Chili Com Carne
Marcos Farrajota is a Lisbon-based comic book creator and publisher. He is a founding member of Chili Com Carne,* a “non-lucrative young artists organization, whose functioning is established upon the free and spontaneous cooperation of its members,” which was formed in 1995.
Chili Com Carne has organized exhibitions and published a wide range of ‘underground’ comics. Examples include:
- The Dying Draughtsman – Francisco Sousa Lobo
- Kassumai – David Campos
- Love Hole – Afonso Ferreira
- Zona de Desconforo – v/a
- Erzsébet – Nunsky
- Pénis Assassino – Janus
- Terminal Tower – André Coelho and Manuel João Neto
Chili Com Carne also created Mmnnnrrrg in 2000, an imprint producing outsider art and very experimental materials. They have recently started to release music** as well as comics.
Marcos prefers to promote others’ work, keeping his own work very low-key. He is also very keen to promote an initiative by the Portuguese Government which provides funding for publishers outside Portugal who seek to publish Portuguese books.
Marcos tells us more.
IM: What’s your background?
MF: Well… I studied Enterprise management, but never finished the University course… I guess I can blame comics and punk DIY culture, hahahaha… I got into the fanzines scene and started to do one in 1992. It was titled Mesinha de Cabeceira (Bedside Table). Then I worked here and there, the usual way again: xerox copies, autobiography comics, getting pissed and stoned, getting pissed with the comics scene, doing DIY and becoming famous for 15 minutes with the Loverboy series. Then I went back to zines, started doing DIY again, got really fucking pissed with the comics scene, but continued to do stuff… In the middle, around 2000, I started to work at Bedeteca de Lisboa (the Lisbon public comics library) which has been my bread work, my day job, ever since…
IM: Are you a creator as well as a publisher?
IM: What is the Chili Com Carne organization?
MF: Bunch of people from different backgrounds—literature, music, comics, design, fine arts, theater, cinema, etc— getting together and starting to create an official organization to make things better, bigger, and stronger. Around 2000, we started to focus more on publishing and less on performance, so we’ve continued like that, publishing mainly authors of comics, literature, essays, drawing, and even one vinyl record— the very groooooovie 10″ of Çuta Kebab & Party! Have fun and dance to it at http://facamonstro.bandcamp.com/album/k-p-ep-10
IM: What sets Mmnnnrrrg apart from Chili Com Carne?
MF: MMMNNNRRRG is a solo project of mine created in 2000 with the intent of publishing all the comics that nobody wants! It’s been a “dynamic duo” project with Joana Pires taking care of the design and my bad moods since 2010, hahahaha. Most of the label aspect is connected with an “art brut” feeling of art with no compromise and no fixed genre. The idea was to publish unique voices in comics and illustrations, like Mike Diana (no introduction needed, I hope!), Tommi Musturi (from Finland), Anton Kannemeyer (from South Africa), Marriette Tosel (she was chosen for a Society of Illustrators contest last year!), Neuro (from Romania), Aaron $hunga (an internet legend with his bloody funny Vacuum Horror, you know that one?), Portuguese André Lemos, etc…
IM: What types of events does Chili Com Carne organize?
MF: In the past, all sorts (art shows, gigs, etc…). The most important was co-producing Feira Laica, a small press show that was active between 2004 and 2012… Now we just do weird book release events if that happens that way…
IM: Are the Chili Com Carne and Mmnnnrrrg comics creator-owned?
MF: Yes… we are small labels who think more about promoting authors that are actually selling as our economic reason to exist. Our work is voluntary— nobody lives on the book sales.
IM: Who are the target audiences for Chili Com Carne and Mmnnnrrrg comics?
MF: What? Anybody, I don’t believe in targets; we don’t have firearms in Portugal, hahahaha. I think anybody should read our comics. Of course, some of the comics are a bit “rude”— like Mike Diana or Aaron $hunga, or even my stuff for sexual content, violence, and “bad language”— but most of our comics are about life, so if you’re 64 years old, or 14, you should read whatever. Making targets is like economic censorship!
IM: How do you rate Issuu as a distribution platform?
MF: Nothing to say… I thought it would be important to promote our books, but I’m not sure if we’ll actually sell any because of that… but it’s good to have an online pdf that you can incorporate in blog posts showing how the book is. …no big opinion on that!
IM: What is the Portuguese comic book scene like?
MF: Tricky question, because I’ll be always crucified if I say something or other about the Portuguese comics scene, because there’s quite a rich scene of very different groups of people (I say this, considering it’s a small country). So if I defend some point of view, some guy will say I’m doing lobbying… Anyway, let’s say you have good artists but no professional labels that can sustain their output. So many artists in the past just gave up doing stuff, even if they were super-good like Pedro Nora. So, if you draw super-heroes/American stuff, well, there’s a good bunch of them even working for Marvel right now like Jorge Coelho. But if you want “art comics.” there’s been highs and lows since the 70s (after the revolution of 25th April, 1974) but always ending in some kind of failure or disrupted evolution.
