As some people beg me an english version of the interview I made with Hub during Saint Malo « comic Con » in October 2014, here we are.
I apologize for my pityful english. I tried to translate on the best way, but it will be some mistakes, it’s obvious. Well, guys, you have it know! ^^
Hub’s photography: Copyright Olivier Roller
Okko’s picture: Hub, with Bruno Graff Editeur
Hub, you’re drawing the last episode of Okko, Void cycle. Do you feel under pressure, ending the story which make you know?
A little bit. Pressure, is not to end, it was scheduled from the beginning, inspired by Musashi’s Go Rin No Sho. Pressure is about what I’ll do after this ending. I’ll feel a little sad, saying good bye to my characters, on the last draws, but then… Void’s cycle is so a good name. There will to mourn, but so what will happen? There’s still a lot of questions…
Could you write everything you wanted to, with ten books?
No, no… I wrote a lot of things, but all, that can’t be. The entirely, it’s a feeling impossible to reach, in my opinion, an utopia that I chase. I try to improve myself every time, without reaching my ideal concerning story and sketches. Japanese universe is so rich that I can easily imagine new stories. I don’t know if I’ll do it, I wrote the main part of what I wanted to write. It’s impossible de tell everything, mainly on franco-belge comic-book which is the art of Ellipse.
In France, there is a new way to create more series about a popular universe, is it your goal concerning Okko?
It could be. Not with the main group, because some of them won’t be available at the end, I am not opposed to this idea. Okko is a really rich universe and I have so many stories to tell yet… But I’d want to take time for me first. It makes ten years since I begun on this story, I’d like to have a break, and then make a great come-back. My editor would like to see me extend this universe, me I’d like to tell other kind of stories. I’m fond of samurais, but others ears, others kind of stories are interesting me too. I don’t want to be the samurai-style guy.
You create another serie, Aslak, writing the story. How did you manage to work on both of them at the same time?
It was day-working. Emmanuel Michalak, Aslak’s drawer, help me on Okko’s story-boards. When we’re not talking about Okko, we’re talking about Aslak. We’re jumping from one to another. Aslak is quite playtime for me. It helped me to break from my Japanese universe and to go on a drakkar onto new horizons, with more team work. Even if Emmanuel and Sophie Li help me on Okko, that’s quite a solitary work. I wanted to change that way to work, and Aslak allows me to. It’s necessary for my well-being, I have a lot of fun.
You published three Aslak’s book, do you know how many book you will made?
Yeah, of course. It will be six. Every time I create a new story, I imagine the end I want. It’s a complicate thing, a conclusion, you have to anticipate it if you want to end on a comprehensible way for readers. By the way, it’s only theories for me, I do not realize it yet. But for Aslak, just as for Okko, I try to have a clear idea of what I want. I try to let doors open, to keep spaces for new ideas.
It’s important that all stay coherent. Element that I put on the scenarios from beginning to end must unite and keep the good way. I try to be coherent, it’s not easy to do but really interesting.
You knew how many books you wanted on Okko, was it difficult for Delcourt to agree with this idea?
No, it was’nt. From the beginning, I proposed the two-part stories, the link with the elements. I did not think the titles would be focus on these aspects. I thought there will be real titles. The first one would have been « the tears of the carp », considering the geisha named Little Carp, who is abducted. But Delcourt suggest me to go on easy way.
When I proposed Okko to Delcourt, the project was quickly developped, it was really clear in my mind. I could send the entire first page, the second one’s story-board, characters, structure… Delcourt was really interested in and I signed a contract with this editor. By the way, if the first books were a fail, I think they made me understand to close on two or three books my story. But this a nice tale, and I could develop my books as I wanted to. That’s a great pleasure.
Okko was your first comic-book project, what did allow you to convince the editor?
They identify me with some sketches made for role playing gamers friends, on Fading Sun, that they could have seen. They ask me if I was interested in making comic-books, but I was occupied on this moment. When I came back to them, I think it was my drawing who seduced them. They proposed me to work with some writers. But I had some really clear ideas about my story. I ask them a few weeks to present a project of my own, they agreed, and I came with Okko.
Little child, when I began to draw, it was in order to tell my own stories. I can’t divide sketches from story. I make the two as one. I have joy as equal by writing as by drawing. I don’t think I can only draw. I wanted to make movies, when I was young, that was impossible. It was easier to draw, to tell stories.
