Arrow recently spoke with Roberto Goiriz, a renowned graphic novel artist and writer living in his native Paraguay. Goiriz has illustrated a number of graphic novels for Arrow’s MyRomanceStory imprint including Love Match, Throb and Love Makes Headlines. He is the creator, writer and artist of That Damn Comic, as well as his long-awaited next release, Nikolas Klon, a science-fiction graphic novel. Goiriz is multi-talented with a prolific catalog of work. With such a rich body of creations, it was hard to make that one snapshot capturing his career and life.
Q: Can you tell us a little about yourself?
A: My country went through many long years under the Stroessner dictatorship. In the 1960s, when I was barely six years old, I learned a few important things: run away from anyone in [military] uniform and never trust red vans, which we called “Little Red Riding Hoods” (with ominous-looking policemen inside them). I also learned to play without toys: a pile of stones could be turned into a mysterious castle; a few rags and a pair of socks would magically become a soccer ball, and a magazine of short stories was the door that opened onto a world of unbridled fantasy.
I discovered these magazines because my neighbors, the Plá family, had a lot of them. I lived in a neighborhood in the center of Asuncion. Across the street from our house lived a woman known as the “old witch” who later I realized was Josefina Plá, the great Spanish writer who was living in Paraguay. My little dog would escape and invariably go chasing after the good Mrs. Plá’s many cats. I would rush to the rescue. Despite the challenges I’d encounter at the home of the legendary writer, I would do my best to catch my dog. However, I was often distracted by the magazines and comic books that were strewn all over the place. So, with my dog in my arms and my head full of images of paintings and drawings, I would go back home. Finally, Ariel Plá, Josefina’s son, took pity on me and loaned me several comic books that were popular at the time: D’Artagnan or Fantasy.
When I was profoundly amazed by a particular drawing, I would laboriously copy it. The results impressed me — I wasn’t half bad. I showed my drawings to a friend who couldn’t believe I had done them. He said they were too good to have been drawn by me. That’s when I realized I could draw…but this wasn’t enough to convince the world. I also had to know how to tell a good story.
So, I also began to write and I’ve been doing both ever since — text and image as one concept in my mind has functioned well everywhere I’ve worked, whether as Art Director or Creative General Director at several Paraguayan-based advertising agencies affiliated with Young & Rubicam, Leo Burnett or Ogilvy & Mather or in the publishing field where I worked for several Paraguayan, then later, Brazilian newspapers and magazines. Throughout this process, and practically without wanting to, I won prizes, had exhibitions, published my comic strips and three books, as well as organized several creative advertising and comic strip promotion events. At the moment, I spend more time writing and drawing for graphic novellas, although I haven’t totally abandoned advertising and design, which I still do for local clients through my company Goiriz Imagen & Cia. Most of my graphic novellas are published in my own country or Argentina, Brazil, Spain, Italy and the United States. I also teach at the Catholic University of Asuncion and have for many years.
I feel I’m a happy person, perhaps because I enjoy what I do. I don’t like to go out much; I prefer to stay home and share life with my family, sit on my patio, which is full of trees, where I play with my dogs, read and, of course, draw.
Q: Are you married and for how long?
A: Yes, I met Lali 26 years ago and we were married in less than a year from when we met. She is my love, my rock, the person who organizes my life and administers my projects and undertakings. Currently she is totally involved in her own business, with great success.
Q: How did you meet your wife?
A: We were introduced by a mutual friend. The night I met her, I had agreed to play cards in the same group she was in even though I don’t know how to play cards. I just wanted to talk with her.
Q: Do you have children? How many and how old are they?
A: I have two sons who changed my life forever. The oldest, Ariel, is 22 and is much more mature than I am. He is studying industrial design and is slowly getting involved in the advertising agency. He likes creativity and design and I think he’ll be better at both than I am. My youngest son is Damian who was a chess champion in Paraguay in his age category (under 18). He plays guitar, loves music, but he also studies administration and is very brilliant with numbers. He helps his mother with her business.
