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Interview: Raul The Third on ‘Lowriders in Space’

One of the most delightful comics to come out this year is Lowriders in Space, by Cathy Camper and Raul Gonzalez (whose nom de plume is Raul the Third). It’s an action-packed tale of a trio of friends who fix up a lowrider and then detail it by flying through space and picking up cool stuff from all the heavenly bodies. I was particularly taken by the art, which is very different from any other children’s graphic novel I have seen, so I asked Raul if he would be interested in talking about it. He was! He also included some of the concept art for the book, and there’s a video trailer below as well.

The art style of Lowriders in Space is very unusual for a children’s book—it reminds me of underground comics. What sort of comics did you read as a child, and what are your influences as a mature artist?

I grew up in El Paso,TX and on Sundays my Dad would send me to buy him the El Paso Times at the 7-11. Back then 7-11’s had comicbook spinner racks which were filled with all sorts of funny books. The books that drew me in were Ralph Snart by Mark Hansen, Bucky O’Hare by Michael Golden and of course the superhero stuff. On the racks back then the books were being illustrated by the likes of Jim Aparo, Norm Breyfogle, Sal Buscema and John Byrne. I would take these books home with me and spend hours copying the images onto scrap sheets of paper with my Dad’s BIC pens. It was a bit of an obsession and I spent most of my time thinking about comics. When I turned fifteen I found a job at Bill’s Coins, Cards Stamps and Comics, and it was there that the art form really opened up for me. Bill Quarles had every type of book you could imagine and I spent most of my time on my knees flipping through stacks. Chester Brown, Robert Crumb, Seth, Wendy Pini, Segar, Herriman began to shift my focus in a direction opposite of superhero books and my hungry eyes devoured it all.

For the past five years I have been exhibiting my artwork in museums and galleries across the United States and the artists that have been an inspiration to me as an adult are Rembrandt’s drawings of peasants and beggars, Goya’s Disasters of War and Caprichos print series, Phillip Guston, The Chicago Imagists, Jose Guadalupe Posada. I love artists that address the issues of their day while simultaneously creating works that resonate through the ages. The artworks have a grittier appearance and reflect the everyday lives of the poor and downtrodden, capturing forever their struggles and dreams.

Can you talk about your technique, and why you drew the book this way?

Lowriders in Space was created using black,blue and red Bic pens. When Cathy Camper first approached me with the script and the ideas for the characters I was immediately inspired to draw them in this manner and they exploded onto the paper almost as you see them in the finished book. I decided to use these materials because as a young child dreaming of becoming an artist I did not have art supplies so I had to make do with what I did have. Like the characters in our book we used the materials at hand to make our dreams come true. I also wanted to make the drawings accessible to our young readers. The drawings do not hide how they were made, there is no fancy computer coloring technique, painting technique or any material that feels impossible to get their hands on. Becoming an artist can feel daunting when all that one sees are finished and polished works of art created with expensive hard to get a hold of materials and therefore often those that become artists are those that can afford those supplies. I want to inspire our future artist from all walks of life that can see our book and realize that you don’t need anything other than their dreams and hard work to realize their dreams. This is a message that is at the core of our book.

Are you interested in cars, and low riders in particular, or was this the first time you have drawn them?

I read Lowrider magazine as a teenager and the cars really blew me away as did the creativity of the artists involved. I was drawn to the individuality that was expressed in each car and how it reflected the artists passions and interests. I approached the drawings of the cars and pages using my skills and passions and the book is in a sense my Lowrider and what I would be seen driving around in if ever I had the chance of collaborating with someone to make one. My Lowrider is filled with cultural references and is a love letter to so many people that I have loved and admired over the years. As for drawing cars I learned how to draw them on the fly and as I drew the book. It was an intense learning experience.

What about astronomy—again, is that a longtime interest of yours? What sort of research did you do?

The science that is in the book came from Cathy Camper she filled the book with interesting facts throughout. The illustrations I provided were mainly imagined, my favorite scene being the black hole spread, which was inspired by papel picado and patterning found on sarapes.

What was your biggest challenge in drawing this book? What surprised you?

The biggest challenge was having only 125 days to create all of the finished artwork for the book. Pencils,inks,and color! I was drawing anywhere from 1 to 2 pages a day. I did love how this allowed me a lot of spontaneity and no time to second guess myself. The surprising thing was that I finished in time. I loved the experience and I am so much more prepared for the second book in the series.

What are you working on next?

I am currently working on Lowriders in Space book 2 as well as exhibitions at Princeton University and Art Space in Raleigh, North Carolina, and I will be exhibiting the artwork from Lowriders in Space book one at the New England School of Art and Design and Phillips Academy.

Brigid Alverson About Brigid Alverson

Brigid Alverson, the editor of the Good Comics for Kids blog, has been reading comics since she was 4. She has an MFA in printmaking and has worked as a book editor and a newspaper reporter; now she is assistant to the mayor of Melrose, Massachusetts. In addition to editing GC4K, she writes about comics and graphic novels at MangaBlog, SLJTeen, Publishers Weekly Comics World, Comic Book Resources, MTV Geek, and Good Brigid is married to a physicist and has two daughters in college, which is why she writes so much. She was a judge for the 2012 Eisner Awards.

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