From last years TheComicCon.
Interview for +design magazine (a Greek mag about design and applied arts). The interview was published in issue 43 (November 2005).
“THE IDEA CHOOSES THE WAY IT WILL BE EXPRESSED”
When he was fourteen years old he started “disturbing” newspapers, magazines and creative offices, presenting his work. Comic strips, illustrations,comic fanzines.Today he is being disturbed from the same publications to give them his work.At the same time he never stops creating for his own pleasure.
Vassilis Gogtzilas was born in Thessaloniki in 1978 and grew up in Evosmos.His family encouraged him and supported from his early age his decision to study design,although they didn’t know much of Art.
“ my parents are very talented.They manage well with whatever they decide to deal with”.
It’s actually a fact that when he was little he was surrounded by all kinds of magazines with illustrations, caricatures,fummeti and comics. This is how he started visiting all the relevant places,when he was a teenager, mainly because he wanted to have an aquaintance with the field he wanted to deal with. People from the field were very encouraging so when time came he studied Graphic Design. “This kept me studying the field of Arts”-he says. “Except from my skilled knowledge in printing, it was really important to me to deal with things I am interested in. Anyway, doesn’t everything derive from art?”
His first work material was comic strips and illustrations for newspapers,magazines and comics fanzines. Then there was a period of cooperation with Makedoniki Publications,whose printed forms he has been reading since he was a little boy mostly for its political cartoonists,who had actually gained his interest.
“Everyday publications in the newspaper Thessaloniki, was a really valuable experience for my further knowledge” Vassilis Gogtzilas says “as I could see my illustrations printed in a daily basis and I had the chance to experiment all the time”. At the same time he had a cooperation with the magazine “Epiloges” (Choices) that it’s being published for almost 5 years now. Also a very important thing was his occupation with the animation for the show “On Wheels” for Greek Channel 3 (ET3).
VISUAL MATERIAL INSTEAD OF WORDS.
Vassilis Gogtzilas can work with anything that has to do with images, but what he loves the most is to draw his ideas on paper with Indian ink. In his work he can easily move from drawing to making comics. “I believe there is only one design” he says. “The idea chooses the ways it’s going to be expressed. There are thoughts that can be expressed in a very simple way, like a drawing, others more artistic and there are others that can develop in a story, to gain time, space and rythem. You can make them come true by drawing either with pencil or a pen, or by using color, collage, found objects or even a computer”.
Vassilis Gogtzilas is trying to approach every piece of work differently by trying new styles, combinations and materials. This is a way to keep not only the readers’ interest alive but his as well. “This way I can test my limits but also the potentials of illustration as a mean of visualization and communication”.
The text is very important to him and he always reads it before he starts illustrating it.This is a way to understand the writer’s point of view. Now as far as his part is concerned, sometimes he chooses to express the ideas as they appear in the text and some other times he prefers to let the picture develop in its own way or go along with the text,expressing his ideas. “I array a subject with images exactly like in the written texts. I just replace words with images. The result would be the same if a picture didn’t have this incredible power…”
Finally illustrating means…
“Illustrating ( and comics if we accept that a comic is an extension of illustrating) is a visual mean of communication with unlimited possibilities.It manages to combine styles of all kinds of arts, expressing the most complicated ideas,messages and emotions.Illustrating must not be a text’s supplement or ornamental.I believe it should be chosen for all those communication possibilities that can actually offer”.
GREEK COMICS IN IMMOBILITY
Vassilis Gogtzilas is printing and exhibits his work by any mean, any time, all year round as he thinks this is the only way to become better and better everytime. However, he deliberately publishes his private comics in fanzines only.He writes the scripts, although he has sometimes co-operated with other scriptwriters. Apart from his personal work, he has illustrated comics, like the first issue of a football comic named “Dynamite” but also the advertising comic book Deniman through the creative office Red Creative on behalf of Hellenic Fabrics. This last one won the Most Ingenious Marketing award on the first contest of DNR Textile Awards of the American Magazine DNR.
His favourite works is this of Egon Schiele,Robert mcGinnis, Robert Raushenberg and Ralph Steadman.
