Prior to the release of Carver: A Paris Story, published by Z2 Comics which is creator Chris Hunt’s homage to Corto Maltese. Chris is a somewhat reverse pioneer, an Idaho native, currently living in the New York. Along the way, we caught up with Chris to talk about Carver, influences, comparisons and Chris’s New York experience: –
CC: Carver certainly seems to be able to take care of himself. What were the inspirations that helped form the character?
CH: Carver, a notorious mans man of fortune who sets off on an adventure to help the only woman he has ever loved, was inspired by a number of my fictional heroes. From an early age, I’ve always wanted to be Indiana Jones — I mean, I’ve always liked the character a lot hahaha. As an adult, when I was first dipping my toes into making comics, I came across Hugo Pratts Corto Maltese, and that character has had a more direct influence on Carver than anything. I like to think that Corto and Carver may have across each other somewhere in their adventures, and perhaps shared a cigarette on the deck of a tramp steamer headed towards some mysterious isle.
CH: Paul Pope has had the most direct influence on me, as his work is a bit of a crossroads for these different comics cultures — Japan, the United States and Europe. He opened up a whole broad world of comics storytelling not just for me, but for a lot of people here in the states. Paul was also my gateway to Hugo Pratt. It’s kind of like when you come across a band you really like: you start digging around and learning what their influences are, and you start going down a rabbit hole. I found out about Pratt by sifting through interviews like this that Paul had done over the years, slowly building a list of greatest hits, so to speak, to study. There are a lot of European creators on that list.
CC: What was it like to work with your favourite artist? What did you get from it and what is the thing you will always remember?
CH: Grateful is the best way I think I can answer that question. They say that you shouldn’t meet your heroes, but in my case I’m incredibly fortunate to have had the good fortune to admire someone with a heart as big as his talent. I had the chance to spend a lot of time with Paul since I did a residency with him at The Atlantic Center for The Arts in 2010, where I learned how to use the brush. We’ve had a great many discussions about technique and shop talk, but one of the most important things that Paul reinforced for me, just by spending enough time with him, is that amazing storytellers like him don’t just appear out of thin air — they have to be shaped over time. I think a lot of us have a tendency to think that the people we admire just got lucky or were born more talented than us, but the truth is that they just worked incredibly hard to get where they are, in most cases.
CC: How much of Carver’s story is relatable to yourself?
CH: I related to Carvers story more and more as I’ve aged along with him. Originally, Carver was just a throwaway character that I used in a short story in my application to Pauls residency at ACA. The story was much simpler when I first conceived it back in 2010, but I was also a simpler person at that time. In 2011 life shifted a bit for me when I lost two of my best friends back to back. There’s no way to describe what it’s like to lose young people suddenly when you yourself are still young. It became a battle to keep my head above water, which I had to do for myself and for some of the people around me. My road back from that began to work its way into Francis story within the book.
CC: Carver and Stacker seem very much cut from a similar cloth as say Batman and the Joker. Will we get to see how their relationship developed or devolved?
CH: There definitely is a dynamic between the two of them that will come to light as this arc progresses. Don’t want to give too much away, but they represent two sides of the same coin. The thing about Stacker and Carver is that they don’t have a clear good versus bad dichotomy like Bats versus Joker. Stacker says it best, “sometimes you gotta become a bad man, to do something good”. There isn’t anything clearly good about Carver in this first issue, aside from the fact that he’s the main character of the book. If anything, he’s kind of an asshole for a lack of a better way of saying it. I think readers will be surprised by how the curtain gets pulled back on both of these men, as well as their past relationship.
CH: I see what you did there hahaha. Well, Paris has always been fascinating to me since I was a little boy. I grew up in Ohio first, then in Idaho since the age of 9, and as much as I loved pastoral scenery and mountains, I kind of always longed to go to these exotic metropolises like Paris, or New York. Again, I think it’s the media I grew up admiring. When I got into the ex-pat writers and the whole Lost Generation of Paris in the 1920s, I think they cemented a fascination with Paris for me. I finally got the chance to visit Paris in 2010, when I travelled to Aix-en-Provence to visit my ex-girlfriend, and we spent a long weekend in Paris together before I went back to Boise. That visit became the backbone of A Paris Story.
