July 16, 2018

Interview with Julio Videras

They say you never forget your first love. Seemingly, it is the same in the case of your first comic book published: Julio Videras (Granada, 1976) remembers his experience with Cornelia, as well as he takes a close look at the question of gender roles, the comic universe, creator’s frustration, and the unexpected paths to real love.

SPANISH GAY FICTION: On the dedication page, you say that it was the illustrator Lydia Sánchez the one who created the character of Cornelia. Then, how did you get to this project?

JULIO VIDERAS: Indeed, the authorship of the character of Cornelia is Lydia’s. While checking out her blog those days I found several designs of the character, and suddenly my brain clicked into gear. I had the image, I had the concept. . .then I just had to build up the narrative.

SGF: Cornelia was published in 2008, the year of the global economic crisis outburst. The protagonist is a 22-year-old student living in an apartment shared with three other people, as she can’t hardly make ends meet with two underpaid jobs. . .Were you expecting the catastrophe drawing near back then?

JV: Well, to be honest I think not [Laughs.] At that time I had a job, and I was a young guy full of many hopes and dreams. However, my college days—shitty jobs, roommates—were still fresh in my mind.

SGF: What did Cornelia mean in your career in the comic world?

JV: It was my first published work and as such, I love it and hate it in equal measure. Except some reviews of the time, the comic book passed unnoticed. However, the people who bet on Cornelia feel affection for it. It was hard in my case, as a series of last-minute changes beyond my control forced me to rewrite the script, especially the final section. I have to say that I have never been very happy with that ending, and I have always dreamed of making a 2.0 version where the story was much more perfect but—C’est la vie.

SGF: What about the LGBT community’s opinions about Cornelia?

JV: Well, the truth is that I do not know. A lesbian friend loved the story, and she especially liked the natural way in which a lesbian relationship is portrayed. For me, writing a story with so many female characters and so much emotional burden was a true challenge.

SGF: And personally, what does Cornelia mean to you? Does it differ much from your other works?

JV: No doubt Cornelia stands out in my catalog. Perhaps it is my least-remembered work for the main audience. But, despite the flaws, it is undoubtedly the most important for me, since it was the first one that I published; also because of the subject I was dealing with, and, above all, I proved to myself that I could produce stories that could reach an unusual audience in the comic book universe.

SGF: If there is something remarkable in Cornelia, it is precisely the lightness of its plot. Did you worry that this seeming insignificance could go against the result? After ten years since its publication, would you make any change on the script?

JV: Actually, the story practically wrote itself. Many people have asked me if the end was planned from the beginning, and it really was not. The point was basically describing a day in the life of Cornelia, full of sorrows and lacking of joys, like a vital snapshot. However, when I was approaching the end, the denouement seemed to be as powerful as a kick straight into face; the story could only have one possible ending. Well, as I have already mentioned, the original ending was different, more developed. The final scene was really tender, and it worked as a final moral: Love happens when you least expect it.

SGF: Is there any inspirational muse behind Cornelia?

JV: Well, even if it does not seem like it, Kevin Smith’s Chasing Amy[1] was a great inspiration for Cornelia.

SGF: Your descriptions on the usual customers in a comic book shop are really funny. What is your opinion about people who are into comics?

JV: Next question [Laughs.] Of course, a good scriptwriter knows how to mix inventions and personal experiences in equal shares when producing a story, and Cornelia is certainly not an exception. I read comics myself, so I find comic readers wonderful and interesting people. The best gatherings in which I have taken part have always been about movies or comics.

SGF: Those characters are seen through the eyes of the protagonist. Do you think that women see the world of comic books from a different perspective than men? How responsible are comic book authors in that difference?

JV: Although the trend is changing, the comic universe is still mostly for guys. The reason? Well, I guess the same happens in the movies: both genders have different perceptions, sensibilities and curiosities. In my case, I never tried to make Cornelia a story for women; I just wanted to tell a story about human relationships with all its implications. Doing this from the perspective of a female character has been one of the most difficult challenges in my career as a comic writer.

