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A look at Brecht Evens’ Night Animals

Do you like comics with gorgeous colors, hot sex scenes, and all-too-relatable scenes in which twenty-something urbanites go to crazy nightclubs and lousy parties? Then Belgian cartoonist Brecht Evens’ The Wrong Place may be right book for you. The Drawn & Quarterly release took a lot of readers and critics by storm at the tail end of 2010 with both its incisive writing and innovative use of color as a storytelling mechanism. (You can read my interview with Evens about the book by clicking this link.)

In just a couple months, Evens will be back with a book about a very different kind of night life. Slated for a March release from Top Shelf, Night Animals — an earlier work than The Wrong Place — was described to me by Evens as a walk on the Where the Wild Things Are side. It contains two wordless tales about seemingly normal people who get caught up in a world of wild wonder (and, perhaps, danger) among the creatures beyond the city limits. While the drawing style is more traditional than The Wrong Place‘s all-watercolors approach, it’s just as lush and inviting, and the color washes are just as vibrant and emotionally freighted. Meanwhile, the stories themselves show that Evens is just as adept at fairy tales and fables as he is at lousy parties and awesome one-night stands. Good stuff.

And courtesy of Leigh Walton and the fine folks at Top Shelf, here’s an eight-page preview of the book. Unleash the animal within, folks!

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“A fight between operatic spectacle and tiny intimate moments”: Brecht Evens on The Wrong Place

The Wrong Place

Brecht Evens took a lot of people by surprise this past autumn. Seemingly emerging from nowhere, the Flemish cartoonist’s English-language graphic-novel debut, The Wrong Place, was released by Drawn & Quarterly and quickly made a major splash among critics and cartoonists in a year already crowded by high-quality releases. For that you can thank Evens’ eye-popping painted colors, which do far more than just tell you what color hair or clothes his characters have.

His story of a small group of twenty-somethings — revolving around an odd couple of mismatched friends and their divergent night lives during a party, a one-night stand, and a night out at a club — uses color almost as a code. It differentiates the characters, conveys their personalities, and helps us understand their environments and relationships. You’ll see parts of yourself you like and dislike in all three of its main characters: gray-colored wallflower Gary, his legend-in-his-own-time bright-blue best friend Robbie, and Olivia, who decides to live it up one night in fiery red.

So color us excited (sorry, couldn’t resist!) to be able to interview Evens as part of Robot 6’s second anniversary spectacular…

Sean T. Collins: The thing that most surprised me about The Wrong Place was that it didn’t “teach me a lesson.” I expected to be hit with a moral about how Robbie’s vida loca was actually empty and meaningless, or how wrong it is for Gary not to loosen up and live a little, but neither thing happened. Olivia shows a tinge of regret about her wild night with Robbie, but it’s just a tinge, not an indication that she Did The Wrong Thing or something like that. All of this despite the fact that the title itself implies that one or all of these characters is not where they really belong. I was hoping you could talk a bit about why you took this approach to your main characters and their decisions, which I found refreshingly non-judgmental.

Brecht Evens: I was 20 when I came up with the first draft, the setup for the book, and it was very noir, very contrived and judgmental, and full of nifty “ideas.” Most of this got thrown out along the way, where the ideas come to seem stale and instead the need becomes greater to be able to believe in and identify with the characters, and to testify about things observed in real life. Or, because I automatically began to identify with the characters, and love them, I was more compelled to nuance.

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