Visual Virtuoso Vassilis Gogtzilas preps the Universe for THE BIGGEST BANG #1

BY ALEXANDER JONES

The Beat already got the writer’s perspective on IDW’s upcoming mini-series and follow-up to The Bigger Bang aptly titled The Biggest Bangbut now we would like to present something out of the ordinary: the artist’s perspective. The series, written by D.J. Kirkbride (Amelia Cole and the Unknown World) and drawn by Vassilis Gogtzilas (The Adventures of Augusta Wind) published by IDW debuts May 18th. The final cut-off date for pre-orders is this coming Monday, April 25th. The comic is about a hero named Cosmos trying to protect the reborn Universe that came out of The Biggest Bang. The Beat had a conversation with Gogtzilas to learn the secrets behind the pastels, spray paint and acrylics and more behind the series’ bold visual direction.

The Beat: Could you talk about the artistic process for The Biggest Bang?

Vassilis Gogtzilas: Both in this series and the first, we have a very specific way of doing things. The process begins with a first draft of the plot which I then break into pages and panels. Once I do this; D.J. finalizes the exact written text for the script. This is a very organic way of collaboration. I’m given the freedom to draw without the strict limitations of a specific full script. As a result I can be more playful with the visuals and make decisions about the settings, the choreography of the panels, and the general flow, leading to an artistic process resembling film.

How do your create the slick, stylized look of the comic?

As an artist I need to be challenged constantly– I really don’t affiliate a certain drawing style even thought I do have certain tendencies which present a more grotesque and expressionistic approach. In the first series, the outcome was more rough, with extended use of mixed media like pastels, spray paint and acrylics aiming to a chaotic feel that suits the esoteric needs of the main character. As Cosmos changed in the second series, the sketching values adjusted to his new realities. That is why they became more tamed, slick-like sketching expressions of Cosmos’ inner growth in the series.

Did you get a chance to create the character designs for the comic?

I had the joy to imagine and draw new villains presented by D.J.. My vision for the Janishire Sneck was inspired by B-movie aesthetics, I drew it as what it was written to be: a gross detestable creature. The other villain is the Penumbra gang. I have to admit that was even more fun to draw. I saw them as a mixture of a Swedish heavy metal band and Lobo, with a touch of Swamp Thing as far as their facial characteristic were concerned. The Penumbra have their own planet which is drawn in order to fit their wildness with a hint of punk. Though when I came to draw the fight scenes, I chose shots and point of views that were directly references to Italian spaghetti westerns.

Did you learn anything from the last issue that informed the process for the follow-up series?

My collaboration with D.J. has been upgraded in terms of understanding each other into the creative process and this fact made the creation a lot faster. A common language has been established and we continue to have fun and enjoy what we were doing. Now that the second mini has been concluded I have to say I’m more than happy to have met and worked with D.J.– I think he is an amazing writer and I respect him for the enthusiasm, the consistency, and the delicacy with which he treats his ideas and inspirations within the context of the work.

What are some off the differences in getting scripts from professionals like D.J. Kirkbride and J.M. DeMatteis?

We are talking about two different writers, each one with his own way of delivering visions. It’s not a matter of comparing rather than a matter of different forms of collaboration. The variations that concern my part of the team work are not that dramatically different. It’s the design language that finds a way to unite us all. All I have to say is that I’m very lucky to have worked with both writers.

Is it hard switching between comedic and dramatic tones for the artwork?

Technically speaking, I think each artist comes up with his own designing tricks when he has a task like this. It is partly a matter of experience and also improvisational– there are things you can do though besides the obvious such as changes of expressions you get to play with sizes and perspective and movement. Then its the right choice of coloring and pacing to ease the transitions.

What are some of your inspirations for the art direction in this comic?

I’m a big fan of the ’90s in terms of music comics, books and films. It’s actually a more 90’s drawing approach to The Biggest Bang, with more of a focus on the ’70s for the new upcoming Augusta Wind book. In The Biggest Bang, this translates to oversized guns and huge monsters with a classic overblown masculine superhero figure.

Do you have any last words on the series?

Superheroes are presented nowadays in a more humanized way, opening a door to the way they think and feel– usually this comes out in a dark, brooding manner. With Cosmos the difference is that as we get to see what he really stands for, we realize that even though he comes from a dark state of mind, his true essence is gentle and enlightened. I find this much more easy to associate with since we all have our struggles, but our true nature is far away from evil.