Fanbase Press Interviews Julian Voloj and Thomas Campi on ‘The Joe Shuster Story’

The following is an interview with writer Julian Voloj and artist Thomas Campi regarding the upcoming release of their graphic novel, The Joe Shuster Story: The Artist Behind Superman, from publisher Super Genius. In this interview, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief Barbra Dillon chats with Voloj and Campi about the inspiration behind the graphic novel, the challenges of depicting such an iconic individual, what readers can anticipate from the story, and more!  Plus, check out the advance preview of the graphic novel below!



Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the upcoming release of your graphic novel, The Joe Shuster Story, The Artist Behind Superman!  What inspired you tell to this story, and what do you hope that readers will take away from your work?

Julian Voloj: I love origin stories, and this is the ultimate origin story. It’s not only the story of Superman’s creation, but also the story of the genre that he inspired. And the contract that Siegel and Shuster signed is the original sin of the comic book industry, given the rights to their creation away to the publishers.

Superheroes have become a global phenomenon, but most people who see Superman or other characters on the big screen don’t think about the creators.

I hope that this book, which is an homage to the comic book pioneers, will make readers think more about the creative minds behind each character.

BD: Julian, as the writer, your body of work masterfully explores the identity of your characters.  How do you feel that readers will most strongly connect with the individuals in this story?

JV: Thank you for your kind words.

I believe that readers will identify with them; after all, they were the original nerds in a time before the term even existed. Siegel and Shuster were fanboys. They loved science fiction, pulp magazines, and movies; they were kids with dreams, and then their biggest dream becomes reality and later turns into a nightmare. It’s hard not to feel sympathetic with them.

Yes, the graphic novel is the story of Superman’s creation, but it’s way more than just that. It really is a story about friendship, about dreams, hopes, success, and failure - universal topics everyone can relate to.

BD: This story will shine a light on the successes and struggles of the characters, including their struggles against the confines of the industry.  How would you describe your approach to balancing the characters’ trials and tribulations while still infusing the story with their hope and drive towards creating such an impactful icon in the industry?

JV: It was important to me to put their story into the wider historical context. It is important to understand the realities in which Siegel and Shuster grew up and created Superman, but it is also important to understand the wider context in which they became successful and forgotten. It is a slice of American history, a story of immigrant kids chasing their dreams and a history of Jews in America. If we look, for instance, at the anti-comic book crusade in the 1950s, there is no doubt that the trials against the industry had antisemitic undertones, and this less than a decade after the Holocaust.

But it is really the story of two kids. It’s a human interest story; their struggles feel real, because they are real people. They are not flawless and they make mistakes, and this gives them depth.

BD: Thomas, in illustrating the world of The Artist Behind Superman, did you find that you had a specific vision in mind for the style of the graphic novel, and were there any creative inspirations that you explored while executing that vision?

Thomas Campi: I felt a bit of pressure at the beginning. Working on such a popular story about the two artists who created the first superhero and basically helped the birth of the American comics industry was intimidating. But the more I got to know about Joe and Jerry and their genuine passion for telling stories and for comics, the more I felt close to them and confident (if that’s possible when making comics) in approaching the 160 pages I had to storyboard and draw. Julian’s narration is full of emotion and based on solid research. He trusted my storytelling skills, which brought an inspiring freedom to my creativity.

I didn’t want to define everything with a line, not even in the first steps of the creation of the page. That’s why, after I sketched the storyboards, I simply painted over them without penciling, trying to give a more painterly feeling to the final page—something that could suggest a particular mood, describe a moment. I really tried to not overwork the artwork with too many details that would have filled the page but not added any emotion. I wanted something warm, like dear memories.

BD: Are there any other projects on which you are working that you are able to share with our readers?

JV: In the fall, Urban China, an imprint of French publisher Dargaud, will publish another non-fiction graphic novel I wrote. It’s the story of a British educator who was arrested during the Chinese Cultural Revolution and ended up for five years in solitary confinement. It’s a fascinating tale illustrated brilliantly by artist Henrik Rehr.

TC: I’m currently working with Vincent Zabus on our fifth book together (after Macaroni! and Magritte - This is not a biography, among others). The working title is L’ evéil (The Awakening), a one-shot of 80 pages in full color to be published by Delcourt. For this story, I went back to traditional inking on paper, and even the lettering is handwritten on the page. I’m also preparing a solo exhibition for the end of this year. Fingers crossed!

BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find out more about The Joe Shuster Story, The Artist Behind Superman?

JV: First of all, you can go to our publisher’s site to order the book.  Do yourself a favor and get the hardcover edition. It’s worth the few extra bucks.  And we have a Facebook page where we will regularly posting updates.

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