Written by Neil Greenaway
At Fort Collins Comic Con 2016 I had the chance to sit down and talk with Felipe Echevarria of Death From Above about his take on publishing indie comics. This interview originally ran on Bleeding Cool on 8/31/2016, and you can read their version of it here.
Felipe Echevarria is an American artist working in the dual arenas of fine art and comics & graphic novels. He is best known for the watercolor comics adaptation of the Alfred Hitchcock film Psycho though he has also worked on a collection of underground Sandman: Death paintings entitled Ankh, as well as several other books. We talked about past works, his upcoming projects, and also his incorporation of spirituality and metaphysics in both his fine art and comic art works.
Neil Greenaway: To start us out, what books are you working on right now?
Felipe Echevarria: I’ve got several in motion. I’ve got Death From Above, which is a graphic novel. It’s a revelation stream of life, death, and true happiness. It’s kind of like a meditation. I’ve been working on that for 24 years, believe it or not.
FE: I even had to start over, because my skills had taken a huge leap. I am going to be doing a Kickstarter for that one in the spring. And the first half will be published through that.
NG: Who is writing that with you?
FE: I wrote and drew this one. It is all me. I painted it and everything. It is going to be completely different than anything out there. I am also doing a book called Kloon, which is a take on the French word for clown. I didn’t write this book, I’m just illustrating it. That has been in the works for two or three years. Hopefully it will be out this Christmas, or maybe next spring sometime. I have been working on the second issue of Stakes, with Todd Jones, but I haven’t put a whole lot into that one yet. Let’s see, what else? I have a Spirit Women coffee table book. Spirit Women are these white-Caucasian women with the red paint on their faces. There will be a Kickstarter for that one next year. That’s about it for current projects.
NG: Moving back just a minute to the Kloon book, who’s putting that out?
FE: It’s a company called Merchants of Wow and he’s got a publishing company now started, a little boutique company. It’s going to a big, very strong company because this guy is an ex-Hollywood marketing guy and he knows what he’s doing. So it a very small company and they have 2 or 3 other books that are queued up to come out with Kloon. Kloon is going to be the main book. I did like 25 color illustrations for it and the same amount of black and white. It’s a really fantastic story and there is even talk of it becoming a movie, but that remains to be seen.
NG: That would obviously be after the book was released and had seen some return.
NG: What is this Fantasy Illustration slipcase that I see on your table?
FE: That is just a book that I contributed to, and for payment, I was given several copies of the book. So I need to sell the books. (laughs) It’s like I’m working to get my own money back. They produced this really lavish book, but it’s difficult to sell. So artists are offered either royalties way off in the future, or you can just take the books. It’s a beautiful book.
NG: It looks very well put together. What did you contribute for that?
FE: I did the Hindu goddess Durga, and then the Egyptian god Geb.
NG: I see several of your past projects here at your table. Could we talk a little about those? Like the Ankh book…
FE: I love painting the Death character (from Sandman) and I had drawn her several times. And a lot of people convinced me to put all the paintings into a sketchbook, so I finally got around to it and here it is.
NG: What about the Troubled Youth book, what can you tell me about that?
FE: That was a character I came up with in school. Just this young troubled guy and this is way back in 1986 I came up with it and then I did a strip in the CSU (Colorado State University) newspaper for a semester with the character and then I finally got it published in Japan in a few book, so Comic Morning in Japan published it. They have about a million copies a week of this thing going out. I never heard what the Japanese readers thought about it because it was all in Japanese and I can’t even read it. I can’t even know if they translated it properly. But I just put out a little sketchbook with it, you know it doesn’t do much, I just did it for fun.
NG: Also, I see the Psycho books from Innovation on the table. I had collected those years ago when they were coming out, and they always had beautiful covers. How did you get into that? How did you get the Psycho book?
FE: That’s kind of interesting. In 1990 after I got out of the Kubert school, which is a comic art school in New Jersey, I was able put my portfolio on the table for about 22 companies in San Diego. Which you can’t even do nowadays, nobody will even look at your portfolio hardly. But I got work for 3 companies and Innovation was one of them. They loved my retro style and wanted me to do something for them. They offered me an Anne Rice book but the deadline was so tight I had to turn it down. Psycho came up, they were negotiating with Universal Studios and so they gave me that one. What was really bad about that book is that they found out about halfway through the project that Anthony Perkins hadn’t granted his rights to be used in the comic book. So I had to go back and repaint all the faces and it delayed the book and killed the sales for the 2nd and 3rd issues. But the book was well received and most people said it was well done and I can still buy stuff on eBay and resell them.
NG: Now jumping around a little, your Death From Above graphic novel, you said you were going to Kickstart that. Was that going to go through a publisher? Or are you going to be the publisher?
FE: I’m going to be the publisher. Maybe somebody will pick it up later on. I do have a company that is a marketing firm that’s going to run it for me.
NG: Are there any other projects that you’re working on?
FE: I’ve got a lot. I have a book called Soul Oil: Oil for the Soul. It’s a bunch of spiritual stories (not religious) designed to empower women, men, young people, anybody actually. I just want to get some really fabulous stories out there that when people read them, they get chills up and down their spine. And they get energized, not necessarily entertained, but energized in another way. Because I think nowadays there is a huge gap of books that are designed to make you think, it’s more like sensationalism. It’s hitting you over the head with a zombie story or coming up with the next big thing. People like my work because it has something a little bit more to offer on a deeper level I think. But that is what I want to do with my career.
NG: As a theme, from Death From Above to Soul Oil, even to the paintings behind us, I have heard you mention spirituality several times. Is that something that is important to you in your work now?
FE: You know, I really don’t want to do it. But if I don’t do it, I get this tremendous psychic and even physical pain. It’s like the universe is forcing me to do it. I would rather be in my studio painting 10ft abstract paintings, having 2 or 3 nude models running around at one time and driving a cool car, you know? But I have been told in one way or another to do this, and I have to do it.
NG: That’s cool. Very few people in the comics industry follow the pull or their soul as it were. I agree it seems like a lot of sensationalism these days. Perhaps something a bit more spiritual is needed. If we could talk for just a moment about your series Stakes a little bit, Todd Jones has spoken so highly of you on that. He just loves what you did on issue one. What do you guys have in mind for issue two?
FE: I’m going to change the style a little bit. It was so labor intensive before. It’s going to look the same but I’m going to go a little heavier with the black ink and not rely on outline as much. And he’s got a long, long arc for this thing, like issues and issues. I don’t know if I’m ever going to get to it. But he’s such a wonderful guy and I want to get him going in the business. He’s already getting going in the business now. But I’m not sure exactly where the story is going. What I like about his story is that it’s focused on characters; he’s developing the whole thing from the bottom up, so it’s got something to offer that people will enjoy. They get a nice jolt from the story. It’s a little different twist on Vampirism, I think, and it’s an adventure and its fun is the number one thing about it. So I look forward to being with him on the ride, I just hope I can stay on long enough.
NG: It does seem like an interesting take on the genre.
FE: There is one more thing I could mention that is coming up, I’m going to be doing a Fine Art Gallery show in Denver in the Rhino district at Helikon Gallery next May. George Pratt, who is a big name in the business, and I are going to do the show together. That will be May 3rd 2017.
NG: That sounds amazing. I can’t wait to see it.
You can see more of Felipe’s work at www.felipeechevarria.com.