BOYTOONS MAGAZINE #182 – Celebrating NIGHTLIFE – part 1

Boytoons Magazine #182 cover

I have an extra-special treat for you guys today!  My buddy Dale Lazarov, the master of sexual pantomime has recently seen the release of his latest hard cover book called NIGHTLIFE.  Published by Bruno Gmunder, NIGHTLIFE features three lovingly detailed and wordless short stories full of humor and lust.

Dale has teamed up with artist Bastian Jonsson and colorist Yann Duminil.  These three talented individuals offer us a glimpse at men seducing men in sweet, romantic, and very direct ways.

Dale was gracious enough to put me in contact with his partners in crime, so I recently caught up with Bastian and Yann.  I was able to fire a few little questions their way. It was a delight to get to know these fantastic talents a little better and to gain greater insight into their creative minds.

Here is part 1 of this 2 part NIGHTLIFE feature.  I give you my chat with artist Bastian Jonsson.

NIGHTLIFE is now available. Story by Dale Lazarov, Art by Bastian Jonsson, Colors bt Yann Duminil.

NIGHTLIFE is now available. Story by Dale Lazarov, Art by Bastian Jonsson, Colors bt Yann Duminil.

BOYTOONS MAGAZINE: Thanks so much for doing this interview with me, guys!

Bastian, can you tell us a little bit about your artistic background?  Did you study art or are you self taught?  Who are some of your influences and inspirations? I am a huge John Byrne fan and if I may, I find that your art has a lovely hint of his influence.  Am I very off the mark?

BASTIAN: No, absolutely. Obviously Byrne is a massive inspiration for my art style, one I certainly haven’t transcended quite yet. Right now I would guess my style is a mish-mash of all my favorite super hero artists of the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s – Byrne, Jose-Luis Garcia-Lopez, Alan Davis, Kevin Maguire, etc, as well as the giants whose shoulders they stood on, Kirby, Adams, Aparo, Swan, influences that may not be as readily apparent. European masters like Milo Manara and Moebius are also huge early inspirations.

I came across these artists in my early teens, and immediately realized that this was how I wanted my art to look. The appealing aspect of their art was their idealized realism that was completely removed from everything found in typical Swedish comics, where the focus lies on funny animal children’s comics, broad caricature, or scratchy, miserable, navel-gazing, autobiographical masturbation.

I have no formal artistic education, which I feel has slowed down my artistic development from out of the shadows of my idols. I wish I would have had the wherewithal to seek out the proper tools at an earlier stage – by tools I mean an understanding of anatomy, perspective, color theory, all that basic shit that is the foundation of good art. When I finally stumbled upon the instructive works of Andrew Loomis on anatomy and perspective, it was a huge revelation – I could immediately trace the underpinnings of all my favorite artists in the principles he laid out, and began to understand how to build up that style from the structure within instead of by copying the surface. It has taken a long, long time to gain some insights into those areas and also work towards a style that I can call my own – I think I’m getting there. I certainly learned a lot and developed my style throughout working on NIGHTLIFE.

Artist Bastian Jonsson excels at the Male Erotic Comics genre. A panel from "NIGHTLIFE".

Artist Bastian Jonsson excels at the Male Erotic Comics genre. A panel from "NIGHTLIFE".

BTM: What drew you to the male erotic comics genre in particular?

BASTIAN: Well, very early on I concluded that although I read huge (*huge*) amounts of mainstream material and love it, I had nothing to add to the superhero genre that others could not easily do better. One consideration was the fact that I’ve always been pretty slow (getting a little better with practice, but life and day job get in the way), and could not ever see myself being able to hold down a monthly title, which has meant that I’ve never really had the ambition to do comics full time.

Secondly, I really only want to apply what time and talents I do have to comics with overt gay themes, which kind of disqualifies me from the mainstream anyway. And, really, why on earth should I spend my life drawing the adventures of straight people beating the shit out of each other, you know?

Now, gay porn might not be the first thing that springs to mind for most people, but for me it came completely naturally – I’m gay, love sex, love comics, love erotic art and porn… I really feel I have found my personal niche, where I have the opportunity to create the kind of interesting and positive material I’d always wanted to read myself.

BTM: What was it like for you working on NIGHTLIFE? As a fellow artist, I know how exciting (and sometimes nerve wracking) it can be to be a part of a project.

BASTIAN: It was very exciting on several levels, not the least of which being that if I could pull it off, this would be my first published work. But it was also my very first collaboration with another writer, which was certainly something new for me, and who knew if it would work out at all?

Working with Dale turned out to be a great experience though, as he always gave very clear instructions of what he needed the art to do, and at the same time gave me great freedom in visualizing and adapting the story to suit my stylings. It helped immensely that we are on the same page regarding story themes and the emotional/sexual content of the stories too.

The most nerve racking and frustrating part was the coloring aspect, but only before Yann got involved, I hasten to add. From the beginning I knew I was not up to the task of doing the colors too, and so we needed to find someone that could work with my art – I do almost no shading, so the color really needs to add a lot of the rendering and depth. We suffered a series of false starts – great colorists and nice people who for various reasons could not complete the work. Finding Yann literally at the last second was a huge stroke of luck, and I’m thinking of going to France and kidnapping him and locking him in my basement to make sure he doesn’t slip away… He worked his ass off on a tight deadline and I couldn’t be happier with his amazing work.

