G.E. Gallas – The Poet and The Flea Q & A

Interviewer: Anthony Andujar Jr  Interviewee: G.E.Gallas Q1. What is the premise of The Poet and The Flea?  A1: The Poet and the Flea is a graphic novel trilogy about the […]

Interviewer: Anthony Andujar Jr 

Interviewee: G.E.Gallas

Q1. What is the premise of The Poet and The Flea?

 A1: The Poet and the Flea is a graphic novel trilogy about the English 18th-century poet-painter, William Blake, and his nightmarish creation, The Ghost of a Flea. Set in 1790, at the onset of The Industrial Revolution, William suffers from the death of his beloved younger brother, Robert. Catherine (Kate) Blake attempts to comfort her husband, but cannot dispel his grief. During this spell of anxiety, William is visited by an ominous creature: The Ghost of a Flea. The Flea reveals a vested interest in William’s spiritual well-being – the result of an unorthodox wager. Will William triumph over The Flea’s sinister meddling? Or will he fall victim to The Flea’s corruption?

 Q2. What was the inspiration for The Poet and The Flea? What made you decide to write a story such as this?

 A2: The initial inspiration for The Poet and the Flea was Blake’s painting of The Ghost of a Flea. It’s a very unusual, mysterious, and intriguing painting of this muscular and menacing creature holding a bowl – used for drinking blood – in its claw-like hand. I can’t really think of any other piece of art like it! Seeing this striking image made me want to learn more about its origin and, in turn, more about Blake – his life and works. The story behind The Ghost of a Flea – this creature showing up at Blake’s home and causing the poet-painter to flee – was just as intriguing as the painting itself. What’s more, Blake’s illuminated manuscripts – weaving words and images together on one page – convinced me that a comic book or graphic novel was the perfect medium in which to tell this story.

 Q3. What was the developmental process for this ongoing series? What kind of research was required to make sure that everything within this series was accurate to the time and era that its based on?

A3: Although The Poet and the Flea is historical fiction, this series has involved an enormous amount of research, both factual and visual – from setting and costume, examining Blake’s life and works, checking the etymology of words to make sure they’re not too modern for the year 1790, even trying to figure out if Blake would have owned a pocket watch or what kind of watering can he may have used for his garden.  I’ve read a number of Blake biographies, have taken copious notes, and have collected many images as visual references for when I illustrate the graphic novel pages. I’ve been lucky enough to see a number of Blake’s works in person at The British Museum and The Tate in London as well as the Yale Center for British Art. I’ve also visited one of Blake’s homes (17 South Molton Street), St. James’s Church, Piccadilly (where he was baptized), St. Mary’s Church, Battersea (where he and Catherine were married), as well as Bunhill Fields (where they are both buried). I’ve tried my best to give The Poet and the Flea a factual and historical foundation, even though its story involves many supernatural and fantastical elements.

Q4. What made Tapas the best platform for this series to be read through? 

A4: Actually, I’m not sure that Tapas is the best platform for The Poet and the Flea. Posting it there has been an ongoing experiment for me. My work doesn’t really fit in with the typical series promoted by Tapas, which trend towards rom-coms and slice of life. But I felt it was worth the experiment since Tapas offers an extensive community of webcomic readers that I would not have any chance of reaching if I had posted the series elsewhere. I’m also posting the series on Patreon, which has been an experiment in itself.

Q5. You’re both the writer and the illustrator of The Poet and The Flea. What is the schedule like for you?

A5: My schedule tends to change based on what project I’m working on and how far along that project is. I tend to set short-term and long-term goals for myself. Currently, the script for The Poet and the Flea volumes 2 and 3 are complete as well as thumbnail sketches for every single page. My short-term goal is to work on illustrating the first 50 or so pages of volume 2, which I’ve made a lot of progress on in the past few months. This involves multiple steps, including penciling, inking, shading with greyscale markers, and scanning. From there, it depends on what I feel like working on! Some days, I feel like penciling. Other days, I feel like inking. And so on. I also might set a daily goal for myself. For instance, “It would be great if I could pencil five more pages today.” But I also try not to stress or rush, because then it wouldn’t be enjoyable and I wouldn’t be satisfied with the finished work.

Q6. Do you write a script out first, and then proceed with the thumbnails and finishes? Which comes first and which comes last?

A6: Actually, I start with lots and lots of research notes! Then, I organize my notes into an outline – the beginning, middle, and end of the story. The outline helps me write the script. From the script, I create thumbnails for every page. Then, I pencil, ink, shade, and scan the final illustrated pages. Finally, I format everything in InDesign for printing/publishing.

Q7. What is an ongoing struggle that you often face when writing and illustrating this series?

A7: Writing and illustrating The Poet and the Flea has its challenges. This series challenges me to draw things I wouldn’t normally draw. But it’s not a struggle per se – I find it all very refreshing! The real struggle is finding the time to work on it, since I’m also busy with my small business and other projects. I’ve been working on The Poet and the Flea since 2012. I finished volume 1 in 2015. So it feels great to get back on track with volume 2!

Q8. What are some of the strengths that come with being both the writer and illustrator of this series?

A8: Being both the writer and illustrator has its pros and cons. One con is that I have twice the work to do all by myself (laughs). But, on the other hand, I don’t have to communicate ideas to or compromise with another person. When I write a script, the words I put down on paper evoke a very specific image in my mind. In a way, it’s a sort of code that only I know! In other words, when I’m writing a script, I’m simultaneously and instinctively composing the illustrations in my mind. When I reread my script as I work on thumbnails, the words themselves remind me of what I had already envisioned, and I translate that into the thumbnails, and later into the final illustrations. Then, when I’m working on final pages, the illustrations are further fleshed out, aided by research images and additional details.

Q9. What did you discover when making this series that enhanced your life and skills?

A9: When I create my illustrations, they’re usually some combination of traditional and digital tools. For my graphic novel, The Plague and Doctor Caim (about a 17th-century plague doctor), I penciled and inked the pages, then scanned them so that I could color everything in Photoshop and add all the words via InDesign. For The Poet and the Flea, I pencil, ink, and shade everything by hand – I even write all the words by hand! So this series requires very few digital tools. Although I do enjoy working digitally, working traditionally becomes a wonderful vacation from the computer screen. In this day and age, any time away from technology is exciting and inspiring for me. 

Q10. Are there any projects or messages that you want your readers to be informed about? 

 A10: The Poet and the Flea (Volume 1) is available to read for free on both Tapas (tapas.io/series/ThePoetandtheFlea/info) and Patreon (patreon.com/posts/cover-poet-and-1-51345995). A paperback and digital version of volume 1 is available on my online store (gegallas.com/store). I plan on releasing new, never-before-seen pages of volume 2 online later this year! My graphic novel, The Plague and Doctor Caim, is available in hardcover and ebook editions via my publisher, Cast Iron Books (castironbooks.com/books/the-plague-and-doctor-caim). 

You can find links to her various social medias: https://linktr.ee/gegallas

Anthony Andujar Jr.

About Anthony Andujar Jr.

Anthony Andujar Jr. is an NYC cartoonist and lover of comics and music. So much so that it led him to writing comic book reviews in between it all.