The multi-talented draftsman, screenwriter and graphic designer, Hermes Ursini, delves into the confines of fiction and reality in his latest work, “Bando”, marking his return to the world of comic books. In this comic, Ursini uses a diverse range of traits, techniques and literary genres to explore the complex implications of artistic creation in a society driven by capitalism. He also analyzes the role of these professionals in a contemporary era and highlights the importance of reflecting on art in a world increasingly dominated by automation.
The story follows screenwriter Onetti, who, after returning to Brazil, makes a surprising discovery: a drawer full of works by anonymous authors. The perception of the importance of these works leads him on a personal journey, in which elements and historical figures from European comics, such as Dionnet and Gir, inspire him to explore the East in São Paulo, more specifically the Liberdade neighborhood. There, he meets with editor Shiro Tahashi, and together they realize that they need to create a fictional world to develop a single editorial project.
In this way, the public is introduced to the plots and biographies of several artists: Felipe Layer, Darta, Bob Bear and Sherman. Each of these characters is a facet of Onetti, who in turn is a fictional creation inspired by Hermes Ursini himself. With this creative freedom, the author explores not only the complexities of the artistic process, but also issues deeply rooted in the reality of all of us. This includes representations of characters from different social strata involved in conflictual relationships with the world of work.
Through these pages, the author weaves a rich tapestry of narratives, including the story of a man dealing with the loss of a dear friend, a young man who dreams of becoming an artist as a way of creating a new world, an intellectual subjected to the ties of the capitalist system who realize his condition as a proletarian, and a painter who revolts against the art gallery market, among other stories. Through this intertwining of voices, characters and styles, Hermes Ursini demonstrates how, in many cases, art reveals itself as the last refuge for people in their search for survival. “Bando” was carried out with the support of the Cultural Action Program (ProAC) of the Government of the State of São Paulo, through the Secretariat of Culture, Economy and Creative Industry.
“Bando” addresses the complex relationship between art and capitalist society. How is this interaction explored in your comic book?
Comics are a cobblestone in the capitalist gear. This may be because it depends on a small team and very little money to be produced and gain the light of day. It is authorial, individual. It’s a small stone, but it’s part of it, it’s in the flow of consumption. In “Bando”, the interaction goes from the first story, “Blue Bar da Rê”, with a dazzled narrator at a cosmopolitan happy hour, to the penultimate, a quote from “The Worst in Paris and London”, by Orwell, who wrote This book exudes the horror of living miserably in the midst of limitless wealth in Europe in the 1920s. It denounces the terrible injustice towards the poor, the workhorses that today are being replaced by machines. Intellectual workers now They’re also getting in the line of fire, with this AI bullshit. I made these drawings with a Bic marker, quickly, just sketching and then using a lot of Mac. Nothing more capitalist.
What is the inspiration behind the character Onetti and his journey to find the works of anonymous authors? How does this relate to your own experience as a comic book author?
Onetti is the character, it’s action. Onetti is a demiurge, he has traveled the world, he is a screenwriter and creator of films and comics, which are universes in which we dive for a few hours. Onetti’s journey is internal, he is going through its intricacies to meet the plan of his editor, the Japanese Shiro. Of course it is self-referential. But those who create invent without stopping. He surfs the waves he creates in his mind. Inventing worlds is what most needs to be done, and you only get a good result if you are somehow faithful to what is called objective reality.
The mixture of different styles and literary genres is a striking feature of “Bando”. How does this contribute to the narrative and reflection on art?
If you imagine this album with the same visual and literary style from beginning to end, you won’t have the same album in the end. The breaks in rhythm and flow across different styles and texts obey a story imperative. Onetti is going to get jobs from different guys in different places.
Secondarily: when MTV imposed its language of clips and a lot of changes in the flow of montages, there were people who no longer understood the story, especially the older ones. Today we feel sleepy watching those old clips. I experienced the initial impact of Jimi Hendrix’s sound when he worked in radio and was stunned when they told me that it was blues. I loved it, but I didn’t understand it. The other day I heard on the radio the original recording of “Little Wing” with the Jimi Hendrix Experience, a wonderful ballad, and, in fact, it is a simple song, but by a genius who was ahead of his time.
With each decade we notice that young people arrive with an increasingly altered perception. The speed of human perception is increasing dramatically. And finally, I like to draw in different ways, experimenting with languages and materials. I always look for the style integrated into the story I’m going to tell. In the beginning, I’m always a designer who thinks about the illustration work I’m going to do next.
The city of São Paulo, especially the Liberdade neighborhood, plays an important role in the story. How did the urban environment influence your narrative?
