Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the upcoming English-language release of your graphic novel, TITAN, through Oni Press! For those who may be unfamiliar, how would you describe the story’s premise, and what inspired you to tell this story?
François Vigneault: Thanks! I’m very excited for the book to finally be coming out in English! TITAN is the story of João da Silva and Phoebe Mackintosh, two people from literally different worlds that find themselves caught up together in a crisis on the moon of Titan nearly two centuries in the future. Phoebe and her fellow Titans are giants, having been genetically engineered to work and live in the harsh conditions of the moon. João and the other managers and security are from the Earth, and the tensions between the Titan workers and their Terran overlords are already at a boiling point when João arrives… And things only get more intense from there. Together, Phoebe and João must find a way to pull Homestead Station back from the brink of disaster… Or Titan might be the spark that sets the as the entire solar system ablaze. TITAN was inspired by a range of sources, from the simple, almost silly idea of “What if there were giant people?” to a desire to create a story of people caught up in the flow of historical events. But the largest inspiration for TITAN was doubtless a desire to explore the history of class conflict, racial tension, and the enduring problems of caste in our own world through the lens of science fiction.
BD: How would you describe your creative process in balancing the writing and illustrative duties of the series, and what have been some of your creative influences?
FV: I have a very freeform creative process, which includes a lot of improvisation as the story progresses. When I began TITAN, I had the basic premise and characters in mind, and a strong idea of the conclusion of the book, but much of the middle was still very hazy, so there were definitely lots of surprises along the way! Luckily, since I am both the artist and author of the book, I have a lot of freedom to work things out as I go… I will often start with very rough pencils/thumbnails, blocking out a chapter without an exact idea of what the dialogue will be, instead I will know “Character X has to arrive at Setting Y by the end of this scene.” Then, I experiment with dialogue, action, placements, etc as I go.
For creative influences, it is really all over the place, but some authors and cartoonists I come back to over and over include: Ursula K. Le Guin, Ernest Hemingway, Italo Calvino, Jaime Hernandez, Jeff Smith, Daniel Clowes, Kerascöet, Dupuy & Berberian, Michel Rabagliati, Sammy Harkham, Edvin Biukovic, Julie Doucet, Dylan Horrocks, John Porcellino, Charles Burns, Debbie Drechsler, Taiyo Matsumoto, Stan Sakai, Tove Jansson, Alan Moore, Chris Samnee, and many, many more.
BD: As the graphic novel has been available in an award-winning French-language edition, what can you tell us about your experience in having it translated to English?
FV: Yes, the funny thing is that I originally wrote the book in English! Despite my very French name and the fact that the book came out from Éditions Pow Pow first (way back in 2017), I was actually born in the USA and I am actually most comfortable writing in English. That said, the experience of publishing in English and in the USA is very different than the process here in Canada… The publishing market in the English-speaking world is really huge compared to the market here in Québec, so the process is longer and has more moving parts. (There were also some delays due to Covid-19, as well.) But the extra time did give me the chance to make some little tweaks to the story, cleaning up some of the art in early chapters and making some changes to the writing, and even drawing a few more pages… So, the English-language edition of TITAN definitely feels like a brand new book to me in some ways!
BD: At Fanbase Press this year, our #StoriesMatter initiative endeavors to highlight the impact that stories can have on audiences of various mediums. How do you feel that Titan’s story will connect with and impact readers, and why do you feel that this story was important for you to bring to life?
FV: As I mentioned, TITAN came out over three years ago, so it has been honestly surprising and upsetting to see how many elements of the book are reflected in the events and news of 2020… Some of the moments of protest, violence, and abuse of authority that you see in TITAN feel like they could have been lifted directly from the nightly news, unfortunately. There are a lot of dark elements in TITAN, but the book is also ultimately a book about hope for the future and reconciliation, so perhaps the book will help people to see a light at the end of the tunnel as it were. For me, writing TITAN was a way of processing my complicated and unsettled thoughts about the past and present by reflecting on the future. I don’t necessarily have any concrete answers to our societal and historical ills, but by looking at them through TITAN I was at least able to pose some new questions for myself. Also, hopefully the book is a fun, engaging story as well, haha! TITAN is my version of an engaging, thrilling sci-fi adventure, but with a good helping of social consciousness as well… Hopefully it will connect with people.
BD: Are there any upcoming projects on which you are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?
FV: I am working full-time on a new comic book series, but it hasn’t officially been announced so I can’t say much about it! I can tell you that I am illustrating it (not writing), it will be in color, and it is going to be a monthly sci-fi comedy series, worlds away from the tone and look of TITAN. More info about that will be coming soon; that series will premiere in 2021.
In my limited free time, I am working on the early stages of another graphic novel more in line with the themes and feel of TITAN, a sort of expansion and sharpening of some of the critiques of capitalism that you see in my first book… A thriller that blends sci-fi, folktales, and the Gothic novel. But again, that book is just getting started so I can’t tell you too much about that one either, unfortunately!
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find more information about TITAN and your other work?
FV: Your readers can visit my website, francois-vigneault.com, for all the latest about TITAN and my other projects, I blog and have an email newsletter, all that good stuff! They can also check out my Instagram profile for art and more. TITAN can be pre-ordered right now over at my Bookshop page, and it will be coming out from Oni Press in stores everywhere on November 10th!