Faithless is unlike any other series. Writer Brian Azzarello and artist Maria Llovet have crafted a utterly compelling offering this writer recently described as “modern erotica meets Skins and The Magicians.” But it’s so much more than risque material, magic, high fashion and art, and chaos on the streets of Italy; Faithless is a series about human connectivity, the power of sexuality, and our desire to embrace the unknown. It’s a series where the real magic what it actually says about us all.
This week, Azzarello and Llovet debuted Faithless II, a brand-new six-issue miniseries that continues the story of Faith, Louis, and Poppy. We recently touched base with Llovet to talk about this new chapter as well as her inspirations/influences, the story’s evolving visual identity, balancing risque material, and much more.
AIPT: How has the series’ larger aesthetic or visual identity developed between one and two?
Well I think it’s important to maintain the consistency between the two, as are parts of the same story, and it has to have a continuity. But there’s more of the supernatural element in this new arc, which allows to create new ways of portraying what is not necessarily new, and also a lot of real locations in Turin.
AIPT: Are there things you did differently in creating the art for this latest series? Are there things that feel important to Faithless’ larger creative core?
Not really because, as I was telling you, it’s important to maintain a continuity. Of course the things happening and locations are different, but I can’t really make changes without affecting the result in a weird way.
For example, I’d like to try new things with colors, but Faithless is not the place to do experiments, especially as we move into a new arc and the visuals are already established.
Neither is my new personal project for example, because I’ve already started it and the script asks me for certain things.
I need to find the right project for experimenting or making changes of some kind because otherwise is chaos. There are so many elements to pay attention to when you’re making a comic.
Some illustrator friends have said it to me, when trying to do pages instead of single images, that they didn’t realize the complexity of it before. And it’s true.
You can go crazy with everything, that’s why it’s so hard to start a career as single author, and maybe one of the reasons why most people decide to work only in collaboration; it’s not just the market/publishing difficulties, the real problem is facing the work itself, because taking care of everything can drive you mad. If you stick around things get better with time. But it’s hard work, you have to hang in there trying to figure it all out and get better at every aspect step by step.
It’s also amazingly rewarding, but most of the time you just want to throw everything down the window.
AIPT: Does a series become easier or harder to draw and develop as you move into multiple arcs and/or chapters?
I guess it depends, but maybe a bit of both. It gets easier because you already know the characters (although there are lots of new ones in this arc!) and have already got your hand around drawing them, getting the right feel etc.
On the other hand it gets harder for me because I have so many things in my head and so many personal stories I want to work in, that I get a bit stressed if I have to work on the same thing for a long time. This happens to me either if I work on collaboration as in Faithless, or on my own projects as well. No matter how much I love the story, I need to oxygenate and change to something else after some time.
AIPT: For you as the artist, how do you decide what’s too much to show or is too risqué versus what feels appropriate? Or do you not engage in that level of pre-planning?
There are two aspects to have in consideration with that.
One is what’s happening. The script determines that, and how the scene develops in a general way. Here’s where this decision you ask about starts, and if the script requires to show something or not, that’s the way to go in general terms.
Then there’s the “intuition” part, that comes with the translation of this script into graphic narrative when I do the storyboard and imagine the sequence. This is something difficult to explain, and I think it’s related to everyone’s sensibility as an author or artist. I can’t explain how it works because I don’t know. There are just things that feel right and others that don’t (not only on sex scenes but in general), and they’re different for every person. I think that is what defines personal style, even more than a line like this or a color like that.
I have to say though, that when I write, this two aspects get mixed and the intuition part takes part in the script process. In Faithless we’re two people so I guess it’s Brian’s intuition in step one, and then mine picking up in step two.
AIPT: How much of the art tells the story — is it split 50/50 with the dialogue/narration? Is the fact that this is erotica, which is such a deeply visual form, influence this split at all?
The thing is, I don’t think the final result of a comic should be considerate something “splittable” at all. It is the sum of two different things that merge into something new. I’ll explain myself;
First, script is not equivalent to dialogue. You can have a completely silent comic and, what? Does that mean there is no script? Of course there is, there are lots of things happening, and you understand them through image. There’s simply no text to accompany, but “what’s happening” is the script.
One thing is what you tell, and the other how you tell it. The “what” is still script. The “how” is visual narrative and has to come from the artist, and is the way of how you trespass this script into sequential image.
Then a comic is not like a book nor like a fixed image.
The language of comic is to be read through sequential narrative. It’s not one thing or the other (script-art), not split, but merged to create something else, a different language, a result of the sum of two different things.
So the final work is something new.
In my opinion there’s a too extended tendency to catalog and dissect, rate and box. this is not the way of dealing with art.
Art needs to be felt.
There are works that are 10 in one aspect and 0 in another. Are these works a five? A zero? Certainly not a 10, right? Then, why not? Art is not bound by the laws of mathematics.
There are times I watch a movie that is horrible and yet I love it because it’s brilliant in some aspect, or makes me have a good time. Then there are lots of movies today, big, shiny expensive movies, that are booooring even if they try very hard to be a 5 in every aspect, be polite, don’t offend nobody, check, check. What’s the point? It feels like being dead.
They’re eliminating the chance of unpredictable things happening, including factor X. That’s why everything is so perfectly dull.
Not sure I answered your question — haha! Sorry.
AIPT: How has the creative process evolved between you and Brian?
It’s pretty much the same as when we started. I work on the pages based on the script by Brian. I never send them storyboards because they’re so small and chaotic, done the way I need, not to show or for anyone else to really understand. I find the usual back and forth steps a bit tiring (and a bit pointless) so I minimize them, I try to send the colored pages directly, but sometimes I send inks if they need to start lettering or there are delays, etc. I know this is not the usual but it’s the best way for me as I can work faster and more diligently. Then Sierra, our editor, and Brian review the pages and discuss changes/comments if needed.
Let’s be honest, nobody really likes changes, but I prefer doing them later than along the way, even if they’re big ones. And even if changes are a pain, in this case of Faithless I have to say that 100% of the time they’re for the best.
AIPT: Is it odd jumping back into part two after just a year or so? Does the timing at all impact your creative process, or will it influence/shape readers?
Well, It was actually just 4 months for me since I finished arc one and started the second, so it really isn’t that much time. And as I was telling you before, I actually need to oxygenate my mind and change from projects. I started working on my next personal project in these 4 months, that will be my first work directly conceived to be published in comic book format (Heartbeat was originally a graphic novel). But I knew I had not time to complete it before Faithless II, I’ve done one issue of 5, and it’s on hold right now.
As for readers I don’t know, but I don’t think it makes a difference, other than maybe being impatient wanting to know more about the story and characters, of course.
AIPT: What stories/art influenced your work with part one? Have there been new inspirations or the like picked up along the way?
That’s difficult to say, there are lots of things that influence me but not in particular for Faithless. It’s just influence for me in general. And also everything depends on what’s happening on the script, so I don’t think I can have many abstract inspirations when working on collaborations other than searching for ways of representing something specific in a scene etc.
For personal work is different, many things can trigger the interest of drawing something or to imagine a scene or potential characters.
It’s something you’re constantly aware and open for. Can happen all the time.
Faithless II #1 is available now wherever comics are sold.