3 dicembre 2013

Il Nao di Brown

Glyn Dillon dedica a Lucca

Il Nao di Brown, è una storia che parla di disagio interiore e della conseguente ricerca di un equilibrio che sia il più vicino possibile a quella cosa chiamata felicità.

L'autore, il britannico Glyn Dillon è stato recentemente in Italia per due appuntamenti, ospite dell'editore Bao Publishing. Prima al Treviso Comic Book Festival (quando ho letto il suo libro la prima volta) e poi a all'appena trascorsa edizione di Lucca Comics and Games (quando ho riletto il suo libro per la terza volta - si, lo so, ma ne valeva la pena - che dentro c'è veramente "tanta roba").

Glyn Dillon, Il Nao di Brown, dettaglio

Nel frattempo, a fine novembre 2013, ha vinto anche il premio "Best Book" ai British Comic Awards. Io gli ho chiesto di incontrarci per per scambiare due chiacchiere su questo lavoro proprio a Lucca, tra una dedica e l'altra abbiamo trovato qualche minuto per un'intervista, che trovate in italiano QUI (sul blog del @rrobe) e in lingua inglese QUI (nella nuova sezione di questo blog, dedicata alle interviste ai fumettisti, in english of course).

The Nao of Brown

The Nao of Brown, is a story that talks about inner discomfort and a consequent search for a balance, something as close as possible to that thing called "happiness". The british author, Glyn Dillon has recently been in Italy, with his italian publisher Bao, for two appointments. Earlier at Treviso Comic Book Festival (when I read his book the first time) and then to the newly passed edition of Lucca Comics and Games (when I re-read his book for the third time - yes, I know, but I think there's so much "stuff" in this work that I wanted to to go deep to the heart of the book). I asked him to meet us to have a small talk about this graphic novel just in Lucca, so we found few minutes for this interview.

We spoke about:

#The title#The cover#The washing machine theme#Gregory#Nao #Meditation #Hafu#London#Comics is dangerous work#Technique (in drawings)

Glyn Dillon signing at Lucca Comics and Games 2013

#The title 

Me: Well, let's start talking about the title "The Nao of Brown". At the beginning of the story there's the meeting between Steve and Nao and Steve says something like: "Excuse me, is that the Nao of Brown?" He said "The Nao". Please tell to your italian readers...it's a joke, isn't it? :) 

GD: Well I have a friend, Chloe and her last name is Brown, and we call her "The Chloe of Brown". It's just a silly joke we do with my friends, like ‘The Duke of York’, as if “Brown” was a place. The name Nao came from a friend of mine introducing me to his Japanese girlfriend called Nao. I thought it was such a great name for a character because it’s pronounced the same as ‘now’.

#The cover 

Me: Now I'd like to stay a while observing the cover. I know that when you started this project the cover was totally different. The subject on the first version I’ve seen on your website was "Abraxas" (which is kind of an allegory for Nao, in a story within the book). Could you tell me something about this transition from the first one to the finished one? 

GD: I started with that one because I felt In a lot of ways it summed up many things, because it was black and white, black and white thinking is a problem that comes with OCD. There's the polarity theme, and the fact it was light and dark, and with a spot light on "Abraxas". I felt it summed up a lots of things.

The Nao of Brown, first cover 

But I did it a long long time ago, and when my publisher was at a book fair, talking to a French publisher, they said "We’d love to do the book but we don't' think the cover will work…" And because I’d done it a long time ago I was able to see, maybe they were right. It did sum up certain elements but it didn't really capture, what would be the majority of the book, it as well as it could do. So I decided to do another cover. But I had to do it very quickly because we were up against the deadline. So in two days I came up with that cover:

The Nao of Brown, definitive cover

Me: Well, you're a genius! It collected perfectly all the key elements of the story. 
GD: Ha ha!!, I'm not a genius! Sometimes things happen and come out like that, things fall into the right place. I was lucky.

#The washing machine theme 

Me: I think the girl with the washing machine head is one of the best icon I've ever seen on a graphic novel cover. Is it true that your son was afraid of this home appliance? 

GD: Yes, he was scared of it. But not when it was on and going round, but when the door was open and there was just a dark hole. A really dark hole… he definitely didn't like it.

Me: So you took inspiration from your home life.
GD: Oh, yes, a lot. I worked at home, upstairs.

A page from The Nao of Brown 


Me: Gregory can fix washing machines but can't fix problems in Nao's mind. But, in a different way their relationship, works as help for each other. First of all, I want to ask you why did you chose this kind of big black bearded man man? :D Maybe the correct question is: Is it born before the Ichi character or the Gregory character? 

GD: Originally Gregory was going to be the main character it was going to be a very very different book. And he was gonna be obsessed with Ichi and Nao... she was gonna be his love interest. But then she became more interesting… she kind of stepped forward into the spotlight. I’d already given him, a lot of thought, so he was a quite a well rounded character to start with. But everything just shifted when I decided to give Nao OCD, she became more important, it was obvious everything must be about her.

Me: Gregory is not the typical English man I imagined.... 

