10 Questions With Comics Brewmaster Emma Rios

A hearty welcome to artist/writer Emma Rios, who’s fresh off of her Island comics siesta ID, and currently gearing up for the release of Pretty Deadly Volume 2, issue #6!

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I really enjoyed her new, multi-layered story I.D. in the new comics anthology Island #1 & #2. The subject matter of I.D. is very timely, given all of the recent transgender stories in the news(Caitlyn Jenner, etc.), but I think it deals with identity in a broader sense for anyone feeling like their not fitting into what society expects of them. If you haven’t already, I suggest picking up both issues(before they disappear!) and reading I.D. in one sitting.

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Emma Rios is from Spain and I’m delighted that she took the time to give us some good Spanish comics recommendations during this interview. She’d been making comics in Spain before working in the U.S., including a comic called APB–good luck finding that one! Originally working as an architect, she never forgot her love for storytelling in comics and film, and as a self-taught artist, she was eventually able to focus on her dream full time.

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Her big mainstream break was on Boom! Studio’s Hexed under Editor in Chief Mark Waid, who she eventually collaborated with on Marvel’s Strange. She later met writer Kelly Sue DeConnick and worked on titles like Captain Marvel and Osborne with her. The two really hit it off and are now working together on the creator-owned, panoramic-style epic Pretty Deadly.

Rios is also editor, co-creator of Island with Brandon Graham. With the connections these two have formed across the comics globe, I’m really excited to see what future stories/artists emerge from future issues!

There’s a lot more to learn about Emma Rios, but enough of my obligatory preamble; let’s kick back and hear from the artist herself!

1. Jonah Hex or the man with no name??

The man with no name. I dig the fact that he is just a guy who passes by, ephemeral… almost ethereal. If you compare him with Hex, he represents mystery over violence, and as much as I love Bloody Sam (Peckinpah) I enjoy that better when it comes to a western. In any case, there is no way that I can be fair-minded about this, as Leone’s surreal vibe has been my muse since forever.

2. Do you ever drink and draw or partake in any other vices while making comics??

I only drink too much tea.

As long as you stay near a restroom, I think you’re safe! -AY

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3. What was the inspiration behind I.D.? (which ran in Island 1 & 2) In what ways did consulting a neurologist (Dr. Miguel Alberte Woodward) influence your story?

ID’s take on identity is kind of connected with a weird conversation I once had with a couple of friends who are pretty much into science. I grew up loving sentient cyborgs so it’s easy for me to think that our “us” is only inside our brains. I don’t believe in any kind of soul existence or recycling, instead, I believe we are only neurons that learn from experience, the rest being exchangeable tools.

During that conversation we ended up having a discussion about the possibility of a transferral and one of my friends, who is a very skeptical one and moreover, a fan of Star Trek, didn’t seem to accept the death of the body that easily which surprised me quite a lot and made me feel weird enough to end up writing about the subject.

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For that I started reading stuff about stem cells turning into neurons and brain mapping, but doing research on the internet only allows you to scratch the surface of things, and also, it wasn’t really working because any silicium based solution was going to allow a replication, which would totally spoil the idea of the sole identity I wanted to play with. The only way was getting dirty and fleshy, and intend to proceed with a “regular” transplantation. A transplantation of a whole body.

Obviously I had no idea about how to deal with that from a scientific point of view and I was lucky enough to find Miguel, who was a friend of a friend, that ended up being crazy enough to start speculating with me about the whole thing. Can’t express how thankful I am to him, really. Without his help ID would have turned into a very different thing by ignoring, or only “scratching” the scientific part, which would have made it far less interesting. If you go with hard sci-fi, you’d better do it well. Alone by myself I wouldn’t have stood a chance.

4. Speaking of identity crisis, if you had to switch bodies with any famous person, who would it be??(and why)

To be honest, I wouldn’t change my body to impersonate anybody. If I were to do it, it’d be only to reset and start again, which is rather close to what Charlotte does in the story. Pity I just enjoy my current life of comics too much.

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5. What was the last good movie you’ve seen?

I’ve been revisiting old stuff about the Great War recently, due to Pretty Deadly, and the last one that really impressed me was La Grande Illusion: a french war film from 1937, by Jean Renoir, where friends and foes are treated as people and everything breathes irony and sarcasm. It’s just so human and classy, with colorful characters so well done that allow schizophrenic transitions from drama to comedy.

My favorite part happens inside a POW camp. The place apparently is treated optimistically, by developing a hilarious community of prisoners there, that tease the poor guards in charge, from playing ridiculous flutes as an act of rebellion to emulating a vaudeville show. Of course the fun turns to despair and the epic drama develops beautifully at all levels.

