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!’.
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.
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!