Ché Gilson: Dark But Never Gloomy
Posted: Tuesday, February 12, 2002
By: Darren Schroeder
Since I first saw some of Ché's striking artwork I've been a fan. It is elegant in the style of some of the best Art Deco illustrations, and the mix of spooky fantasy and an off kilter look at life that Ché puts in her narratives makes for an entertaining read every time. I'd been trying to get in contact with her for an interview for quite a while, and thanks to the ever helpful John Weeks I've finally managed to track her down...
Darren Schroeder What is your full name?
I'm not telling. Ché Gilson is close enough.
CG: Too freakin' old.
DS: For skate boarding or Medical insurance?
DS: Favourite web site?
CG: http://www.tommykovac.com which is my friend Tommy's website. http://www.comictones.com because I like to look at all the sceentones I can't afford to buy. And various Manga sites.
DS: What was the first comic you published yourself and how did that come about?
CG: The very first was a thing I did in high school for my art class.(I don't remember the name). I think I printed 15 copies and gave them to friends and relatives. It was a decent piece at the time. But now I'm glad I don't have anymore copies or the original art so it can't come back to haunt me.
DS: What was it about?
CG: It was about a cat-like alien that was exiled to Earth and had to watch over this family.
DS: Would you go out with someone just because they had access to a photocopier?
DS: Who do you see as the target audience for your work?
CG: I would like to get in really good with the Goth folk for some reason. But, I think that people who like good stories that are slightly dark and mysterious will appreciate my work.
DS: What work have you been doing recently?
CG: I just finished the script to Avigon: Gods and Demons. The director's cut of my first book. It has over 100 pages of more art as well as including the first 56 page book Avigon. It will, at some point, be available from Image.
DS: What's it like working on a story of that scale. Do you prefer it to doing your small press work?
CG: I very much enjoy writing longer works. I feel I'm able to express more and develop character in a way that I like when I have more room. In terms of writing and drawing my own work, my attention span stops at about 12 pages. I always start big stories but never finish them. So it's nice to work with people who will work with my stories.
DS: Did you have to change your approach to writing to meet Image's requirements?
CG: Actually, I had complete freedom at Image. Their only request was length. I had to do a story in 56 pages. With the new Avigon I have been able to write a much longer story.
DS: When Jimmie Robinson talks about adapting your mini 'zine into comic pages off his own bat this seems like something that could have annoyed the heck out of you. What was your reaction when you found out about it?
CG: Actually, I was thrilled! I had very little work professionally published. It was an opportunity to work with a really good artist who I knew would do justice to my story and it was an opportunity to be published by the third largest comic company in America.
DS: Are you doing layouts/pencils for Avigon: Gods and Demons?
CG: No. I am just the writer. My own comic work tends to be rather static, camera angle wise. So I just let Jimmie cut loose. I do, however, send character designs and costume designs.
DS: Describe Avigon: Gods and Demons. for us.
CG: Avigon: Gods and Demons is an expansion of the first book. The sequel is actually going to include the first book and new material is going to be spliced in. And then the book continues after where the first one left off. There are a number of new characters, new clockworks, and lots more politics.
DS: From reading around on the we I get the impression Avigon is a political/magical thriller that mixes Tim Burton's Nightmare Before Christmas and Japanese anime. Have I got that about right?
CG: I suppose. A lot of people have compared it to a Nightmare before Christmas. I think of it more as shoujo Manga.
DS: What comics have you read recently? Why did you like/dislike them?
CG: One of my current favorites is a shoujo Manga that CPM is translating called Princess/Prince. I like the story telling and the artwork is cute. I don't buy a lot of comics that are in English so while I haven't 'read' them, I like the works of Iwahara Juji, Ai Yazawa, Shoko, Konami, Tsutomu Nihei, and Kumakura Yuichi.
DS: The Manga influence comes across in your art work. What is it about that approach to drawing that attracts you?
CG: I'm not sure. But ever since I first started [reading] Manga translated in the U.S., late 80s or so, something about it just appealed to me immensely. Before that I had only interested in one or two comics and scorned the rest of the industry.
DS: What were the reasons for your scorn?
CG: When I was a little kid I would look at comics on the rack at the grocery store. The covers always had really good art and coloring but the interior art was always so poor and badly colored. I always felt let down. The only three comics I liked as a kid were independent comics. Elfquest, Myth Adventures, and A Distant Soil.
DS: Any common themes or qualities between these that might explain why you liked them?
CG: They had good art and good stories. At least I thought so.
DS: How do you define good?
CG: I think good is fairly universally agreed upon. Interesting, well developed characters, a compelling plot that is coherently told; if it's a drama, it follows the elements of drama; if a comedy, it's funny; good art; good coloring.
DS: Have you views changed with the experience of working for a major company?
CG: Well, comics in general have improved a great deal.
CG: The writing is often better and so is the art, coloring, and production value. That's not to say there isn't room for improvement.
DS: What does the term small press mean to you?
CG: Well, it means obviously, small print runs and a disinterested public. However, the small press itself could, I think, if better organized, (in America, that is) be more of a force for creative expression and cutting edge work.
DS: What would better organized entail?
CG: Cooperation among small press people. Distributing each others work at conventions; networking resources better i.e.,. making websites for colleagues; publishing more regularly; sharing information about mini comic friendly comic book stores; and a general sense of comraderie.
