April 18, 2017

Interview with Javi Cuho

SPANISH GAY FICTION: Where does this project come from? Is it usual a short-story collection structure in the comic world?

JAVI CUHO: Las horas perdidas comes from the idea of recovering different short stories that were already written and just waiting for an opportunity in a drawer. I do not know whether a structure like this can be regarded as usual in the comic world, but other examples come to my mind, such as Osamu Tezuka’s Under the Air (“Kuuki no Soko”).[1]

SGF: Why did you choose this title?

JC: There is a certain irony behind it. When I was writing the stories I was thinking that they would never ever see daylight and, therefore, I was losing my time—though things did not turn out this way, eventually.

SGF: Regarding you are a writer, not an illustrator, why are your texts always published in no other literary formats than comic books?

JC: I am a fan of comics as well as an inveterate supporter of this wonderful means of storytelling. I just love it and cannot think of any better way of explaining my stories.

SGF: If there is any common denominator amongst the four stories, it is (in my viewpoint) the impossibility that the lovers face to reach complete happiness in their couple relationships, for different reasons each. Would you say that this is your personal belief? Is this idea constant in the rest of your work?

JC: This is an interesting reflection. I believe in couple relationships, and human relationships in general; they are recurring topics in my work. No matter if the story is set in our times or a fantastic world, this is an issue that I am crazy about and always return to, one way or another. In all my stories there is a certain melancholic, somehow bittersweet air which has to do with my personality; looking to the future optimistically, but inclined to turn my head so as to remember my past.

SGF: From the first story to the last one, there is a journey from a tragic story to more hopeful ones. Was there any intention to leave a good impression on the reader with this order?

JC: No, there was not. The story order came up quite naturally. Although they are not chronologically ordered, “La solución final” was the last story that I wrote and always conceived as the last one.

SGF: What was so alluring in the Nazi Germany pictured in “Balada para mi muerte” so that you decided to set a homosexual love story in a period like that?

JC: It all came from the figure of Marlene Dietrich and the story behind the song “Lili Marleen.” The rest, such as the characters and events in “Balada para mi muerte,” were evoked by the story of this topic.

SGF: Geert represents absolute unconditional love, though a kind of starry-eyed. However, Colton shows that he is not worthy of, frightened by social and political reasons. According to you, is Geert the model of the proper lover, or is he rather blind?

JC: I see Geert entailing a fascinating duality: on the one hand, he embodies the idealization of unreal love but, at the same time, the most realistic vision of the heartbreak that you feel when the one that you deeply love just does not merit it.

SGF: At first sight, “Dos+1” seems the most lighthearted story of the comic book. Curiously enough, it may be the most appealing one to discuss. Here, a somehow bored homosexual couple decides to change their sexual routine by having a threesome. What is your opinion about such a controversial topic?

JC: Who am I to judge a thing like this? Jove forbid! [Laughs.] The important thing is that everybody should pursue their own happiness. Thus, if a couple is happy in an open relationship or having a threesome, as long as the one does not hurt or cheat on the other, so be it! However it may be, I am not intending to defend anything with this story.

SGF: It is Óscar the one proposing the threesome idea since it was a tip that he learnt from television. To what extent do you think that we are determined by advertising messages nowadays?

JC: I think that we all are conditioned by our environment and its pressure on us. In the case of César and Óscar, the television message is just a thinly veiled excuse to try something that they both are attracted to and did not dare to confess.

SGF: In “La promesa,” my favorite story, you focus your attention on a topic that—if I am not wrong—is rarely mentioned in homosexual comics: the gay elderly. Regarding that you were a writer in your twenties back then, what led you to this issue? May the reader suspect the beginning of a love story between Jaime and his nurse Héctor in the last panel?

JC: Thanks, it is one of my favorite stories too. I felt a special, once-in-a-lifetime magic when I was writing it. The elderly issue has always concerned me, especially in the LGBT context. I have always wanted to return to it in a future project. The story ending is open to the reader’s interpretation. Who knows what this pair is doing now! [Laughs.]

SGF: Do you think that Jaime and Ígor could be friends if the latter found out that his father Esteban had cheated on his mother with Jaime? Or, do you think that the son does suppose that Jaime and his father had had a love affair?

JC: It is an intriguing point. . .But I am afraid that we will never know the answer. [Laughs.]

SGF: In “La solución final” you deal with fears, insecurities and personal frustrations pushed to the limit. Have you ever suffered from insecurity, or even rejection from others, due to your physique, and, like the four friends of this story, considered suicide to put an end to your suffering?

JC: Of course, I have felt insecure because of my physique or other facets concerning me. We do not get out of bed keenly each and every day, so this is not an issue that I am, or have been, immune to. Despite everything, I have never considered suicide as a solution to any of the problems that I have ever had.

SGF: How important is friendship for you?

JC: Friendship is everything to me; besides, you can find it in everyone, including your partner and relatives. I would be nothing without my friends’ love.

SGF: If in “Balada para mi muerte” and “La promesa,” homosexual relationships happen to be troublesome because of social reasons, in “Dos+1” and “La solución final” the affairs of the heart have much more to do with personal, sexual, or psychological issues. Now that the LGBT community is enjoying more freedom and equality of rights with regard to the rest of the population, why do you think that we still make things so complicated?

JC: If you are asking why homosexual people are so complicated to ourselves, I think that the answer is quite easy: we all, homosexual and non-homosexual, are human beings, and human beings are REALLY complicated. [Laughs.]

SGF: Are not gay men made for a monogamous behavior? Or, is fickleness a feature inherent in human nature, regardless sexual orientation?

JC: I believe that emotional monogamy, whatever the relationship may be, is not natural or healthy. Mind the fact that I am talking about emotional monogamy, not only sexual.

SGF: There is a couple pattern repeated in the four stories: the one is taller, stronger (physically) and more protective than the other. With the exception of “Balada para mi muerte,” also the other three couples are interracial, o at least the one’s skin is darker than the other’s. Whose was the idea: the illustrator Andrea Jen’s, or yours?

JC: Andrea and I worked hand in hand on the character design, but this was not something preconceived or agreed in advance. As I do in all my projects, I always inform the illustrator who works with me the way I imagine the characters, but it is the illustrator who always adds the finishing touches and makes them their own in the end.

SGF: How do you like Andrea Jen’s illustrations?

JC: It was a pleasure to work with Andrea. Although we have no plans for a new collaboration, let’s see what the future brings. I would love it myself.

SGF: What are you working on now? Can you tell me about your next projects?

JC: I am working on the sequels of my comics Lost Kingdom and Sandstorm, as well as a new project that I hope it will be taking shape little by little.

[1] A collection of short stories by the “God of Manga” (1928 - 1989) drawn between 1968 and 1970. Supernatural, hard-boiled, mystery, romance, science-fiction and sex (in some of its weirdest ways)—all mixed-up in this rare cocktail. Curiously enough, the protagonist of the first story, “The Execution Ended at Three,” is a SS officer, just like in Las horas perdidas. In my opinion, a flawless work of art.

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