Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá talk about new graphic novel 'Two Brothers'
"It was a very good mix between working on our original stories and working on someone else’s scripts."
Eisner winners Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá have worked on some of the most acclaimed comics of the past 15 years, including The Umbrella Academy with Gerard Way, Casanova with Matt Fraction, and SugarShock! with Joss Whedon. In 2010, the Brazilian-born twin brothers published the acclaimed DayTripper, and this month, Dark Horse Comics will publish the comic’s widely anticipated follow-up: Two Brothers, on sale in comic shops Oct. 14 and in bookstores Oct. 27.
An original graphic novel, Two Brothers is the adaptation of The Brothers by Brazilian author Milton Hatoum. The book focuses Omar and Yaqub, who are divided by everything from their personalities to their ideals — save for a love for their mother. When Yaqub is sent away after a confrontation, he returns as a stranger to his family, and the family must work together to reconcile their brokenness.
The brothers will take the stage at New York Comic Con later this week to talk to fans about their new project. In advance, EW spoke with Moon and Bá about adapting the novel, their creative process, and more. Plus, view exclusive preview pages below.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Is it cliche of me to ask if you guys put any of your real life sibling experiences into this book while you were creating it?
FÁBIO MOON: From our experiences, very little. I think our life informs how we could build the characters that live around the twins and how we could build the tension and the curiosity people have around twins. We have very extensive knowledge of how people think twins are the same person: they have to agree on anything, and most people think twins are the same people, so maybe that helped how we put the story together and how we understood the story, and how we filtered what we had to say.
Can you talk about the process of adapting this novel and making it your own? It’s a different process, I’m sure, then when you write your own original works, or work off of established characters.
MOON: I think we had to read the book over and over to understand a little more, deconstruct the story, stop seeing it as the reader and try to understand what we’re telling. But I think one of the biggest differences was what not to put into the work. Because you have a novel that has a lot of more than what we could put in the book, so how can we tell this story and the visual aspect? What can we take out in order to tell the best story that we can? That’s the main difference when creating an original story. You create things to put in. Here, you already have all those things, and the biggest work is to choose what not to use.
GABRIEL BÁ: When you are adapting your book, it feels like you have a treasure chest and the job is to open the chest, discover the treasure ad how to show that. And if you only see the treasure chest, you know there’s something there, but you have to go through everything to have it make sense. So we had to spend a lot of time understanding the story we were going to tell.
What kind of research did you guys do while preparing to write and draw this? Did you make personal visits to the town where the book was set and speak with Hatoum?
MOON: We had free access to the author, but we didn’t reach out for him a lot, because we didn’t want to bother him and also we wanted to trust our take on the story. We didn’t want to always come to him and ask what he meant. But one of the times we talked to him was to get advice on places to visit, because we traveled to Manaus to get to know the city. So he gave us tips of people to talk to, things to pay attention to, and our trip helped a lot. The story shows a city that feels grand and charming and inviting. But when you go to Manaus, that whole city is only…the universe of the book is a very small part of the city now, and going there helped us see that. We also got a lot of history book and pictures and postcards throughout the 20th century. And we did a lot of research online as well. In the book, you can imagine what he’s describing. Then you go to a city that has changed a lot, and you realize all the changes that have passed. We don’t have the same experience and views that the author has. But we could understand these changes and that helps a lot for us to view his universe. The only other time we talked with him was when we started sketching the characters, and we went to show him, and he didn’t like our take on Zana [the twins’ mother.] Our initial take was a lot more sensual and kind of exotic, but that was not what he had in mind. He showed us some family photos and told us that Zana should be an elegant woman and she should enchant. And the photos he showed us, they matched the research we were doing. So it was good that he told us his direction because that helped us not only create the visual, but understanding the character.
I’d imagine this whole experience was a different type of collaboration, then.
MOON: It was almost like… it was a very good mix between working on our original stories and working on someone else’s scripts. Because we had so many decisions to make, because we’re creating the storytelling and pacing of the story and how we’re telling this, and what we’re showing, and it’s much more visual storytelling than what regular comic book writers do. But on the other hand, we have a big concern on respecting the story, respecting the script. And that happens a lot when we work with other writers. We will respect a lot of what the writers want to be on the page, even though we don’t agree or it’s hard to put on images or we get mad because it’s easy to write, but it’s hard to draw. But we try to respect as much as possible what the writer wants. We had to pay attention to a lot of things that were in the book that we could only put in images to respect the story and give it a more authentic look.
Working so closely together, what’s your own creative process like, and how do you work and collaborate specifically on projects like this?
MOON: We work together closely on the scripts. There’s a lot of talking and we work at tables facing each other, so script writing is basically talking out loud and figuring out the story structure and what happens next, how we decide who’s going to say what. And then we revise everything we talk about and in a perfect world, we choose which one has the best art style to draw the book. Because we have a lot of the same references, so our styles are a little similar but they’re different. So we try to choose only one of us to draw the story so it only has one unique consistent look. And then this one [motions to Bá] has to draw the entire book. So for Two Brothers, we worked on the script together and we already knew Bá was already going to draw the book.
I know this is your big project and focus right now, but can you share what’s coming up for your readers?
BÁ: We’re currently working on more Casanova — Fábio’s drawing his arc and I’m dong back-up stories on those books written by Michael Chabon. And I am beginning the new arc of Umbrella Academy. Those two projects are late because we’re traveling a lot and doing a lot of promotion for Two Brothers. So this book is taking a lot of our time. And it’s good to rest our heads a little bit now, not having to create anything new, just working on the projects we’re been working on over the years. And that’s already a lot of things to do!