I’m guessing that these last two years, things have been getting up again with some “new kids on the block;” very small labels working really tightly with the artists, but more important, there’s more Portuguese books coming out translated in other languages—which is really important, because (again) it’s a small country, with a small number of comics and graphic novels buyers/consumers, small sales, small feedback (press, media, public, etc…). So, if you do a book here, the sales will be—even if it’s a “bestseller”— too small to pay artists to continue their careers (mainstream or artsy). Being published in more countries helps to get a bit more of money and/or recognition that just working for Portuguese market. Promotion abroad is happening a lot; you don’t only have mainstream guys working for US, but also wonderful brand new art-comics from Amanda Baeza being published in Latvia… and “old” 90s graphic novels being translated/published in Poland, France, Italy… I’m crossing my fingers that something exciting will happen in the future!
IM: You mentioned that the Portuguese Government runs a program to help Portuguese creators get their work published overseas. Can you tell us more about the program?
MF: Well, this institution— DGLAB, http://www.dglb.pt/sites/DGLB/English/livro/divulgacaoEstrangeiro/bandaDesenhadaIlustracao/Pages/BandaDesenhadaIlustracaoNew.aspx —is helping foreign publishers if they want to publish Portuguese books. They give money for translations and some other production costs. In the past, there were other kinds of public funding for Portuguese comics; this is the “surviving” one and it seems to be performing well and with visible results to the world— check the latest Kus! issue for instance…
IM: Have you used the program yourself— as well as promoting it on behalf of the government?
MF: No, never… I’m quite low-profile on my work. I prefer to promote other people’s work…
IM: Are you affiliated with the program?
MF: No, I’m promoting because it’s important to let foreign publishers know this exists… doing it for free, but also doing this hoping some publisher may interested in the books I published, of course!
IM: If a publisher wanted to use the program for say, Chili Com Carne and Mmnnnrrrg comics, what would the process be? Would they contact you directly and work out an agreement, then apply for the grant?
MF: I guess so… I mean, I think you can apply the program if you have signed agreements with editors and translators… or authors! But, hey, just read the link for the program; everything is there!
IM: How do you market your group’s comics (promotion, marketing and selling) Do you advertise or do interviews or do signings in shops? How do you let people know your work exists and encourage them to buy it?
MF: E-mail, blog, Facebook, Issuu— all digital… then, of course, sometimes some critics pick up the books and write about them in newspapers and once or twice on TV… but you know, zero budget for promotion, just using the ‘net thing, like all the poor and oppressed use the web to have some voice.
IM: Is Chili Com Carne a closed group or are you looking for submissions?
MF: We are open, but it depends on the projects. The last anthologies, for instance, have been very focused on particular themes or forms. Right now, we’re promoting— making an open-call— to foreign people that worked or studied in Portugal. It’s a book about how you look at Portugal and Portuguese society with “other eyes,” but not as a fancy futuristic point-of-view; we want autobiographical comics from those who actually LIVED here and not only visited it…
IM: What effect has advancing technology had on the industry? Do you think the internet has made it easier for people to self-publish, and distribute their self-published work?
MF: Well, of course it made it easier. In the old days, you had to write and spend money on stamps— and there was the risk in not knowing what you were buying… Of course, that was also really exciting, but now you can find wonderful stuff from Portugal, the US, Latvia, Peru, Croatia, or anywhere in the world. And this is only the beginning of the conversation; now you can design a book easier, etc, etc, etc…
IM: Do you think the number of self published comics, print-on-demand comics, digital comics and web comics makes it more difficult for individual creators to promote and market their work?
MF: Yeah, but what are the options here? We all stop doing stuff? I think people should be conscious of the contents and artistic value of our production… I think some people just draw some stupid thing and they just put it online or xerox it or whatever… but still: 1) is not that that mainstream press does also? and 2) if it’s bad stuff, you do 25 copies and the world will forget it; if it’s good, something else will happen sooner or later…
IM: What titles do you have planned for the future?
MF: There’s a new QCDA anthology, that “emigration” anthology Zona de Desconforto, new books by Dileydi Florez, Filipe Felizardo, Francisco Sousa Lobo, José Smith Vargas, … an essay about punk and comics by me… all this by Chili Com Carne. As for MMMNNNRRRG, there’s a new book by Aleksandar Zograf coming, maybe an omnibus of Simon Hanselmann, and one music split tape just came out with music from Melanie is Demented and Black Taiga— MMMNNNRRRG is celebrating 15 years in May!
IM: Will you be attending any upcoming conventions?
MF: I’m going to Poland twice this year, not sure about Crack (in Rome, not the drug) and national events like the Comics Festival of Beja and Feira Morta…
IM: Are comics known as “comics” in Portugal?
MF: No, it’s BD or Banda Desenhada, a French influence of Bandes Dessinées … Before the 60/70s they were known as “histórias aos quadradinhos” (stories in small squares/panels).
* Chili Com Carne* is the Portuguese version of Chilli Con Carne.
** After the interview Marcos contacted us with information on MMMNNNRRRG’s first musical release. It is a split-tape (cassette tape) of Melanie Is Demented and Black Taiga. It is being sold in the Chili Com Carne website’s online shop (in the MMMNNNRRRG section).
Weblinks (they have content in English and Portuguese)