Angie Siveria is an illustrator, filmmaker, poet and essayist. She was born and grew up in Ukraine and currently lives in Berlin, Germany. Having studied design and scriptwriting, she now creates illustrations for books as well as computer and board games and recently for her own comic, Robotopia. Angie participated and won prizes at many Ukrainian and international short film and poetry festivals. She took part in various art exhibitions in Ukraine.
Oskar Schuster is a German composer and artist living in Berlin. He was born in Munich and grew up in Upper Bavaria. After finishing school, he studied musicology from 2004 until 2009, when he decided to drop out of university; he moved to Berlin and started recording and releasing his music. He is mainly working as a composer nowadays but takes part in different art projects with Angie Siveria, currently working on the comic “Robotopia,” as well as an illustrated children’s book.
Tell us a bit about yourself! What’s your background, and how did you get into comics?
Angie: I work as an illustrator. I started to draw in my early childhood, and I’ve always been interested in graphic illustration as well as animation, cinematography and literature. I would say some of my earliest influences are the classical works of Walt Disney Studios as well as children’s comics about Mickey Mouse and Tom & Jerry. I’m from Ukraine, where during my childhood in the 90s – after the collapse of the USSR – there was no extensive access to comics. My first acquaintance with comics was quite funny. I was about seven years old when I looked through my father’s bookshelf and accidentally found J. Chase’s books. What has Chase got to do with comics? Well, at the end of some of the volumes, I found French comic strips about Pif the dog. To this day, I don’t know why this comic was printed in this series of books, but I liked the idea of a short story in 4 stripes. I drew my first comics for competitions during the Kyiv Comic Con in 2015/2016.
Oskar: I was interested in all kinds of art/creative work from an early age. There were times when I concentrated on writing (short stories and poems), other times when I was more into drawing, but mostly I was always creating music, and that’s what I still do now (I work as a composer mainly). When I met Angie, we wanted to do some fun creative/art projects together, and the comic is just one of them. My passion for comics mostly comes from my childhood and teenage years; I didn’t really discover much new stuff since then, to be honest. My father was a big fan of classical comics, especially the works by Carl Barks, but also Hal Foster’s Prince Valiant and so I kind of also grew up with that, along with the typical comics that children from the 80s and 90s used to read here in Germany, like Asterix and Garfield, who actually inspired our Robotopia Comics in some ways.
What sort of training or academic program did you pursue to become a cartoonist?
Angie: I didn’t really study to become a cartoonist. I studied environmental design and scriptwriting in Ukraine. In the past, I attended a few masterclasses by German comics artists Reinhard Kleist and Mawil in Kyiv – they gave me the inspiration to start my own comic.
Oskar: As for me, I did not have any training connected to comics except reading a lot. I studied musicology in Munich.
Who are your art heroes? Who inspires you?
Angie: I really love the graphic novels by Shaun Tan (“The Arrival”), Reinhard Kleist (Nick Cave: Mercy on me”), David Polonsky (“The Diary of Anne Frank”), as well as Yoshitaka Amano’s art (“The Sandman: The Dream Hunters”) etc. Also, a big inspiration for me is to watch old Disney studio sketches. I actually like very different illustrators such as Arthur Rackham, Maurice Sendak, Maurits Escher, Léon Bakst, J. R. R. Tolkien, Maria Primachenko, Chris Riddell etc. Their technical drawing skills are really fascinating.
Oskar: Inspiration for the comic strips can come from many places; it could be from a novel by Franz Kafka, it could be from a movie, it could be from the news or situations in everyday life. As for comic artists, Carl Barks is my main inspiration for sure. I just love how he created this whole world of Duckburgh and all the characters nearly by himself, working very isolated, in solitude, being very free in his creativity. I admire artists that can create such elaborate, self-contained fantasy worlds from their heads (Barks is known for never traveling outside of his home country – even not much inside of it – until his very old age, when his fame in Europe “forced“ him to attend some comic conventions there to receive prizes, but sent his comic book characters to so many different places all over the world to have the strangest adventures, inventing everything from his imagination and taking his knowledge about those places only from various travel magazines and books about different cultures, mythologies etc.).
What (comics) are you working on right now? How did the idea for the storyline first come to you?
Oskar: At the moment, we are taking a break from the comics as we are working on another project (A computer game to which Angie draws the illustrations and I create the soundtrack). After that, we will continue the weekly Robotopia Comics until we have enough material for a printed book. We are also thinking about creating some longer Robotopia stories. But our art style is quite time consuming, so we settled for the short strips for now.
The idea to make a comic about robots first came to us when Angie was working on (yet another) computer game that featured two robots (but the game was never finished). I liked how weird those robots looked like and suggested to one day create a cartoon with them, a cartoon that (nearly) only featured robots. So we needed an explanation for a world where only robots would live. There was a lot of news about climate change during that time, and it is an important topic to me anyway, so we kind of came up with a scenario of the robots wanting to save the world from climate disaster by killing all humans (well, except one in this case). That is how it started, and we are kind of still developing the whole Robotopian world with each new strip.
