Review Fix talks with comic author and illustrator, Victor Santos, on his ongoing series, Guts and his creative process and artistic styles on the webcomic.
Review Fix: What lead to the creation of this series?
Victor Santos: It’s been a while since I had finished the last entry of my webcomic Polar and I had been working on other projects for North American publishers. I missed doing something on my own and as I color my own work with the computer often, I wanted to go back to using more “craft” tools such as ink wash. I thought I could use the platform I already had from the Polar website (www.polarcomic.com) and create a new story.
Review Fix: What were some of your inspirations?
Santos: When I start one of these projects, cinema is a strong inspiration. In this case, the films of John Carpenter were a huge influence. I do not only mean “Halloween” for the subject of the persecutor/ persecuted but films such as “Assault on Precinct 13” or “The Thing,” stories with few characters, often in a closed environment, struggling to survive. I was also inspired by the art of illustrators who use very well the scales of grays, people like Tim Sale, Will Eisner or Japanese artists like Goseki Kojima.
Review Fix: What’s the creative process like?
Santos: Normally, I approach each page one by one; each one is like a narrative puzzle that I want to solve. I work on them during my free time, when I finish my workday.
Sometimes I do several of them at once if I have the time, but the idea is to have fun with the process at the moment. Using ink wash is great because it is immediate. Then I scan the pages and add the panel borders and some graphic effects, but I try to keep the spontaneity of the technique. The story I have is more or less is in my mind but I improvise a lot on the fly, it is part of the charm that these types of projects have.
Review Fix: What is this series about?
Santos: Guts is a story that mixes elements of terror and action, even a bit of noir. It is about an African-American teenager in 1984 (in the middle of “Irangate” by Ronald Reagan) whose boyfriend is killed by neo-Nazis. Instead of killing her directly, they pose a game of survival in the forest, similar to the classic “The Most Dangerous Game” or the more modern version “Human Target.” As it happens in many of these stories, the prey will have to learn to survive and counterattack.
Review Fix: Most comics are usually accompanied with text, while Guts is a series of textless illustrations, what lead to this artistic decision?
Santos: The series is a narrative and style exercise and I wanted to be able to tell the story only with images. By publishing it on the Internet, anyone in the world can read it and images are a universal language. For that exact reason, I did not choose a language; I did not want to limit my audience.
Review Fix: Who’s your target audience for this?
Santos: I do not know very well. When I create a story, I write for myself. I make the kind of story that I want to read at that moment. I imagine that some genres may be favorites of a section of the population (men, women, young or mature) but I do not write for a specific reader, except for those who are interested in my way of telling stories.
Review Fix: How would you say Guts is similar to your previous works of Polar?
Santos: What they both have in common is that they play with the resources that I consider makes the comic more interesting as a medium: composition, narrative, time, rhythm, these are the themes that I feel passionate about it. Both are stories with action and violence because I’m interested in the characters that live on the edge of morality, that’s why I like the crime and noir genre. However, both characters are very different; Black Kaiser is an accomplished murderer, someone who is cold and distant. The protagonist of Guts (who in the story has no name) is a young girl who has to learn to defend herself and fight, in order to survive.
Review Fix: Anything else you’d like to add?
Santos: Thanks for your interest in Guts! Right now the webcomic is heading towards its finale (it will not be as long and ambitious as Polar), but I would like either to return to the main character in another story or sequel or create another new story on the Polar website.