SGF: Regarding the female viewpoint, this comic follows the chick-lit pattern. Being a man, was it difficult to approach this genre? As for the readers’ response, has any woman told you that it looks like a comic written by a woman or, on the contrary, they tell you that it is obvious that there is a man behind the script?

JV: As a matter of fact it was a real challenge, but in general I was satisfied with the result. When you write a slow-paced story like this, the script works in a very different way; these stories are much more sustained on the content than the form. Dialogues are as important as silent panels; you must seek affinity with the reader, touching those feelings deep inside us all. Like Cornelia, we all have suffered anguish, disappointment, and the weight of the world on our shoulders; we all have cried sometimes because of unrequited love, or we have asked ourselves the reason of many things happening to us. Basically, Cornelia is nothing else but the story of someone who, in the chaos of everyday life, finds happiness where she least expects it. Some female readers have told me that this story is too sensitive to be written by a man [Laughs.]

SGF: Regarding the ending, why did you decide to make Cornelia turn homosexual? Do you agree with Rocío when she says that “if people cared to look for love only (no matter the question of gender), the world would be a much more beautiful place”? Have you applied this philosophy in real life?

JV: As I have already mentioned, the story led me to that ending on its own. To be honest, today I could not imagine another possible ending now. And I absolutely agree on Rocío’s theory. I feel my answer below is perfect to answer this question too [Laughs.]

SGF: Among your dedications there is someone that you describe as your future wife. In the comic, Salva fatefully runs into his ex, who left him for another guy just a few days before they were to get married. Were you expressing your fears at that moment?

JV: Well, I can say that my future wife ended up becoming my current wife [Laughs.] And to everyone’s relief, I did it willingly and consciously.

SGF: How similar is Salva to you? You describe him as a huge fan of comics, roleplaying, horror movies and Italian food—

JV: Not much—except that I am a huge fan of comics, roleplaying, horror movies and Italian food [Laughs.]

SGF: Cornelia was Lydia Sánchez’s first published comic also. What is your opinion about her work? Considering that you have worked with male and female artists, would you highlight any difference between both sexes in the work process as well as the result?

JV: Lydia put her heart and soul into every single page, and we both suffered a lot to push this project forward. In point of fact, I have been disconnected from the professional world of comic books for a few years now and, except that I have come across her in some conventions in Barcelona, I have not followed her career very closely. I have truly taken a look to some of her later works, but I would be lying if I said that I know what she is currently involved in. Well, the only female illustrator that I have ever worked with is Lydia, so I do not have much experience about it either. However, I am sure that this story would have been very different had the illustrator been a man.

SGF: Did you and Lydia Sánchez ponder over continuing Cornelia’s story in later comics?

JV: I think that we only dreamed of publishing our first work at all costs at that time. I really do not remember if we ever talked about it; each one started with other projects, and our professional paths did not cross again.

SGF: What are your most immediate projects?

JV: Right now I am retired, though I threaten to return—

[1] Cornelia shares with this touching 1997 American movie (Quentin Tarantino claimed that this was his favorite film that year) a casual way in storytelling, as well as a thought-provoking standpoint in the question of gender roles in romantic relationships. Note that both this Spanish comic book and Mr. Smith’s film depict lesbian characters created by male straight writers. Additionally, Chasing Amy is set in the American indie comic world, and Kevin Smith is a comic book writer himself.

July 6, 2018

The Taste of Her Cherry Chapstick

On Lydia Sánchez and Julio Videras’s Cornelia

Yes! As you may have guessed, here in spanishgayfiction.blogspot.com we could not help recalling Katy Perry’s Sapphic hit when approaching this comic book published in 2008: a dazzling story around the whimsical, mysterious pathways to Happiness.

Our friendly protagonist is Cornelia, a 22-year-old student of Fine Arts. She has two jobs, thus she can’t hardly attend in classroom: in the mornings, as a shop assistant in the comic store Friky Planet; by night, as a waitress in a club.

