Italian writer/artist Mirka Andolfo (DC BOMBSHELLS, HARLEY QUINN, WONDER WOMAN) is the creator behind UNNATURAL. UNNATURAL #1 is about a twenty-something pig girl named Leslie. Leslie has erotic dreams with a wolf who she swears is watching her. In Leslie’s world, relationships with other species and homosexuality is forbidden because of an oppressive regime. Originally published in Italian as CONTRA NATUTRA by Panini Comics. Image Comics is publishing the English version in North America this July. We had the great pleasure to interview Andolfo ahead of its release. We spoke about the creation behind the romance-suspense series, the localization process, and why Andolfo became a comics creator among other topics. This interview contains mature themes and images and has been edited for clarity.
ComicsVerse (CV): I understand that translating CONTRO NATURA into English is a personal project for you. Why did you decide to bring UNNATURAL to North American audiences now? How did Image Comics get involved?
Mirka Andolfo (MA): Well, I’m not sure if I got the exact meaning but if I did, I wouldn’t say that CONTRO NATURA into English is a “personal project” of mine. UNNATURAL has been read and evaluated by Image Comics as [well as] many other projects and they chose to publish [it]. The only difference between this series and others is that UNNATURAL was originally published in Italy, by Panini Comics. I work as artist [in] the American market and when I worked on UNNATURAL I had in my mind the North American audience too. So it was quite natural for Panini (and me, of course) thinking about the United States. Image believed in the project, and so… well, I wait July 4th!
CV: One of the themes that you explore in UNNATURAL #1 is forbidden relationships between species and genders. What inspired you to explore this theme and create this world? Was Benito Mussolini’s regime an inspiration for the story?
MA: I’ll start from the end: No, Benito Mussolini and fascism has nothing to do with what I did on UNNATURAL. Consider that the twenty years of fascism in Italy were a fairly obvious dictatorship, whereas in UNNATURAL there’s a dystopian world with a sort of hidden dictatorship. The government controls people and their relationships, but the people themselves usually think that’s a good idea. I think that there are more link with nowadays society: in Italy (but in general, as far as I see, this is not only Italy) we live with some people who seem to have fallen into a new Middle Ages. For instance, in one of the very first scenes of UNNATURAL, there is an advertising campaign about the “right” family, etc. Well it was totally invented but some months later, a similar campaign was launched in Italy!
CV: Can you talk about what the localization process behind UNNATURAL #1 was like? Were there any words that you encountered that were difficult to phrase into English?
MA: It was very, very difficult, but I’m totally happy with the result. Both with my Italian publisher and the studio where I work —Arancia Studio— we decided to split the translation into two different phases: a first “rough” (literal) translation made by a professional Italian translator, and then a sort of “review” by an American mother tongue writer. I think that this is the only way to have a good result, because Italian and English are two languages with too many differences. In the way the phrases is built… I have to admit that now when I read the English version I almost prefer that to the Italian one!
CV: Some artists who write and draw their own comics like to draw out the scenes first, then add dialogue and vice versa. What’s was your process like writing the script and illustrating UNNATURAL?
MA: My process is a very spontaneous and immediate method: I write a synopsis of all the arcs (4 issues) and –after discussions with my editors (sometimes it takes quite a lot of time)– I work directly on layouts. Dialogues are not the final but they only let my editor understand what I have in mind. Once approved that, I go drawing and, finally, work on the dialogue. I know that it is not really a “manual method”, but I have always found it so well.
CV: One thing I quite enjoyed about UNNATURAL #1 is the awkward, sexual humor. How important was it to add humor to the series and execute that comedy through the art?
MA: I always love adding humor (and sexiness too) in my comics and in general in my life. What I appreciate – as a reader first – is the contrast between dark and serious moments to the humor that let the reader to do a sane, a liberating laugh… But I always pay a lot of attention so I hope I did a good job on that.
CV: Why does Leslie love eating sushi? Is eating meat frowned upon in the world of UNNATURAL?
