Niki Bañados on Shivers in London

The winner of the 2019 Laydeez Do Comics Prize paints a surreal, fantastical portrait of moving from Sydney to the UK

Packing one’s life into a suitcase to move to the other side of the world would be a daunting prospect for anyone. In her first graphic novel, Shivers in London: SDY-LHR, graphic designer and printmaker Niki Bañados re-imagines the alienating experience and populates it full of unfamiliar creatures. It’s her adventure through the looking glass, if the looking glass is the moment she decides to leave home.

In just a few pages, Bañados asserts herself as a unique voice among a pool of talented creators. The feelings of displacement and isolation that come with such a big change are universal, but Bañados’ depiction of living through it is intimate, fascinating and magical all at once. The hope, in the end, is that a sense of belonging will come from this disorientation.

Josh Franks: How did you get into making comics? Have you always been interested in them?

Niki Bañados: I’ve always been interested in visual storytelling; not comics exclusively. I jump from one creative medium to another. This story happened to demand the comic format, because it’s more about feelings than facts. It might seem counterintuitive, but I can be truer to feelings when I can draw them fantastically. Also, for later chapters, I know that this format will best allow me to explore the dissonance between what people say and think, and the reality of the situation.

JF: Your story of moving alone across the world to start again in a different country is one that should resonate with a lot of people. When and how did you realise that Shivers in London was the story you had to tell?

NB: I never needed to tell it to an audience at all! I had to get it out of my system in order to process, and consolidate, and better move on, because things get complicated and it’s hard to work through when it’s all just in my head. It was a diary entry to begin with, but it looks like it’s somewhat public now so I’m going to have to be more careful with it.

Images courtesy of Niki Bañados

JF: There’s a lot surreal and fantastical imagery throughout your work. Do you have any particular influences as an artist and comics creator?

NB: Reading Shaun Tan’s books while in high school stands out as the most important influence, and more recently I’ve been nomming a lot of Moebius, until it disappeared from the local library. I like the highly detailed world building of massive exploration video games like Guild Wars 2, and I like the funny, no-boundaries irreverence of webtoons, which is very much not ‘high art’. So it’s pretty eclectic. Also my dad is a storyboard artist for children’s’ cartoons and I’ve got a long way to go but I’d like to approach a similar level of fluidity in my drawing.

JF: Tell me about your process: do you draw digitally or on paper? Are there any particular techniques you use?

NB: This comic was drawn entirely on a tablet–a Wacom Cintiq–til it broke, and a Surface Book 2 now. The program I use is primarily Clip Studio Paint because it’s very purpose made for comics/manga, though the learning curve can be frustrating due to lack of structured tutorials past the beginner stage.

If I wasn’t living in London and had heaps of space, I would have opted for good ol’ pen on paper instead.

Read our interviews with the other shortlisted creators of the Laydeez Do Comics prize 2019:

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