Monday, October 7, 2013

Personal Message from R. Kupelian


Dear EoB Fans,

This is by far the most difficult entry I've ever had to write. One early morning in February of this year Armen Mirzaian, one of our dearest friends, and one of East of Byzantium's earliest collaborators, was taken from us very suddenly. 

Ara Soudjian, mutual colleague, who had originally introduced us, phoned me with the bad news, and of course I could only sit there at my desk, my body reacting with that  mix of shock and disbelief.

Armen, who made his trade as an animation story/ storyboard artist, was a huge influence on not only EOB but many of my other projects as well, and his absence is being felt by everyone who ever had the fortune to know him, even for a short amount of time.  It will be a herculean task to find a replacement for someone like him, having embodied that rare combination of talent and humanity. You always knew you would get an honest critique from him. But it was a cut that had healing on the other side.  

I can only wish he was still here, to collaborate further, to leave more of his unique mark on this undertaking. He knew how difficult this was going to be. He was in it for the long haul as he saw it. 

I remember the earliest days of our collaboration; shuttling him back and forth from our pad at Park La Brea (near the Los Angeles County Museum of Art) to where he was camping out in Burbank, as he did not have use of a car at that time. Armen had just started adding his burgeoning skills to our development work. We got to be like brothers then, carrying long conversations about Art, Culture and All Things Metaphysical as long as the road allowed. 

That was his vibe, he became everyone's brother.

Armen once told Ara he was thankful, that  I gave him some important breaks in this biz. 

Well, Armen, as you streak across the inverse as a being of light, back to the Source, (as I like to imagine it), to hang out in that realm that Art can only guess at - wherever you are, please take the knowledge that you gave us a lot more. 

We'll keep at it, and endeavor to make something you would have approved of.

Armen Mirzaian
Artist
1977- 2013

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Interview with EOB Warrior Saint's Co-Writer Razmig Chaglasian


Razmig Chaglasian was a contributor to East of Byzantium Vol 1: WAR GODS and now has increased his role, moving on to Co-writing Volume 2: WARRIOR SAINTS with Roger Kupelian. Razmig managed to squeeze together a few moments of his time for this interview.


EOB: When did you first get acquainted with the Vartan  story and what does this epic mean to you?

RC: When I was 6 years old , I learned a song in school about the exploits of an Armenian hero named Vartan who fought for Armenians and died valiantly. A few years later in Armenian history class, we learned about the period and the history of Vartan Mamigonian.  I later studied that period on my own for a couple of years because the battle represented the “final stand” Armenians took to preserve their identity. In other words, it is the ultimate story of survival and a desire for a people to craft and preserve its own identity in the face of overwhelming strength and power.

EOB: Who would you say are your greatest inspirations?

RC: I’ve drawn inspiration from a number of great writers, but two in particular whose work I often revisit are George Orwell and Ernest Hemingway. 


EOB: What are some of the difficulties the storyteller, especially one from an Armenian background will have in telling this particular story. What would you say is the adjustment in writing for a graphic novel versus writing for a screenplay?

RC: One major difficulty for a storyteller, particularly an Armenian, is to remain unbiased in the portrayal of the major figures central to the story from the Persian side.  For Armenians, this battle is viewed as a major moral victory and justification for our preservation of Christianity. It is one of the three major events in Armenian history of the last two thousand years, thus a palpable patriotism is tied to the Armenian heroes in the war.  In writing a graphic novel, the words on the page are secondary to the images. In writing a screenplay, words paint the picture in the mind of the reader. Graphic novels are primarily a visual medium, particularly with a remarkable visual storyteller like Roger Kupelian, words on the page just help frame the action.


EOB: Why do a graphic novel about a battle that Armenians lost rather than a story about one of our great kings or legendary figures?

RC: Stories of tragedy and fights for survival illicit visceral reactions from readers. Stories of great kings have been told in the past, and often, I can’t get past the hyperbole involved in the glorification of oppression by said kings. The underdog fighting a war they cannot win, but must fight, has a romantic feel.


