Welcome to MATT CHATS, a weekly interview series in which I talk to a creator, consumer or seller of comics. This week I spoke with Gabriel “Gabo” Bautista, who is working on several projects right now including The Life After for Oni Press and Albert the Alien for Thrillbent. During that time he also managed to fit in Jupiter, a series of 100 micro-stories set on the largest planet made up of just one drawing and one page of text each. His Kickstarter campaign has been funded, but it’s still running so you can jump in and get an early copy of the hardcover and push it closer to its stretch goals. I spoke to Gabo about creating Jupiter, setting rewards for the campaign and more.
I first encountered your work with The Life After, and what immediately struck me was the panel density. What was your reaction to a script that asks for a lot of panels per page?
I’ve always been a fan of using a lot of panels! The idea of slowing down time by shoving more panels on a page has always intrigued me, so when I first read Fialkov’s script I was elated. There is that 50 panel two-page spread that we had in the first issue. The monotony and slight repetition of each panel really drives home the idea that Jude does the same damn thing day in day out, like many of us have suffered or currently suffer in our day to day lives. I’m all for a page full of panels as long as there is a good reason for it!
Did working in that kind of style influence the creation or development of Jupiter?
Jupiter was mainly influenced by two things: a challenge by Kenneth Rocafort to do a daily drawing in a Moleskine daily planner, and constant dreams of futuristic settings that I feel intimately connected to. The rest sort of just ran its course on its own, I just sat back and let my hands do the work.
What’s the appeal of a story told in one image and a page or less of text?
I’ve always been intrigued by the synopsis’ you find on the back of books, especially sci-fi and fantasy novels with those amazing painted covers. Being able to squeeze a whole concept into just a paragraph is the idea I wanted to harness for this project. The fact that you can open the book to any page and be immersed into that world for a brief moment is what I find appealing. That and it’s great for people like me who has short attention spans haha.
Do you find micro-stories to be more or less challenging than longer-form projects? Why?
I’ve never taken on the task of writing something longer than a few pages, but I feel micro-stories are easier in that it doesn’t take a lot to belt one out, its almost like playing a quick game of poker vs a round of Magic the Gathering. While Magic is way more complicated and requires more time to complete, poker in itself is full of strategy and complications that take years to master, only its much faster to play.
For me, developing a story comes pretty easy. Sometimes I feel that perhaps my brain produces way too much of whatever chemical causes someone to make things up, but I sure as hell am grateful for it.
Is there any way you’d prefer Jupiter to be read? All at once/one at a time/some other way?
I’ve never really given that idea any thought. I suppose it could be read from beginning to end, but at the same time I love that Jupiter is like a sketchbook where you can flip to any page and be sucked into that scene in just a matter of seconds.
Would you ever sell the Moleskin daily planner that contains all of the Jupiter drawings?
I’ve had a lot of friends suggest I put it up as one of the reward tiers, putting a price of a couple thousand on it, hoping maybe some crazy rich person would pledge for it. At the same time though I’ve had other friends who scold me for thinking about it, saying I should keep it as long as I can. I’ve never been big on keeping my art, hell sometimes I just give it away at conventions, but the idea of giving away or selling a book with over 100 drawings in it is a bit hard to process. To be honest my biggest fear would be that the pages would get separated and distributed, and at the same time I would love nothing more than for people to have a little piece of Jupiter to themselves. I’M TORN. WHAT DO I DO? It’s literally just collecting dust in my studio! [Laughs] Maybe in a few years I’ll start tearing out the pages and gifting them or selling them. WHO KNOWS. I have to keep reminding myself that we are simply guardians of art until a new owner is found.
You offer high-level of backers a significant influence over the content of your book, particularly at the $250 level. Was that an easy decision to make, or did it feel more like a necessary evil in order to get funded?
It was 10% “necessary evil so I could get funded.” I figured people would be clamoring at the chance to be in the book. “TO BE IMMORTALIZED,” I kept repeating in my head. Overtime though, I’ve realized that the people who becoming part of the book WILL be immortalized, in my heart. Cheesy, ain’t it? I’m serious though! Those people who pledge at that level believe me and Jupiter enough to become a part of it, they trust in me to do a great job in taking their likeness and converting them into a legend of Jupiter. It’s super awesome, and they are super awesome. Ultimately though, I always wanted to have this be a THING in Jupiter, taking a few people and turning them into legends… It’s neat!
After 100 drawings and 100 stories, how connected are you to this world?
There’s a lot of it that I don’t remember. I look at the images and fragments of the stories come to me. Sort of like when you’re looking at an old photo of yourself hanging with friends. You might know when it was taken, what might have been going on in your life then, but you probably don’t remember it as well as you’d like. My connection to the world of Jupiter I’ve created is similar; I don’t try to force things into it. Instead I let those things come out when they want, and hope to hell they make sense and that I can jot them down before I forget them.
What’s the scariest part of the project for you?
The scariest thing for me was not being able to fund it. After Day 2 of the Kickstarter, the fear was completely obliterated.
Now that the campaign is funded, are you thinking ahead about future stories?
I’ve been planning this for a while; the illustrations in Jupiter are actually from a 2013 Moleskine daily planner. I’ve got a 2014 thats nearly half full, and a 2015 that I’m currently filling. The next book will be slightly different, though; some of the stories will be written by guest writers (some of which will be some notable comics people!) I’m looking forward to seeing what people write to a piece of art that’s already been created.
Jupiter is just one of many projects you’re working on. How do you balance it all?
I have no damn idea. I can’t deny that I’m late on some projects and have had to pretty much cancel or put other projects on hold, but Jupiter has been done for several months, and I just needed to get it out of my system.
What keeps you cranking out pages, day after day after day?
BILLS, MAN. BILLS. I literally have no choice, if I slow down or slack off I will be sleeping on the streets. No greater motivator than the risk of going homeless if you goof off too much. Also the fact that I’m getting old. I see all these young cats in the comic game making power moves, and I’ve just barely reached the big leagues at 34? I don’t have time to mess around, I need to keep moving, keep drawing. Draw or Die.
You can find Gabo on his website and on Twitter, and back his Kickstarter campaign for Jupiter for a few more days. Don’t wait.