[Interview] Giannis Milonogiannis – New to the Hunt
There’re few things more depressing than watching creators lose the passion by which they were once driven. We’ve all seen it happen – the old dog, worn down by years spent chasing artistic success and financial stability and personal greatness, loses its love of the hunt. Instead of drawing fowl into the hunters’ scopes, these hounds are content with gum-delivering the birds that’ve already been blasted out of the sky.
And thus, we get comics and movies and music that get the job done, but without the zeal that we crave.
On the other hand, there’s nothing more beautiful than the sight of an up-and-comer in love with the creative process. This is the young pup who’s been told he’s too small for the hunt, but is just too damn scrappy to stay with the litter. So he puffs out his chest and snarls and barks as fiercely as he can. And just as he’s about to be dismissed by the tired hounds, the pup pounces on a swan from behind and rips out its goddamn jugular.
This is the image that comes to mind when I think of Giannis Milonogiannis.
Milonogiannis is a comics creator who’s making no small work of proving his worth to the pack. After being blown away by his contributions to PROPHET, I decided to investigate the other creations of the artist with the wonderfully-multisyllabic name. I was led to Old City Blues, the “cyberpunk police adventure” set in New Athens, 2048. I quickly devoured the first volume, and then went to the OCB website to feast upon the issues available online.
Gritty noir detectives, cybernetic mechs, car chases, discussions of consciousness – I just couldn’t get enough.
Hoping to satiate my rapacity, I contacted Giannis Milonogiannis and he was kind enough to answer some questions. Hit the hyperspace jump to check out this incredible young talent’s thoughts about his work, the current state of Greek comics, the digital/print discussion, and the process of seeking inspiration.
C’mon! Let’s join the hunt!
– For the uninitiated, how would you describe the Giannis Milonogiannis of this current juncture in the space-time continuum? Who are you? What’re you currently up to?
I’m just this guy who’s lucky enough to be spending his days drawing robots and alien lizard ladies and future cop stories. These past few months I’ve been on the PROPHET team, and doing my own work on the side as time allows.
– How did you first get interested in comics? Was there a particular artist or comic that won you over?
Getting into comics probably happened really early for me. I’d read stuff like Uncle Scrooge comics as a kid, and just never gave up on it growing up. Later on, Moebius and Otomo were two of the people that really got me excited about doing comics.
– Although you were born in Maryland, you grew up and continue to live in Greece. For those of us in North America, what does the comic book landscape look like in the land the birthed Homer and Socrates?
The best way to describe it without sounding like an idiot is to say that comics is far from going through a golden age in Greece at the moment. There are a few Greeks doing good work outside of the country though — Mike Dialynas and Ilias Kyriazhs come to mind. And I think Vasilis Lolos is having a new book come out soon.
– If you’d be willing, could you describe the creative arc of Old City Blues, from its inception to where it stands today?
Since the beginning, OCB has been just a perfect tool in learning how to make comics.
Having a platform that allows you absolute freedom in what to write and draw can be intimidating, but especially when you’re first starting out, I think it’s necessary to try. Today, I think OCB is growing into its own in some ways. I’m thinking more about the world and the stories than just the mechanics of making a comic book.
– During my second read-through of Old City Blues Volume 1, I noticed that the last panel on page 62 sees Solano and Thermidor grappling with the idea that the file they’re looking for is composed of “Good old ink on paper.” Thermidor later comments on the fact that “Real paper…hardcovers…” are quite valuable in your vision of the year 2048. I couldn’t help but see this as a declaration of appreciation for printed materials and the magic of tangibility.
Considering that OCB started as a webcomic, where would you say fall in the current discussion regarding the digitalization of the comics medium?
We should probably be happy that we can have both digital and physical comics. I’m not sure what the point is of denouncing digital comics or declaring print books dead. It’s an exciting time to be a creative individual these days, and I think there’s sense in both sides of the debate. I personally really enjoy books as physical objects, which I think is where that OCB line originated from, but it only makes sense to have both platforms co-exist going forward.
– If OCB were given the Hollywood treatment, which actors/actresses would you like to see in the cast? Maybe it’s the fact that I read the first volume while listening to the DRIVE soundtrack, but my vote goes to Ryan Gosling for Solano.