EOB: At this time., The Roman's main adversary was the Sassanian Persian Empire. As such, Persians are the chief adversary in the story arc, especially the second one that Warrior Saints deals with. There are those who say that this story is the wrong one to tell especially because Iran today remains one of the few allies to The young Armenian Republic within Sea of enemies. Do you agree with this? How would you respond to that criticism?

RC: I am not a fan of revisionist history.  The battles two nations fought roughly 1,600 years ago should have no effect on today's political climate. Iran and Armenia share thousands of years of history, rich with alliances, battles, cultural similarities and most of all, a deep rooted belief in their individual identities.


EOB: Did you agree with the way the Persian empire was depicted in the immensely successful film (300)? How is it different in the east of Byzantium saga?

RC: 300 was an entertaining film, but I personally did not agree with the way the Persian empire was depicted. They were represented by creatures and monsters rather than human beings with an agenda.  Our portrayal of the Persian empire is very different. In East of Byzantium, they, like the Armenians, are humans with specific political and religious ideologies that drive them to pursue their goals. Telling a story like this invites the storyteller to take sides and paint the enemy as the "other", a race that is inferior in one way or another to your story's protagonist. Once they've been categorized as such, its easier to attack them because they are no longer human beings.  But once you've depicted the enemy in your story in that manner, you're perpetuating a tired cliche.


EOB: Kupelian has described you as one of the most passionate people he has ever met concerning this particular period  Of Armenian history. What is the strongest part of the epic of Vartan as far as you are concerned? It is usually considered a religious story by many, but do you see it that way?

RC: I love this story for a number of reasons, but one in particular is that it is a battle that Armenians were soundly defeated in, but had to fight. It was a group of people marching into certain death to fight to preserve the intangible. Their identity. The church, the culture and Armenia's rich traditions all form that identity. But what is an identity aside from a mental construct.  Most battles are fought for materials gains. These men and women fought to stay Armenian. 


EOB: In your research, what are some of the misconceptions you feel Armenians have regarding Vartan and his clan? 

RC: In the most famous depiction of Vartan, the profile picture wearing his helmet, he is shown to have dark black hair. Vartan was a red head. But more importantly, Vartan is canonized for basically being a hot-headed general. He is a saint according to Armenian history. The Armenian church I grew up attending is named Sts. Vartanantz Armenian Apostolic Church. Notice the name is Saints, because Vartan, his clan, and all those who fought and died in that battle are canonized. Vartan was a military and political leader who took a particular position, which he deemed to be the right course for his people. Vasag (his rival and head of House Syunik) is treated remembered as the great traitor of our people. For Armenians, he's ranked with Judas as one of histories greatest turncoats. But in reality, Vasag was a wealthy man protecting his interests at any cost, which in this case, involved betraying his rival. He is no more or less slimy than any politician today.



EOB: What other projects are you currently working on and do you have any advice you would give a writer who is about to embark on scripting a difficult historic topic?

RC: I am currently working on an outline for a script as well as a short story.

My advice to a writer working on an epic is to really do your homework on the subject and think about your central characters by putting yourself in their shoes and thinking about how you would react. It'll teach you something about the character and yourself.


WARRIOR SAINTS  (East of Byzantium: Vol. 2) will being unveiling in early 2013.

Friday, October 12, 2012

BOOK TOUR BEGINS WITH A FULL HOUSE

Fifteen (15) minutes before our scheduled start all the seats were filled. By the end of the presentation people had filled into every corner of the bookstore and were spilling out into the street. We appreciate everyone that came and showed their support for War Gods. If you missed this event don't fret, you have another chance to see Roger and get your copy signed. We will be at the Glendale Central Library November, 8th.  Photos by Meher Hagopian. 






























Friday, September 28, 2012

EOB: WAR GODS BOOK SIGNING SCHEDULE 2012

Both standard and collector's editions of the book, as well as special prints, will be available for signing. Roger will be making a presentation on the process of creation, as well as recent news for the project.

