I had the pleasure to speak with Giannis Milonogiannis, creator of Old City Blues, about his experiences in the comic industry and the existence of one in Greece. We spoke about what gets somebody interested in comics in a country where an industry is essentially nonexistent, and the difference between collaborating with yourself, a publishing house and other people. It was a wonderful experience to speak with Giannis. I want to thank him again for his patience with our technical difficulties and for being a joy to interview in general.
How did you find yourself becoming interested in art/comics in general?
I don’t think there was ever a moment that I first became interested in comics and art, per se. I read books and comics and watched movies since I was a kid, and I just never fell out of it, I guess.
Getting into comics as a career was a last minute decision of sorts for me, back when I was finishing up high school. I’d drawn comics as a kid and I realized it was the only thing I was remotely interested in doing after school. So I submitted a short comic to a Greek comics competition and that got second place, which helped convince people around me that pursuing this as a career wasn’t a totally senseless thing to do and gave me a bit of confidence moving forward.
We have talked about the difference between French comics, American and Japanese, now what is the Comic world like in Greece?
I think the best way to describe the comics world in Greece is as just barely existent. There’s a few people doing good work inside the country, but the market is just so tiny, there’s no real prospect if you don’t try to extend your reach to a foreign audience. When you talk about French and Japanese comics, and to some extent American too, you’re talking about these rather large industries with a considerable audience around the world following them. There’s just no such thing in Greek comics, yet.
Do you think that lack of audience makes it more or less difficult to get your work published?
I personally don’t feel like it’s a matter of being more or less difficult to be published here – more like a matter of whether you should bother at all or not. I’m sure there’s money to be made in local publishing, but the truth is it’s much more exciting to try to reach a larger audience with your work.
So you started with a web comic and then you were recently picked up by Archaia. How did that all go down?
What happened with OCB was, I was putting the book up online as I was working on it, and submitting it to publishers at the same time for review – including Archaia. In the meantime Archaia found the book online on their own, and they got in touch with me to talk about it. So it was a mix of putting the work out there for the world to see, along with a lot of luck in being found by Archaia at the same time I’d submitted the book to them.
What are some of the key differences between working for your self versus a publishing house?
I can only really speak from my experience with OCB and Archaia, and there are only few differences between working on my own vs. working with them, in that regard. For example, I still get to throw most of OCB online and have the final say story and art-wise, and then Archaia becomes more involved when it’s time to put the thing together into a cohesive book.
Generally speaking, working with a publisher is like having this entire mechanism working to promote your work and make you look like you know what you’re doing. Any help you can get with the business side of this comics game should be welcome.
Now onto some technical art questions: do find you have more freedom with ocb because you are it’s creator? Or would you prefer to collaborate with somebody at some time?
OCB is kind of my own thing, and I like keeping it close to my chest. I don’t think I could ever really collaborate with another person on an OCB story. Having complete freedom to do as you wish with a world and its characters is a scary prospect, there’s so much that could go wrong. But there’s a particular joy in being able to give someone the book and say ‘This is all me, take it or leave it’.
I do collaborate with other artists and writers now and then on other things, though. Josh Tierney and I worked on a chapter for Spera Vol. 2, the first volume of which just came out from Archaia and is solid through and through. And this is a bit into the future as well, but Brandon Graham was kind enough to ask me to work on some issues for the Prophet series he’s doing with Simon Roy and Farel Dalrymple for Image, which is exciting stuff.
I really enjoyed speaking with Brandon Graham, I can’t wait to see what you guys will put out together. Okay, one last question: Do you have any advice for any aspiring artists?
I think the best word of advice I could give is to just embrace your mistakes. Instead of obsessing over getting this character’s ear or toe perfect for hours and hours, maybe channel that energy into drawing new comics pages and moving forward with your story. Finishing a story is always more important than getting it perfect, which is a quixotic quest we all get caught up in sooner or later. Don’t want to sound like I’m encouraging half-assing or corner-cutting. I’ve just found growth comes from finishing a work and putting out for people to see. Your mistakes will eventually fix themselves the more you write and draw and listen to what people have to say about your work.
Thanks again to Giannis for taking the time to speak with us at Panel Bound. There is links to check out OCB and other works below.