Michel Fiffe's Act-I-Vate comic, Zegas tells the story of Boston and Emily Zegas, a brother and sister who are quite literally lost in a void-like world. Michel Fiffe's surreal and delicate art and humane dialogue creates a unique and breathtaking environment to tell a deceptively simple story of an optimistic young woman and her nihilistic but sensitive brother.
In Zegas, Boston and Emily, live in strange, seemingly post-apocalyptic, Road Warrior-like desert world that consists of Cronenberg-esque living wishing wells, threatening guards who appear from the ground and lonely bars where potential love blooms alongside the sad-sack regulars who drink away the apocalypse-blues. The humanity and sincerity pulses from every page in Zegas. Fiffe's world is fully realized though yet intentionally unrealized. It's a fragile environment and it's a world that is formed to support the plight, aimlessness, neuroses and uncertainty of the characters. Boston and Emily feel very real as they interact as brothers and sisters often do, with a hearty mix of animosity and admiration. Fiffe has created a real-fake reality and thanks to his ability to create real-real characters, the story pulls you in to a place that, if handled by a different artist could feel cold, and impenetrable.
MTV Geek will be featuring Zegas in its entirety beginning today, January 6th and will continue each Thursday at noon over the next three weeks.
Michel Fiffe was kind enough to chat with us about Zegas, working with Act-I-Vate and more.
MTV Geek: What inspired the story of Zegas?
Michel Fiffe: I wanted to create a comic that rang true on a human level, and by human I don't mean autobiographical or grossly sentimental. What I mean is that a lot of of comics out there are pretty shallow, they're hard to relate to and difficult to care about on a profound level. I wanted to explore the things that concern me as a person, things that are tragic and funny and exciting and truly horrifying. So I created Zegas, which is not so much as a reaction to what I don't like but as way for me to achieve the level of engagement I was looking for in comics.
Geek: Boston Zegas is a writer and Emily is a musician (or former musician) are these characters based on anyone you know?
MF: No one specifically. Well, both Emily and Boston are kinda me in a weird way, opposing views and all. They'll grow beyond that, naturally, but Boston will always share my love for smooth jazz.
Geek: The world that the Zegas siblings inhabit seems to be mighty bleak, but Emily has a very optimistic view, maybe even bordering on naivete. Boston, on the other hand is drenched in self-loathing and misery, do you think he's simply more realistic than Emily or is there room for hope in their reality?
Fiffe: It looks that bleak, huh? That may be a little unintentional on my part. I was going more for "dreamlike" but with drunks. As far as Boston goes, I see him more as a sensitive soul rather than a self-loathing guy. Sure, he's paranoid, self-conscious and he may wake up screaming every morning at the reality of being awake, but who doesn't? Emily is sometimes his devil's advocate, but she has her own frustrations to deal with, which I can't wait to explore. Things will get worse before they get better, but despair is useless without hope.
Geek: The look of Zegas seems to be very playful and almost experimental, especially when it comes to the "outside world". Can you elaborate on how you settled on this look?
MF: I really wanted to create a world with its own look. The buildings, the clothes, I wanted it all to look alive and unique. I took a cue from George Herriman's Krazy Kat and Cliff Sterrett's Polly & Her Pals and I was inspired by their creative freedom. Since the Zegas stories are anchored in real world matters, I wanted to balance it out with a backdrop that isn't quite as familiar. On top of that, I could no longer ignore my desire to experiment with page design. I started getting restless, so I used Zegas as the perfect opportunity to exploit all of those yearnings. Ultimately, it all serves the narrative.
Geek: Do you have many more Zegas adventures planned?
MF: Oh, yeah, tons more. I can't wait to put these guys through the wringer, in the most loving way, of course. Although there's a definite ending, I have many stories to tell with Emily and Boston.
Geek: How did you get into comics? How did you get your start?
MF: Well, that's such a relative concept, a "start". I made my own zines and mini comics as a teenager and always tried to reach out to publishers. It was when I moved to New York from Florida over a decade ago that comics seemed to be within my reach, this being the home of the business and all. But I guess you can trace it back to when I vowed to make my own comics at a very early age and while that may sound nice on paper, sometimes I have to question the validity of living out a child's dream to the bitter end. Honestly, I don't know what else I'm hardwired to do other than comics. It's all I think about, it's how I see the world.
Geek: How did you get involved with Act-I-Vate?
MF: Act-I-Vate was a product me hanging out and drawing comics with Dean Haspiel years ago. It was his online call-to-arms, his idea to take charge and aggressively post our creator-owned web comics for the world to see, material which we were creating anyway. We rallied and it worked! We started a buzz and backed it up with quality material that was free. Great bodies of work were created without editorial prompting and I think that yielded very interesting comics.
Geek: What are you currently working on?
MF: I'm editing a bunch of fun, indy back-ups in Erik Larsen's Savage Dragon comic. It's called "Twisted Savage Dragon Funnies" and every issue has a self-contained story with rotating artists. Aside from that, I've spent this year writing non-stop, a lot of it being Zegas, but now it's time to draw the damn things!