GD: Oh, I don't know!

Me: I mean, the "british man" I could imagine in a stereotypical view...

GD: Well, I don't know what that is from your perspective…. because I'm an English man!

But I can say that I didn't want him to be typically handsome. I liked the idea that he would be big, with his chunky fingers and big hands but at the same time poetic, and being able to recite poetry and have a poetic heart...soft on the inside but from the outside he looks like a rugby player.

Detail, The Nao Of Brown 

#Let's talk about Nao.

Me: She's so pretty, she's cute. I love all the shade of emotions that appear on her face. She's so "real". Is it true that you were inspired by a "rock'n'roll muse" the "Bikini kill’s" singer Kathleen Hanna? 

GD: Yes, I like Kathleen Hanna, you saw the photo on my website?! When I was starting out, I was listening to music that I thought Nao would like, so...I wasn’t a huge fan of “Bikini Kill” when I was younger but I thought that Nao would be. So I started to listen to all that stuff and got into it, then her other band “Le Tigre”, who’re great, so I listened to a lot of music that I didn't know before, in effort to create Nao. Because I didn't want her to be just a version of me and my tastes. So yes, in that way I think Kathleen Hanna was a big inspiration for me.

Kathleen Hanna's  Bikini Kills

#The illumination point: Meditation 

Me: When Nao goes to the buddist centre, it seems she is looking for a practice, in addition to her "homework". Is this true? You explain in your website that you started meditation as a healthy daily habit. Can you tell us something about it? 

GD: When I was learning meditation, It was the same time that I was learning about my wife's OCD, and one of the my fellow students was describing how, when she tried to meditate, the thoughts would just keep coming and coming and coming and she felt frustrated because she thought the point of meditation that was to try and "stop thinking". So, the thing is, if you try to do something like that in meditation it's impossible. It's kind of like if you waggle a stick in a bucket of water and then stop… eventually the water settles on it’s own. It's not trying to settle… It settles naturally, without effort. That's what meditation is like. So it just reminded me, I saw parallels between that woman’s frustration and the frustration of someone who has OCD, when the thoughts keeps coming and coming and coming. So I felt the two they could go together. And after that I learned that lots of people that have OCD find meditation actually helps. So I researched into that and started to created the character.


Me: We can say that the Hafu characteristic of "Nao" is a methaphor of your two artistic inspiration, both from european and japanese comics?

GD: Yes, that’s true. I like that because I'm a big fan of european comics (bande dessiné and fumetti) and I became more of fan of manga while I was writing the book. I’d been a fan of Katsuhiro Otomo for a long time but I was getting into new manga and was definitelly influenced by them.

Me: I want to say that I've heard you mention as sources of inspiration also Moebius and the Star Wars! 

GD: Yeah, absolutely!
Detail, The Nao of Brown


Me: In which areas of London is the story is set? Why did those places? 

GD: Nao’s flat is my flat, where I live now. I wanted it to feel very real, so I drew all the local areas I love. The Buddhist centre is the buddhist centre I used to go to, and all the pubs are real, there's one in Soho... I think I managed to include all the flats I’ve ever lived in, in London. So when Steve is trying to put the key in his door, when he is desperate to go to the toilet, that is a flat I used to live in, in Kings Cross. And then when we see him running, in the background there's another flat, you can see my old bedroom window. So your fan can came to London and do the Nao Trip! Yes, the “Nao Tour”. Mostly in the north and north-west of London… and Soho. Well, in the future I will do it!

#Doing comics is dangerous work 

Me: I read in an interview from Paul Gravett that The Nao of Brown required an effort so intense that you ended up in hospital two weeks after the completion of the book. Is this true? 

GD: The last year doing the book I had to do it seven days a week, starting at 9:00 in the morning and finishing at 03:00 in the morning. So, really long days, and seven days a week. I’ve always had a bad back anyway, but when I was finished – also during the middle I’d had problems with tendinititis, for about two weeks I couldn't even hold a pen, so it was really annoying but I had to go on and finish… so when I was finished my back suddenly went and I was in agony and I went to hospital and stayed in for five or six days.

Me: Comics artist is a dangeros job! 

GD: Yes, dangerous work, and no-one knows!

Glyn Dillon signing after the interview


Me: Let's finish this talking about tecnical skills. It's the first time that you write and draw a book by your own. What about your technique? 

GD: I didn't want to use ink because a long time ago, when I did comics, I didn't enjoy inking, I always enjoyed the pencilling and I felt the line had more life to it… and with inking it, I wasn't able to mantain the energy of the line. But at the time we didn't use computers… Now with my home scanner and the computer, I can just adjust the darkness of the line in photoshop and it was fantastic for me because it allowed me to keep my pencil line as the main line, but also because I spent fifteen years storyboarding film and television and I did that always in pencil, so now I had a clean line with the pencil. So, I was so much more comfortable with that method and I knew that, for the task of doing two hundred pages, I wanna to be really comfortable.

P.s. Meanwhile, he has won the Best Book prize at this year’s British Comic Awards at Thought Bubble Festival in Leeds (november, 2013).