER-EGO will be your life for the foreseeable future? Nothing wrong with that! What would be a dream gig for you though? Say, in five or ten years down the road? Or better yet, what would be a genre you would never touch with even a ten foot pole?
In fact, I will have to do the next SUPER-EGO books on my free time whenever I find any, because I have scheduled more Vivid and Prophet Hill with Mike Kennedy, a one-shot of No More Heroes, and right now I’m finishing issue 2 of Exit Generation, another four issue mini-series with writer Sam Read. Other than that, I work in a comic book shop with my brother from 14 pm to 19 pm (2 pm to 7 pm US), but I always draw at work when there’s no customers around.
But I would love to be doing my own stuff for the next five or ten years. I have a lot of projects waiting for the right moment. It would be nice for my career to be on one of the majors, yeah, but doing your own stuff is much more satisfying. And a genre I wouldn’t work on? Well, I’m on that early stage of career where I would be excited to draw ANYTHING as long as it gets an audience. Ask me this again in 5 or 10 years and let’s see what will change.
Jesus, Caio, I hope you allow yourself time for some good tunes and gaming. Your artwork is sharp, your spirit in galactic and your future looks bright as bright can be. It has been a royal pleasure chatting with you man, and we cannot wait to see how SUPER-EGO unfolds.
The pleasure was all mine, really. Thanks again for the kind words and the spotlight, Richard. I just want to say a big thank you to whoever spends his money on the comic books of a newbie like me. Thank you very much, I appreciate your money, but I would really, REALLY love if you just like the comic. If you don’t and you hate it…well, I still can use your money on therapy and it’ll be useful as research for the next one.
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