Interview with Dave Jackson, Andrew Gallacher and Jean-Luc Syndikas
By: J.R. McNamara on April 30, 2008  |  Comments ()  |  Share 
Every comics fan has dreamed of making his or her own comic. Even I, as a gigantic fan of the sequential arts have dreamt such, to the point that I actually have two complete issues drawn and ready to go to print, one called JUSTIN LEAGUE and the other, ETERNAL TORMENT COMICS. The problem is the drive to get them published. That whole "getting rejected by publishers" thing just doesn't work for me; consequently, I am the living proof that "those that don't do, review"!

Or in this case, "interview".

Self publishing really does seem to be the way to go, and with so many excellent desktop publishing programs and cheap scanners available to the home PC editor, it is even more at hand. Also considering we live in a country that has no real comic industry of its own, well, not since the demise of titles such as Phantastique, Platinum Grit and Southern Squadron, self publishing is the only option for those who don't want to work for Australian Mad Magazine.

But fret not, dear reader, for salvation of the Australian comic industry is at hand and it comes in the form of Pleasant Production's MODERN GENTLEMEN, and Digital Retribution has been fortunate enough to have been granted an interview with three of the creators, Dave Jackson, Andrew Gallacher and Jean-Luc Syndikas.

Digital Retribution: First of, tell us all about all the writers and artists of Modern Gentlemen.

ANDREW: I'm Andrew Gallacher, writer and illustrator for Modern Gentlemen. I've been drawing and telling stories since I was quite young. I've been obsessed with horror and sci-fi imagery my whole life and began painting and creating comics in high school. I love writing dark and seedy stories and making comics allows me to tell a story with the imagery I determine.

Jean-Luc: My name is Jean-Luc Syndikas, I'm an Australian with a family background that spans back to Egypt and expands into Greek/Maltese, with an added dosage of Austrian and Scottish (hence the red hints in my beard). I speak French but despite the name I'm a proud Aussie, a nice mixture is always good for subtext. Since the early days I've always had a pen in hand and love for drawing and creating. Growing up in a family of artists has been my greatest inspiration, not to mention the experience of having nude women prancing around my dad's studio, was always an eye opener. My greatest fear as a child was mannequins. My earliest memory of watching a film would be at age 5 when my Uncle showed me David Lynch's Blue Velvet, I guess you could say it scarred me for life, but it also brought on my later interest into filmmaking, which I have been studying at RMIT University for the past 5 years; so for that I thank him.

Dave: I'm Dave Jackson, editor and one of the writers of Modern Gents. I'm an ex-film student and attempted filmmaker. I grew up on a heavy dose of films, which has always been my prime obsession. Horror is a particular love, developing from kiddie horror like Gremlins to Hammer horror to the nastier stuff. My favourites mostly fall under the Italian horror category, particularly anything from Fulci, Bava and Argento. But I also love my Evil Dead's, Cronenberg's entire back catalogue, anything involving cannibals, cheap 80s slashers, 70s exploitation and pretty much anything that either disturbs me out or makes me chuckle. I've been a comic geek for as long as I can remember and have always tried to make my own, but unfortunately I have no artistic ability whatsoever! The other guys that aren't here are Simon J. Green and Tristan Jones, both recently ex-film students.

DR: How do you all know each other?

JL: Through great interest in seeking out the guy who produced the most gratuitous violent film of first year film school, I met Dave Jackson - gee, who knew we shared the same interest in films and art! A further interaction with his friend Simon J. Green (whilst admiring one of his bondage films) introduced me to Andrew Gallacher and that's how the world goes round. Since then we've been great friends and collaborators on numerous film projects and now with the comic.

D: I met Simon through high school friends. I got to know Andrew shortly after as he was a buddy of Simon. Jean-Luc and Tristan did the same RMIT film course that I was doing a few years back. All this was long before we had planned to do a comic; we've always been friends before colleagues. Tristan and I began to casually chat about doing an anthology comic but it never seemed to go anywhere with just the two of us. I was always aware of Andrew's brilliant artistic ability, so he was an obvious choice to approach about it. For some reason, Andrew coming on board really kicked Modern Gentlemen into gear. I had no idea Jean-Luc was an artist for months after being friends with him. It wasn't until my birthday when he gave me a card he'd drawn.

DR: You all seem to have other interests, such as filmmaking, movie reviewing etc, why did you all decide to express yourselves together in a comic book format?