Q: Any pets? What kind and what are their names?
A: I have two dogs, both German shepherds. They’re part of the family. When I’m drawing until late at night, I leave my studio and find them at the door waiting for me. They go everywhere with me.
Q: What places have you lived?
A: Lapacho trees and its sunny evenings. I question it because it has changed as it strives to be a modern city, without character, like the ones you see in films; it is a city that, at times, I don’t recognize.
I lived part of my life in Brazil, in San Paulo, a huge place where people are always in a hurry… everyone is working or trying to find work. I enjoyed the friendship and trust of many wonderful people whom I found hidden among the skyscrapers: artists, writers, publishers, all of whom I still consider to be friends.
For the past 15 years, I have been living in the city of Lambaré, very close to Asuncion. It is a city that still has some dirt roads, that moves slowly and whose symbol is that of a woman sitting on a mule in memory of the so-called burreritas, or mule-riders who used to carry their goods to the market in Asuncion on mules.
Q: Let’s talk a little about romance. What country do you think is the most romantic?
A: Oh gosh, that’s a difficult question to answer. Italians and French have the reputation for being romantic, but I don’t think it’s a question of countries but rather of people. Sometimes it happens that the lifestyle of a country facilitates people getting together regularly, thus providing more chances for romance to blossom. In Spain, Madrid specifically, I have seen how people live in the city, on the streets, in the bars and public places, simply celebrating life. Sometimes, in this environment, love can easily emerge. In Latin America we are very passionate, although I don’t know if we are romantic.
Q: For you, what is it to be romantic?
A: To be romantic is to give love a chance at least once in your life.
Q: What motivated you to start writing?
A: To write or draw is the same for me. It is the fantastic experience of creation; to make something come from nothing. I don’t know if I am motivated to create. I simply can’t avoid it. I do it all the time, in my mind, with my hands, when I am looking, listening, living.
Q: Can you describe the focus of your writing?
A: When fantasy comes into contact with reality, with routine, something has to give — another universe surfaces. It is that universe that I try to portray in my creations.
Q: Do you write every day? How many hours per day or per week do you write?
A: I write and draw every day for at least ten hours per day, sometimes more. But it never seems like enough…
Q: Is there a particular writer or mentor who influenced you?
A: I love the stories of Jorge Luis Borges, Julio Cortázar and Helio Vera; the narrative of Patrick Süskind, the fantasy of Stanislaw Lem and Ray Bradbury…the list is very long and it includes writers as well as painters. But if I had to choose just a few, I would pick Windsor McCay, the creator of Little Nemo, a comic strip from the beginning of the 20th century that revolutionized the comic genre and was the forerunner of surrealism. Then there’s Harold Foster, the creator of Prince Valiant, whose majestic drawings seemed to be an attempt to imitate my childhood. There’s Alex Raymond, creator of Flash Gordon. And closer in terms of time and space, there is José Luis Salinas, the Argentine comic book artist of Cisco Kid; Alberto Breccia, an Uruguayan and co-creator of Mort Cinder; the Chilean, Arturo del Castillo, a cartoon artist for many “western” comic strips. And, of course, there are the many stories written by Paraguayan Robin Wood, and illustrated by different artists, including Argentines Lucho Olivera or Ricardo Villagrán. Along other lines, such as graphic humor, I have always admired Quino, Fontanarrosa and Mordillo. And the list goes on…
Q: Have you written many genres and subgenres?
A: I have written or drawn, or done both at the same time, stories and comic strips for nearly all genres. I used to prefer science fiction but now I don’t really have a preference. I just want the story to be good.
Q: Are there any genres or subgenres you haven’t tried yet but would like to? Have you thought about expanding to other genres?
A: I don’t think in terms of genres and subgenres but rather in terms of stories I’d like to tell and stories I think readers would like to read or see drawn — stories that mean something to me and other people.