CC: I understand you are living in New York, so I have to ask, Jets or Giants, Mets or Yankees?
You know, I’ve never really had an NFL team. I’ve always been more of a college football guy having grown up in Columbus, then Boise. As far as baseball goes, I have to go Mets. I was just talking to a friend the other day about trying to go to a game while I’m here. I’ve been a hermit for the past couple of years, and aside from going to The Metropolitan Museum of Art quite a bit, I haven’t done a lot of real New York stuff. I have to admit though, my first MLB game was in Boston and I’ve been something of a Red Sox fan since I was about 8!
CC: How do you find the experience of living in the Big Apple?
CH: It’s been interesting. Definitely a departure from Boise. I’ve got my neighbourhood on lockdown. I have my coffee shop, my local bar, my local pizza place where the guys call me Cowboy when I come in. Native blue-collar New Yorkers are the best and I’ve been lucky to meet some really great people around my neighbourhood in Manhattan. The natives can get a little pushy and loud at times, but it’s just because they are unapologetically vocal about all things, which I respect. You tend to always know where you stand with people who are from here. In that respect, it reminds me a lot of Idaho. It was necessary for me to get out of there, though, as much as I love it. New York really is a proving ground and it isn’t for the faint of heart. If you show up here without a goal, thinking you will feel things out, I think you’re in for a big surprise. It’s an amazing place with a lot of opportunity but you have to really go after it — and to go after it, you need to know what you’re looking for. I firmly believe that if I had stayed in Idaho, I wouldn’t have been able to break through in comics and wouldn’t be much more than a dedicated hobbyist.
CC: I hear your work has been compared to Ernest Hemingway, (which would make you blush if you weren’t so manly) couple of questions, how did such a comparison make you feel, proud, nervous etc and secondly what’s wrong with blushing?
Ha! Well, I don’t know if my work has been compared to Hemingway, I know I have been though. I tend to wear a moustache and a Carver haircut a lot, and I never really changed over to a New York wardrobe. I still wear what I could ostensibly walk into the mountains with at any given moment. It does make me blush honestly, and I will admit that there isn’t anything wrong with that! Admittedly, it makes me feel kind of proud on a superficial level but it is a lot to live up to. I will say that one thing I think about is Hemingways’ quote, “All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.” I strive to do the same with how I make comics, only my sentences are a combination of words and pictures. It is my goal to show something that evokes a familiarity, and an emotion by trying to cut to the heart of the matter as effectively as possible.
CC: I am a big Counting Crows fan and people will say their first album August And Everything is their best. With such high praise for your work, how do ensure the next book will be better than the last?
I have friends who are musicians and they talk about the sophomore slump, so to speak. I can’t place any judgment on them, but for me thinking like that is counterproductive. To me there are a number of different ways to succeed as an artist. I think the most important thing in my life as a storyteller is to always seek to tell a real story to the best of my abilities, and to always know the intentions behind the thing. A Paris Story has adventure trappings, as well as noir, but at the heart of it, it’s a story about a person finding themselves again after great loss and pain. That’s real and that’s something I personally have had to deal with, and I know others have too. I’d like to think that the audience that eventually finds Carver will recognize that. I think that’s truly what art should strive to do, to make some attempt to communicate commonalities amongst ourselves as human beings and to shine a light into the darkness in an attempt to show people that they are not alone. If I succeed with that in some fashion with this first arc of Carvers saga, then I’d bring the same intention to my follow-up, hopefully with greater insight and ability.
That’s great Chris. Thanks for taking the time to speak to us. The first issue looks great and I am looking forward to see future issues.
The first issue of Carver: A Paris Story can be ordered using the Diamond Code :- SEP151762.
Keep an eye open on the review section for the upcoming review of the first issue.