It takes time for a city to enter your life. Sometimes, the designer has to feel a scene from a distance, through photos. Other times, he has to go to the location and absorb it in a day or so. He wanted to have more pages in Liberdade. I have SP in my own skin, as the French say. I like to give a bandola for Liberdade, because it’s full of stories, it’s a magical place. It took us a long time to internalize São Paulo, but now things are flowing. Our city is epic.
Can you tell us about the fictional artists who inhabit the pages of “Bando”, such as Felipe Layer, Darta and others? What do they represent?
I had the jobs. The author characters emerged obeying the obvious: the type of work itself. Felipe Layer is a painter, he builds in layers, by layers, like every painter who used the oil technique that allows infinite layering of colors. And he has a very developed sketch. Darta is a graphist, a universe of lines, affected and cutting. Darta is a Martre Kolinsky number 4 brush loaded with India ink. Bob Bear is closer to comics, more comic books, short narratives. And, with Fox and Belmondo, he talks about one of his idols and personal friend, the designer Al Fox, already dead, but who comes back to life a little in a bar. In fact, it’s an iconic bar: Balcão, on Alameda Tietê. Sherman is an incorrigible romantic, always with a wistful look at the past.
His book explores characters from different social classes in relation to work. How do these stories reflect the complexities of real-world work?
If you are not an heir, you have to be a worker to make a living. Even a politician has to wake up early and wear those tin suits to appear at their work places and make deals. For a bag carrier, a dishwasher, a coal cook, a bricklayer’s assistant, work is an objective reality that ends up destroying their bones. Intellectual work eats from the inside. I always found the ILO standards curious, which determine working hours of 6 hours for intellectual work and 8 hours for physical work. It seemed like a breeze to me, but no. In any case, I don’t know any intellectual worker who complies with this legislation, except, perhaps, in public offices. In other places, since the beginning of the industrial era, people have never worked so many hours, with so much suffering, as they do now. And at the same time, the end of work has never been so feared. It’s a massacre.
How important is it to create a fictional world within the comic book universe? How does this relate to artistic reality?
There’s a scene from one of the “Bando” stories, in which the editor looks at the comic artist’s work and says: “All work is naive. That’s the magic. It’s fiction, but you believe it. It doesn’t matter how much the artist wants to be believable. The important thing is that the trick is evident. We know it’s just composition and drawing, but it really looks real.” In comics you have to believe in the line, in the simulation of reality. Sometimes you fail, but you have to believe and start again to make it work.
How do you believe comic books can provide a way for people to survive in challenging circumstances, as suggested in “Bando”?
A means to help people understand that they can always understand the situation they are in and can be authors of their actions, they can change reality, read what happens in their lives, in their objective reality with different keys. In fact, this is the greatest contribution of fiction (the novel, the written novel, the short story and also the comic book) to the young reader.
The work was carried out with the support of ProAC. How do cultural support programs contribute to the production of art and literature in Brazil?
PROAC is a spectacular program and has made the final production and release of many high-quality works possible. In the case of comics, PROAC is really decisive, as publishers only rarely look at local production. It is important to note that PROAC is decisive for the production process of an album, as it supports the critical moment of a project, in the industrial process, product manufacturing and distribution. And it provides for very fair social compensation, facilitating access to the album, through much lower prices.
But it’s all based not on opportunity, but on the quality of the proposals, which are judged by experts from various areas who are guided by criteria of artistic and cultural quality. A first-world cultural production tool. Instruments like PROAC have already been heavily criticized by obtuse and ignorant politicians, who do not understand what such a stimulus instrument means for the production of culture. They don’t even care about culture, and even less about the artist and the cultural producer.
Finally, what can readers expect as they explore “Bando”? What messages or reflections do you hope they take away from this experience?
It is a proposal for an introspective journey, an internal thriller. It’s like a road where the landscape changes, and references appear here and there all the time. It is a universe in which characters and character creators move, from drawing, literature, even music, with suggestions for soundtracks in certain parts of the stories. It is also a multifaceted story, in which the action arises from the movement itself to create the story. What the reader will take away from this experience depends largely on their own universe and references. One of the objectives I sought most when composing this album was to be able to enchant the reader, with beautiful images, colors and all the playful component that exists in telling a story. The situations that come out of each other and things progress like this until the end.
We can also call this “the pleasure of looking and finding meaning in the narrative”. But what I like most and continue to develop in another album that I am already producing is the change in image, the variety of formats and visual resources, in the service of telling the story. There’s a world to be made of it. And an entire universe for the reader to experience.
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