Brazillian twin brothers Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá have risen to prominence in recent years illustrating astonishing indie successes such Matt Fraction’s “Casanova,” Gerard Way’s “Umbrella Academy,” Joss Whedon’s “Sugarshock,” “BPRD 1947” and their ten-issue collaboration on “Daytripper” at Vertigo. This week, Dark Horse releases a new hardcover edition of one of their earliest American works. “De:Tales,” written and illustrated by Moon and Bá, features several short stories about urban life in Brazil and was named one of Booklist’s ten best graphic novels of the year upon its original publication. CBR News spoke with the brothers about the new edition, several of the projects that came after, and what to look for at New York Comic Con.
In the forward to “De:Tales,” editor Diana Schutz notes that Bá and Moon first pitched Dark Horse “when they still believed in super heroes,” a phrase which crops up sometimes online, as well. CBR News asked the twins what changed their views on costumed adventurers. “I guess the big change was realizing the comics you liked to read as a fan wouldn't necessarily be the comics you would like to draw,” Moon said. “When we came to write our stories, the stories we wanted to write didn't involve super powers, and we were more interested in creating new characters who would live different stories than the ones in super hero comics.”
“We grew up reading a lot of super-hero comics and for a long time that was what comic books meant for us. It is overwhelming and a massive industry, so it had a big effect on us. We still have a lot of influences and memories of super-hero comics inside of us, and it helps on projects like 'Umbrella,' even 'Casanova,'" Bá added. “But at a certain point we felt strongly attracted to creating new things, new characters, telling something different. It takes so much time to write and draw a comic book that we wanted it to be worth it and we didn't feel as compelled to just go with the flow. It's not just a matter of working in comics, but what we are working on. On the other hand, as professional authors, we lost some of the innocence about the medium and the market. If we would work on a super-hero comic, it would definitely lose the magic it keeps on our minds.”
Speaking about the brothers’ goals when putting “De:Tales” together, Moon told CBR, “I think we were trying to grow as artists and as people. I think growing up made us look more at our daily life, our reality, and how to make that work, and daily life wasn't the fantasy and adventure tales we used to read in super hero comics, but it was intriguing, interesting and strange all the same. A lot of those stories were reactions to our real life, even if completely fictitious reactions. And we were always interested in how the characters feel, their emotions, and I think working with somewhat Brazilian characters, and setting the stories in Brazil, helped us find the authenticity of the emotions we were searching for.”
One such reaction to everyday experiences was “Reflections,” a story about seizing the moment (or not) that appears twice in “De:Tales,” once illustrated by Moon and another version drawn by Bá. “We wanted to show how the same story can be told in very different ways, but at the same time there are certain parts of the story which are better told in an specific way, and these parts are similar on both versions,” Moon explained. “We were experimenting, practicing, doing it to show that the story only works when it's done and that you, as an artist, have to learn how to make a story work out even if your take is a little different. It's like that story said, you can't think about it too much and do nothing or you'll lose your chance.
“The funny thing is, this story was originally written for a friend of ours who wanted to do comics but didn't have a story. Bá wrote the script for him to practice, and for him to stop complaining about never doing a story, but our friend never did the story and we decided to do two versions to show him - and ourselves - that it could be done and that there was no point in complaining”
“De:Tales” is not the only place to find short stories by Moon and Bá, as the brothers have also contributed shorter works to anthologies like “Autobiografix” and “Noir,” “MySpace Dark Horse Presents,” and other venues, not to mention that their recent Vertigo miniseries “Daytripper” was presented as a complete story in each issue. Asked about their affinity for the shorter form, the twins indicated that the medium was both practical and satisfying. “It's not always that one has the chance or opportunity to tell a big story. It takes time, there are bills to pay. It's a bit easier to make a bunch of short stories, tales that get to a point and fulfill their destiny with the author and the reader, than to work on a project for years without showing it to anyone,” Bá said. “Finishing your story is very important on the learning process of comic book making. I love the sense of making progress on a story, be it page by page or chapter by chapter. Short stories or chapters can give the reader this satisfaction faster, so the challenge is to please the reader and make him want more.”
“Shorter stories are good doors for the reader to enter and discover an author's work. It's not always easy to tell a shorter story. Having all the pages in the world makes it easier to establish characters and develop the story, so shorter stories also teach the author to cut to the chase and really be precise about plot, characters and what that particular story is about,” Moon said. “Some short stories don't have a complex story, but they have a very specific moment, sometimes an specific emotion, and you have to learn how to nail that emotion or it won't work. We like these opportunities to meet new people, present new characters and portray new moments. It's a challenge, and we like challenges that inspire us to get better.”
Bá and Moon’s relationship with Dark Horse, which began with a short story in “Autobiografix” and took hold in “De:Tales,” would also see the brothers team up for stint in the Hellboy universe with “BPRD: 1947,” a miniseries that takes place in the era following World War II and shortly after Hellboy arrived on this plane. “All the stories on the Hellboy universe have a very specific pacing, a rhythm. It was lots of fun to work on that pace, it felt right, even if horror is not our most strong genre,” Bá said of the experience. “This particular series is very character driven and it helped us getting involved with the story. We helped create the looks of the book and we really cared for all these characters and it was great to see them die one by one.”
