Article Information
TitleRork and the fantastic
AuthorYves Lacroix
AuthorPhilippe Sohet
Context Information
AlbumAndreas. Une monographie
Article Contents
from the article "Rork and the fantastic (1995)":
The first episodes of Rork appeared short after Udolfo. Yet, a difference of style was immediately visible. It didn't look like Paape.
Andreas: I asked André-Paul Duchâteau, who was chief editor of Tintin/Hello BD (fr); Kuifje (nl) back then, if I could make something for him. He said "yes" and accepted my proposal about Rork - at least, he could more or less agree with it. So, the first two, three episodes I made when he was still chief editor.
Rork was influenced by American comics, which I liked and still like: a bit of adventure, relatively classic comics. Rork was of course the first thing I made entirely by myself. That's why it was important to me. I worked hard on it, put a lot of energy in those first episodes. It was not great, but it was the best I could do at the time.
How were your contacts with the other comics writers of Tintin/Hello BD (fr); Kuifje (nl)? Was Rork well received?
Tintin/Hello BD (fr); Kuifje (nl) was then not what it had been. Greg was no longer chief editor. The haydays were gone when André-Paul Duchâteau succeeded him. After that Vernal took over and the quality deteriorated even more. The editors were very uninterested. When you delivered the plates you were told: "Yeah, yeah, put them over there!" Nobody was really interested in them. Moreover, they published Rork pretty carelessly. Between two episodes was sometimes a hole of six months, so the readers couldn't understand anything about it any more. They already thought it was "hard", so you can imagine what such a frequency of appearance could do... At the popularity poll I was not even part of the first fifty. I believe that Rork was not at the right place at Tintin/Hello BD (fr); Kuifje (nl). The comic was appreciated by other authors, at least so I heard here and there.
Did you intend to make it an album from the start?
Andreas: No. They (site-editor: Tintin/Hello BD (fr); Kuifje (nl)'s editors) wanted short stories with the same leading character. Then I thought up the character of Rork, more or less to enable me to tell fantastic stories. With the second story they suddenly said "Make sure that there will be 46 plates eventually." With the third episode they told me "It would be good if the stories were connected." Thus I tried to link the first episodes to the series by reintroducing the main characters.
Did you like that? Or did you find it limiting?
Actually I was quite pleased. When they told me to make 46 plates, I thought: maybe they are going to make an allbum of it, you never know. I like to work with certain restrictions. Only if there are limits can you try to cross them. But they waited with the publication of the album until the very last moment. They had five years the right to publish it and decided to do it only three months before the contract expired. They published it without believing in it and I told myself: "Alright, I quit! It's over!" But later they looked me up, because the first two albums sold pretty well. At least better then they had expected. That's why there is a divide between the first two and the next five albums. At that point I more or less made my own terms: "I want to make long series. I want the stories to be published with short intervals as a whole in the magazine." They accepted all of that. Then they asked me: "Will it really become a series, or will you stop after five albums?" I answered: "Five albums, then I stop." We agreed to let the albums stay in the collection Verhalen en Legenden (FR)
There is an episode of Rork that you cannot find in the albums, Les oubliés...
Andreas: Yes, that was for a Super Tintin/Kuifje. I made it at the time I was working on Cromwell Stone. That's why the drawings are somewhat different. They are less detailed, made somewhat faster. That was a first attempt to bring Rork back to life, a sort of first episode. I wanted to make more of them for those Super Tintin/Kuifjes, a different story every time. But that was cancelled. That's why it is an episode somewhat unconnected from the rest. It doesn't fit anywhere in the series as a whole.
You announced that they were going to be five albums. Did you know at the time how the series would finish?
Andreas: I didn't know exactly how it would end, only just about so. I had a rough idea of what would happen in time, but not where and how: an adventure that would end in a certain way - a regrouping of all elements - like the beginning of something new. I don't know if I foresaw Capricorne from the beginning, but of the first two albums I knew at least how they would go.
At the end of Le cimetière de cathédrales Rork and Yosta agree to meet each other again, by the way.
Andreas: Yes they see each other again in the last album. The characters agree at the end of each album to meet eachother again. At the end they all meet.
Is the implementation of such a series enriched by your everyday experience? By what you read, your travels?
Andreas: It also depends on my mood: after the jungle I wanted to draw the desert. And after New York I wanted to draw something less crowded, that's why the next album is situated in the snow. Those things play a part and besides that, what you say, the things I've read and seen. It's all an influence. If I would have to do it again, I think I would work more carefully.
Did you know from the beginning that Rork would disappear eventually?
Andreas: I did. But the demonic character at the end I introduced only very late. I was asked to do a silk-screen painting and then I though of that character: a large image of him above New York with Rork somewhere in the distance below. I never finished the drawing, but I saved it, and used it in Le cimetière de cathédrales because I knew then how the series would finish. I like that in a series: you create a universe, in which accordingly you can do whatever you like. You can reuse some elements, add other things, things that occured before the story began, etc. I have to take of a truely immens thing, and I actually like that very much.
