Every year, in the countdown to the Lakes International Comic Art Festival in October, we bring you a series of interviews with guests at the event. This “Festival Focus” for 2019 is with Elyon's, the founder of Bilili BD Festival, the first festival dedicated to comics in the Republic of Congo, whose work, The Diary of Ebene Duta will be launched in English for the first time at this year's event in Kendal.
Born in 1982 in Bafoussam, Cameroon, Elyon's, who has a degree in Modern Literature and a degree in Graphic, Visual and Spacial Arts, is also a stand-up comedian in the Valery Ndongo Comedy Club. Her comic books have been published in Cameroon, Lebanon, Canada, France, Algeria, Germany, Brazil and Belgium.
Elyon's first comic series The Diary of Ebène Duta/ La Vie de Ebène Duta was financed through €15,000 web crowdfunding. Three volumes of the series have been published so far.
What are you working on, comics-wise, right now, and when will it be published?
Elyon's: At the moment, I am working both on a comics project with the world bank and on Volume Four of my comic book series The Diary of Ebene Duta, which will be released, if all goes well, by June/ July next year. Volume One will be available during the Lakes Festival, for anyone to discover the hilarious journey through life, of an African girl legally studying in Europe.
Which comic project you've worked on are you most proud of and where can people see it or buy it?
Elyon's: The Diary of Ebene Duta is and remains my greatest success so far. I worked on this project from the very first sketches, all the way through the full scenario, drawings, inking, colouring - and the distribution process, the publicity, including booking signing events in America, Europe and Africa!
Fun fact: To produce the first volume of that comic book, I was crowdfunded by amazing fans. Now the sales and some sponsors help me to come up with the amount necessary to publish the next volume each time I am ready to produce one.
How do you plan your day as a creator? (Do you plan your day?)
Elyon's: A typical Elyon's day? Um... my days are very different. When I'm not at signing sessions or on TV and radio interviews, I draw. But I am very often in front of my computer processing my emails, surfing to take the pulse of what is being done in various artistic fields, or thinking about improving my work.
I also have days where I work on other projects, as a Stand Up Comedian, as the founder of a comic book festival, Bilili BD Festival in Brazzaville, as an author on other comics.
What's the best thing about being a comics creator?
Elyon's: I think the best thing, is when you have it all set in your mind and you're able to bring your work to life, as it was in your head in the first place. That moment of pure joy and bliss, of being the creator of a universe for the readers. You know that a bond will be created with whosoever reads your book, and creating having that in mind is really good.
And the worst?
Elyon's: The blank page… and what's worse than not having ideas? Losing the file you’ve been working on for hours, not saving it step by step, because of a power failure (which happens a lot, in Congo where I live).
What most distracts you from getting your work done?
Elyon's: I would say, answering mails… I prefer calls, rather than writing… because, when I am writing, I cannot do anything else. If I give a reply on the phone, I can keep my hands busy doing something else… Definitely, answering mails… and of course stalking via Facebook, but that's another story!
Do you think it's easier or harder for young comic creators to get published today?
Elyon's: I think it's much easier to exist as a comic book author these days. There are so many platforms, so many ways to exist digitally before printing. We are no longer 100 per cent dependent on a publishing house, or at the mercy of the dictatorship of traditional distribution networks.
Of course, promoting your work takes a lot of work and means less social life, but it makes us artists and craftsmen of our own stories.
Look! I am Cameroonian, based in Congo Brazzaville, and I've been invited to Kendal to present my work! The number of Festivals and social networks greatly facilitate this kind of opportunity [to promote my work].
Have you ever been to the Lake District before and if so what did you think of it? If you haven't, what are you expecting?
Elyon's: No, it's going to be my first time. I am very happy to be invited to this event and hope to bring at least as much as I will receive. There are so many interesting activities, passionate and talented guests.
It is an honour for me to be here, to represent Africa, not only as a comic book author, but also as a woman in this profession. What I hope is that being at the Festival will give more visibility, more representativeness of Africa, because there is really a lot of talent waiting to be discovered beyond the continent.
Which one comic creator would you most like to meet, and why?
Elyon's: At the Lake Festival, obviously, Arthur de Pins! I’ve been following his work and his graphic identity is so interesting. Others are Barbucci Canepa, Miralles, Sophie Campbell… I love the way they take you into their unique universe, and I love their works so much, I know meeting them would be a great moment… at least for me… :)
How do Festivals and other comics events help creators most, do you think?
Elyon's: There is nothing better than travelling and meeting new people to boost the creative universe of authors. These meetings help and enrich, especially allow to see the work of others, to have a direct feedback from professionals of the profession on their works and thus to be able to improve them.
Personally, I encourage meetings of this kind, because it is only together that we can make a difference.
What one piece of advice do you offer people looking to work in the comics industry?
Elyon's: Whosoever reading this interview, for you I have only one sentence: "Strive to leave your mark".
Down here, nothing is easy. So persevere. The artistic world is not just a playground, but after the effort, victory and recognition will be your greatest comfort.
Also, what is very important is patience. I have been working on The Diary of Ebene Duta since 2009 and it was in 2014 that it was finally launched to "stardom". Never give up, mature your project and be determined.
What's your favourite comic right now and where can people get it?
Elyon's: You mean apart from mine, The Diary of Ebene Duta - available in English at the Festival?
Right now, I’m a huge fan of Made in Abyss the manga from Akihito Tsukushi. I Also pretty enjoyed the “Wet Moon” series from former Scott, now Sophie Campbell. I hope I will have the opportunity to get the copies I never had the chance to buy yet during this Festival
Elyon's, thank you very much for your time. Looking forward to seeing you again in Kendal!
• The Lakes International Comic Art Festival returns to Kendal at various venues across the town 11th – 13th October 2019 | Buy Tickets | View the full Festival programme online or grab the Festival Guide as a free PDF download
• Tickets for the 2019 Festival are on Sale Now at www.comicartfestival.com/buy-tickets