As far as the greek comics are concerned,Vassilis Gogtzilas believes that is in immobility for many decades now “We can talk about greek comics only when the artists in this country will have been elevated from obscurity. This few efforts from time to time can not be translated as a stream or development as there have been many efforts in the last decades but with no results at all. As in my opinion of course, reprinting foreign comics into greek is not helpful at all.In all those countries that comic did bloom was because of the artists and the work they presented”.
Thessaloniki is a rather difficult city for an illustrator to live in. But despite all that Vassilis Gogtzilas is really moving into the field really easily, mostly because he uses many styles and this serves many different needs. From time to time he prefers to deal with his own,more artistic approaches in several subjects. This is basically why he works as freelancer, as he needs more personal time. He can also be open to any job offer.
Would his potentials be different if he lived in Athens?
“I believe that Thessaloniki is a city with many creative ideas and I am not sure if I would be able to find in Athens the same projects that I have worked on here”. For the use of colors,Vasilis Gogtzilas says that it is another way to work on an idea. He can use it really easily wherever it is required.
Illustration and Comics. Indispensable living and hobby?
“I never do something only for living reasons.I love both illustrating and comics the same.Each one gives me a different way to develop”.
For a local magazine in 1994 I think...
A 15YEAR OLD DREAMMAKER
He is a high school student.He has been drawing since he was a little boy. His classmates make compliments about his sketches but they often ask him: “Are you still drawing?”. Vassilis Gogtzilas creates comics. His stories have been printed in local newspapers and magazines and took part in exhibitions ( like the recent one that was mounted by Radio-Utopia and had an anti-war and anti-racist character). He believes that comics are not made to be exhibited. Stories are not made to be "hunged on the wall but to be read. It’s for somebody to hold it,read it and reach into conclusions about their life. A comic story is a motive for thinking…" Although many people think that all this creating comics story is something that he will be bored of in some years. It’s a “madness” that has been declared the most modern one among Fine Arts. He is a teenager that doesn’t go out often.On his free time he stays home and draws.His heroes dance in the paper. They were created from his dreams.This is why they are capable of anything.For hope or for disaster.Vassilis Gogtzilas puts them in small panels. They come alive and they keep us company. Are there any friends more loyal than the papered ones from our childhood( and not only then)?.
- When did you start drawing,Vassilis?
I was very young.I was in the kindergarden,when I started drawing some small sketches…My parents encouraged me to keep doing it and time after time I liked it more and more. It was obvious from my early years that I followed my father’s steps,who was drawing…
- When did you get the comics virus?
I was drawing sketches till I bought my first comic book, you know Lucky Luke, Asterix e.t.c.Later, when I was 12 –13 years old, I started creating my own stories…
- Did your parents encourage you?
Yes,they helped me,but they explained to me that this wasn’t a profitable job here in Greece…I kept drawing and when I went to Junior High,my classmates always asked me to draw something for them. Then I cooperated with teachers in school papers and several exhibitions.I made several drawings.
- This means that your sketches were widely accepted.People liked your sketches?
Yes,but I got the courage sometime later…I went to the Y.M.C.A. to attend some drawing seminars, but I didn’t like it because I think common drawing is very conventional…I was attracted by the scenario,the evolution of the story with the ink’s help,the world that you can create…So I asked around and this is how I met Antonis Fotopoulos, who was teaching Comics at Praxis atelier and that was when I started dealing with it more seriously. Fotopoulos was publishing the “BOOMERANG” magazine and there was where I printed a story with the title “A WALK AROUND THE WORLD” based on one of his ideas, later he recommended me to a newspaper named “Aggelioforos” (Messenger)- the newspaper was renewing its material then- and I started printing some comic strips…I still have a cooperation with them but I am always waiting for something new…
- Do you think that a comic is more premordial than the other fine arts, since it’s based on a scenario and the story evolves , contrarily to a static frame or a painting?
A comic has only a few things in common with painting or literature.It has many things in common with cinema, because there is a story, plot, tenseness that have elements of direction,photography,scenario. Painting and design depend on the artist’s skills and the scenario depends on the writer’s skills.
- So, what is the importance of speech and line in a story?Would you rather cooperate with someone who writes the stories or you prefer to think of the plot yourself ?
What I prefer is me having the idea and give it to others to write stories for me,unless it’s an idea that I would like to work on myself.