Let’s talk back about Void cycle. What have you already done?
I finished story-boarding (from 11th of October), the last pages. The story’s frozen to end of times, I can begin the definitive draws. It’s a long time in wilderness, by the way. Story’s here, I have to draw box after box. It’s the longest era, the most difficult, because it’s a lonely work, really focused. But I like it. That’s when my mind fly to others ideas. It’s demand me rigor and attention but I create some other stories during this time.
Will we see more the Adult Tikku on this story? The one that lead us from the begining?
It will be on place, but above all you’ll have all the answers, to all questions that seems me right to ask. I try to solve all about the three main characters. It will be quite a massive book. We still have some clues about Okko’s youngness on the first part, the last one will end the most of the plots. It’s not easy, because they need to be offered with care, elegance and nature. I needed more time to write, most than usual. Well, it’s only theory by now, I don’t know if it will succeed.
How do you treat these plots? Did you have storylines? Is the trio the same today, than you created it?
No. The main ideas are still there, but it evolved with time. What I started to theorize ten years ago, the first time I draw the characters, their specificities, all became sorts of arithmetic laws. That I could not break. When you made the psychology of a character, and then made react him to some events, it’s obvious there were only one response from him. It’s incredible, the more the story is progressing, the more the characters develop their own autonomy. Of course, I choose what they say, but I did not think they could have so strong an own identity.
Could you tell us one piece of idea you imagined at the beginning, and which finally did not function?
I have no idea… I did not imagine that psychology was so determined. Okko’s stoïc way to be, by exemple. I made him furious one time, on the first book from the cycle of Earth, and some readers have been chocked by this reaction that I did not show until this moment.
So… yeah, recently I realized by reading my books (I don’t do that frequently, it’s a shame but I see all my defaults), that Noburo was more speaking on the first book than now. It’s a typical example of how the character evolved without being conscious of that. Now, he is quite quiet, speaking so few words. It’s my choice. It’s the most charismatic character, people beg me all the time during free sketches. He is more a hero than Okko himself, but me, I choose to put him backward more and more, playing with reader’s frustration.
We talked together, concerning your references, about Legends of the Five Rings Role Playing Game, but how do you really became fond of Japan?
L5R was the main way, with another rpg called Bushido, an older one. But there were more references. Literature, Asian movies, all this culture which fascinate French people. But the key is rpg. Thanks to it, I realized the huge potential of stories that can be imaginated. With Princess Mononoke I discovered this poetry, spirits, kamis, that was incredible too.
So, yes, L5R is the main reference. It’s a great game. But I tried to take my distances with it.
To create your own world? Yours is full of fantasy, but it’s not Japan nor Rokugan (L5R main world)?
True. By example, I tried to develop fighting bunrakus, that does not exist in this world. I tried to create a less complex world than L5R. A comic-book, is quite short, you have so few pages to tell your story, you have to focus on events, the heroes’ destiny, background is just a patina. You have to offer ideas with intelligence and strategy. That’s comic-books. I had to explain step by step, I had not to drowned my readers with a lot of information.
People who did not like Japan could enter on my world without efforts.
Did you draw Pajan’s map?
Yes, I did it from the beginning. It was published on a website dedicated to Okko and on the american version of the Cycle of Water. It can be find…
But I lost it in great resolution, it would be necessary to make it again…
So you were published on United-States of America?
Yes, with Archaia, my editor. Well, it’s not a big success… But it works. That’s not super-heroes. But it’s a beautiful book, smaller than in Europe. Okko is published in a lot of countries, quite ten I think. That’s still huge… But I don’t come to see these people, apart from Netherlands wich are closer. I’m afraid of planes. And I’m still runing against time. But when I’ld finish Okko, I’ll go to Japan and others Asian countries, in order to check all my divergences and convergences between my work and japanese reality. I’ll manage to.
Last question, not concerning okko but I wanted to Ask you: Wich clan are you on in L5R?
Well… Crab I thought. But I like Dragon too. In fact, that are families I like the most. Into Dragon clan, that’s the Kitsuki family. Ise-Zumi too. And witch-hunter Kuni. And Scorpion Clan… Every clans are interesting in L5R. So as the Lion and his pride.
Well, Crab, Scorpion, Dragon, that’s my choice!