Smash Pages Q&A: Dante Luiz and H. Pueyo

At one point in our conversation, Dante Luiz referred to himself and H. Pueyo as “two unknown Latin Americans,” and while there may be some truth to that at the moment, it cannot be said that they aren’t incredibly talented.

The two writer/artists work separately and together, but they share an interest in South American history and culture, folklore and in looking at violence. Luiz has been published in La Raza Anthology: Unidos y Fuertes and Dates!, and H. has been publishing short fiction in a variety of outlets and has a piece in new volume of the long-running Dirty Diamonds anthology. The two have a short comic in the upcoming anthology Gothic Tales of Haunted Love, which is currently being kickstarted. That’s in addition to their work appearing in other anthologies like Tales from The Public Domain, Tabula Idem, Wayward Sisters and Built on Strange Ground.

How did you come to comics? Were you always interested in the medium?

H. Pueyo: I was always an avid reader of comics. I used to daydream about creating one as a child and teen, but never really tried because I lacked the drawing skills. The first time I considered doing one was when Dante insisted for us to do a comic together, and I ended up writing the script and drawing the rough sketches.

Dante Luiz: Drawing was always my main professional ambition, but I didn’t care much about comics. Unlike H., I only read comics occasionally, and it wasn’t until I was 20 and we both started to take art and writing more seriously, that I had the idea of mixing both of our preferred crafts. Comics ended up being a good mix of her writing and my illustrations, and we have a lot of fun with it.

How did the two of you end up working together?

Luiz: Actually, we started to work together before we were even friends. When we were teens, I had a story contest in a defunct social media, and H. appeared out of nowhere, very excited to participate. She helped me find other contestants, and I fell in love immediately both with her and her writing. Ever since then, we either work together, or help each other in our separate projects.

Pueyo: We only started to take things more seriously a couple of years ago, and nowadays it’s very hard to spot where Dante’s work begins and mine ends. We have amazing synchrony.

How do you work together? Because Dante you described yourself as an artist and occasional writer, and H., you described yourself as a writer and occasional artist.

Pueyo: For shared comics, we brainstorm, decide character names, appearances and backgrounds, and then I do basic sketches of what the protagonists and what the pages will look like. I write narration and dialogues directly on the pages, and only afterward I write the polished script. Dante then proceeds to do the penciling, inking, coloring and lettering, and we’re done.

Our work process is a big part of our daily lives. We live together and discuss our ideas all the time, whether they’re a solo project, team work, or, as you mentioned, the rare situations where I draw and Dante writes. When this happens, we try to help and guide each other to overcome any difficulties we might find.

Luiz: We started to create comics for anthologies with the first volume of Dates, and ever since we’re always searching for similar things because it’s good training before we do books of our own.

I found the call for submissions of Gothic Tales of Haunted Love early in 2017, and I liked the theme right away. We spent a couple of weeks changing an old idea of mine that could fit the genre, and Hope got back to us in February. It was our first acceptance of the year, so it was great to keep us motivated, since it can be hard to be two unknown Latin Americans in this business sometimes.

And do you want to say a little about your piece “Fazenda do Sangue Azul”?

Pueyo: “Fazenda do Sangue Azul” (lit. Farm of the Blue Blood) is set during the Brazilian Dictatorship (1964-1984), and follows Hernanez, a journalist seeking refuge in the countryside. He hides in an abandoned colonial farm that used to belong to a long-forgotten Serbian family of diplomats, but the place is haunted by the ghost of a handsome young man called Luka. An impossible romance and bloody intrigue follows.
We’re both very interested in the history of dictatorships in Latin America, and many of our stories are either set in it, or inspired by it. This piece in particular was influenced by the fact that I was surrounded by journalists as I grew up, and my family has a history of political defiance during the period.

Luiz: That and the coup d’etat our country just suffered. This is also a major reason for us to review this recent past in our stories, as analyzing our history helps us better understand our present.

Dante you work a lot in ink and digital painting and I wonder if you could talk a little about what you like about that material?

Luiz: For many years, I had two huge difficulties with art. One was that I loved traditional inking but was terrible at traditional coloring. The other was that I was terrible at digital line art, but loved the visual of digital colors. It took me a while to understand I could mix both of them pretty easily.

Nowadays, I use a dip pen with a calligraphy nib, Chinese ink and watercolor paper for line art (I’m not sure if any of those were ever supposed to go together, but I love the texture it creates). Then, I scan it, and use Photoshop to treat the image and color it. I believe it gives a very Brazilian, folkloric feel to it.

H., I know you’re also in the new volume of Dirty Diamonds. Do you want to say a little about your piece?

Pueyo: About Dirty Diamonds, this piece is very personal; I don’t think there’s anything I can say about it without making myself or others kind of uncomfortable. It was my first time doing comics alone, and I’m not a professional illustrator, so I had to learn some things from scratch to make it. But it was a good experience, and I hope I have other chances like this in the future.

I do recommend reading the anthology because they do a beautiful job in compiling autobiographical comics, and the previews are looking great.

So what else are you working on or planning?

Pueyo: Besides writing scripts for Dante, I write a lot of short stories on my own. There’s this monster of a novelette about a cursed Uruguayan-Brazilian family inspired by my maternal great-grandmother, and it’s possibly the best and worst thing I ever wrote in English so far. It’s being pretty hard to sell, but I’m trying my best.

Luiz: My entire attention right now is on comics. We ended up participating on too many anthologies this year, and now I have to finish everything at the same time. Besides Gothic Tales of Haunted Love, we just appeared in Tales from The Public Domain and Tabula Idem, and have two forthcoming pieces in Wayward Sisters and Built on Strange Ground. Also, If H.’s novelette ends up homeless, I intend to illustrate it when my schedule gets a bit less hurried. Only god knows what we will do after that.

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