Much like the train it depicts, Snowpiercer is quickly making its way across the globe.
The film, which is based on French graphic novel, Le Transperceneige, depicts a revolution on humanity's last bastion of existence — a perpetually moving train — and is the English directorial debut of South Korean director, . Already it has wowed audiences and critics in South Korea and France, and now it's set course for the Berlin Film Festival.
In the run-up to its arrival we have an exclusive interview with the artist behind the original graphic novel, Jean-Marc Rochette, as well the writer of Volume 2 of Snowpiercer, Benjamin Legrand. Check out what they had to say below:
How did you initially get started in the comic book industry?
Jean-Marc: I wanted to be a mountain guide. I come from Grenoble, an Alpine city, and my heroes were Gaston Rebuffat, Lionel Terray, Garry Hemming, Doug Scott, etc... but in 1976 a very serious climbing accident ended my climbing career. I was 20 years old at the time. At that time underground comics were very popular in France, and it was then that I discovered some artists such as Richard Corben and Robert Crumb. This art form gave me a sense of freedom, and I tried to do my own comic. Very soon I was published in Actuel, a kind of underground French magazine, similar to the Rolling Stone. I found my way...
Benjamin: For me it wasn’t an industry, in those days, but a kind of arts and crafts. But at the end of the 70s I was translating American and English comics for French comics magazines, and at the beginning of the 80s I came back from N.Y. and published my first Novel (The Bronx) about Puerto Rican gangs. I met Tardi (one of our best graphic artists), and he was also coming back from N.Y. with over 1500 photographs he’d taken, wishing to do a comic book story set in the Big Apple. To make it short, he read my manuscript, and did the cover for my novel. And then he asked me to write a story for him, taking place in N.Y.... That’s how it started...
Have you seen the final version of the Snowpiercer film adaptation? Does it differ greatly from the graphic novel?
Jean-Marc: I saw the movie many times: in both Séoul, and in Paris, and soon in my city Berlin. There are many differences, too much to detail, but the principal is that in Jacques Lob’s book the hero is a lonely man, hopeless, while in the movie he is a revolutionary, a kind of Spartacus. But Bong Joon Ho kept the spirit of the book, and did a great job. Joon Ho really understands the differences between movies and comics. He chose the best way to do it!
Benjamin: I saw Snowpiercer for the first time in Seoul last August with Jean-Marc, and I was really amazed. I’d read the script, but our friend Bong Joon ho really surprised me. (As this film project has been going on for seven years, we became real friends, the three of us!) . His film is like the perfect mix of the three graphic novels and his huge talent of movie director. He took what he wanted and told the same story, but in his own way. And it’s magnificent.
What was the most challenging series you've worked on, and why? And your favorite?
Jean-Marc: Of course, that is le Transperceneige, because when I was working on the first volume with Jacques Lob, I was only a beginner, only 25 years old, and the story was very difficult to do. The action takes place in very narrow space, a train. Also this comics had a huge audience, and for a young artist, this was a huge pressure. My favourite series to work on was, without a doubt, the first part of the Tribut, I could make my line-work dynamic, like a Chinese painter.
Benjamin: The 5 books I did with Jean-Marc Rochette! Because it’s always a challenge to work with that guy! And I really enjoyed working with Tardi, and Druillet also. All of them are just my friends...or brothers... - My favorite? The next one!
Is there anyone in the industry you'd love to work with, or series you'd love to work on?
Jean-Marc: I always hope to find a new great story, for example to do The Road by Cormac McCarthy—that is a masterpiece that could be a perfect for comics, and of course I have a big admiration for Alan Moore. You know, if he happens to have a story knocking about in his drawer...
Benjamin: I’ve worked with Tardi, Rochette and Druillet... Bilal, maybe? :-)
Which of the series you've worked on would you love to see adapted as a film?
Jean-Marc: Le Tribut could be a good movie, but unfortunately the Tribut looks too much like The Avatar; it’s very very similar...
Benjamin: I didn’t do lots of series... Just two... And a half! But I think the series called Gold and Spirit (or Le Tribut) could make an incredible SF movie... But I also have a few novels that could work! But they haven’t been translated into English either, unfortunately! As a professional translator, of both comics and novels, I really deplore the fact that so few French graphic novels, and SF novels or thrillers were lucky enough to be translated in English. It’s a little like an undiscovered gold-mine... :-)
What advice would you give someone wanting to break into the comic book industry?
Jean-Marc: Know your strengths and weaknesses, work on the script alone or with a storyteller, and if you don't feel the story, don’t work on it! And, above all, respect your audience.
Benjamin: Stay away from it! It’s radioactive! :-) (I’m just joking!)
I have to say, I am personally becoming unhealthily excited for the Snowpiercer movie adaptation.
As far as I'm concerned, Snowpiercer looks like a perfect meshing of action, political discourse and an innovative setting. I fully expect it to fall in beside the likes of Children of Men, V for Vendetta and Fight Club as a cerebral, but incredibly entertaining, thriller.
Snowpiercer is still awaiting a US release date. Indeed, the movie is currently sitting on Henry Weinstein's desk, awaiting some rather controversial edits. In the meantime, it opens at the Berlin Film Festival from February 6th.