Gagné is a creator I first learned about through
Spore, his back-up tale in DC’s Detective Comics
in late 2002/early 2003. To say I was thrown by his work
would be an understatement and I reviewed his work with
this response in mind. Fortunately, rather than taking my
misinformed criticism the wrong way, Gagné was savvy enough
to make me aware of his prior work and his storytelling
intent. Before long, I was fully immersed in Gagné’s work
and viewing it with a newfound, informed appreciation. Gagné
is a man of many talents—to give you an idea, here’s just
parts of his bio:
“In 1985, he began a highly successful career drawing characters
and special effects for animated and live-action feature
films. Gagné's work has appeared in films such as The
Iron Giant, Osmosis Jones, the Star Wars:
Clones Wars animated short films, The Land Before
Time, All Dogs Go to Heaven, An American Tail,
and numerous others. His 3 ½ minute independent short film,
Prelude to Eden, is a favorite among animation students
and teachers, and has played in festivals throughout the
world. Michel was honored by the International Animated
Film Society, ASIFA-Hollywood, with four Annie Award nominations.
He continues to design and consult on major film projects…The
creator made the jump to print in 1998 with his critically
acclaimed first book, A Search for Meaning: The Story
of Rex, and the birth of GAGNÉ International Press…Among
his other creative endeavors, Michel has experimented in
a variety of mediums including sculptures, paintings and
mixed-medias. He lives peacefully with his wife and two
dogs, in the Pacific Northwest.” As recently announced,
he is soon to release an anthology collection of his first
four storybooks in one volume, Parables, and was
kind enough to speak with me about his work.
Tim O’Shea: This February marks the release of Parables,
an anthology collecting your first four limited edition
storybooks in one volume. In gathering the material for
this anthology, were there any elements of the stories you
tweaked? Why I ask is that you've often struck me as the
kind of person who views the average perfectionist as being
lazy and that they're not trying hard enough.
Michel Gagné: Every time you do a revised edition,
there’s always a temptation to go back and improve things.
When I created these stories, a few years ago, I was in
a different place emotionally, artistically and spiritually.
As an artist and a person, you evolve. Your style and ideas
change. Going back and altering previous works to fit your
new criteria can be a very dangerous thing.
Back in 2002, after the first black and white edition of
A Search for Meaning: The Story of Rex had sold out;
I decided to reissue the book in a new format. First, I
started coloring the illustrations, and from there it was
a ripple effect – I changed the lettering, I changed the
layouts – and what I ended up with was a book that had a
completely different feel than the original. The first edition
was mysterious, artsy while the second edition looked like
a children’s book you’d pick up at Barnes and Nobles. Although
the book got an excellent response from the fans, to me,
some of the intangible spirituality of the original edition
That’s why the books reprinted in Parables are essentially
the same as the original editions. The only changes I made,
besides going from an 11” x 11” to a 9” x 9” format, were
little fixes in the punctuation. Instead of messing with
the original material, I put the emphasis on the packaging
and the paper quality. I also added a pencil sketch gallery
and wrote an introduction explaining how the original books
TO: The average publisher doesn't express concern
for their past consumers, but in announcing
Parables, the following was said: “Although there
have been several requests to reprint some of the individual
volumes, it was not an option for Gagné. ‘We didn't feel
it would be fair to the collectors who own those books’,
he said. ‘We wanted to make sure that the original editions
would remain unique. We thought that a compilation would
be the perfect compromise: keep the collectors happy while
introducing the material to a wider audience. These stories
are very close to my heart and I'm delighted to bring them
back in print.’” What has been the response from your collectors,
have they been appreciative of your consideration?
MG: I’ve received several emails from fans that are
very happy that I finally decided to compile these early
works at an affordable price. A few collectors who own the
original editions have written to me saying that they can’t
wait to get the new collection as well. So I guess everyone’s
TO: I have to ask, of the four stories from Parables,
does one stick out in your mind as a favorite one?
MG: That’s a tough question. Each of the stories
resonates with me on a different level. In a way, I look
at these four books as the chapters of a single volume.
That’s why this compilation made so much sense to me. They’re
little philosophical tales about my life, my fears, my demons,
my spiritual beliefs and my obsession with strange creatures
and weird landscapes.
A Search For Meaning: The Story of Rex was written
shortly after watching a videotape of a lecture by Deepak
Chopra which had a profound impact on me. Listening to Chopra
prompted me to embark on a spiritual quest and creating
that book was very much a part of that. In a twist of fate,
the “Chopra Center for Well-Being” in La Jolla, California
was the first place to carry the book. That was really cool.
Looking at the story now, I see a lot of myself in the little
fox character. In many ways “The Story of Rex” is a metaphor
of my own life.
The Mystery of He is a tale about acceptance and
brotherhood. Bigotry and racism are fueled by ignorance
and fear. This strange little story is sort of my parable
about that. I’m glad it’s back in print because I think
it has a good message. As with all my books, it’s filled
with strange creatures including unicorns and multihorns.