Q: How did you get involved in electronic publishing?
A: It is a new means of communication that broadens the field of activity for any creator. Although one should understand the technical aspects of it, the most important thing is still being able to tell a good story. For me, electronic publication is a natural extension of traditional publishing. I began to publish this way with Arrow Publishing.
Q: Did you face many challenges in your search for an agent or publisher? Do you have any advice for new writers who are looking to get published?
A: I live in Paraguay, a small Mediterranean country in the middle of South America, a country far-flung and forgotten by the world and I publish my work in various places on the planet. I think I understand the meaning of the word “challenge.” But I’ve never thought about whether it was difficult for me or not. As I always say, I simply can’t avoid doing what I do. I love my work and I accept my failures and successes as part of my life. I have no advice. What little I have learned would probably not help anyone, not even me if the circumstances had been different.
Q: What are your most recent releases?
A: I just finished the drawings for 1811, a graphic novel that narrates the story of Paraguayan independence, with the texts by Robin Wood. I am also writing a training manual on political marketing and the use of new technology in electoral campaigns, at the request of a non-governmental organization. It is directed at politicians and their campaign teams in an effort to contribute to improving communication between politicians and their constituents. At the same time, I am drawing a new saga of Hiras, Son of Nippur, with the story written by Robin Wood. I also write, design and draw for the website https://www.elraudaldigital.com and I’m preparing an exhibition of my drawings in Paris which will open on Friday, May 14.
Q: Of the novellas you’ve written, which is your favorite?
A: That is not a question to ask a father…
Q: What can your readers expect from you in 2010?
A: Honestly, I don’t know yet. Doubtless, more stories, more scripts and more drawings.
Q: In view of the rapid changes affecting the publishing industry, do you plan to launch more electronic books or other formats?
A: I think all formats can coexist without problems.
I happen to still love the printed book, to read but also to touch the pages, smell the paper and the ink. It is a unique experience. I understand this experience is different with each person and I am not saying that my preference is better or worse than anyone else’s. It is just my own.
Q: What do you do to promote your books, your brand and yourself?
A: Create, write and draw the best I can. Then, with a little luck, find people who are interested in it and who will promote it however they can.
Q: How are social networks and the web used for your promotion and marketing?
A: Normally I communicate with my friends and acquaintances through social networks, my blogs and my website. It is a daily activity which, at times, includes talking about my creations — something, as you’ve noticed, I quite enjoy doing.
Q: What do you think about the current changes in the publishing industry?
A: They’re exciting changes and I think, perhaps, no one really knows where this tendency is heading. But it is safe to say that the use of technology in the future is unavoidable.
Q: Do you have any promotional tours, special presentations or events planned to promote you new books?
A: On Friday, May 14, I’ll be in France with Robin Woods. We will be showing our drawings from the comic book at the Paraguayan Embassy. Maybe we’ll sign a few books and, of course, drink some good French wine.
Q: Does Hollywood want to make any of your comic books or novellas into a movie?
A: No idea…but if it happens, they’re more than welcome.
Q: What advice would you give to new writers?
A: Love what you do and do it every day. This is not advice; it’s a way of life.
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself or your books?
A: Many things, but there will be another opportunity to do so in the future. We’ll meet again in some pixel on the Internet or on the least expected page of a book.
Find graphic novels and comics by Roberto Goiriz:
Search by keywords “Arrow Publications” or “MyRomanceStory” to find Love Match, Throb, Love Makes Headlines and other graphic novel titles in Arrow’s Love & Romance Collection in the iTunes App store. Titles start at only $1.99. That Damn Comic, part of Arrow’s Comics Collection, is also available on the iTunes App Store for $1.99.
Love Match is also available in the paperback Will I Ever Find Love? MyRomanceStory, Volume 2 (Spanish version, ¿Alguna vez encontrare el amor?, Queridamia), is available from MyRomanceStory.com and Amazon.com for $5.99.