So I finally translated the interview with Lucas Varela into English. As you read this, please remember that I have NEVER taken a translation class and that I was an economics major at college. If the translation is choppy and weird, that is probably the reason. I received some help translating the Argentine slang from my friend Santiago.
Claire D-S: How did you start making comics?
Lucas Varela: I started in the underground in the 90’s, before the Internet existed. This moment was the high point of the underground or the independent comics scene. There were a lot of comics. There wasn’t, however, a professional space. It was very difficult to develop professionally because all the magazines and publishers were closing. It was the end of an era. There were only independent magazines. This is when I began Kapop, my self-edited magazine.
CDS: Did someone invite you to participate in the underground movement?
LV: It went like this: a professional youngster went with his portfolio to underground comics events and showed it to the first person who would look at it. I went to one of these events with my amateur, embarrassing comics and people at a magazine called Poco Loco liked my work. I began to publish there immediately. After wandering through various underground magazines, I decided to self-publish a magazine with Robert Barriero, a good friend and writer. The magazine was called Kapop and had a run of six issues. A little bit later, with a more developed hand, I approached Carlos Trillo and began my professional career around 2000.
CDS: How did you meet each other?
LV: We found out that he liked Kapop and went to visit him in his studio one day. Trillo was a really open-minded, easygoing, and friendly. We got along well and subsequently created The Scarlet Horn, our first project together.
CDS: You do illustration, but for what magazines? How many illustrations do you do a week?
LV: I work for an agency with many talented illustrators called “Dutch Uncle” in London. It’s nice working with them because I can avoid interacting with editors and clients. I think this is the best possible option. They mainly give me work from magazines, newspapers like The Guardian, and Gulf Life, a magazine for an airline in the Persian Gulf. Weird things. It’s comfortable working with them.
CDS: What’s the process you go through to receive an order?
LV: They tell me, “I have this to illustrate. You can do it.” Generally, they give me from two weeks to a month to do an illustration. I contently take all that they throw at me. Because they are English, they greatly enjoy the touch of dark humor that I add in my drawings. I think that I am returning a bit of what I learned from English comedians. “Monty Python” was a great influence.
CDS: How did you begin to work with them?
LV: All through email. I got their contact information from Christian Montenegro, an argentine illustrator that worked with them. I wrote them and they didn’t respond for six months. Suddenly, they requested an illustration because they needed something in “comic style.” That’s how I hooked them. The idea of “comic style” is very curious. I don’t think there is a comic style. Comics have so many styles that are so different that it is impossible to bring them together in one. There is something in society’s mindset that the comic has a particular style—happy, dynamic, and colorful. But it’s not like that. Later they saw that I had a wide range of styles and began to give me more work.
CDS: How many offers do you accept per week?
LV: I draw a weekly illustration for the newspaper Financial Times and will do another if I have enough time. There are weeks where I only do the illustration for the Financial Times and nothing else. It depends.
CDS: Can you survive on just a few drawings a week?
LV: I made more money working at Clarín, like a slave, doing layout. Going to work every day from this hour to that hour. But I got tired, I got burnt out. I worked like that for six years. I really wanted to draw. The thing I took away from working at a newspaper was the practice and the speed that you get from working like that. You have to resolve everything immediately.
CDS: What is the publishing process like for comics?
LV: Publishing is very complicated. Especially here because the editors are very dishonest. They don’t pay you or report earnings. You have to be careful to avoid the crooks. I published with a few like Moebius that, if they are a small publishing company, are pretty cool. One of the valued I look for when I work with a small publishing company are good vibes. They published Matabicho. But my previous book, Estupefacto, was published by a fraudulent company that never reported my earnings. It was a disaster. It ended up on sale. In Spain, Paolo Pinocchio was just published by the publishing house Dibbuks. They are pretty serious and generate much trust. They had previously published The Coronel’s Heritage, the Spanish name for The Gustavino Syndrome [the Argentine title]. I hope that they do well with the book. Then there’s the Fierro. It’s good to publish in the Fierro. The comics that are published there have a lot of repercussion because the people all over the country see it. They pay a minimal amount, but I take it as one more entrance to publishing comics. We did this with The Gustavino Syndrome. First it was published in the Fierro and then it was published as a book. That’s how you manage to alleviate the huge effort it takes to create a comic.
In Argentina there aren’t many places to publish comics. Generally you manage to assemble a network where you more or less know everyone that publishes, but it’s very limited. Then, internationally I don’t have many doors open. Now you begin the publishing process in the Fierro and afterwards see which publishing companies want to publish the material that’s already been created. There are also the newspapers that very rarely offer space for comics. I published a page in La Nación’s Sunday magazine for one year and then published in Clarin’s Viva magazine for another. But I got burnt out after awhile.