Artist TONY SANDOVAL has collected fans from around the world with his inimitable style and darkly romantic perspective on the common experiences of simply being human.  Author and/or illustrator of over a dozen graphic novels and art books, many of which have been translated into numerous languages, he has earned three Eisner award nominations in the past two years for his first English-language releases (from Magnetic Press), DOOMBOY and A GLANCE BACKWARD.  And yesterday saw the stateside release of his autobiographic, border-crossing love story, RENDEZ-VOUS IN PHOENIX, proving he is a worldly man, if only a man full of dreams.

Growing up in Mexico, what influenced you to start drawing?  Did you draw as a child, or did it come later?

I always drew.  I started drawing animals and only animals as a kid for quite some time, then people and stuff I saw on TV.  Eventually I start reading comics like the New Gods from Jack Kirby. I also loved scary folk stories since I was a kid.

You self-published your first book NOCTURNO with your brother.  How did that grow outside of Mexico to launch your career?  Was Paquet the first major publisher to recognize your work?

NOCTURNO  was a very small, self published comic, very local.  We sold them only in (my hometown) Sonora by distributor, but after that only at some conventions in Mexico. Paquet discovered my work for another reason.

Nocturno was eventually published by Paquet in French, followed by other publishers in other countries and languages.

Your stories tend to be very recognizable, universal stories of growing up, chasing Love, confronting Fear, dealing with Changes, etc.  And yet they always take a strange, sometimes dark, almost fantastic direction, with supernatural elements folded into the story.  What inspires the “fantasy” elements when you write, and how do you find the balance between reality and fantasy?

They all start from my Mexican background, mixing ordinary life with some dark folk stories which are a bizarre mix with Catholicism and other old pre-Hispanic beliefs. And the weather.  Mixing all this with young drama will make my soup.

You’ve created many books for Paquet, as part of the “Calamari Collection”, which you essentially curate, with other artists telling similar kinds of stories. How did that collection come about?

It was an idea that came from Pierre. I was doing many books in the old discovery collection, and it seems it was only me being active and selling by saying something.  I also started participating in finding other people for it. So we decide to change things and make it a new collection, which is smaller now, as you know it’s not easy to sell strange books.

Your new book, RENDEZ-VOUS IN PHOENIX, is about a real moment in your life when you decided to illegally cross the US/Mexican border to reunite with your girlfriend.  It’s a very poignant story, especially considering today’s political environment.  The story isn’t specifically political, but it sheds a very “human” light on the situation, and offers a very relatable perspective to the issue.  Did you want to make a statement with the story?

I just wanted to tell a story that I’ve been thinking about for a long time.  Even Paquet agreed to do it as a book long before all of this immigration situation in the news in Europe (and the US).  But yes, I wanted it to be more human than a political story, so I adapted what I had in my memories for this story, which is more honest and precious, which I can do in a comic format.  So there it is and I hope you like it!

What happened after the story in the book? Are you and Suzanne still friends?

Yes,  Susan and I spent many years together after that.  We had many other adventures and then chose a different path. So we are still very good friends, and of course she know about the book  I hope she likes it.

That exciting journey into the US was just the first of many countries you would eventually visit and live in, having been all around Europe.  Where do you consider “home”? 

Well, I’ve been in Europe for quite a long time now, but I still love my small town in Mexico,  I hope all this can keep being my home.

Where would you like to live some day?

Hmmm, I think I’ve been so happy in Paris, but why not travel a bit more?

What’s next? What are you working on now?

I have so many projects on the rails right now, big and small ones, and I also want to paint more watercolors and maybe explore more techniques.

What sort of project do you want to do some day?

Video games, more comics, and painting.