“Aside from being huge Mignola and ‘Hellboy’ fans, it was only when we saw the stellar work of Guy Davis on the ‘BPRD’ that we considered that stories in the Hellboy universe could be told by anyone other than Mike himself,” Moon said. “His work influenced me to try harder and not suck, that's for sure.”
Like “De:Tales,” the twins’ “Rock’N’Roll” one-shot received a new printing fairly recently from Image Comics, and their self-published comic “Pixu” (with Becky Cloonan and Vasilis Lolos) was republished by Dark Horse. Asked which of their other early or scarce works they’d like to see given new life, Moon said, “I'm really proud of our work on ‘Gunned Down,’ a Western anthology published by Terra Major, which turned out a beautiful book. I wish more people could find that book.”
“I love ‘Ursula,’ a book we published with AiT/Planet Lar. They still have lots in stock, but we're trying to give it a new home so it can reach more readers,” Bá added.
In addition to working together, Moon and Bá have also teamed up for a few projects with Becky Cloonan and Vasilis Lolos, as well as other artists. “Fábio and I share a passion for comics that is really hard to mirror on other artists and writers, so whenever we find that spark on someone else, we want to make fire,” Bá said. “These last five years brought all kinds of experiences and we have learned a lot with each one of them. There has not been one project like the other. ‘5’ was very different from ‘PIXU,’ even if we were working again with Becky and Vasilis on the same dynamic. Even if I find similarities on the core references of ‘Casanova’ and ‘Umbrella Academy,’ Gerard [Way's] scripts were totally different from Matt [Fraction’s]. They were two different tastes of crazy. When we came back together to work on ‘Daytripper,’ we were changed professionals. We have learned about writing scripts, storytelling techniques, new tricks. Most importantly, we have learned what didn't work - for us - on all the projects we did with others. It was much harder working on ‘Daytripper’ than any other previous project we had done together. And that was what made it even more special.”
“Daytripper,” written and illustrated by Bá and Moon, was composed of ten “day in the life”-type stories, each of which concluded with the death of Brás, the series’ protagonist. The stories were not presented in chronological order, but each revealed more detail about what was truly happening in Brás’ life at different points in the narrative. Despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that “Daytripper” was “harder” than their other projects, the twins told CBR that they were very pleased with how the 10-issue Vertigo miniseries came together. “This series was a dream. I'm really happy how it turned out, and what we were able to show and tell in it, and how it was well received and supported on a monthly basis,” Moon said. “We worked really hard to make a story which would please those who like monthly comics and who could find a random issue of ‘Daytripper’ without having read the previous ones, and I have the impression it worked. Also, I think we had this gigantic puzzle to put together during each chapter, a puzzle which got bigger then we set up in the beginning, and we couldn't be happier with the picture the complete puzzle presented.”
In addition to “Daytripper,” Bá and Moon are also working on new material for “Casanova” with Matt Fraction, a series which drew a lot of attention their way in its original incarnation at Image Comics and is now being republished by Marvel’s Icon imprint before launching new story arcs. Bá illustrated issues #1-7 of the original series, while Moon took #8-14. “When Eric Stephenson, Image's [publisher], and Matt presented the project to us, I really thought I could make something cool out of it,” Bá said of first coming on to the project. “I love science fiction comics, from Moebius to ‘Akira,’ and it had all cool elements to draw anyone into it - guns, sexy women, futuristic backgrounds, fancy tuxedos. Both Fábio and I needed a more commercial project and ‘Casanova’ was just the right opportunity at the right time.”
When his brother left “Casanova” for “Umbrella Academy,” though, Moon wanted to continue the series’ momentum rather than risk its direction to another artist. “I took over the second arc so the comic wouldn't suck. Bá was going to work on the first ‘Umbrella’ mini series, and we needed an artist as devoted as Bá to making a really special book, an artist who would be personally involved in wanting it to work and be the best it could be, and not just an artist who would like the book but treat it as work,” Moon said. “If you treat ‘Casanova’ as work, as a job, it doesn't work, and it wouldn't work at that time, so I really liked what Matt and Bá had done and I didn't wanted all that emotional and creative effort to sink and die.”
As to where work on the current series now stands, Bá said, “I'm working on a back-up story that will feature in one chapter of ‘Gula,’ then I'll go right into the new stuff. All I can say is that after four years, it's as hard as it ever was.”
Before the new “Casanova” stories get underway, though, fans attending the New York Comic Con October 8-10 will get to see a new self-published work by Bá and Moon. “For NYCC, we'll have a brand new self-published comic called ‘Atelier,’” Moon told CBR. “We have three conventions until the end of the year that we'll attend: NYCC, one in Argentina and one in Rio, and we wanted to have something fresh and new at all of them so the easiest way - which is not easy at all since we had to make a new forty page comic in a month - was to self-publish it. It's a limited print run, and I guess we'll be selling it at conventions and festivals until we run out.”
The new hardcover edition of “De:Tales” from Dark Horse is on sale now.