Smash Pages Q&A: Gustavo Borges on ‘Petals’

The Brazilian creator discusses the American printing of his wordless tale, his webcomics and more.

Petals, the new book out from BOOM! Studios, isn’t a new release. Gustavo Borges, who wrote and drew the book, originally published it in his native Brazil in 2015. The book is presented as an oversized hardcover and the wordless tale owes as much to picture books as it does to comics. The story of three characters – two foxes and a bird – dealing with a hard winter, it manages to be both sweet and fable-like, but also serious. It’s a story about three people coming together to survive a long, difficult winter and the result is a book that is truly striking and moving.

This is Borges first book to be released here in the United States, but he’s been making comics for many years. He’s made webcomics like Edgar and A Entediante Vida de Morte Crens, and books like Escolhas and Até o Fim. Borges was kind enough to answer a few questions about the book.

I always like to ask people, how did you come to comics? 

I’ve wanted to be an artist since I was a kid but I didn’t know in what medium. When I discovered the Dragon Ball manga, I realized that comics were something that could be created on your own without always needing a big corporation behind you. This led me to study and fall in love with comics.

Where did Petals begin? 

It began in 2014, with a feeling that I was creating something bigger than my previous work (web strips) in terms of ton and format. I had one goal in mind – to create an emotionally strong and pointed story.

At what stage did you decide that you wanted to tell the story without words? 

Once I visualized the image of a fox and a bird trying to walk in the snow, I realized that could the story could be told without words and it would take my narrative to the next level.

What was the hardest moment or scene when it came to telling the story without words? 

The moment where the Little Fox is deciding if the bird enter the house. In this moment, the character is making a subjective decision, but it had to be clear for the readers.

Can you talk a little about designing the characters? Why did you decide to make them two foxes and a bird, for example. 

I don’t start a project without studying a lot in advance, so I looked a lot at foxes and tall birds since they were chosen to represent hidden meanings in their journeys. I don’t want to spoil anything if you haven’t read the book yet. I wanted to make a story about a big moment of generosity and that meant two rival animals helping each other.

I’m not going to spoil the ending, but I’m curious if you knew that was the ending from when you first started? 

Yes, was the second thing that came to my head when I started thinking about it. Before I have a script, I think about one or two scenes that I love and help me develop the story I wanted to tell.

Can you talk a little about collaborating with Cris Peter on the colors? 

One year before we worked on Petals, I never imagined we would be collaborating – she’s a renowned artist and I felt like I was (and still feel like) a young artist starting his career. We’ve been friends since 2013 and then in 2014 we shared a table at a comics convention in Brazil, after which I shared with her the initial layouts for Petals. She loved it and asked if she could color it – how could I say no?

I know that you make other comics and webcomics and work on other projects.

Yes, Petals its just one of my many works. Here in Brazil I have published seven books and I’m always sharing all of it in my instagram.

What’s next for you? Has making Petals and telling the story in this way, as a long comicbook, changed what you what to try or do next? 

Petals was originally published in 2015 and it was a key point in my career – I’ve changed a lot since then. In October I’m releasing Cebolinha in Brazil, which is a new original graphic novel about the Mauricio de Sousa character known to you as Jimmy five, from Monica’s Gang. It’s definitely my best work so far. I also have a new project coming up with Cris Peters – but this one will have words.

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