Comic fans know Rafael Grampá as the writer and artist behind fan-favorite Mesmo Delivery and the upcoming Batman: Gargoyle of Gotham, but next Fall, he'll be making his debut as an editor. Grampá is teaming up with renowned comic editor Janaina de Luna to present BRABA, an anthology featuring work from 16 different creators, published by Fantagraphics and Brazilian publisher Mino.

CBR sat down with Grampá and cartoonist Pedro Cobiaco at this year's San Diego Comic-Con to learn more about BRABA. The two creators discussed how the project came together, the sort of work fans can expect to find in the anthology, and what it's like making comics in Brazil.

The cover of the BRABA anthology

CBR: Could you talk a bit about how BRABA came together?

Rafael Grampá: It started when I met Eric [Reynolds]. Not personally, but through email. It was in 2018 when I suggested a Brazilian artist for him -- Daniel Semanas, who made Roly Poly. I suggested this book to Eric. Eric liked that a lot, and he published it through Fantagraphics. We started to talk about making something together, but my schedule was already crazy at the time. But I always wanted to work with Fantagraphics because it was a big influence on me at the beginning of my career when I realized that I could be myself and publish with my own style because of the books that Fantagraphics used to publish, like Daniel Clowes, Adrian Tomine, [and] Robert Crumb.

It was always the dream to do something with Fantagraphics. In our minds, if you do something with Fantagraphics, it means you're good. It was always a dream to have that validation. But I didn't have time to produce anything. We were having a conversation, me and Eric, trying to find something to do together. We started to talk about Argentinian artists, and I asked him, "Can you give me five names of Argentinian artists?" And he said, "Yeah, sure." I said, "Give me five German artists." He could say five. And I said, "Give me five names of Brazilian artists." And he [only] gave me three. I said, "Okay, man, I think Fantagraphics needs to show more Brazillian artists to the world." He said, "This was the best pitch ever. Let's do it."

We started to talk about his anthology. Eric was really excited. I started to show him the artists that we started to invite. So I became the curator of the book, along with Janaina de Luna, Minos' editor. I thought it would be really good to have the best Brazilian editor. I asked Janaina if she wanted to share this project with me. She was like, "Fuck yeah! Let's do it!"

Fantagraphics [agreed to publish BRABA] in collaboration with Mino. It's the first time Fantagraphics has collaborated with a South American publisher. For Mino, it is historical. And for the Brazilian scene, it's historical, too. A lot of Brazilian artists dream of publishing with Fantagraphics. We made a big list [of cartoonists.] Sadly we needed to only choose 15, that ended up being 13 because two of them couldn't do it.

We're trying to show a little more of what is happening in Brazil right now to the world. [There is] a vibrant scene in Brazil and how inclusive this scene is. I'm really excited to be part of it and to be announcing it. All the artists are very excited too. It'll be the first time they're publishing outside Brazil. I think maybe one or two already published something, but for most of them will be the first time.

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A sample page by Amanda Miranda in BRABA

It sounds like you made a huge list of cartoonists to work with. What were the criteria you were looking for?

Grampá: We tried to see the originality of the work and tried to find the differences between them to make a diversity of styles. We looked to make a list of female and male artists to be balanced. It was easy because we have tons of female artists that are awesome. It was easy to find that balance. The criteria was to see the work and see how people would connect with this work outside Brazil.

Pedro Cobiaco: You could also say that it's all fresh. It's all contemporary and relatively young or really young artists.

Pedro, how did you get involved with BRABA, and what can you tease about your work in the book?

Cobiaco: My situation is funny because I could see a lot of the backstage since I work at Mino, and I'm married to Janaina. So it was a lot of fun. I've known Grampá since I was like 11 years old.

Grampá: I should say one of the reasons I wanted to do BRABA is to have the opportunity to show the work of artists that I admire, like Pedro. In my opinion, he is one of the most talented Brazilian artists right now. He's so good. His style is so original, and his text is so poetic. It's huge. This is an opportunity to make people know what I already know. His work. Bruno Seelig is one of the most brilliant artists in Brazil. I think people will notice it.

Pedro is also doing the cover and the illustrations between the stories. We created another universe -- the BRABA universe. Characters are living with some apocalyptic situations like we lived [through] in Brazil in the last few years. So you're trying to take something that was bad for Brazilians and trying to create art. Pedro is taking care of the art design.

Cobiaco: Grampá made the art direction for the illustrations and this universe we created. It's like a story of its own. It's a poetic, fictional metaphor for what it's like to make comics in Brazil. I mean, it's kind of a post-apocalyptic world for comic artists in Brazil. It's hard to explain to someone who's not from Brazil how much work you must put in, especially to be seen outside of Brazil. I've been making comics since I was 13. To me, this is like a dream. I was always a huge Fantagraphics nerd. I read almost all of the Comics Journal. Most of my favorite artists publish with Fantagraphics. It's huge for us. And I know I'm not alone in this feeling. For most of the artists, it's a dream.

I have the illustrations, and I have my own short story. It's a seven-page story about grief and memory. All the stories had this briefing. They all ran very freely, but the briefing was like, "You should do a personal manifesto with your comic." So, to me, since comics have always been a lot about memory, it's a story about memory [and] grief. It's a musical story. I mean, it's sort of lyrical [and] surrealistic. I hope people like it.

Pedro Cobiaco's sample page from BRABA

What is it about Brazillian comics and the comics you're presenting to the world in BRABA that makes them distinct? How do Brazillian comics compare to the rest of the world?

Grampá: I think Pedro can answer this question better because when I started to do comics, I already started to publish in the United States. I made my first self-published comics, and I have distribution here. Since then, I started to work from Brazil but in this industry, so I don't have a lot of experience doing a lot of work within the Brazilian industry, but I know what happens. The difference is, "How can a really bad industry have some of the best artists in the world?"

It's about being perceived. We need to fight all the time to find a way to get the best from that country. The country is amazing, but the people that rule the country are awful. We have a lot of corruption and violence. But the people have a lot of faith and hope. You can see that in the work. The country has a lot of big things, but how they treat the artists is not the best, but the artists love themselves, and we make communities and support each other. And in the worst-case scenario, you never quit. You can see that when you see the quality of the work. They're very distinct.

You cannot find, "Oh, this is a Brazillian work in the Brazilian style." we don't have that because it's very diverse. We like to feed from a lot of different things. So you can see Brazilian artists influenced by manga and some abstract comics mixed together. It's hard to see a person and say, "This person is Brazillian."

Cobiaco: We have like the biggest Japanese community outside of Japan and a huge African community.

Grampá: We have this diversity of influences. Whatever we do, we try to do our best.

Cobiaco: I think there's something to Brazil like, everything we do, we try to do with originality. It doesn't matter what it is. It could be music, it could be like sushi. Sushi in Brazil is unlike anywhere in the world. We are all about originality in Brazil. Everything Grampá said is true. It's very hard to thrive in Brazil as an artist. But if you look at any art form in Brazil right now, we have the freshest artists. It could be rap music, it could be cooking, it could be fashion, it could be painting, and of course, this is true for comics too. Everything we do, we try to give it our own twist. To make art in Brazil is to be a pirate. It's really hard, but we do it with grace. I'm very proud of Brazil's art scene, and I think the world will see a lot from Brazil in the next years.

BRABA will be on sale in Fall 2024.