José Leal, aka Riça, has been part of Juicy's family for a while now. He first got involved on issue #02 of THE JUCE Fanzine, being responsible for the cover artwork and a few more illustrations.
When we decided to create some comic strips for Roats Miguel new EP, Riça was my go-to man. The initial comic strips ultimately developed into a much bigger project: a full book that we are now releasing alongside the music. So what better time to introduce you to the artist behind all the heavy-graphic-lifting?
You've collaborated with us before as an illustrator for the fanzine, but this time it was a more complex project and one where you went solo. What were the main challenges?
Well, it was my very first big comic, so I had to apply a different method. I read Roats’ script, took notes about some visual references for the characters and scenarios and then started making some drafts. It was the most difficult part but at the same time the most interesting because I had to redraw a lot of details in the characters mainly while trying to make something slightly different from the big sci-fi references like Star Wars, Star Trek, Moebius, etc.
And what a challenge it was...Speaking about that, I want to leave you a suggestion here: go watch "Jodorowsky's Dune” (2014). I like to watch it when I feel I will just copy the work of big masters haha.
Are you a comics fan? Are there any graphic novels or artists you follow and whose work you find influential in your own?
Yes I am, since kid. I started with the common stuff: Marvel and DC, newspaper strips from Calvin and Hobbes, Asterix and Obelix, Tintin. Then I went to Soares dos Reis Art School (Oporto, Portugal) and a big friend of mine started feeding me like Neo with martial arts. He introduced me to Frank Miller, Mike Mignola, Dave McKean, Crumb, Moebius, Quino - you can easily spot those influences in my work.
But the ones I liked the most were these Brazillian guys - Angeli, Laerte and Glauco. Mind blow right there, they are crazy haha. Some time ago I discovered Breccia, Koike and Kojima. Amazing works.
You produce quite a diverse range of work. From record artwork to animated video, you seem to get involved in a lot of stuff. What gives you the most pleasure?
That's my main problem right now haha. On one side I feel I have to choose one or two passions so I can focus on them to become a master or, at the very least, really good at them. But on the other side I don't know which of them I should choose and maybe I don't want to choose none of them - I want them all.
It's really difficult to manage everything. Above of all, I like to do a lot of different stuff to expand my knowledge, experience, know more people and, mainly, to not get bored haha.
You're also a rapper with a focus on positive/conscious lyricism and quite politically active too. Do you think art and politics are always a good mix? Do you try and separate things, like leave the politics out of the graphic work and keep it just in the music?
Being political is part of my personality and I don't mean fighting for a party. In my everyday life I try to be aware of injustice and wrong attitudes and figure out ways to do something about it. Sometimes it is just a discussion, sometimes it's life choices like not eating meat/fish/dairy products and sometimes it's doing something with art to deliver a message, to give importance to something that most of us don't see.
So yeah, I like to mix it but I don't want to be the guy with the “political label”, not because there is something wrong with being political but because it's a label that simplifies the whole complexity of a living being. I think art, and even design, should not mix with politics when they are selling something suspicious - you know, fancy cheap slogans and shit.
And when I say politics I also say everyday products we buy. There’s a big difference between making something look better and helping to sell “snake oil”.
What other projects are you working in at the moment, or what recent projects are you most proud of?
At this moment I'm working on my debut album (stay tuned to Microfome facebook page). I'm in the recording process and starting to work on the design.
I also want to focus more on comics and animation. I had this daily strip comic project some years ago -https://www.facebook.com/ricaastiras - but now I want to make something different and more challenging.
I also enjoyed a lot making this video with Hugo Morais for rapper Dom Rubirosa:
I hope to get another one like this soon, it's so amazing to see your drawings come to life with animation.
If you want to check it more of my work, here’s my behance page.
Order THE COSMIC BALLAD OF ROATS MIGUEL: Whispers in the Dark over at our webstore. The comic book comes with a download code for Roats Miguel Self-Titled debut EP.