DS: That's a good idea but most people seem to let their ego's get in the way. Who have you dealt with that has seemed mostly ego free?
CG: Only the Dali Lama is ego free
DS: I keeping seeing your work in Australian small press anthologies and motioned by "Mr Australian Comics" John Weeks. Are you and Australian ex-patriot or just a big fan of Crocodile Dundee?
CG: Actually, I met John Weeks about three years ago in the Small Press section at the San Diego Comicon International. And something about him and his dedication and all the books he kept showing me seemed very impressive. I was really taken with the idea of these "underdogs" who were pushed off the shelves in their own country by American underground artists. So I decided that I would become a small press champion myself.
P.S. I'm actually from Montana.
DS: What's the small press community like there?
CG: Good lord! There is none! I haven't been back in ages.
DS: Where are your currently living, and how does the small press fare there?
CG: I live in Hanford, CA USA and again there is none...
DS: What makes a good convention for you?
CG: How well I can smooze!
DS: Any tips for budding smoozers?
CG: Good hygiene. Attend parties. But don't get so drunk you make an ass of yourself. Always bring a sketch book. But don't make people look at it. The day after a party, go around to everyone's con table that you talked to the night before, and say 'hi'. If you go to the same conventions over and over, talk to the same people every year just to stay in contact. If you meet people on a more professional rung of the ladder than you, mail them all the work you have produced and tell them it's just for fun.
DS: For a lot of people Gothic = depressed, is that how you see it?
CG: Well, I used to be really depressed, too. I think for about 2/3 of my life. I have been a Goth in spirit. It's just that I lived in very rural places and never had access to the trappings. I don't think it has to be depressing. There is actually a lot of people who are Goths and also lampoon the scene mercilessly. But they do it in very funny ways that are assessable to Goth and non-Goth alike. For example, Voltaire's series Oh, My Goth.
DS: A friend of mine is holding a Goth party this week, any suggestions for music to play?
CG: I am terribly out of touch with music. It would, however, be fun to play something goofy like Aqua. A friend of mine, the animator Voltaire, has a couple of CDs out. And he is gothy.
DS: What was/is it like having green hair?
CG: Green hair? What green hair?
DS: I quote John Weeks APE AFTERMATH: well I didn't get to see Ché Gilson's Green hair but you can check out some Alternative Press Expo coverage...
CG: My hair was bleached blond and I had some temporary green streaks but my whole head of hair was not green.
DS: What made you decide to run the Plastic Planeteer distro?
CG: It's all John Week's fault:) !
DS: What's the audience like for small press stuff, are they the silent majority or are they few and far between?
CG: Few and far between. The market for small press is small. Although if people, writers, artists, etc. perservere they can build up something of a following. The small presses greatest weakness is its lack of availability.
DS: Can anyone make a comic?
CG: I wouldn't say anyone. Firstly, I think one would have to have an interest in making comics to begin with. And secondly, one needs at least one of two things: 1. A REALLY good story 2. REALLY good art. Of course many comics have neither. So maybe anyone CAN make a comic:)
DS: Nick Cave verse Marilyn Mason, who would win in a fight and why?
CG: One on one, I'd put my money on Marilyn Manson. I will say, though that Nick Cave looks scrappy. But he seems too much of a sensitive poetry boy. However, if the two bands were to fight, I think Nick Cave and his enormous group would win through sheer numbers.
DS: Nick may be poetry boy, but a lot of it is about people slitting other people's throats or drowning them by the river, so I'd put my money on him. Have you every been involved in a fight?
CG: Writing about slitting people's throats and DOING it is two different things. No, I have never been in a fight.
DS: Are comic shops fun places to visit?
CG: The one that I go to is! However, I remember when I first started buying comics, being the only girl to walk into a comic book shop and being stared at by all the comic book geeks.
DS: If you had to relocate to another town would you take all your comics with you?
CG: Of course I would! I'd make my parents drive them down in a U-Haul.
DS: What do you do to pay the bills?
DS: Rent, power etc. In other words, what is your main occupation?
CG: I am a writer........damn.
DS: Is it fun being able to say that about yourself?
CG: Yes, it is. It will be even funnier when I am making enough money to support myself!
DS: Does Plastic Planeteer cover its costs with sales?
CG: Ha, ha, ha....hell no!
DS: So why do it?
CG: I'm stoopid.....Actually, it was something creative to do when I needed something creative to do. I may not be doing it for much longer.
DS: Comics verse cheese, which is better and why?
CG: Tough question! I love cheese. I am a cheese fanatic. But not the stinky ones! But then comics last longer than cheese. And you can keep going back to them for reference. But I'm almost leaning towards cheese.
DS: What's next for you after Avigon: Gods and Demons?
CG: I am currently collaborating with a college chum on a book called, Circus of Dark Illusions. That's the working title anyway. The artists name is Mike Cook. I'm also trying to get another college chum of mine to get off her butt and do things.
DS: Your drawing is really lovely to look at, when can we expect to see some more artwork from you?
Contact Ché via plasticplanetSTOP-@-SPAMearthlink.net
P.O. Box 2001, Hanford, California, 93232-2001, USA.
Another Avigon Review
Avigon is Wizard
Ché's Plastic Planet Distro
Photograph of Ché courtesy of Fsc.
Review for Hip Book of Fun Stuff #2
Review of Velvet Artichoke Theatre
If you have a comment or question about Small Press then feel free to contact me