It was just about a year ago that I first spotted the comic The Sorrowful Putto of Prague, with its living, moving Baroque angel Xavier. Having written my own living, moving Baroque angel story I was fascinated to see a very different take on the subject, and one that came with so much humor, fantastic art and even music.
Soon after that discovery I interviewed the putto’s creator James Stafford on Czech Position on the origins of the comic, finding the right artists and whether Xavier will exist in print as well as online. The most recent of Xavier’s adventures, which surprised me by its brutality, caused me to check back with the angel’s creator and see if Xavier has gone bad, where the episode’s idea came from and what lies ahead for Xavier of the House of the Sorrowful Snows.
Literalab: The Hanging Man represents a dark turn for Xavier, who was possessed with black humor but nothing as sinister as murder. Was this something you foresaw when you started? And once you made him cross that moral border can you bring him back to being only darkly amusing?
James Stafford: Yes, this dark turn has been in the offing since I created the character. I want Xavier in some ways to reflect the schizophrenic nature of Prague and its history: the contrast between beauty and despair, suffering and pleasure. As the series develops we will uncover far more of the reasons why Xavier’s personality is as it is. It’ll be rooted a lot in his creation in the 17th century and the conflicts which ravaged Bohemia at the time. Xavier, as is mentioned in one story, is a “creature of the Catholic baroque.” And those who know their Czech or European history know that such an origin isn’t going to lead to a straightforward character.
As for bringing Xavier back to being darkly amusing, the Putto series is always going to be jumping around in time and in tone. So there will be plenty of episodes dealing with the more mundane aspects of his life and other episodes set against the back drop of invasions and religious wars. That’s what is so much fun about writing it.
Literalab: Did the idea for the Hanging Man come from anything in Prague’s history or lore?
Stafford: No, it came about from me wanting to set a story in one place in Prague: Malá Strana. Also, I wanted to do a story set in one place but that reflected the march of time in that area. I’m always fascinated by standing in an old place like Prague and thinking of the many events, both earth shattering and utterly commonplace, that each street has witnessed.
Using the ghost of a condemned man, unable to free himself from the location in which he died, just seemed a way of doing that. I was attracted to the idea of someone only being able to witness the very street around him and nothing more for all eternity. It was a pretty haunting idea and was open to some great visual interpretation, which AJ Bernardo the artist nailed.
Literalab: What’s next for the Putto?
Stafford: We have a color issue planned (preview online) and I’m excited about that. I’m not sure I want to always do it in color, but I’m thrilled with the results.
I hope to get a printed edition in motion during 2012, but having just relocated to London I’m busy sorting out boring life things, so I just need to get funds and sponsorship together. Fingers crossed.