Silent but supremely sensual... NIGHTLIFE delivers three sexually charged short stories.

Silent but supremely sensual... NIGHTLIFE delivers three sexually charged short stories.

BTM: NIGHTLIFE is essentially book 3 in a series. STICKY and MANLY are amazing books, with illustrations by Steve MacIsaac and Amy Colburn.  Did you find yourself comparing your work to those first two books, or did you distance yourself from them to some extent and bring your own wonderful style and touch to the project?

BASTIAN: I was conscious of Steve MacIsaac’s great work on STICKY when I took the job (MANLY came later, as it was created, produced and published during the production of NIGHTLIFE – yes, I’m *that* slow :), but I mainly concerned myself with matching the emotional quality and depth of the previous works, and try to make sure I was equally up to the task.

Style-wise, I really feel it’s impossible to weigh us against each other. We are all coming from such different angles that I felt completely free to do my thing – I can only really draw one way, which was the style Dale responded to. And it helps that I’m conceited enough to also view NIGHTLIFE as a first book in it’s own series. :)

BTM: Which of NIGHTLIFE’s three stories was your favorite one to work on?  Why and what particular elements did you enjoy most?

BASTIAN: My favorite story is probably the last one in the book, “Closing Time”, although it’s definitely hard to choose – ask me another day and the answer might change.

Closing Time was also one of the hardest to produce, and it was mainly down to getting across some of the finer story points in art alone. I adore the guys in it, and their story takes some interesting turns and detours. I especially love the ending of the story, which was nice to draw, and turned out spectacularly beautifully when Yann worked his magic on it.

I enjoyed going to town on the settings, and I hope it shows, but that was also one of the hardest parts. I mean, for fuck’s sake – a night club in a gothic church? Are you kidding me? :) I also enjoyed getting to put in some small visual jokes of my own in here and there – the entrance to the church is naturally through the back door, for instance – where else would gays find salvation? :)

A page from NIGHTLIFE, excerpt from Bastian Jonsson's (current) favorite story "Closing Time".

A page from NIGHTLIFE, excerpt from Bastian Jonsson's (current) favorite story "Closing Time".

BTM: Dale is a wonderful writer and he writes a very descriptive script.  I think it’s very fair to say that you, Yann and Dale make a wonderful team.  On what levels does NIGHTLIFE speak to you and what does the book mean to you personally?

BASTIAN: Like I said, Dale and I share very similar sensibilities when it comes to story. Basically, we’re big softies. :) Yeah, the sex in these stories is totally hardcore and hopefully gets your engine going, but the meat of the story, if you will, is characters that are obviously enjoying themselves and enjoying having sex, flirting, kissing, smiling, joking, having fun, connecting.

There is also no shame or negativity involved, which is also an important part – these guys are happily gay and very sexually open, enjoy casual sex and are not afraid of showing it.

The stories themselves are often quite romantic in tone, and the warmth between the characters really is the heart of the book for me personally – their emotional interaction makes the stories worth doing, and reading. For me, there is little point in doing porn in comics form without infusing it with solid story and engaging characters, and I’m fortunate to have found collaborators that share the same views.

Unabashedly sexual, but also very romantic... a page from NIGHTLIFE.

Unabashedly sexual, but also very romantic... a page from NIGHTLIFE.

BTM: So would you ever consider doing a second book with Dale and Yann?

BASTIAN: I certainly would and apparently will. Dale has actually already sent me a couple of great scripts for a follow up, that I’m chomping at the bit to dive into.

BTM: That’s so cool!  I’m sure we’re all looking forward to that project already!  I truly enjoyed your work on NIGHTLIFE.  What other projects can we look forward to seeing your art on in the near future?

BASTIAN:
For NIGHTLIFE we tried to shoot for two ideas – the obvious one is that the stories take place at night, but we try to shy away from the most conventional nighttime settings or at least put an unconventional spin on them or the characters. The other idea is the emphasis on the characters and their interaction, like I talked about earlier. For the next one, Dale has come up with stories that feature both unconventional characters and settings, so I’m excited by the prospect.

The best place to see my art at the moment would probably be my blog at www.boytoygraphics.com, where I do post from time to time. No, seriously, I do.

I haven’t got anything coming up in print in the near future that I want to commit to – the eternal curse of being a hobby artist with a day job… I’m currently ridiculously behind on a short story I’m drawing for François Peneaud, so first priority is absolutely finishing that up. After that’s done I’ll begin work on Dale’s wonderful new stories.

I also have a few short stories that I have written myself and want to get into. My goal for next year (for every year, but let’s not get into that) is to produce more art and become faster. I’d certainly like to have something come out next year, and I’m doing everything in my power to make it happen.

BTM: Bastian, thanks so much for taking the time to answer these little questions of mine. I truly appreciate it.  It really was great fun to learn more about you and to hear all about your experience with NIGHTLIFE!  All the very best to you!

BASTIAN:
Thank you – it’s been a pleasure!  :)

NIGHTLIFE © Copyright 2009, Dale Lazarov.  All rights reserved.
Stories by Dale Lazarov.
Art by Bastian Jonsson.
Colors by Yann Duminil.

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