Kickstarter Feature: PersonaЖ by Sputnikat Press

We’re deep in the midst of comics crowdfunding season, and while a lot of the projects on crowdfunding sites seem like chaff, there are a few that rise up as truly interesting, exciting projects. I recently posted about the 2dcloud summer season, which made its funding goals, and I’m back today with another Kickstarter feature. A recent project from Sputnikat Press, the PersonaЖ #2 anthology (pronounced: personage) caught my attention with its sleek illustratorly images and unique concept.

 

Sputnikat is a small press getting its feet under it, and the PersonaЖ project is a Kickstarter to get their second anthology printed as well as a way to jump start their production of zines and comics. I sat down with Moscow-based editor and publisher Christopher Rainbow to ask some questions about the project.
PersonaЖ kickstarter feature on sequential state
A page from PersonaЖ #2
Alex Hoffman: Could you tell me the history of Sputnikat Press? It sounds like you have been operating in Moscow for a little while now but this Kickstarter is my first look at the work you are doing.

 

Christopher Rainbow: I’ve been in Moscow since 2010, but Sputnikat is still fairly young. We published the first book, PersonaЖ 1, in summer 2016, and we’ve just finished the second book. The first one was printed in London, but now I’ve bought our own Risograph, which we used for PersonaЖ 2, and we’re launching through Kickstarter now. So, it’s been a gradual start, but we have around a dozen books and projects in various stages of development, both solo books and collaborations, so we will start to pick up the pace now.
 
Alex Hoffman: How did you come upon the idea for PersonaЖ? Most anthologies printed, at least in the United States, are based around a concept rather than a character. 

Christopher Rainbow: As soon as I decided to start publishing, it seemed obvious that an anthology would be the quickest way to show a range of the the talented artists that we have here in Moscow. Also, an interesting anthology is a good chance to include some international guest artists that I really like. The trouble is that anthologies are hard to sell, so they say. I know that I tend to look at anthologies rather than buy them, unless I’m overwhelmed by the collection of artists. But my first impulse is always that I’d rather buy a solo artist book. So, when the idea of all working on the same character popped into my head, I realised that this would give the anthology an interesting hook, both for the audience and for inviting artists to take part. I can’t really say where the idea came from – it just appeared in my mind fully formed, and I thought, ‘that’s it!’.
PersonaЖ kickstarter feature sequential state
A page from PersonaЖ #2
 
Alex Hoffman: In the Kickstarter video you talk about a group meeting to create Daria, your central character for PersonaЖ #2. How did that creative process work, and what was your role as the editor and publisher of the books?

Christopher Rainbow: Each edition of PersonaЖ begins with the artists, or at least, the Moscow-based artists, meeting up to devise the protagonist. With PersonaЖ 2, it was Anton Mariinsky, Andrey Petranin and Katya Dorokhina plus me, as editor. A couple of the overseas artists emailed a few preferences that we added to the mix of the discussion. In the character creation session, we come up with the basics of the character – their appearance, job, location, a few personality characteristics, maybe a bit of backstory. For Nikolai in PersonaЖ 1, we decided that he was a handsome-ish, van driving handyman in Moscow, he wore jeans, a polo-neck and a jacket – and that his personality was quiet, thoughtful. By contrast, Daria from the second book is petite, stylish and effervescent. She’s a TV report in St Petersburg. Once, we’ve established the character basics, we then have to think about the other factors that may appear in more than one story. For example, we create a floor plan and some photo reference for their home and their car. In Daria’s case we decided that she would have a cameraman sidekick (Grisha) and a pet snake (Gleb), so we had to agree on their appearance and characteristics too. The stories don’t necessarily develop how you might expect from the first session. With Daria, we spent quite some time discussing her son, a student studying in Moscow, who occasionally comes to visit. The pet snake, was a suggestion from Katya Dorohkina, and was added quickly, right at the end of the character workshop. However, when we got the stories, nobody included or mentioned the son, but the snake had become an important part of the character and integral to a few of the stories.
 
Alex Hoffman: The range of topics in PersonaЖ #2 is pretty wide; one day is an almost complete fantasy while other days seem more like traditional slice of life comics. Is the project wide open like this – once the central character is created do artists have free reign?

 

Christopher Rainbow: Yes, it has always been my intention that the common thread of the character and the collaborative aspect of the project shouldn’t get in the way of the artists drawing and telling stories in their own styles. The book is placed somewhere between being a fluid story and it being an anthology celebrating variety. The process that we use is for the artists send me their storyboard or plot outlines after around six week, and from those, we decide on the days of the week for each artist, and iron out any major inconsistencies which might undermine too heavily the concept of it being one week in the week of the same character. It’s the same week, but it’s like the character lives a different genre each day. Usually the changed we make are minor and add a bit more depth. For example, in the firs book, Nikolai receives a cactus from his mother on Wednesday, so some of the artists appearing afterwards tried to allow the cactus to appear in the background of their scenes. Likewise, we matched some of Daria’s clothing to the beret and scarf in Irina Troitskaya’s story for Monday in PersonaЖ 2.
PersonaЖ kickstarter feature sequential state
A montage of PersonaЖ #2 pages
Alex Hoffman: What comes after PersonaЖ #2? I see you have some additional books that are coming out soon – could you tell us about what Sputnikat Press has coming?

 

Christopher Rainbow:  Next up are our first solo books. We’ve just finished printing a mini-comic by Hungarian illustrator Sari Szanto, called Housewife: What a Poor Lesbian Does When Her Girl Goes Away For The Weekend. Sari’s art is a gorgeous mix of vintage collage and spidery line, and she has a terrific warm but wry humour in her writing. We hope to publish more books from Sari, and she’ll appear in the next edition of PersonaЖ. The next books to print are Arcaneville by Katya Dorokhina and Welcome Home by Anna Sarukhanova. Katya’s story is a mystery of interlocking character arcs, but the real joy in her work is in poring of the quirky details of the imagery. And Anna, who has been doing comics for Vice recently is more acerbic in her humour – her story is about an awkward post-apocalyptic flat-share between two girls.

 

Then we have more work still in development – solo books from Kameeellah, William Goldsmith, Charlie O’Konar and myself. William and I are also developing some reportage work together. And last week, we got things underway with PersonaЖ 3. I can’t reveal anything about it, but the new character is great!

Thanks to Christopher for taking the time to talk with me about the project – you can back PersonaЖ #2 on Kickstarter here, and find out more about Sputnikat Press at their website.
If you like the work I’m doing here at Sequential State, please support our Patreon. Thanks!

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