Ryan Gosling could work, I’d never thought about that. That’s a decent choice for Solano. A friend had also mentioned Aaron Eckhart, which I can see as well. To be honest I try not to think too much about this kind of thing — and when I do catch myself daydreaming about OCB adaptations, it’s usually in animated form.
– What does the future hold for OCB? Are there any plans to publish a second volume from the other four issues available online?
OCB will continue to come out online as it has for the past couple of years as long as possible. It’s a good way to get work out there and available for people to read. There’s a whole lot that I still want to do in this future world.
As far as a second volume, exact dates are still up in the air, but there will definitely be one sooner or later.
– Switching gears, how did you come to be one of the illustrators on PROPHET? Could you describe the process of collaborating with Brandon Graham and the other artists?
What happened was, I knew Simon Roy – and to a lesser extent, Brandon – off the internet, where we’d go back and forth with whatever it was we were working on at the time. They eventually got to working on relaunching PROPHET, which was initially meant to be a bi-monthly book.
When it got bumped up to monthly, they asked if I’d be interested in doing some work on it. It was flattering to be asked but also really intimidating, jumping on a monthly book. Working on this team is just great fun — there’s this great freedom to pitch in your ideas and a lot of leeway in what you can get away with.
The way we work with Brandon has started settling into a particular form after three issues — in the beginning it was a lot more abstract. In short, he’ll send thumbnails of the issue, with notes of what he wants to show and what’s going on instead of a script. From that I just draw the pages, keeping or changing around whatever we think works best.
It’s a good way to conserve time — Brandon not having to write detailed scripts and my not having to turn those into thumbnails.
– Any hints as to what we can expect from PROPHET’s next few issues?
Upcoming issues of PROPHET are as much a surprise for me as they are for other readers. Every time we get started on an issue, there’s so much Brandon wants to try and fit in, and it’s all crazy. I can say for sure there’s plenty more of lizard people, tree guys and big battle robots. And I don’t want to say anything about it, but Simon is planning some exciting stuff for his next issue, too.
– What comics creators and titles are you currently diggin’?
I have this terrible habit of mostly digging up and reading old comics. I miss out on a lot of the stuff being published right now. Right now I’m going through Mamoru Nagano’s Five Star Stories and Tezuka’s MW. Mohiro Kitoh’s Hallucination from the Womb was a good recent read.
Other than old stuff, a lot of my favorite people are my peers and/or work friends. Josh Tierney has some excellent artists working on his book Spera. Corey Lewis always does exciting stuff. I have a major sweet spot for Afu Chan’s stuff. All those guys are worth checking out.
– Outside of comic books, what inspires you? Movies? Music? Expensive bottles of whiskey delivered by raspy-voiced babes with questionable morals? What gets the creative juices flowing?
It can be anything, really. Sometimes it’s film, other times it’s video games. I went through a Kurosawa and Tarkovsky phase last year that was fun. Panzer Dragoon Saga and Metal Gear Solid are always a go-to for atmosphere inspiration. I also look at a lot of artbooks and storyboard books. I’ve got some Schiele and Terada open now. Other times it can be just riding the bike or talking a walk outside.
– Describe your dream project.
Generally speaking, working on my own stories is my dream project. Old City Blues is currently that. If I had an infinite amount of time and money, I’d still be doing OCB.
– What advice would you give to aspiring creators?
I generally give out advice that seems mundane or too uninspiring. If you’re an artist, one thing that nobody told me that I wish I’d found out earlier, is to sketch straight in ink. Just start a sketchbook, and do studies of film stills or paintings and your own random drawing, just without any pencil beforehand. I found it helps build confidence in your inking and your eye, even though at first it’s terrifying and everything looks horrible. When sketching in pencil, we can get away with a lot — with ink, our mistakes are obvious, which makes them easier to spot and correct.
– Ben Kenobi or Gandalf?
Kenobi, just because of Guinness telling that kid to get over Star Wars. Don’t know if it actually happened not, but still.
– Anything else you’d like the OL faithful to know about? Upcoming projects? Convention appearances? This is your space to do with as you please!
I’d just like to make sure people know that OCB can be found online to read and download for free. There are a few things I should be working on, but nothing really close to talking about yet.
For the time being, you can look for more OCB and PROPHET in the future. I’m also attending the Thought Bubble convention in Leeds this November. They’ve got some great people going, so you should look into it!