I’ve been an avid reader of Montreal graphic novelist and illustrator Michel Rabagliati’s semi-autobiographical ‘Paul‘ books for a few years (I’ve read each one about three times!), so it was a huge pleasure when Michel agreed to share some insight with us on Ape on the Moon.
Because Michel is, effectively, the Paul character we see in his books, it’s a surreal thrill to be talking with what feels like a character from the pages of a comic book.
But let’s now turn to real-life Michel, a hugely talented illustrator with a stand-out wonderfully crafted style, with a few questions about his work and his life…
How much practice did you have drawing before you started your graphic novels?
Well, not a lot really. I used to work only on computer. I was one of the first illustrators in Montreal to make magazine illustrations exclusively with Freehand in the eighties.
What made you decide to start drawing comics?
It’s been an old childhood dream. I used to read a lot of comics coming in from France and Belgium, and that’s what I wanted to do when I was ten years old. Since there weren’t any jobs in that field in Quebec, my father (a typographer) encouraged me to go to a graphic design school.
Which is what I did. And I totally forgot about comics during 20 years. But I really enjoyed graphic design too.
What is your usual work process from idea to finished piece?
A classic way of working:
First a written synopsis, then a rough story board, another pencilling, and the inking over it. Hergé, the creator of Tintin worked exactly the same way. I use classical tools. As a matter of fact I use my old Rapidographs bought in 1979 for my graphic design course!
Drawing comics doesn’t cost a lot, and unlike a movie, you’re in control of everything. I like that.
Do you have any plans for more ‘Paul’ graphic novels?
Yes, I’d like to do another one in the coming year. After all, this is my new job. I lost all my clients one by one, after stopping the graphic design, so I might as well use that time that is now given to me. But I need a good story first.
For me, comics is not about drawing like crazy, it’s more of a writer’s job. In fact, it took me very long to realize that. But when you look at comics like Peanuts, or Krazy Kat it’s all clear that you can carry a lot of emotion with just a few simple lines. That’s what’s cool about drawing comics, almost anybody can do it, if you have a good story, and some basic narrative techniques.
How do you spend an average day?
I’m very disciplined for a comic artist. I sit at my table around 10 and I finish around 4. Five days a week.
I have a workshop outside my house in downtown Montreal. Then I come home and play a little accordion and fix supper. There’s no real rush or deadline for me anymore, like there used to be when I worked for agencies or magazines. I wish that kind of freedom to anybody!
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m working on a translation into English for ‘Paul à Québec’: “The song of Roland” in English that will be launched at the Toronto comic arts festival in May of 2012, by Conundrum Press, my English publisher.
I hope the readers will like it. And I’m also working on a screenplay for that same title.
The movie will be in live action and will be shot near Quebec City next fall. That’s pretty exciting! But soooo different than working with pencils and pens on paper.
What are your plans for the future?
Nothing extravagant. Just writing and drawing comics I guess and of course, improving my accordion!
Thank you Michel, we are all very much looking forward to the film to your subsequent comic creations!
© Michel Rabagliati 2012