Back in April, we highlighted the fact that Wonder Woman artist Mirka Andolfo was bringing her creator-owned series UNNATURAL to Image Comics, and from the general premise – not to the mention the gorgeous preview pages – we were pretty much instantly hooked on this one.
Well, as the release date of July 4th creeps closer, we’ve been given an early look at the first issue, and it appears that our early excitement was well founded. Packed with charm, humour, sexuality and a surprising amount of menace, this one feels like it’s going to be one of the breakout books of 2018.
So, to help further whet your appetite, we were fortunate to be able to sit down and have a chat with Mirka about the series.
BIG COMIC PAGE: Firstly, for our readers who might not already be aware, can you tell us a little bit about the world of UNNATURAL?
MIRKA ANDOLFO: Leslie – together with all the UNNATURAL characters – lives in a world where “human” beings are anthropomorphic animals. The government is very attentive to the conservation of the species, and it manages in the smallest details the intimacy in people’s lives: love relationships, interpersonal relationships, sex. It’s a sort of nightmare, but most people don’t understand because they have been indoctrinated by propaganda.
This is the setting. Then, Leslie is a common girl, who will be gradually forced to “grow up”, involved in complicated situations, far bigger than her.
BCP: Tell us a bit about Leslie, our leading lady/pig. What’s her story, and what’s the deal with those dreams?
MIRKA: She’s is in every way similar to a person who we might meet on the street (ok, she’s a pig, but apart from that…): a common girl with a boring job that she hates, a bit of confusion in the head, so many dreams and many bills in the drawer. She grew up with a complicated family situation, and this certainly does not make it easier to deal with the rest of the world.
She often dreams about a handsome white wolf. And, well, that’s wrong, according to what society wants from her…
BCP: The series was originally published in Italian as “Contro Natura”. How did the English language version and the collaboration with Image Comics come about?
MIRKA: It’s thanks to Panini Comics, my Italian publisher. They manage the publishing rights for the series (it’s been published, so far, in Germany, Spain, Poland, Mexico, and coming in another couple of countries), and for the American market they started talking about releasing the series with Image Comics. I think it is superfluous to say how much I feel honored, thrilled (and a little bit anxious!) for the trust that both publishers have placed in the project. In Italy it has been very well received by the readers, and I hope the same thing can happen in the United States.
BCP: Behind all the beautifully illustrated erotica, there’s a pretty powerful message about “natural” and “unnatural” relationships that feels particularly important in today’s society. Was it always important as a creator for your work to have a real message behind it?
MIRKA: To be honest: no. It comes naturally (sorry for the unconscious pun). When I start working on a new project, I think about the characters, the setting, the story. At the beginning, I’m not sure there will be a message. But then, it happens: that means that I talk about themes that really matter to me, because I don’t plan that before. When I write, I only think about enjoying (and – hopefully – let the reader enjoying). Then, I read again what I did, and I find out what actually transpires from my work. I do not know if this is right, but I like it.
BCP: The world you’ve created is surprisingly dark and dystopic for a series which, at least outwardly, looks like a slice of fun anthropomorphic erotica. What was it about this contrast that appealed to you as a creator, and what prompted you to tell a story like this with walking, talking animals instead of regular human characters?
MIRKA: I love contrasts, in general. I find boring that a “serious” comicbook should be drawn in a “realistic” way, and a “cartoonish” comicbook can’t speak about dark themes. As artist, I usually draw in a more realistic way than that, but for my personal project I feel free to do what I feel in that moment. Consider that in my first series (published in Italy and some other countries), the main characters were an angel and a devil, fallen in love, and it was (also) about love and sex… But drawn in a 100% cartoon style (more than Unnatural).
As for the animals: I draw many pages as artist, and they’re usually with human beings. When I tell a story, I feel a little bit bored, if the characters are human. I don’t know why, and maybe in the future I will change idea…
BCP: There’s obviously a massive difference between writing, drawing, colouring and lettering your own comics and working as part of a larger team like you do with your DC/Vertigo/YA work. Do you have a personal preference?
MIRKA: First of all, I have to do an errata corrige: the lettering is not by me (I’m so bad on that!), but by my friend Fabio Amelia, a very good letterer, working at Arancia Studio (the studio where I physically work everyday).
Apart from that: yes, I have a preference. I prefer working on both of these kind of projects. I adore to compare myself with scripts written by other people, and working on characters not created by me. But I also adore creating my own universe, my characters, my own books. I can’t imagine Mirka “the creator” without imagine Mirka “the artist” too, and the other way round. It’s it’s tiring, I have to admit it, but I do not think I could give up one of the two activities.
BCP: Without giving too much away, what can readers expect from the series, and what sort of tone are you going for? The first issue feels like it could go a lot of different ways with the light-hearted humour and the menacing, totalitarian government.
MIRKA: I don’t want to spoiler, but I’d like to say that I love very much mixing the cards during the narration, when I write. In Unnatural the reader will find some thriller aspects, but also romance, fantasy and… well, a mix of many different things, without disdaining the mystery.
BCP: You mentioned in the press release for the series how important it was for you to be seen as ‘Mirka the Creator’ rather than just ‘Mirka the Artist’. On that note, do you have plans or ideas for any more creator-owned books somewhere down the line?
MIRKA: Yes, of course! There is already a series I did before Unnatural (the one I spoke before: it’s called Sacro/Profano), but there are many other ideas in my mind. And, considering that Unnatural is quite at the end (I’m drawing the very last pages of the last issue, right now), I will soon start thinking on a new project… But I’m also thinking to write something, with artwork not done by me, to be honest…
BCP: And finally, what would you say to someone who was undecided about picking up UNNATURAL to help convince them to give it a try?
MIRKA: I’ve never been a good seller, but I can try: I think that reading about Leslie, you will find a complex world, different (but also similar, in some ways) to ours. And you will probably will empathize with the main character, who’s very unlucky.
OK, but the real reason to give Unnatural a try is that Leslie has a (sort of) domestic velociraptor, Pif, and he’s purrrrrrfect!
UNNATURAL #1, Cover A by Andolfo (Diamond code: MAY180023) and Cover B by Milo Manara (Diamond code: MAY180024), hits comic book stores Wednesday, July 4th. The final order cutoff deadline for comics retailers is Monday, June 11th.