- Do you believe that somebody can work on their skills if for example they work on different techniques…I assume that you would like your studies to be on this field, am I right?
By studying you get the basic knowledge,on which you can support, but the details in a sketch are up to you,it’s your personal style.The details don’t make a good designer only by putting the image in the right place.
- Are you talking about harmony?
-Do you see any evolution in your style, since you started drawing?
Yes, and the more I work the better I get.
- Do you think that a comics creator is not getting enough attention here in Greece considering that there are only 1 or 2 magazines of that kind?
I don’t know about that but what I know is that a comics creator can’t be widely known through these magazines. Most people have the wrong idea about comics.Some people think they are caricatures and others think that all of them are cartoons like Mickey Mouse.Comics are not only for children, some stories are so terrifying that would scare a little kid.
- Is it because there isn’t a fairytale’s plot but a disastrous plot that people got the wrong idea about comics?
There are stories with a normal plot, like Lucky Luke,where the narration is simple…there are comics artists that make simple comics…
- Basicly comics deal with stuff like science fiction,Future, with the theory of chaos, cyberpank e.t.c. , theories that are based on cynisism and violence.
These are things that are censurable in literature too.Violence is the main subject mostly in American comics, and all marketing actions are based on it only to make big sales.
- Which is comics’ target group?
There are comics for every age, fortunately.
- Do you believe that a comic, which is a series of sketches that tell us a story, is reflexing reality, the world we live in today?
Sure. Ioannou, Arkas are making fun of Greek everyday life.
- Do you like those two? Is there anybody else from the field that you like?
Arkas is a good writer but his sketches are too simple , he doesn’t have the professional drawing that I prefer…I would like his sketches to be more for adults.
- He derives his childness from his irony.Maybe his is doing it on purpose, when he constantly plays with his disadvantages and his complexes, and he is trying not to make too complicated sketches.
His scenario is really good,but the lines in his sketches aren’t as intense as in UDERZO’s for example in Asterix.The lines are pretty intense and the final result is very beautiful.There are lines that seem like blots but not as in Bill Sienkiewicz’s sketches, which is the right one.
- Is he the one you like best?
Yes, I prefer the American artists,like Bill Sienkiewicz, Jack Kirby, Sam Kieth e.t.c. From Europeans my favorite is Liberatore.
- Would you like to have a hero, like Corto Malteze, who will be Vassilis Gogtzilas’ trade mark? A character famous and lovable?
I create different characters every time.I don’t focus only in one.Everybody though have the same aim: ESCAPE.They create new worlds in their imagination.I have been working on one lately… I named him “DREAM MAKER”…
- Well everything takes place in fantasy and metaphysical.Aren’t those worlds full of loneliness?
- This is the vibe I get as a reader.Comics’ heroes are lonely.There are disasters happening around them and they just walk alone.
You have described Malteze…Maybe you’re right.He is lonely but he socializes with many people in his life.
- Vassilis, do you have any plans for the future,like studying?
I haven’t decided yet. As far as art is concerned, I completely separate it from school…I just want to build something solid for the rest of my life.Comics aren’t acceptable from people. I would love to live for it and gain money from it, but here in Greece this is almost impossible.
- Something must be done from you, the new generation. “BABEL” was very close in shutting down…
There are no editors who publish greek comics.In order to sell they reprint foreign comics,translated.
- This is because those comics creators have established themselves in the field.There are publications in Europe that are seriously interested in new talents that draw and administer professionally an album’s issuance.
I don’t know much about Europe, because my main interest was for American artists.European artists have quality stories and good art but they don’t have power like the Americans, who, we should mention, are very productive.They keep the reader’s interest alive, adding more and more elements and details in their art, in order to make impressive stories.
- They know show business better than anybody…
They print new issues every month.You know they aren’t like the Europeans- one Album,one Hero,but they have series with the same hero.We borrow elements from them.
- Would you like to see something similar happening in Greece or in Thessaloniki in particular?
It would be a good thing for Thessaloniki or Greece generally a magazine with only Greek comics artists, to motivate younger kids. “BOOMERANG” was a very good concept but it’s not issued any more.
- We wish that for you, all new comics creators and for the Greek comic itself. You have plenty of time ahead of you!
