Alovera Comic Interview

Like many people, when I look around the Comic Village at the MCM Expo I keep my eyes open for anything unique and new that stands out among the crowd. It might be because of the unique art style, their chosen subject, sometimes they might have an eye catching banner and sometimes the author happens to catch me being super eager to show off their work. At the May 2012 MCM Expo in London I was drawn to Victoria Coppen and her partner Alan Laguna, who along with their table of unique animal desert themed plushies were showing off a small but interesting looking comic risographed onto newspaper, titled Alovera Comic. After taking a look at the comic and chatting to the pair, I knew that this was something different and that I was interested in their creation. I was recently able to interview the pair about the comic, their future plushie plans, why they chose to print onto newspaper and their future plans with MCM.

Laura: For those who don’t know, could you introduce yourselves?

Victoria: Hello my name’s Victoria Coppen, I’m currently studying Graphic Design in Ravensbourne and I work with my partner Alan Laguna as a collaborative studio known as Alovera.

Alan: Hello there I’m Alan, and I’m an illustrator and animator. Using my initials I’m the first part of ALOVERA, a joint studio between myself and my partner Victoria (Vera). Together we made the ALOVERA comic alongside other related work that was presented at the MCM Expo in London.

Laura: Could you tell us a little about Alovera Comic?

Victoria: Alovera Comic is our first collaborative project together. We recently had fallen in love with our home after oh so many years and decided to celebrate that, since I’m sure NYC has had enough disasters in comics. It’s basically about Alan, myself and our sexy character Leo Lapiz in our London apartment, during a not-so-distant future, living our lives until we become tangled in a much bigger picture.

Alan: The Alovera Comic is a perfect mix of talents blended into one body of work. Using our combined skills we have written a rich story that we can’t wait to present.

Victoria: Every character we make we tend to love so much they get a lot of story as well, so sometimes it’s a bit like Sin City, in a sense that it doesn’t just focus on us but also three others soon as well…

Alan: This story has many protagonists and we follow their adventures making this tale both romantic, dangerous and exciting. It’s slightly but not too much sci-fi, as there are other human based species as well. Like it’s totally alright to have towering eight foot people around called ‘Longnecks’ and women with grey skin and four eyes called ‘Aracnos’ and people who sprout out a pink jelly based form which has its own conscience and stuff. Don’t worry it’s all explained and revealed at an appropriate pace.

Laura: You have printed your comic onto newspaper which is uncommon at the MCM Expo and for comic artists in general. Could you tell us a little about the process? Why did you choose to do it? What are the benefits and negatives

Victoria: Originally when Alan and I wrote the script in November/December we planned to finish all 100 pages on time for May, but as our work lives became too hard to manage with studies and part time jobs, we found that each comic double spread would take about a week to complete and we could only manage the first chapter within the time we set.

Alan: We wanted to present our comic at the Expo, yet we only had one chapter at the time so we looked into the most economical ways of printing a short story, and then we came across newsprint.

Victoria: Now this ended up for the better, I knew that we had too little pages for a full book and since we made the comic in black and white, I felt a newspaper would be a fun way around this dilemma.

Alan: This method was ideal as it was cheap and we had a lot of flexibility with what the final outcome would be like but most of all was how it would be printed. Risograph printing greatly interested us, as it looks great and worked well with our black and white comic.

Victoria: I had found the perfect printers in March so instead of using normal inkjet or laser printing, each page of the newspaper is risographed, which is kinda like a screen printing machine, so each comic is unique on its own.

Alan: The quality when we picked it up was outstanding; the authentic press upon newspaper was fantastic and greatly outshone that of a jet printer and bleach white paper. Each print is unique and has a great feel and look to it and we were very happy with it, but choosing this method also gave us more work to do as the size of the comic was weird and originally left a noticeable space below the comic. So before sending the comic off to the prints we had to fill out the spaces below it in time. At that point we were exhausted of working but we needed to fill in around 23 small rectangles of content. It was back breaking but we thought of a great idea, using Vic’s graphic talents on the left side and my animation on the right we filled out the bottom with characters profiles, useful information to the comic and a short flip animation.

Victoria: I would say the pros of it are the unique results; it’s appropriate to the comic, as in the story it’s the turn of the century, where behind each old is a new, for example old brick buildings against city skyline, so it’s kinda vintage while new at the same time. The cons I would say is that the scenes that have a lot of black, like at night, didn’t come out as we had originally intended, but I feel there’s a charm in this mistake nonetheless.

Laura: Who are your inspirations?

