INTERVIEW: GREGOIRE GUILLEMIN
ALL TOO HUMAN
The Secret Life of Superheroes
As Spiderman puts his teeth into a hamburger, the mighty Hulk rolls a joint, and Wonderwoman is going to the loo, Batman and Robin do what everyone thought they would do when not fighting evil: making love! In The Secret Life of Superheroes, French artist Gregoire Guillemin offers us a glimpse of the superhero’s life that normally remains behind closed doors in the Marvel and DC comic books.
Greg Guillemin is a French illustrator in his 40s who is not afraid to listen to his inner geek. While most people would consider the latter a negative term, Guillemin cherishes it. To him, it refers to any adult who has not yet lost the ability to play, and who dares say so.
While The Secret Life of Superheroes represents his biggest success to date, Guillemin has a whole range of other works that can be admired on his website. See for example his rather minimalist series of film posters and his series of capsules that, in a few lines, capture the essence of such icons as Che, Dali or Ghandi. Guillemin also draws his own cartoons.
Plastik* asked the creative genius about being a child, a geek, a superhero and an ‘eclectic graphical gamer,’ as that is what Gregoire Guillemin likes to call himself (…)
The Secret Life of Superheroes has been a tremendous success. Had you expected this? And to what extent has it changed your life and/or career?
I had already met with quite some success on the Web with my previous works, but never with such magnitude. What changed is that it tilted me to focus more seriously on this work, and to go much further, in particular by starting painting.
DID You have a love for comic books ever since you were a child? Were these only American superheroes or European comics as well?
Yes, because I love drawing. I read a lot of comic strips and I still do. Strangely I did not read many American comics, but I learnt to draw by copying Marvel magazines. I started reading American comics again for two or three years or so.
What graphic novels ARE you readING today? Any ‘heroes’ in particular?
Today I appreciate heroes Kick-Ass, Dead Pool, Mark Millar, Robert Kirkman's comics and Locke & Key.
If you were to be a superhero yourself, who’d you like to be?
The Spiderman (of John Romita).
You also draw your own comic strips. Could you tell us a bit more ABOUT how it all started?
I adore drawing and I adore the comic strip. And ever since I was very young, I haven’t stopped making them. In fact, I wanted it to make it my job. But much later I realized I was incapable of doing so: I just do not see myself spending more than a year on one and the same project. [laughs]
You work as creative director at a PR agency. Does that mean you work by day, and do your own thing by night?
Today, I'm more a Strategic Planner than a Creative Director at a communication agency. Yes, you could say it is my day job, while The Secret Life of Heroes is my night job.
You call yourself an “eclectic graphical gamer.” What do you mean by that?
I don't consider my works as artistic works. For me, an artist is somebody who puts all his feelings into his work. I try to cause feelings inside others. It’s more a creative job. Why eclectic? Because I have no particular style. I like playing with various styles and not locking myself into the one and only.
In one interview you call yourself a geek. What is so good about being a geek?
To be a geek, to me, is especially to be able of assuming your passions, of not being ashamed at 45 to declare loud and clear that you adore the last Disney, the last Marvel or the last Call of Duty.
Your work to a large extent has been influenced by pop culture, especially cinema. You, for example, made a whole range of beautiful film posters. Have they met with the same success as the superheroes series? Have they been exhibited anywhere?
As said previously, they met with some success, but not as much as the superheroes and, no, I’ve never exhibited them.
Something a bit more philosophical: what makes a good illustration?
It is a set of things: a technique, a composition, a subject, an idea. But, to me, it is before all an image that provokes an emotion; an image that does not leave one unmoved; an image, which forces the viewer to think.
Something a bit more fun: what three films do you watch over and over again?
The Blues Brothers, Be Kind Rewind and Star Wars.
If you were left alone on a far-away island (with food and water in abundance): what 5 items would you bring?
Books, a lot of books.
What’s the last music album you listened to?
The last Daft Punk.
If you could sit face to face with anyone you want, what three people would you like to meet?
Franquin, Hugo Pratt, and Leonardo da Vinci.
INTERVIEWED BY PETER SPEETJENS