Vassilis Gogtzilas’ art puts the bang in Biggest Bang
By Byron Brewer
Born in the cataclysmic cosmic catastrophe known as “The Bigger Bang,” Cosmos traversed the barren egg-lands in between universes, discovered the wisdom of space whales, defeated intergalactic evil, and found love. Now a new threat presents itself, one the hero has never known … worship! What can he give those who could call him God?
Intergalactic action and pataphysical philosophy return in The Biggest Bang, the thrilling sequel to IDW’s miniseries The Bigger Bang, from writer D.J. Kirkbride and artist Vassilis Gogtzilas.
Flipping our usual interview format, your DF correspondent sought out artist Gogtzilas to get his unique take on this unique sequel.
Dynamic Forces: Vassilis, would you mind recapping the events of the original series, The Bigger Bang, by you and writer D.J. Kirkbride?
Vassilis Gogtzilas: As far as the first series is concerned, it opened a window to the events following a “Bigger Bang” than the one we all know. As a result, a superhero is born known as Cosmos. We follow him as he wanders around trying to deal with his guilt. And besides him fighting King Thulu, he also has to fight against Wyan who proves to be his other half!
DF: How did this new sequel, The Biggest Bang, come about?
Vassilis Gogtzilas: [A sequel always] was meant to happen. The story and the hero needed a closure … an epic closure … so that is what the second part is all about. The first four issues had a surprisingly big response from comic book readers and that fact gave us the chance to reload Cosmos. In a comic book universe pact with superheroes, launching our own had been a very ambitious task all the way.
DF: What can you tell us about the story here in lieu of what happened in Bigger Bang?
Vassilis Gogtzilas: The first miniseries was revolving around self acceptance. This book, the second one, is all about the wrong kind of acceptance one might accidentally get. So there is more to the picture than meets the eye. New villains and an almost cursed love affair are also crucial narrative components. I think thats a good summary without any spoilers.
DF: Who are the main characters in the sequel?
Vassilis Gogtzilas: We’ve got Cosmos and Wyan who has been developed further as a main character.
DF: Do we meet any new characters this time around?
Vassilis Gogtzilas: Janishier Sneck is the new threat in the guise of a cosmic priest. And a few more to discover throughout the pages.
DF: As artist, did you get to design – or maybe redesign – any characters for Biggest Bang?
Vassilis Gogtzilas: What I find extremely refreshing in the design process was that we got to invent new characters. Drawing from scratch is a very liberating process. You get as an artist to explore and hit all the different creational directions you desire. That was a great opportunity for me to develop several concepts and on top of that I have a dynamic working relationship with D.J. Kirkbride, allowing me to have no restrictions in presenting my ideas in the exact surreal way I wanted.
DF: After doing the first series, you must have a favorite character? Who is it and why?
Vassilis Gogtzilas: I really like Cosmos’ silent moments and all those personal issues they reflected. I could associate to some of his melancholic moods. But I really enjoyed drawing King Thulu. He had lots of moments for me to pick up his personality and, as I say, more splashes of ink and angry faces.
DF: Vassilis, what else are you working on?
Vassilis Gogtzilas: A new Augusta Wind series with J.M. DeMatteis that is a thrill to work on since the text is so beautiful. There is another project that I can’t say much about as yet. I also work on paintings for new exhibits and gallery shows.
Dynamic Forces would like to thank Vassilis Gogtzilas for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions. The Biggest Bang #1 hits stores May 18th!
By Mark on June 22, 2015
This is one of my favorite miniseries to come out this year. This is the story of a cosmic superhero that is treated as a harbinger of doom by nearly every life he saves but never loses the will to help. There's a strong sense of melancholy and a bright sense of humor that grounds this book even as the cosmic weirdness ratchets up. DJ Kirkbride has a real gift for writing relatable and hilarious characters but he moves outside of his comfort zone here to deliver a story with the more epic scale that outer space necessitates. Vassilis Gogtzilas handles the art on this book and his work is just as expressive as the writing with these very loose, powerful figures that are just bursting with energy. The book wouldn't be half of what it is without Gogtzilas' imaginative, wonderfully constructed pages. Give it a whirl and I can almost guarantee that you'll find something that will stick with you.
By P. Katz on June 22, 2015
The Bigger Bang has powerful writing and iconic artwork. Look forward to checking out more work from this team.