D: I think the comic book format is a less stressful and a slightly more economic way of expressing ourselves, in comparison to film. As I'm only a writer, all I have to do is whip up whatever story I want and that's me done. It's also free of the limitations of low budget filmmaking as I can write anything I want assuming the artist has the ability to draw it. It seems pretty obvious, but without having to worry about effects, crew or equipment except than what is on the page the spectrum of what we can do is virtually infinite. I also feel I can get away with the bizarre and offensive content that I love so much, as it seems to be a less confrontational medium.

JL: Well I have to say, as an illustrator, having the external collaboration with a writer can be a both engaging and stressful engagement. It's one thing to come up with your own concept and ink it out at your own leisure, but when it's someone else's idea you're working with, it can be challenging, but in a good way. It was that very challenge that attracted me to be apart of the Pleasant Productions team, to collaborate on a project, feed off ideas and work as a team. You can't do everything on your own, which goes the same for working on a film set. In saying that I feel that it was the collaboration that made the comic a success, I feel it would otherwise cease to exist.

DR: What influences, comic or otherwise, do you have in your work?

D: Comic wise, my influences are pretty all over the place. My older brother is an artist and had quite the varied comic collection. So sifting through his stuff, I read a lot of mainstream stuff, being a huge fan of 2000AD, Batman and Lobo, but also independent works. I wouldn't rate any mainstream comics as an influence on Modern Gents, not to say that I'm no longer a fan, I just don't have the ability to write widely appealing work! Crumb, Hideshi Hino and Jim Woodring, I would guess, subconsciously influence a lot of the stories I've written. I recently re-read Panorama of Hell by Hino, a favourite as a kid; I'm certain that's the main cause of my warped mind. Horror films are another factor, and I'm sure they destroyed my tiny brain enough to allow me to spurt out all the sick content I love so much. A lot of what I do, in both film and comics, are very much inspired by Cronenberg. His body horror always fascinates me.

A: I'm influenced by the noir tales of Daniel Clowes and Charles Burns. My lighter, more comedic work is inspired by absurd cartoons such as Ren and Stimpy and Beavis and Butt-head. Otherwise the writers J.G Ballard, William Burroughs and Philip K. Dick play a big part in my pool of ideas.

JL: Well to be honest I never actually picked up a comic book till about 4 years ago, though I did skip though the occasional Mad magazine for the Spy vs. Spy sketches. Having said that I do appreciate the comic scene and was very willing to have a taste at the game. I've always had an avid admiration and following for artists like Salvador Dali, Paul Delvaux and Amedeo Modigliani, growing up reading and studying the many published books on the artists and watching documentaries with my dad, with the occasional intermission of a 3 Stooges episode. Film wise David Lynch and Stanley Kubrick are my heroes, sadly I will never be able to meet Stanley but I'd do anything to have a cheeseburger and fries with David.

DR: Some of the images and ideas in Modern Gentlemen are quite extreme to your average joe on the street. Was this deliberate? Is there an intention to be shocking, or did you just write and draw what you felt like writing and drawing?

D: This is quite a tough question. I am occasionally surprised when people are visibly offended and upset after reading the comic, because to me it's all for laughs. Nothing is there to be taken seriously, but I suppose not everyone appreciates grimy humour. I don't really think about how people will react when I'm writing, as Modern Gentlemen is just what comes naturally to me. I can't write anything without slipping something sick in it. I've often sat down to write a comic and not planned it to become overtly horrible or disgusting but it just develops into that as I go. It is deliberate in the sense that one of the reasons for Modern Gents is for us to vent all our worst thoughts and feelings of the world. A couple of weeks back, one of our new writers for the second issue, Dan Inglese, was worried about the content of what he had written was too harsh to which another new Modern Gentleman, Joe Coen, replied "anything goes". And that's pretty much true. The only content I couldn't accept would be anything that strays into homophobia, racism, paedophilia and what not as that's shocking in the wrong way.

JL: The way I see it; we all have a dark side. Some people choose to express their dark side physically, whilst others (twisted fucked up artists like us) choose to express it on paper, which is more acceptable I guess, though there's always a chance for a rally protest or uproar. I don't believe our humour is to be taken seriously, it's all for shits and giggles and if anyone does take offence then it's just not meant for them, go buy a Barbie comic book.

DR: What are your thoughts on the comic industry in Australia? Why ISN'T there one?