How would you introduce your work to the readers?
A funny weekly comic strip about two robots living in a post-apocalyptic world, done in “retro style.”
What comic book character do you identify most with, and why?
Angie: I can answer this question for both of us. I guess Oskar must be Pink Panther or Donald Duck. As for me, I can’t choose between Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Felix the Cat! I guess I prefer to be Felix the Cat because he is nice and has a cool magical yellow bag.
Oskar: To answer it more seriously, I think comic book characters are often very extreme and exaggerated. So I can’t identify with a single one in a general way. And some of them are very superficial characters without depth. Donald Duck (the Carl Barks version, not the classic Disney version of him) has for sure much depth, but he represents only one part of the human experience, I think, namely more the unlucky part, the part of being not successful, of trying hard and being overcome by the obstacles of life, of anger about life and so on. So Barks complimented that with other characters like Gladstone Gander, who is always lucky and succeeds in everything he does or Scrooge, who doesn’t need to worry about money like Donald at all. So I would say I can identify with a set of characters together, sometimes more with one, sometimes more with another, but not with a single one all the time.
What’s the relationship like between you, the comic book writer and you, the illustrator?
Oskar: We are actually not separating the writing and illustration that much. Sometimes Angie has some ideas which I put into words then and sometimes I do the sketches for the illustrations. Also, I am doing the colorization and editing in Photoshop to create the “retro look.” So both of us do some work in both scripting and art.
Do you keep a little notebook and sketchbook around you at all times in case inspiration strikes, or is this more of you sit down at your work desk, and you bang it out?
Angie: I have a huge digital picture library for inspiration that I update every day. Some of these pictures give me ideas for future drawings.
Oskar: Usually, I sit down a few times a week and try to think of new jokes. Sometimes alone, sometimes together with Angie. I then write down the dialogs and sometimes make rough sketches of the comic strip on the iPad.
What outside of comics inspires your work?
Angie: I’m a very big fan of poetic and experimental movies by Andrei Tarkovsky, Sergei Parajanov, Jim Jarmusch, Jean Cocteau etc.
Something that inspired our robots is also my love for science fiction and the fantasy worlds of the Polish writer Stanislav Lem who wrote about robots, astronauts and space. I was also influenced by the science fiction cartoon “The Mystery of the Third Planet” (1981, based on a story by Kir Bulychev) and other Soviet psychedelic animations (“Fantadroms,” “In the Blue Sea, In the White Foam,” “Plasticine Crow“ etc.) that I watched as a child. Also, I should mention Nickelodeon’s animated characters (“CatDog,” “Aaahh !!! Real Monsters,” “The Angry Beavers,” etc.).
What kind of equipment or style of drawing do you use?
Angie: In the beginning, I started to draw on paper, but then I got an iPad and discovered that it’s a great tool to draw comics. So, for the first few weekly strips, the line art was done with pencil on paper; for all the following ones, it was done on the iPad. About the style, I would say that we try to imitate retro comics.
Do you set yourself any deadlines or other tricks to keep yourself motivated?
Oskar: Up to our current break, we always tried to release a new episode every Tuesday. In the beginning, it worked well as we had many ideas and sketches already, but after some time, it got harder to come up with new stuff, so sometimes we skipped a deadline. It is hard to motivate yourself sometimes, especially if other projects in your life take away your time, which is the case now.
What experience do you transfer from comics when working in other media?
Angie: When I was studying scriptwriting and was writing scripts for my short films, I sometimes created storyboards where knowledge about comics and frame composition can usually come in handy.
What do you desire most as an artist?
Angie: I guess to explain to myself and others why a person lives, what the meaning of his existence is, or at least just to put this question in front of somebody. That’s what Tarkovsky said.
Oskar: To create something beautiful and meaningful.
What’s a trend you see in comics art today that get’s on your nerves?
Angie: The main problem with the comics of some current authors is that they seem to be drawn by the same person. This also applies to some modern trends in illustration. Although it really can be a challenge to find your style and not to copy somebody. The same ideas may be in the air.
Oskar: I’m not following today’s comic scene that much. Maybe I should look more into it, but I just prefer the style of classical comics generally.
What does the world need that comics, or art more generally, can provide?
Angie: Seeing other worlds, “traveling in time,” and dreaming.
Oskar: I would also say that one of the most important aspects of art is to make people dream, make them travel into imaginary worlds or to different times, to entertain them and make their lives more colorful, but also to make them think about important problems that we face or general human issues.
Do you have any quick advice for aspiring comic book illustrators out there?
Oskar: We don’t consider ourselves expert comic book artists as we started this only as a fun side project. But maybe that’s our advice, to just start and don’t take it too seriously, to just do it for your enjoyment and then maybe also other people will like it.
Angie: I remember Banksy’s funny ironical statement from his movie: “I always used to encourage everyone I met to make art, I used to think everyone should do it. I don’t do that so much anymore.”
Where can our readers find you online?
At the moment, only on Instagram and Facebook.
And our general websites: