Creator Interview with Gregory Panaccione, part one

My Friend Toby is an entirely wordless 144-page graphic novel, both written and drawn by Eisner Award nominee Gregory Panaccione (artist of triple-Eisner-nominated A SEA OF LOVE). After only 3 days, the latest Kickstarter by Magnetic Press to be fully funded within hours of going live and is now well over DOUBLE the funding goal! Earlier this week, we had the chance to sit down and ask creator Gregory Panaccione a few questions about the story of Toby and his inspiration!

(Please note, the interview below is translated from French with minor edits for clarity and grammar)

Magnetic: Let’s start with your characters, Toby is an adorable Terrier and seems like a very realistic dog. Is he inspired by a real dog — yours maybe? Did you grow up with pets?

Gregory: Yes, Toby is inspired by Zoé, who belonged to a friend of the workshop where I worked at the time (of writing the graphic novel). Graphically, she was very similar to Toby. Unfortunately, I never had any pets. But during my childhood, around me, I had the opportunity to meet many. I have always loved observing dogs and all animals (including humans).

Magnetic: Marcel, Toby’s friend and “roommate”… you know, is an artist. Is there a bit of you in Marcel?

Gregory: Physically not at all. I’m pretty skinny and dark. Marcel is always “out of step” with the world around him and I think that’s a bit my case too (even if I do improve over time). In this book he’s an artist, but in other stories, he is a professional tennis player, or a time travel policeman!

Magnetic: So Marcel and Toby both appear in some of your other works? That’s awesome, but why did you make that choice?

Gregory: I’m like a director who has his favorite actors. When I create a character, I like to see them evolve and put them in other situations. It’s a way for me to make my characters immortal and not belong to any space-time like our consciousness does!

Magnetic: Ok, last question (for now)! Was My Friend Toby your first graphic novel? What inspired this particular story?

Gregory: Yes, Toby was my first graphic novel. I was coming out of years of working in the cartoon industry, and while I learned a lot, I had accumulated a lot of creative frustration. This story was a way for me to let off steam, the life of a dog and his master, which is far from the marketing or commercial mindset that wore me out during my experience for the small screen. To tell the truth, at the start, this story was constructed as a joke to make my friends and I laugh. But when I sent it to Lewis Trondheim, my editor, he took it very seriously!

Stay tuned for another post where Gregory shares all about his creative process and projects he has coming up!

Thank you for taking some time to talk about your characters and the origin of My Friend Toby! Be sure to check out the Kickstarter to back My Friend Toby and support Animal Cruelty Prevention Month! While you’re there, don’t forget to add a few of the all-ages, wildlife, and wordless graphic novels from the Magnetic Press Catalog!