Richard: How did you come up with the idea for "Mandala"?
Joe: The story for "Mandala" is more or less a condensation of the story that is now being fleshed out in my web comic, "the Process". I had these characters, some disparate scenarios and little story vignettes bouncing around in my head and I wanted to have a book of my own to debut at the San Diego Comicon 2006. I decided that I would distill some of these ideas down and create a mini-comic based on them. I figured it would be a good exercise to work out a story idea as well as get these characters out in the world! The result was "Mandala" which was a very limited edition, full color mini-comic.
Richard: What is the basic storyline of "Mandala"?
Joe: "Mandala" is a parable which means it's a very simple story used to illustrate a spiritual idea. The book is itself a mandala where the reader travels through the story from the front of the book to the back and returns to the front again in a cyclical, circular narrative. At any one time, the story's past is paralleled by it's present and future. The story tells of the interactions and relationships between a small boy who is captured by a giant robot. What one would expect the robot to do with the boy is not what happens The result is a mandala, an evocative little circular story about the nature of life, death and rebirth in a fictional, archetypal landscape.
Richard: How does it feel having "Mandala" reprinted in "Fablewood"?
Joe: It's great! As I already mentioned, "Mandala" was first printed as a mini-comic limited to only 150 copies. Now that it has sold out, "Mandala" will have a new life in "Fablewood" where even more people will get to read and enjoy this story! As the issues started to reach the end, I was considering reprinting a non-numbered second edition and that's when "Fablewood" editor, William Ward got in touch with me. He proposed that "Mandala" be included in an upcoming fantasy anthology and after looking over their site, I was sold. It was perfect synchronicity. I was anxious to get into an anthology and was considering reprinting "Mandala" when William came knocking.
Richard: What is "the Process" about?
Joe: "The Process" is an expansion of some of the characters and story ideas from "Mandala". Basically "Mandala" could be said to be a condensation of many of the themes that will be fleshed out even more in "the Process". Where "Mandala" used the parable/mandala format to explore the themes of spirituality and the cycles of life, "the Process" will use the diary-like structure of webcomics to explore my own psychology, imagination and creativity. The structure of it right now is so open-ended that I am expecting to have all different kinds of artistic treatments in the service of all different kinds of stories. As I travel through my own mental microcosm, readers will encounter funny reminiscences, bizarre and wondrous creatures, nightmares, fantasies and much, much, more.
Richard: How did you become the artist for Oni's "Borrowed Time"?
Joe: At Comicon 2005, Oni held a talent search where applicants submitted their art based on sample scripts to Oni editors. I had prepared a horror script by Antony Johnston and showed it to Randal C. Jarrell who was impressed by it and we left it that he would get in touch with me after the convention. Also during that convention, my good friend, Chip Mosher, introduced me to writer Neal Shaffer. Neal was looking for an artist for "Borrowed Time" and after seeing my work he was interested in me for that project. These two threads came together and I was announced as one of the winners of the Oni Press 2005 Talent Search and artist for the upcoming series of graphic novels, "Borrowed Time".
Richard: What was the first comic book you helped create?
Joe: The first comic book work I did was with my friend, Jason Robert Bell, for an anthology of short stories based on his character, Caveman Robot. That project became "The Caveman Robot Mega Annual 2004" and it debuted that year at San Diego's Comicon. The art that I did for that got me in as a finalist on Comic Book Resources' Comic Book Idol 2 contest.
Richard: Why were you picked to fill in on "The Wasteland"?
Joe: I think it was because of the work that I did on Antony's horror script for the Oni Press Talent Search as well as a pinup I did for the series. When it came time for Christopher Mitten to take a break, I think it was natural that he and editor, James Lucas Jones, thought of me to do a standalone issue. I can't tell you how psyched I am to be doing this project. I'm already a few pages into it and I think fans of the series will enjoy yet another great story by Antony and I am anxious to see how they respond to my take on the material.
Richard: Do you prefer writing or drawing more?
Joe: I think I feel more comfortable drawing as opposed to writing. On projects that I've done both, I don't sit down and write scripts. I tend to storyboard instead so I would have to say that even when I am working out the plot, I'm doing it by drawing.
Richard: What future projects do you have?
Joe: Beyond "The Wasteland", I have the next installment in the "Borrowed Time" series as well as "the Process" which is ongoing. Besides that the only other thing on the horizon is doing some concept art for a proposed animated television series based on the adventures of Caveman Robot.
Richard: Which comic professionals do you admire?
Joe: I really enjoy the work of Jim Woodring, Charles Burns, Chris Ware, JH Williams III, Guy Davis, Rick Veitch, Jack "the King" Kirby, and many, many more.
Richard: What comics did you read as a child and do you read now?
Joe: As a child, I read a lot of Conan. I liked the Marvel superheroes but I think Conan held a special place for me. Now, my taste in reading is considerably different! I read mainstream titles like All Star Superman all the way to more arty publications like Black Hole and Luis Riel. In general, though, I have a really broad taste as long as I enjoy the art and can get into the story.
Richard: How can someone contact you?
Joe: I have my website, http://joeinfurnari.com where the curious can see a wide variety of work as well as contact me by email. I'm also available on Myspace at http://theprocesscomic.com and at Comicspace at http://comicspace.com/joeinfurnari .