D: The comic industry worldwide as a niche audience. Mainstream comics don't have the reach of mainstream films and music. I'm sure the majority of people that enjoyed Batman Begins have probably not picked up a Batman comic, there's only a few of us that enjoyed it as comic geeks as well as moviegoers. It doesn't help either that comics have become less and less popular since the 50s or so. There's an occasional boom, like in the 90s, but it's not long before they're forgotten again. And then there are Australian comics. The Australian superhero comic industry is a niche within a niche. And our comic, which falls under weird independent stuff, becomes a niche within a niche within a niche! So it's hard to expect an industry to suddenly appear. It also doesn't help that many comic book shops, as we found, are fairly unsupportive of Australian content. In a way I do understand, when there's clean nicely packaged DC and Marvel titles on the shelves, not many will be too interested in grabbing an Aussie release. However, it would be nice for a little bit of patriotism. A lot of people may disagree, but I find that Manga is destroying the comic industry a little as well. There's just so much of it suffocating bookshops with shelves and shelves of mostly mass produced crap. Not to say that it's all rubbish, I just would like to see something different once in a while. The Australian industry or lack there of, still has a bit to offer. If people are willing to sift around there's a few cool titles. I would highly recommend anything by Ben Hutchings.

JL: In considering the near invisible state of the Australian comic book scene, it was about time for the little people to make a mark. Yes we have been greatly influenced by the overseas industry and I respect that, some of the greatest titles and stories have come from our cousin countries but I'm all for showing some patriotism to our great country and you should too, buy one of our comics today and you'll receive a pat on the back for free!

DR: How hard is it to self-publish in Australia?

D: I suppose it's not too hard if you actually know what you're doing, which we didn't with it being our first issue. Jean-Luc and myself trawled through an outrageous amount of printers until we found it was cheaper to print with a company in the U.S. Unfortunately, we were screwed around for almost a year until they finally told us they wouldn't print the comic due to its graphic content! It was tossed away like it was a porno rag. Eventually we managed to find a cheap and speedy printing place in Melbourne. The hardest part for me is actually getting it "out there". I'm not very good at self-promotion and find it all rather embarrassing.

JL: Everything is possible if you put your heart and soul into it, (I sound like a mother) but in fact it is just like that. Everything we did is based on our own merits, from production, budget, finding suitable printers, promoting and launching, which makes the process all the more rewarding. The important thing when dealing with anyone external is finding the right people who appreciate the work and can see that we are professional creative types and anything but second rate, which we have been very fortunate to find indeed.

DR: How long before we see a second issue? What can we expect? Will there be others joining the Modern Gentlemen?

D: We're hoping to get the second issue done much faster than the first, hopefully by August. The first issue contains a lot of material that is quite raw, which sometimes I like, but not that raw. Most of what I wrote was very loose and all over the place and I feel, as much as I'm proud of our first issue, that there was room for a lot of improvement. The second issue will be much tighter, we're all more experienced and we all have the same vision. I've become comfortable with writing in a comic format rather than films and have forced myself to do a few more re-writes than usual! I've finished everything I have to write for issue two and seen some work from the other guys. it's safe to say that it's absolute light years ahead of the first. We also have a whole batch of new writers and artists including Joe Coen (a fantastic animator and filmmaker), Daniel Inglese (another great writer and director of the short film The Earl of Sandwich), Tom Kinsman (he writes the most bizarrely ingenious stories I've ever read), Pierre Lloga (who recently wrote and drew an awesome kids book) and a whole host of others.

JL: It's already in the works, we're not holding back a second. it's all been very inspirational to see the success of the first issue whilst working on the second; if anything it's making the production all the more enjoyable and I believe it's going to just get better as we go on, so watch out!

DR: What else besides the comic have are in the works?

A: I've just had a solo art exhibition, which my wallet and liver are still recovering from. I've got another solo in August, so more paintings are in the works, along with a few short comic stories for my own amusement.

JL: Aside from the comic, the Pleasant Production team are in post-production for a feature film entitled Cannibal Suburbia, which Dave and I have produced together. The film is actually a melded compilation of three other films we had previously produced, with added footage to thread the films together, based on one of the Modern Gentlemen comics, "Donkey Punch Disco", so keep your eyes peeled for that one.  I myself have worked externally on a few projects, including the art label and EP design for Melbourne band "The Rex Wicked" and soon to do a music video. Another project in the mix "Hypothesis" a documentary that looks into the mental condition of bipolar; which I've co-produced with my cousin Diahann Lombardozzi, whom the story is based. We've gained some great success winning 1st prize in a health alliance film competition based in America and distribution with various health groups in Australia.

DR: Thanks for your time, fellows, and I wish you all the success in the world.

Support Australian comics!! Modern Gentlemen issue 1 can be purchased from the Pleasant Productions website at www.pleasant-productions.com, and you can also add them to your friends list at www.myspace.com/pleasantproductions, be sure to check them both out!

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