Alan: My inspirations putting aside Disney, Pixar and Studio Ghibli cause who doesn’t love them, is a bit of mixed bag. First is the creator of Courage the Cowardly Dog, John Dilworth. Huge fan of his work, which is a perfect blend of great animation with great writing. Director Luc Besson for his creative input in movie masterpieces such as Leon and The Fifth Element, his movies have a rich background that I love to delve in. I could go on with actors and figure heads but one more would be the topic of history itself. The evolution of society, the adventures of pioneers and the romance of history is in itself one the greatest stories ever told. And stories are our way of communication, without it we are nothing.

Victoria: My inspirations? Wow that’s a big question, lets see… a mixture of illustrators, designers, anime, comics and games. Mary Blair, Chris Sanders, Marc Boutavant, Stephan Sagmeister, Thomas Heatherwick, Olly Moss, Jessica Hische, Johnny Kelly, Bryan Lee O’Malley, Eiichiro Oda… Studio Ghibli films, 90s Cartoon Network, Pokemon…the list goes on. Mostly at the end of the day it would be Alan for this series. Alan’s vast imagination dives into depths of which really amaze me. He’s not that confident though when explaining his stories. I guess that’s actually what started the Alovera Comic, as a side story to his story, which now ironically has its own bigger story…

Laura: Do either of you ever face creative block? If so, how do you overcome it?

Alan: Only everyday. I’m very careful and cautious with what I draw since everything can be argued to be forgotten repetition of something else, right? Being precious and lazy just make me go into a corner and think all day without even doing anything. So when ideas are stale and I’m self aware of my panic I turn to music. Music tells a story without words and give us emotions and energy, it’s the catalyst I need to get back on track. That and doing something new!

Victoria: Creative block and me go way back. In the past it used to be something I would get really frustrated over, but it’s not really a problem I have to be so worked up over anymore. My secret is that I have many hobbies. When lets say I had creative block for drawing, I taught myself to sew. When I got tired of sewing, I learnt origami, when I drew weary of that, I took up photography, and the cycle continues! Nowadays I set bigger projects for myself, like the comic, or making clothes, freelancing on etsy, so I’m always preoccupied, this on top of university too of course! At the end of the day the best way to get out of a slum is to experience new things, in doing so you inspire yourself to work with a fresh mind.

Laura: What challenges do you have trying to get noticed at events like the MCM Expo?

Alan: One of the biggest challenges I found was to explain the content of our table efficiently and quickly to people without losing their attention. Since it was our first time at the MCM Expo, almost no one knew who we were.

Victoria: This MCM Expo was our first time in the public eye. It’s a great opportunity to show off our work to people who are looking for new talent. We worked night and day to produce the best work we could to the crowd, in the most unusual fashion, and we tried to be as engaging, friendly and all-round fascinating to the new eyes and the results did indeed pay off! Though by the end of the event, we were left exhausted with sore throats but overjoyed with our unforgettable experience there.

Laura: What sort of response do you get at conventions?

Victoria: For our first time there we received a very positive response, a lot of people were drawn to the toys, though seemed unaware that the Alovera Comic, was indeed a comic. We could usually catch the interest of most in the crowd, so for example the girls liked the toys, the guys liked Alan’s cards and the bold few dared to pick up the comic, almost weary of its contents. We had to pitch the story at least 20 times to different people, with all in all very positive responses received after the event.

Alan: Well it was mixed you see. The people are divided into ones who are only interested in one thing, others who want to leave, some are lost and some are curious. So we had to be on our best form to present our work to the avid comic collector or lost mother who just wants to leave. Mostly people are shy and rather not fill their curiosity, but stand afar jumping to wrong conclusions on what your work is about. We were more than happy to greet all sorts of people to be honest.

Laura: Are you planning to attend any other MCM Events this year? If so, what might we see from you?

Victoria: Alan and I plan to return to MCM Expo in October, this time on top of the familiar, we might have individual mini comics off our own stories, larger scale prints, badges, handmade brooches, and perhaps the new animal cake requests from the comment book, that is if we have time.

Alan: Yes, we plan to go to the October con and present any work that wasn’t sold in May alongside new revisions to our work, with new ideas, such as people inputs of what toy they would like to see next time. Our toys covered cutesy animal heads on beloved desserts like a bunny carrot cake for example. People input has allowed us to recognise what people what to see which gives us a task of making great suggestions like Bat Gateau cake, Penguin Oreo ice cream cake and Mousse moose. By then I would also love to present the new artwork to be printed on excellent quality postcards.

Laura: Lastly, do you have any final words?

Victoria & Alan: All we can say now is thank you to everyone! We had such an amazing time, even with little sleep per night it was a totally fantastic experience and were too sad it’s over so soon! Thank you to our friends, many of whom came out of their way just to see us and buy the comic. Thank you to my fellow comic artists, who we feel as close to family in the three short days we were there, we love you. And last but not least thank you to you, our fans, old and new, who showed us that our work was worth making for you who are so supportive! It means the world to us!

You can find out more about Alovera Studio on its Tumblr page by clicking here.

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