COMIC INTERVIEW with Chris “Elio” Eliopoulos
By: Matthew JLD Rice
Top Shelf Comics has recently released the latest all-ages brain-child of Chris “Elio” Eliopoulos entitled Okie Dokie Donuts (not to be confused with the OTHER Chris Eliopoulos who puts out those Franklin Richards comics for Marvel!)
Throughout the course of this graphic novel, our protagonist Big Mama enjoys running her donut shop just the way she likes, making each and every single donut with her own secret ingredient: Love! But what happens when the robot, Mr. Baker, disrupts Big Momma’s way of doing business? Lots and lots of FUN, that’s what!
JLD: Chris, please tell us a little something about yourself. How long have you been reading comics? And more importantly, how long have you been MAKING them?
Elio: Hello! I’m an illustrator and cartoonist from Chicago, IL. I love hot dogs, spicy tacos, and fruit ‘n’ yogurt parfaits. I’ve been reading comics since I could read. And I’ve been making comics for about eight years (excluding ones I may have made in grade school).
JLD: I was surprised to learn that you had been an animator and director on Yo Gabba Gabba! (a show that my household are all big fans of!) How did that come about?
Elio: I was a big fan of the show when it started. Turns out the creators were fans of my comics too! We teamed up and they were nice enough to let me do a couple quick spots on the show. Yo Gabba Gabba! is amazing and everyone has to check it out.
JLD: Your latest project is a kids book about… donuts? Is this subject matter that is near and dear to your heart?
Elio: Who doesn’t love a good donut? In addition, I love people who have real passions. In this case, Big Mama loves making donuts. The book is really about doing what you love, to the fullest, with all the pleasures and bumps that go with it.
JLD: My four-year-old son Xander and I have enjoyed reading this comic together (several times!). It’s nice to read a comic that is so blatantly pushing FUN on its readers—something that we don’t get too often these days. I can’t remember the last comic I read that opened with a SONG! What were some of your influences toward this brand of storytelling?
Elio: I’m glad you both enjoyed reading it together! A lot of my influences come from television sitcoms I watched as a kid: Full House, Family Matters, Perfect Strangers, Small Wonder, The Dick Van Dyke Show, I Love Lucy. They all boiled down to classic funny characters (who all wear their emotions on their sleeves), confusion, panic, miscommunication, desperate cover ups, good intentions, and always wrapped up nicely in the end.
JLD: I can totally see the I Love Lucy connection! Why are stories about malfunctioning robots so immensely pleasurable?
Elio: Because it’s so expected. Also, they have no idea what they are doing wrong. Oh, robots!
JLD: What lessons do you hope to teach young children within the comics medium, and possibly with Okie Dokie Donuts?
Elio: Comics can get young children into reading, lighting quick! Also drawing, writing, and creating your own comics is really fun and rewarding as well. Okie Dokie Donuts is, hopefully, another vehicle to display all of that.
JLD: Do you plan to do more installments of Big Mama’s misadventures… or was this a one-off exercise? What else do you have currently in the works?
Elio: Big Mama is coming back! We’re cooking up book number two right now. Extra sprinkles, please!
JLD: I can’t wait to see what Big Momma has in store for us next! I fully expect for you to wow us with your equivalent of a Bartokomous-signature “Dance of Joy”!
Elio: Funny you mention that! In the next book, a fancy new chef named Olivia Spoons comes to town hoping Big Mama will help her reinvent the donut. But if it isn’t broken—why fix it?
JLD: Because it will be hilarious! After browsing through your web archives (at www.eliohouse.com—check it out folks!), I noticed a lot of great ideas that you’ve been doing; Halloween mini-comics for Trick-or-Treaters, original product & packaging designs, and then there are the suspect bulletin board postings… You sir, are one prolific fun-meister! What is your secret to staying so busy?
Elio: Thank you! Having fun with what you do is the number one secret. Always pushing yourself to make things that you want to see. Keeping busy is keeping happy.
JLD: What are your thoughts on the current state of the comic book industry? Do you think that publishing more “all age friendly” projects are a necessity for revitalization?
Elio: It’s the best time ever for comics. There are new creators and books coming out all the time that will knock your socks off. Making all age friendly books is an absolute must to get new readers hooked. It’s all about getting kids to read!
JLD: Top Shelf just announced a new push into the digital forefront with new apps to get their books (including Okie Dokie Donuts) onto tablets and e-readers everywhere! Kudos to you! How do you see digital comics changing the comic book spectrum, maybe ten years from now?
Elio: I think it will only get bigger and better. Hopefully in ten years, there will be an ocean full of quality, fun comics waiting at your fingertips, and younger readers can read until the batteries need to recharge.
JLD: How about a few rapid-fire questions to end with a bang? Robots or Aliens?
Elio: Both. Plus sea monsters, time-travelers, and yetis. They are all nice.
JLD: Pee-Wee Herman or Ernest P. Worrell?
Elio: Bill Cosby beats them all.
JLD: Christopher Nolan’s Batman or Batman: The Animated Series?
Elio: Animated Series was a huge influence as a kid. Clayface - so tragic!
JLD: Simpsons or South Park?
Elio: Simpsons Season 4 and 5.
JLD: Star Wars or Star Trek or Battlestar Galactica?
Elio: Star Wars as a kid. Star Trek now. Captain Janeway love.
JLD: Favorite Comics that you’re currently reading?
Elio: Oishinbo, Johnny Boo, and The Incredible Rockhead
JLD: Favorite Shows that you’re currently watching?
Elio: Sing Along with Mitch
JLD: Favorite kind of donut?
Elio: For kids: double chocolate. Adults: NOTHING beats an old fashion, dunked in hot coffee.
Thank you for your time, Chris! I wish you much success with Okie Dokie Donuts and all other creative ventures!