GLENDALE: OCT 5th, 2012, (Friday): 8:00 pm. 
Abril Bookstore 
415 E. Broadway , Glendale CA 91205 
(818) 243-4112

CHICAGO: (Andersonville) OCT 17th, 2012,(Wednesday) at 5:30 pm - 8:30pm, 
AlleyCat Comics

TORONTO: OCT 18th - 22nd,2012, Dates to be announced 
Pomegranate Film Festival

GLENDALE: Nov 8th, 2012, (Thursday): 7:00 pm. 
Glendale Central Library
222 E. Harvard St. , Glendale CA 91205 
(818) 578-3288



WATCH THIS SPACE FOR MORE DATES SOON!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

INTERVIEW: WAR GODS SPANISH PUBLISHER DAMIAN PEREA LEZCANO

EOB:  Damian, how did you first get introduced to the work of Roger Kupelian, and more specifically, the East of Byzantium universe?

I met Roger during the 4th installment of Animayo, the International Film Festival of Animation, Visual Effects, and Video Games. We had invited VFX supervisor Kevin Blank (Lost, Cloverfield)  to talk about visual effects and he introduced us to Roger. And that was great because we loved Kupelian's work, and I decided to create an exhibition with his art. It was a great success.

Roger and I connected very well and I think that is why we continue to collaborate on other projects. Almost the moment we met, Roger gave me an East of Byzantium T- shirt ( I wear it a lot because I love the design) which piqued my curiosity, and then, 6 months later, Roger completed his teaser,  and I realized that this project had something very important--  it wasn't just the story but also  Roger's huge  effort in developing this over the last ten years. I related to that as I have my own twelve year passion project.


EOB: Can you describe the role of animation, and graphic novels in Spanish society?

Well, animation is growing quite fast and it is an emerging industry thanks to several titles which yielded comercial results, in addition to several awards at the Oscars and other big festivals. 

In my case, being from Gran Canaria (of the Canary islands), and having done the first animated project in the history of  island, I've seen the resulting increase in interest in animation and visual effects.  When it comes to Graphic Novels,  however,  it's a bit different - in  Spain, we have a longstanding tradition in the love comics and graphic novels, both in Madrid and more so in Barcelona, (where they have a famous big events surrounding this art form). We also have great designers and artist working in the industry.  The difference between Europe and the States or Japan is that comic fans here appreciate more auteur approaches and artistic style, like Roger's novel,  and the target here  is more for an adult audience. (Although the Manga invasion from Japan is winning a lot of younger fans, especially in Spain). 


EOB: When did you get the idea to translate Easter Byzantium : (Vol 1) War Gods into Spanish. The translation And publishing happened before even the English version was available. What has 
the reaction been in Spain?

In Spain, if you don't translate comics or films, people are not going to buy. And the reaction of having the comic translated was great, when Roger was at the recent Animayo festival we had a cue of people waiting for the comic and his autograph.

 Four days ago I started selling the novel in two of the best comic shops in the capital  (Madrid) and the interest was immediate. For example, just 2 minutes after the novel arrived at the shop, one die-hard comic fan saw it and bought in immediately. I hope this fiery start in Madrid is the shape of things to come. 




EOB: You have extensive experience in directing and animation, as well as organizing festivals. Can you describe the challenges faced by directors who are independent and are trying to push artistic projects in today's crisis market?

Being an independent is a difficult  but at the same time very satisfactory process of creation. 20 years ago, I chose this path, and I am still here doing my projects and my stories with complete freedom... but this freedom takes a lot of sacrifice. These days, with the crisis in Spain it is even harder. How we do it? Well I think that independent directors of the future have to be not only good directors and writers, but also producers, and understand comercial value, as well as marketing. Because we have to find our own funding and connect to the way of selling the projects etc.

And also we have to reinvent ourselves, nowadays we are lucky because although we are in crisis, the technology offers us a lot of opportunities handle productions with lower costs.



EOB: Can you tell us a little about the Animayo  festival in Gran canaria and how that idea first came about? Who are the key players in this strategy? Can you also tell us about some of the guests you would've had and which more the most colorful?

Well, Animayo is our 7 year old baby, and it was born with the idea of being the school I couldn't have when I start doing films,  so  I started it for give the opportunity to the new talents in the Canary Islands. At the same time it is an opportunity for the directors of all around the world  to show their works in Spain, and now with Animayo L.A , Lanzarote , Madrid it is spreading all around the world. We have had lots of great special guests and they are the strong part of the festival.  Bill Plympton, Kevin Blank, Raul GarcĂ­a, Alexander Petrov, Alina Khajian, Carlos Grangel, Pascal Blais, Alex Lemke, and  Roger Kupelian  have presented  master classes to an audience 300 people,  and shared their experiences.