Cornelia lives in an apartment in Barcelona with two girls and a boy. The girls are:
·Laura, a somehow dull and daffy blonde living in Barcelona for 10 years, trying to make her way in the world of acting though she is not lucky enough in auditions;
·and Rocío, a girl-crazy, passionate brunette, who successfully works in a publicity agency. Cornelia’s colleague in the night club, Pablito Danger, a hornball who jumps into each and every single woman, feels a special (and male-chauvinist) morbid fascination for her. His attitude extremely irritates Cornelia.

Cornelia is kind to the others: Luigi, the Italian restaurant owner; the alley cats she feeds up; the weirdo who is always watching through the other side of the store window; Antonio, the deliveryman; the boy intimidated by his mother. . .but particularly to Salva. He is the owner of Friky Planet (Salva calls freaks to the comic nerds); he is also Cornelia’s Prince Charming. She calls him Culito Perfecto—“Perfect Little Ass.” Salva is a 30-year-old scatterbrain, huge fan of comics, roleplaying, horror movies and Italian food. He is continuously asking Cornelia to do extra hours, since Salva is really busy with his other job in a business consultancy.

Today Cornelia takes advantage from her favor in order to get an invitation for lunch in a wok, as well as a stolen kiss. Eventually, Salva stands her up in the restaurant. Nevertheless, in the afternoon she must go back to the store to do her promised duty.

Later in the club, her girlfriends go to see her at the other side of the bar. There, Cornelia recounts her situation with Salva. Rocío suggests that she ignores men and goes lesbian. To brighten up her day, Rocío tells a funny anecdote about how she flirted with a shop-assistant in a lingerie store. Rocío is always sweet and thoughtful to her. To Rocío, Cornelia is nice, pretty and funny, though just a little bit neurotic. She recommends Cornelia to kiss Prince Charming off and try to find the person she can connect with and feel happy and complete. Cornelia admits that Rocío cares about her more than Salva.

Speak of the devil, Salva makes an attentive appearance, with an apology in his lips and a rose in his hand, guaranteeing a rewarding dinner to Cornelia. Rocío is not at all happy with him.

A week later, Cornelia seems to have forgotten the incident. By taking things slow, Cornelia hopes that Salva takes seriously the chance of a relationship: They together walk out, have lunch, go to the movies, do some shopping—Salva also picks Cornelia up in the club after working all night. He finally passes care inspection, so they arrange a celebration date. Besides, Cornelia has asked her roommates to leave the apartment that night for more intimacy.

The door bell is ringing. Rocío warns Salva not to blow it again, otherwise he would be in serious trouble. Salva gives Cornelia a beautiful butterfly barrette that she immediately puts on her hair to add a sparkling touch to her stunning look tonight.

During the dinner the romantic couple makes a toast with water—tough luck!: It starts raining before entering the hot spot where Salva brings Cornelia after. There, Cornelia will find out Salva’s unexpected skills as a lively dancer. When Cornelia goes to the restroom, Salva’s ex-fiancée Lidia suddenly pops up. Lidia had gone off with an American man, leaving Salva practically standing at the altar. But things did not go well, and now Lidia seems ready to get Salva back at any costs.

Lidia does not accept Salva’s refusal, so she decides to come to the fore and kiss him. Salva acts reluctant at first, but later he lets her take control. To top it all, Cornelia comes back and has a major setback to the delight of Lidia. Our unfortunate heroine rushes out of the club, and walks back home in the rain.

Rocío recognizes her from the taxi. She gets off and shelters Cornelia under her umbrella; she also takes off her coat to cover her soaking humbled friend. Once Cornelia has told the story, Rocío advises her to ignore Salva for good. Cornelia starts saying that she and Rocío—the two of them—in others circumstances—But Rocío does not let her finish: she claims that the world would be a much more beautiful place if people worried about searching for love only, no matter the significant other’s gender. Rocío confesses that she has wanted to kiss Cornelia for too long, and she does it. The passionate brunette has dropped the umbrella: neither of them seems to feel the rain. Cornelia finally kissed a girl—and she definitely liked it!!!