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6. Are there any new comics coming out of Spain that you would recommend? What’s the comics scene like there??

The scene in Spain is very interesting, but because of the problem that people here don’t read enough comics the industry is not self sustainable. We have a bunch of good publishers though, and a lot very good creators.

I would recommend Historias del Barrio 1 and 2 by Gabi Beltrán and Bartolomé Seguí the most, it’s my favorite book from the last couple of years and is published by Astiberri. Also, Las Meninas by Santiago García and Javier Olivares. Santiago also coordinated an anthology called Panorama with some of the best spanish creators out there. Los surcos del azar by Paco Roca. Nela by Rayco Pulido. Sangre de mi Sangre by Lola Lorente, her new book La Alumna is also about to happen this year. Universo by Albert Monteys, which is being serialized online at panelsyndicate.com and of course my homie Jose Domingo, with his flamboyant Aventuras de un oficinista japonés, that you also have in the US courtesy of Nobrow. He just released a new book called Pablo and Jane, btw.

Trabajo de Clase by Ana Galván published by Apa-Apa is great too. Ana is amazing, she coordinates a mini comics site called TIK TOK comics that is to die for http:// www.tiktokcomics.com/ and I think she also collaborated in one of the Vertigo Quarterly CMYK anthologies.

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7. Describe your worst dating experience.

Oh, I regret nothing.

You and John Byrne! -AY

8. You have a new comic coming out titled Mirror for Brandon Graham’s 8house with Malaysian artist Hwei Lim. How did you hook up with Lim on this project and is this your first time working solely as a writer

Hwei and I know each other for quite a while. We met in Japan for the first time in 2008, after being invited to work together for a workshop called Lingua Comica that was hosted at the Manga Museum in Kyoto. And it was funny because somehow we got to know each other quite well through blind comics collaboration and, of course, became best friends.

That workshop was an amazing experience and one of the best things that happened to me.

We’ve been in touch all these years looking for ways to collaborate again so, when 8house came up it immediately became a perfect chance. She’s been inspiring me since since I first saw her stuff and I’m sure you are going to be blown away by her work in Mirror.

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And yes, this is my first time working solely as a writer but, having met through comics, working with Hwei is a safe zone as we know each other’s stuff very, very well. Also our collaboration is pretty organic and we even exchange roles from time to time.

Each issue contains 28 comic pages (out of 32). I write the main story and she writes short epilogues for the backmatter that I draw myself, and that are directly connected with the main plot, to show more intimate interactions within some of the characters that clarify the intrigue a bit better. The rest of the back-matter will also include designs and concept art for the story done by me.

So, as you can imagine after such a love story, this little book is a very special thing to us and both hope to continue if the selling numbers allow us to do so. Fingers crossed.

9. Volume 2 of Pretty Deadly is kicking off this November with issue 6. What do you and writer Kelly Sue DeConnick have planned for this next chapter? Also, since the series looks so “cinematic”, could we ever see Pretty Deadly on the big screen or as a TV show someday??

In this second arc of Pretty Deadly we move a few years forward in time to the Great War, which is rather epic and a true challenge to me. That war feels so insane, raw and nasty.

Part of the story will happen in the US and part on the french front, in the trenches, having the soldiers of the 369th Infantry Regiment as a big part of the plot.

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We focus on Cyrus as another main character this time, he is Sarah’s son and the kid that becomes Sissy’s friend in the first issue of the first arc. Now he is a grown up soldier in France and, well, Sarah is dying so, sweet Death-Sissy will try to have him see her for the last time before crossing to the other side.

We don’t have plans for a big screen or TV adaptation so far, but I wouldn’t mind if that ends up happening at some point. In any case, I have to admit it’s not a thing that bothers me or that I pay much attention to.

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10. Do you have any other projects planned for 2015 or beyond? Will you be coming back to the U.S. anytime soon for convention appearances or did we scare you off for good?

My plans are basically working regularly on the following arcs of Pretty Deadly, try to make a sequel of Mirror happen somehow, and keep on editing Island alongside with Brandon for quite a while, we love that project and we both are trying hard to make it last.

With these three titles I definitely have my plate full, but I also started writing and doing research for another project to do on my own about boats and magic, to draw in watercolors, but that one will take time and won’t happen in a year, or probably two. I’m a slow cook.

And yeah, U.S. sigh… I love going there and I just wish I could have more time to do it more often. I’ve been trying to plan a trip to Seattle and Portland for quite a while and I hope I can make it finally happen in 2016.

Thank you, Emma!

*Pictures of Emma Rios and her work were provided by the internet. Thx!