Cyril Pedrosa: Walking into the Shadows

A comics interview article by: Charles Webb
What would you do if you opened your front door to find three men looking down up on your house? What would you do, if you discovered that they were there for your child? Three Shadows asks that very question.

Recently, Charles Webb got the chance to catch up with Cyril Pedrosa, writer/artist of Three Shadows to pick his brain about his newest release coming out of First Second Books.


Charles Webb: Could you tell our readers a little bit about Three Shadows?

Cyril Pedrosa: Three Shadows is a story about a young boy, called Joachim, who lives quietly with his parents, isolated from the rest of the world. One day, three shadows, three strange riders, appear on the top of the hill in front of Joachim's house. When Joachim's parents understand the riders are here for their son, Louis, Joachim's father, decide to run away, with his son, to try to protect him from the riders. The book is the story of their journey.

Webb: A lot of the story has the feel of a fable or fairy tale. What kind of research or inspiration went into developing the book?

Pedrosa In fact, while in the process of writing the script, I thought a lot about the European fable writers, like the Brothers Grimm, or the traditional popular stories that we have in France since the Middle Ages. It inspired me a lot, because I was looking for a way to talk about this tough subject, the loss of a child, without the “pathos” of reality. In fables, it's always about death, love, meaning of life, metaphysical subjects, but hidden, as a second reading behind the tale, behind the charm of the plots and the events of the story.

Webb: You were an animator at Disney for a while. What was that experience like and what did it bring to your current work?

Pedrosa: My “Disney Experience” is an old story, fifteen years ago, but it really was a good experience, in several ways. At first, I was impressed to work in the middle of such a great team of talented people, and I learned a lot. I was working in the Disney studio in Paris, I was a young clean up assistant, and when, every day, you get to see Glean Kean's drawings, or Peter de Seve's storyboard, hanging up on the wall of the studio, you do learn a lot. But the main experience for me was to understand that I wasn't fond enough of animation to stay in the studio. When I met David Chauvel, a French comics writer, and when he proposed that I work on his new script, it was time to make a decision... And I chose comics.

Leaving the studio was one of the most important choices of my life.

Webb: What are some of the other graphic novels you’ve worked on?

Pedrosa: Well, I can talk about Ring Circus, the very first book I drew, based on a script written by my friend, David Chauvel. We've done almost ten books together, in different styles (nonsense comedy, adventure stories for kids, romance....). Unfortunately none have been translated into English, and they haven’t really been successful, haha! I'm afraid there is a link between those two points... Anyway, I loved those books. As I was working with David, I started over several years to draw my own stories, on the side, or “more personal projects,” I should say. Three Shadows is one of those books.

Webb: How long was the process for developing Three Shadows?

Pedrosa: It took a few years, from the very beginning idea to the final publication. Because I waited a long time, throwing around the subject, trying to find a way to tell the story I had in mind, and also finding a publisher. After all those hesitations, I maybe spent more or less 6 month writing the story, while I was finishing the drawings of another book, and it took me one full time year to draw the pages.

Webb: Was the ending you arrived at the one you originally envisioned?

Pedrosa: More or less... I was in a special state of mind when I started to work on it, depressed about my own work, losing my self-confidence, almost hating my drawings, wondering if I was going artistically in a good direction. Anyway, I say all that to explain that with this book, I have tried to answer these kinds of questions: what do I deeply want to do? What is the point of making comics? How can I manage to be freer in my own work?

To answer to your question, I didn't really envisioned the book: I mean, I didn't really know how it would look; I started to draw, and that's it. But, I was envisioning the state of mind I would like to keep in mind: try to be completely free. It's a fight against myself I seriously started to have with this book. And I succeeded, more or less... Let's say it was a first step in the right direction.

Webb: Did the story surprise you in the process of putting it on the page?

Pedrosa: It did, absolutely, because the story wasn't absolutely planned. Of course, I had in mind a solid backbone, and a lot of notes etc... But as I didn't have any page limit, I was feeling freer than ever to write what I wanted, to accept unexpected ideas. It was the opposite of a controlled writing process.

I don't have the words in English to explain it clearly, but it is only the second book I’ve written, and it was a REAL surprise to discover I had those kinds of ideas in my head and could manage to play with them. It was like discovering a hidden lake, and discovering you can swim in this lake.

Webb: Are you a parent yourself? If so, did that affect the writing of the book?

Pedrosa: Well, to sum up, I wouldn't have written and drawn this book if I wasn't the father of two kids. This story comes from a personal experience, and from my personal fears of losing my sons. Those kinds of fears are abstract when you don't know in your flesh and in your blood what it is to be a parent.

Webb: Do you think there’s a secret to striking the balance between protecting a child and letting them experience the world?

Pedrosa: If there is a secret, I would like to know it! I think it's like all the parents’ jobs: try to do your best and make a lot of mistakes.

Webb: What’s next for you?

Pedrosa: I'm just finishing two pages for a nursery rhymes anthology that will be published with First Second, and I have to finish the last part of my new graphic novel, called Portugal. It comes from an autobiographical event, about my family and the links I have (or somehow don't have) with my grandfather’s original country, Portugal. I'm really excited about it, it's a lot of work to do, a lot of pages, but I'm deeply involved in it. It will be published as a book in France in September 2011, by Dupuis publishing. But it will possibly be available to read sooner, in French and I hope in English, on a new web site called 8COMIX, I'm creating with other French friends and comics artist. It will be a collective website of comics, free-to-read, with a lot of different projects.

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