MA: In the world of UNNATURAL, dinosaurs are like our animals: some species (like velociraptor, Pif is Leslie’s pet) are considered pet animals and other species are also used as food. Sushi is made of dinosaurs — in fact, the name of Leslie’s favourite restaurant is called Sushisauro, I didn’t show any vegetarians or vegans in UNNATURAL, but I’m sure there are some in their world like in ours and I’m ok with that.
As for the first question: it’s because I do adore sushi, and Leslie share some character traits with me.
CV: Why does Leslie’s roommate, Trish, seemingly like barging into Leslie during her most private moments?
MA: Because they’re roommates! Also according to what I hear speaking with my American friends, I think that there is probably a big difference among American and European people. Here, if you have a roommate (and, especially, if he/she is a very good friend), it will be normal for him/her to enter your room or the bathroom even if you’re in. I don’t want to say we don’t respect privacy (personally I’m very shy and jealous of my private moments), but this is not so unusual. So, I put this kind of scenes to show the level of the relationship of confidence between the two girls: they’re like sisters.
CV: What are some of your favorite romance novels and/or comics that inspired UNNNATURAL?
MA: It’s hard to say, because I love so many novels and comics… To be honest, I don’t like a lot of romance novels, but in general I read different genres. Of course, the main influence on the spirit of UNNATURAL (as for the setting) was from George Orwell’s novels. But also American and European comic books like SAGA and SKY DOLL and manga.
CV: Why did you decide to become a comics creator? What does it mean to create comics for you?
MA: I’m not sure I did decide that. I started drawing when I was child, and I never stopped. Then when I was 19, I started working on coloring comics and then drawing them. And I’m totally happy about my activity as artist. But during my free time, I always created stories, characters, universes… So let me say [that] I never decided to be a comics creator because for me it’s a need.
I started writing and drawing my first (professional) comic series while I was a colorist, between one page and another. Now, I had the chance to be published in my country and some others, and I can’t imagine me stopping creating. It’s a sort of relief valve, for me.
CV: A few days ago I saw that you posted one of the first drawings that you did of Leslie on Twitter. You mentioned that nobody wants to be censored in a reply to a follower. As an artist who enjoys drawing nude characters, how do you navigate the tricky world of social media without raising alarms?
MA: I’d like to answer that I don’t care because of course, when I draw comics for publishers, I follow the guidelines, but when I draw for fun, I just want to enjoy. I never do porn, but only nude (or semi-nude) characters and and if someone has something to concern, well, I take note of it.
But I can’t give you this kind of answer, because it’s not totally true. In my head I’m always worried and insecure about that. I fear to hurt someone; to became a target for a shit-storm but I try not to think about that.
Here in Italy, I’m often told that is “strange” that a girl draw this kind of art, but that’s not said as a criticism, but with sincere amazement. OK, sometimes it’s also said as a critics, but not always.
CV: Finally, besides UNNATURAL #1, what else can our readers to look forward to from you in the future?
MA: If they want to find my pages as artist, I’m currently happily working at DC Comics: in the last year I worked on BOMBSHELLS UNITED, WONDER WOMAN, TEEN TITANS (the DARK KNIGHTS: METAL tie-in), HARLEY QUINN. All this stuff is quite easy to find I think.
Right now, I’m working on HARLEY QUINN and on a new announced project. And I’m working also on a French comicbook with an amazing writer that probably will be published in the United States too. As a creator, I’m going to work on my new upcoming project in a couple of months I think. It’s too early to speak about that.
CV: Thanks for taking some of your time talk with us! I appreciate it.
MA: Thanks to you for the very kind and interesting questions!
UNNATURAL Launches on July 4th
UNNATURAL #1 releases in North America on Wednesday, July 4th. You can pre-order it on Comixology and check which stores will have it here. Until then be sure to follow Mirka on Twitter for her latest appearances, muses, and updates.