The Great Shadow Migration is probably the most abstract
book I’ve done so far in terms of story and art. It’s very
graphic. It’s a yin and yang tale with monsters, creatures,
and weird environments. It’s got a philosophical twist to
it. The narrative plays on different levels. Visually, it’s
probably my favorite of the four.
The fourth book featured in the collection is called The
Bird, the Spider and the Octopus. It contains three
short stories that deal with self-destructive behaviors.
It’s very dark. One of the stories is about amputee fetishism.
It’s a subject I read about in a magazine article and it
totally traumatized me - so much so that I had to write
about it. My father was an extremely self-destructive man
and he inspired a lot of this book. I dedicated the original
edition to his memory.
TO: What was the feedback from DC after Spore
(the Detective Comics back-up tale) wrapped up?
MG: After Spore part 5 wrapped up, in Detective
Comics #780, the feedback back from DC was pretty anticlimactic.
I think that publishing something so artsy and weird in
such a mainstream title might have backfired. I received
an email from the assistant editor almost apologizing to
me for the controversial fan reaction. He said he’d hoped
this would not discourage me from doing more potential work
for DC. That was the last I heard.
TO: Do you envision doing more work with DC down
the road or do you prefer the freedom afforded by self-publishing?
MG: I’d be up for doing some “alternative universe”
story, a Bizarro tale or something along those lines.
As far as freedom, well I can’t complain there. DC gave
me absolute freedom to do anything I wanted. I created the
pages from start to finish without interference. The first
time the editor saw anything was when I sent him the files
in Quark X-Press, along with a set of color proofs. Matt
Idelson really took a chance with me on this one. I emailed
him, after the whole thing was published, to thank him but
he never responded. I’d love to hear from him.
The only thing I feel sad about is the fact that I don’t
have the publishing rights. If I did, I’d add 16 more pages
of narrative to wrap it up properly, I’d do a cover for
it, write an introduction, add a sketch gallery, and package
it as a hardcover. I think it would sell quite well.
TO: Back when we talked
earlier this year at ORCA, you mentioned an un-named
project, here's what you said: “I’m working on an 'adults
only' graphic novel. It’s a very personal story, very edgy
and definitely not for kids.” Where does that project stand
Oh Yeah, I’m really excited about this one. It’s called
My Insane Childhood and it’s a black and white, 136-page
autobiographical graphic novel. It deals with a lot of difficult
subjects I was faced with growing up, including the loss
of an eye at the age of twelve. It is very disturbing in
many ways but imbued with a sense of optimism at the same
time. Graphically, it will be very bold and surreal.
Working on the story has been emotionally draining because
it’s such a personal piece. I’m planning for a December
2004 release although that could change. I don’t want to
What can you tell folks about the upcoming ZED: Resurrection
issue, slated to be released in June 2004?
MG: ZED #5 (Resurrection) picks up exactly
where #4 left off. It’s been quite a while since the last
issue was published and I’m glad to return to the adventures
of my cute little guy. If you remember, ZED gets
killed at the end of issue four. The first part of the new
issue deals with him in the afterlife. God even makes an
appearance! Of course ZED comes back to life and
there’s a really good twist there. This issue will turn
the whole series on its head. The ZED saga is planned
for 8 issues.
Despite the good reviews, it’s been difficult getting a
sizable audience for ZED. One of the big reasons
is that I’m not very consistent as far as putting out the
book on a regular schedule. ZED is a pet project of mine.
I do it when the inspiration hits. I really admire people
like Terry Moore, Jeff Smith, Erik Larsen etc. These guys
are totally dedicated to their series and they keep putting
out these books months after months. I couldn’t do that.
I have so many areas of interest. I love doing ZED
but I just can’t stick to a single project. I like variety.
Many of my projects are years in the making. I like to let
them gestate and ferment. I’m committed to do 8 issues of
ZED but I’m not committed to any schedule. Fans of
the series will just have to be very patient.
By the way, those who missed the first four issues can still
get the TPB (ZED: Volume One). It’s available through
Diamond on the STAR system. It can also be ordered from
our site and from Amazon.com.
TO: Are there any other projects you'd like to discuss,
that I neglected to ask about?
MG: I’ve got a new hardcover book coming out in May
called Freaky Flora: From A to Z. It’s sort of a
sequel to my 2002 release Frenzied Fauna: From A to Z.
This one deals with vegetation instead of animals. It’s
As I told you in a previous interview, I formed a partnership
with Sideshow to create sculptural collectibles of my designs.
The first limited edition statue, which came out last July,
was based on an illustration from my 2001 book, Insanely
Twisted Rabbits. We were delighted by how successful
it was and how quickly it sold out. This year we will continue
to expand the line. The next statue (Scarab Rabbit) is scheduled
to be released in April and it looks awesome. Mat Fals is
the guy who sculpts my stuff and he is really capturing
the essence of my illustrations. We’re planning a third
release for July, just in time for San Diego Comic–Con.