Talking Schlock with Serge Buyse

Posted by on December 4th, 2010 at 1:33 PM

Serge Buyse is a creative monster: from graphic design to rapper to illustrator and comics artist. Having published his first graphic novel Adventures in Cult City, I had a chat with to talk comics and schlock.

I’m curious as to why, as a Belgian artist, you reached the conclusion to break into the American comics industry while in Europe there’s such a floundering comics scene?

Serge Buyse: I don’t know anything about European comics, sadly, unless you mean the classic “strip”. I used to read a lot of humorstrips (De Generaal, FC Knudde, G Raf Zerk,etc.), my favourites were Don Lawrence’s Storm (which I know is not humor) and Guust Flater (Gaston in english) by Franquin. I think André Franquin is one of the all time greats, much better than Hergé. Except for some Judge Dredd I never read any real non- U.S. cmics. I’ve been reading American comics since age 11 and pretty soon I read nothing else, sequential and art-wise.

I wrote my book in English so I could have a wider audience,nothing more to it.

Serge’s take on Marvel’s First Family

So what is the essence about the American comics form that makes it stand out from the European way of making comics?

Buyse: The subject material goes a lot deeper in the US, especially if – like me – you like horror. Belgian horror amounts to nothing more than “the ghost in the castle” and “the monster in the basement” type of concepts, if you know what I mean. I can’t imagine Hellboy or Mr Monster being produced in Europe.
And of course I was attracted to superheroes!

Bring on the Marvel Comics bad guys!

How did you arrive at the high concept of Adventures in Cult City?

Buyse: I didn’t want to draw the same characters all the time and decided to make the city the central character, just like Astro City! Just naming the book Cult City seemed very obvious so I added “Adventures in”. I think the title describes the spirit of the book very well; it sounds fresh. I just hope it’s not seen as an attempt to sound hip – most books like this have nothing more to offer than the fact that it sounds cult or campy. I’m just trying to make good, solid, old school comics. The whole cult/b-movie thing, that’s just me.

Portrait of legendary actor Peter Cushing

What is so bewitching about the cult and pulp genre?

Buyse: I don’t know. I always liked horror and the fantastic. The first movie I remember is Jason and the Argonauts. When I drew a picture about it in first grade, my teacher gave me a funny look. I still remember that after all those years! I think it’s the fact that good b-movies can be very wild and spirited.

I think that – as a cult fan myself – cult fans are genre fans, so what is your favourite genre cultwise?

Buyse: Horror, in the first place, and kung fu – but more the 80s than the 70s. Also Godzilla, samurai movies, Orgazmo, early Jeunet, Carpenter, Burton, etc but above all Joe Dante. He’s the man!

Lots of stuff,really, and not just b-movies.

What are some of the most influential cult movies that resonated with you personally?

Buyse: Mr Vampire and the whole hopping vampire genre, the Blind Dead movies, the Phantasm movies, Romero’s zombie epics, Return of the Living Dead, Shock Waves, Gamera 2, the Lone Wolf and Cub series, Jason movies, Stephen Chow, Yuen Woo Ping kung fu wizard comedies, and many, many, many wonderful other ones.

Above all,two of my favourite movies of all time: Tremors and Ghostbusters. You see? Real movies, too!

Adventures in Cult City definitely has a nostalgic flair to it. Is your childhood a source of inspiration to you?

Buyse: It’s just that I’m inspired by the movies and stuff from back then, just like anyone. Cult City is my take on the greatest kid’s movie of all time: The Monster Squad.

Your art style definitely has a classic look to it, perfect for the subject matter but also contains contemporary elements. How did you arrive at this look?

Buyse: I used to use many thin lines and in the early stages of Cult City I accidentally stumbled on the thick line. I decide to go that way and it gives it a sort of animated feel sometimes. That’s not so strange since I studied animation. Before that I studied graphic design an textile design before that. So I had years of formal,classical training. I sketched many a naked dude and chick -all ugly -.

Submission samples of The Incredible Hulk for Marvel Comics

Who are some of your favourite artists?

Buyse: Franquin, Ralph Steadman, Mike Mignola, Richard Corben, Dave Mckean, Chris Ware, Steven Millionaire, Steven Wiseman, Paul Pope, Michael Golden, Graham Ingels, Bill Sienckiewicz, Sean Phillips, JP Leon and many more…

Illustration and comics are two very different beasts. How was the transition from illustrator for t’Hof van Commerce to sequential artist? Were there some particular pittfalls you came across?

Buyse: Not really. I’ve been drawing for as long as I can remember. It was just a matter of sitting down and doing it. Of course,by the time I started on Cult City I had already done 100 (mostly unpublished) pages, so I already had the hang of it … kind of.

Both music and art are steeped in culture. So is the music you make an influence on your art or vice versa?

Buyse: One has nothing to do with the other except for the fact that it’s me.

Adventures in Cult City is available at the artist’s blog.
Contact Serge Buyse to order a copy.

note: all art is unpublished sample art by Serge Buyse. Characters are copyright of their respective owners.
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