I think it is most important that the student can see that these stars are people real and not Supermen, and have achieved their dreams not only with extraordinary talent but lot of hard work, having spent time practicing, and fighting to develop their projects. It can be daunting for younger people seeing the end results in the popular media, having reached what seems like to others an unattainable goal. With Animayo, people come to me to give me thanks because they feel inspired.

This sort of thing make it worth all the effort of running a festival like we do. 



EOB: You are born and raised in a Spanish-speaking world and your ancestry is very clearly Spanish yet you find the East of Byzantium story very interesting. Can you describe your interest and reaction to a story about Armenians? How similar is it to your own cultural experience?

First, East of Byzantium hooked me because the story was very well built, this is always the most important for every story,  but also the style of  the art too. I loved it, and when I read it my mind started imagining a cinematic adaptation, (and for me this mean that there is something else there).

Also I love the strong role of women in the story of the Armenians, who in my mind have a strong thematic connection with our Canarian "Guanches", the previous inhabitants of my island before it was invaded by the Spanish Colonialists. Guanches were strong people and fought bravely. Imagine how formidable they were,  that  the Spanish Empire spent even more time in the conquest of the Canary Islands than Conquest all America. So that says a lot about those people fighting with only stones and sticks.

I feel the same force in Armenians,  in the fight  for their culture. I agree with what Roger used to say " big things come from small places..."  Another thing makes me interested in this project is that I connect with Roger's personal story, because he was working like 10 years in this thing and I am also working mine for  like 12 years.  I feel his pain!



EOB: What are your future plans for Animayo internationally? And what projects are you working on currently?

My plans with animayo International is to keep the first idea of being not only platform for new talents of the animations all around the world and visual efects but a school for the public and people who can not have the oportunity to study animation for economic reason and have the luxury to have master class from great stars working active in the industry.

This is my idea for Animayo in small places or places where they haven't schools of animation. There isn't anything better than Inspire someone.


And in a big places like Animayo Los Angeles it is the oportunity to conect this stars with this world we are try to create. I am working in a lot of projects at the same time because an independent director never knows which project come out first so you have to develop various ones at the same time. 
First , there are the commercial spots and advertisements to make a living but in terms of personal projects;  I have one documentary, then  finish an animation film (the 12 -year one). Also a short film of animation in 3d and I am writing a feature film. As mentioned before, I have the desire of working with Roger on a project that we can not speak of yet but it would be very interesting and hopefully a big success.


EOB: What advice can you give young and aspiring animators who are emerging in a very difficult job market? 

Don't desperate.  Be patient- everything comes just in time. Keep working with passion and love for what you are doing. Don't worry if you are not earning great money yet or get rich,  if you really love it you'll feel happy just doing it. And if you want to be rich with that, perhaps it is time to change your line of work.

When I started working in animation 20 years ago, I was full of passion, and it challenged with all the difficulties and inconveniences.   I regained my passion reminding myself of that guy who never surrenders, who tries to keep a student's mind.









Monday, September 10, 2012

GLENDALE CA EVENT NOV 8th


Serj Tankian highlights positive feedback on East of Byzantium Vol. 1: WAR GODS


SERJ TANKIAN (Composer, Writer, Activist and Lead Singer of  System of a Down). 
"The War Gods Graphic Novel is an amazing display of Roger Kupelian's artistry and story telling abilities. It's like a film popping up from the colorfully crafted pages of Armenian history."


DAN PANOSIAN (Comic Book Artist, Image, Marvel, DC) 
"Merging history and compelling drama is no easy task when it comes to provocative storytelling, particularly on a graphic level.  Roger Kupelian's War Gods is an experience like no other.  An array of strong characters face impossible odds in a rarely explored, beautiful and terrifying world.  I'm already hungry for more!"


TIGRAN S.  (fan)
"I was sitting in New York's subway till 3am and was not able to tear myself away from it."