Doing that, do you operate precautiously, or don't you worry about it too much?
Andreas: It's a learning process. I get more and more precise, because I know I do stupid things sometimes, things that don't make sense.
In the first parts of Rork you refer to other authors: the writer of the first house is called Wrightson, the recluse of the forest refers to Neal Adams. Do you like working with those links?
Andreas: Not too often. In Cromwell Stone is another picture with links to Barry Windsor-Smith, Jeff Jones... In the second part there is another one, even more crowded than the first. Most readers have found many links. Not all, by the way, because I have put personal things in it that maybe one or two people will see, small things in the corner. Otherwise it's no fun. In the first part friends of mine take part as well.
In March 1982 appear the last short stories of Rork in Tintin/Hello BD (fr); Kuifje (nl). In October of that same year the prepublication of Cromwell Stone starts in Le Journal Illustré (le plus grande du monde) of publisher Deligne (Michel).
Andreas: After Révélations posthumes I had prepared a new project for (A Suivre). It was a rather long story of 120 pages. They refused it at (A Suivre). I didn't continue it then. It was a somewhat fantastic story, something better suited for Tintin/Hello BD (fr); Kuifje (nl). So they were quite right for not wanting it. In the meanwhile I had left Tintin/Hello BD (fr); Kuifje (nl) and was suddenly out of work. Luckily my friend Antonio Cossu was in charge of a new series of black-and-white comics at Deligne (Michel). Then I said to him: "I want to do something for you." I knew Deligne, because he had published one of my stories from my time at Saint-Luc, four plates based on a story by Jean Ray. Deligne was interested in my offer and paid me - for that time - extremely well. He paid more than Tintin.
During the making of Cromwell Stone I moved to Brittany. I wrote it in Paris, I drew it in Bretagne.
Reading Le retour de Cromwell Stone we noticed that some constructions of the first part recurred. Like the title suggests. The story shows several familiar themes: the main character revisits the same site, again a shipwreck occurs, the prologue and epilogue of both books are similar. You obviously wanted to make a connection between both books.
Andreas: That's because both books form a whole. I wanted to emphasize their connection. The third part will be different. That was clear to me from the start...
There will be a third part?
Andreas: In principle, yes.
Before you left Tintin, you published La caverne du souvenir.
Andreas: Yes, that is one of my least successful albums. I actually made it in assignment. I drew it in Paris and colored it in Brittany. Despite of that there is not a trace of Bretonic influence in it. They just didn't have anything to publish in their Collection Verhalen en Legenden (FR) and asked everyone: "Don't you want to make something? A story based on Celtic legends for example." Generally I only start at a story after thinking it through for a long time. La caverne du souvenir I just made too quickly. I read some books, wrote the story and then drew it immediately. The same is true for Azteca and El octavo prisionero, I wrote them in assignment for a Spanish publisher. I didn't know much about the French revolution, I read some about it and then immediately wrote the story. That's not really my favorite way of working. For the same reason I find Azteca not very successful. I wrote it in assignment in memory of the 'year of Columbus' a couple of years ago. I chose the story of the Aztecs, because their history knows a definite start and end. All other subjects were too wieldly. So I read a mass of books and then tried to process everything in a story full of links. I screwed up, it isn't good. Sometimes I sadly tend to put too many things in a story. That's what's wrong with Azteca and La caverne du souvenir. They are loaded, nearly incomprehensible.
You were talking about your move from Paris to Brittany. You left the other comic book authors behind. Were their other reasons? On a personal level for example?
Andreas: In Paris I met my wife and we had our daughter. We told eachother: "We are going to leave Paris and go somewhere else." My wife wanted to go south, but I don't like the south very much. Since she's half Bretonic, we left to Brittany. The north appeals to me. My ideal is Scotland. In France you'll end up in Brittany, then.
Why is Scotland ideal?
Andreas: In 1969 I went to Scotland with friends. Three years ago I went back with my wife and daughter. It was really what I was looking for. When I go to Scotland I feel like I'm coming home. That's where I can feel at home: the landscape, the weather, a certain athmosphere. And that has nothing to do with ghosts and castles. It's just the climate, the landscape. It 's not too much and not too little, it's very attractive. Once I saw a picture of Scotland, in which you can see a mountain on whose foot stands a small house, completely lost in the landscape. That is my ideal. I once told myself: if I have enough money, I'll buy such a house there, in such a deserted corner of the world. These abandoned places appeal to me. Or exactly the contrary: the heart of a big city. Saint-Brieuc, where I moved to, was alas a compromise between the two. Rennes, where I live now, becomes me more.