Tuesday, January 15, 2008
For this interview I decided to play off of the IFC "Dinner For Five" idea and have "Brunch and an Interview." The setting was Virage in New York's City's East Village, and the participants were Kevin Colden, creator of the acclaimed ACT-I-VATE webcomic Fishtown, Miss Lasko-Gross, the artist and writer of Escape From Special from Fantagraphics Press, and David Gallaher, High Moon guru.
I really wanted to do a casual brunch, not a formal interview; just keeping the tape recorder on and see what interesting bits we came up with along the way...
Miss shows me pages of original art for her sequel to "Escape From Special." They are delicate, meticulously drawn pieces that are slightly smaller than the 8 1/2" x 10" plastic sheets that protect them.
OS: "How was it like drawing these pages in this size? Was it harder? It's just that I'm used to artists drawing on those big sheets of bristol & then shrinking it down..."
MISS: "Well, I carry it around like this -- when I'm on a train or between clients -- and just work on it on the spot. In a way it's faster, but also it forces you to make really good use of your space. If you have a panel this big, and you have dialogue and three figures, you really have to balance it, you can't just throw it on there."
OS: "I'm trying to remember your first book...was it printed this size or bigger?"
MISS: "No, it was printed actual size."
OS: "Well, I think that's great, because it shows you're understanding the format. There are books like some Minx and psuedo-manga titles where I'm not sure the artists understand the size of the format -- and then things look crammed in. Whereas you are actually working in that size, so you're composing things just right."
MISS: "It saves time, but you have to do more thinking."
We then look at Kevin's pages for Fishtown:
OS: "So in the beginning of the story it's all monochromatic yellow tones, but once the emotion and action picks up, it gets more...red?"
KEVIN: "The only red is blood. And there's a lot of blood."
Kevin's webcomic Fishtown focuses on a brutal murder planned and carried out by a group of disaffected teenagers.
OS: "So it just overwhelms the palette...because there's just a lot of it."
KEVIN: "Well, it skips back and forth in time, but I do show the murder. And very, very graphically. So it's just trying to find a publisher...and the biggest problem I've had in finding a publisher, believe it or not, is finding one who will do it in color."
I quiz Miss on her publisher:
OS: "How has Fantagraphics been for you? Have they been supportive?"
OS: "The whole spectrum."
MISS: "Well, I would have to put that in two different catagories. You know, when I was first starting to draw, I was a big fan of the Brothers Hernandez...so I'm really happy to be with Fantasgraphics. I love the way they printed the book, and the art design. I feel that on some level, it was just allowed to "happen." Like some books come out, and they get this big push...when my book came out, it was more like "let's see what this does," they were taking a chance on me. But I have reason to believe that with the sequel they're going to give it a much bigger push."
OS: "It seems to me that the book has been so successful, that they're really going to put more into the marketing of the second one."
MISS: "Yeah, at the time when it first came out I would have liked it to push it more, but at the time they took a chance on...well, a lot of books. And most books, they make a little money for the publisher or they just break even."
DG: "Now Miss, did you go to school for writing?"
MISS: "I went to Pratt, with a BFA in communication and design. But I've always done well in English class and Creative Writing. When I was in school I ran the school comic book, Static Fish, and I actually got a paycheck for that."
OS: "Do you trade up when you collect floppies for a certain series, and buy the books?"
MISS: "I prefer to wait for the trades. I don't buy the floppies anymore. In the last year I bought one or two floppies at the most. It's just a better format to read it. And also pricewise it's a better deal -- it's like buying wholesale instead of retail. "
OS: "What is the stuff you're reading now that you really enjoy?"
MISS: "I like La Perdida. Which is interesting because the first time I picked it up I didn't like it, and I put it down. I thought to have the English, and the Spanish -- it was so wordy. And then recently I reread it, and I was embarassed that I didn't read it. And so I'm glad I went through it. Like the character is not very sympathetic; she's whiny, self absorbed, and naive. So you see the story from a more self-absorbed point of view than her and I love that kind of shift in writing."
...and back to Kevin, the topic being webcomic collective ACT-I-VATE.
OS "Now, you're one of the founders of ACT-I-VATE..."
KEVIN: "No, I'm one of the founders of The Chemistry Set, who moved more or less to ACT-I-VATE."
OS: "The stuff at ACT-I-VATE is so good that I imagine getting someone to sponsor it would not be the hardest thing in the world. It's also an excellent showcase for your work. It's so simple and yet so effective, because your work speaks for itself. ACT-I-VATE has become synonymous with quality in webcomics."
KEVIN: "It's interesting how that worked. Chemistry Set did this a little bit, but when I joined ACT-I-VATE, suddenly I had a career. All of the sudden it's like: hey world, how do you do? I get emails from people I've never met before. Some people who hate me..."
MISS: "...death threats"
The waitress finally arrives for our drink orders, the clock striking noon.
OS: "I'll have a mimosa, please."
DG: "I'd love a screwdriver."
MISS: "Nothing for me, thanks."
KEVIN: "A screwdriver sounds great."