Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Thoughts On Dreams

"Don't Stop Believin'" by Journey is one of those songs that every time I hear it, I get a super pumped. (sorry for the crazy ammounts of pop ups that are on this video) But the song reminds to hold on to that which matters most to you.

My wife and I have fallen in love with the show "Glee" which is where this version of this song comes from. What I love so much about this show is that it reinforces a lot of good things that are missing in high school dramas. Now, granted it supports A LOT of things I don't think are very healthy. The core of the show, however, deals with kids getting over themselves and realizing their potential, or embracing a dream. While it may not be a show to live by, point after point, it does have a lot of redeeming qualities: The high school football star realizes he doesn't care what people thinks and pursues his dreams of singing. The struggling teacher finds purpose again in going after a life he's "really passionate about." It's full of those sorts of things.

Why this matters to me is because I think there's a misconception with people. We're all raised as children to believe we can become anything we want to be. We believe it and pretty quickly want to become a dinosaur when we grow up. I kid, obviously, but kids do have real dreams that grow out of themselves from that sort of thing. When I was in third grade I wanted to be a marine biologist. It was then that I had my first adult moment, now that I look back on it.

I pretty well remember being at the beach, playing around with fish in the water and thinking, "I do not feel like studying science this much or touching these things everyday." I then wanted to be a ninja, before taking out a sheet of paper to draw one. Shortly after comics became a real desire in my heart.

So, the misconception I think kids are given is this. We are told we can be whatever we want to be when we grow up, but we tend forget the qualifying statement attached to that: if you work REALLY hard. I spent most of my life in high school wanting to be a comic book artist, but I think drew maybe 15 pages of actual comics work. It wasn't really until about 8 years later that I got really serious about creating comics. I have truly come to appreciate that wisdom of working hard at things. What I think happens with us is we believe that once we go to college for that dream job, we will be able to graduate and end up in our desired field. We're all a bit dismayed when we end up going into a completely different profession. What happens is we get comfortable making a living and that's good for a lot of people. And I do believe that it is enough for a lot people, and that's a great thing. I really do think that. What bothers me are the people who sit watching the tv at night and wonder if they'll ever have a job they love, having a life that they are truly passionate about.

I'm very happy about all of things I have. I have a great job, I have a loving family, home etc. The Lord has been so good to me. But I know where I want to go. And I sing that great ballad by Journey to myself every so often to remind myself to keep going. No matter what. Because I too believe that you should be passionate about the life you live. That means a lot of things to a lot of people. Whatever it is (beyond it being illegal, completely gross or just silly) you should keep that flame alive. Dedicate your life to it and work with all your might. You never know... One day you may realize it's come true.

So get to work.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

An Interview With Kazu Kibuishi

Hey Everyone!

Today I have a special treat for those who come by and visit on occasion. Amulet creator Kazu Kibuishi took some time out to answer some interview questions from me. Kazu is my favorite creator in the business. It's really refreshing to see such family friendly material that just glows on the page. This is the kind of comic making I wish I could have found as a kid.

The sequel to the Amulet series "The Stonekeepers Curse" debuted at the number 2 spot on the New York Times Bestsellers list for Graphic Books - Paperback! I was fortunate enough to be an assistant on this book and I'm really happy Kazu fit some time in his busy schedule to answer these for us.

I hope you all enjoy the interview, and look forward to some more interviews with other artists/creators/friends that inspire me real soon!


MR: Can you give us an overview of Amulet?

KAZU: Amulet is the story of two kids, Emily and Navin, who travel into a fantasy world to save their mother's life. Emily is aided in her quest by a powerful, and potentially evil, amulet, as well as a host of robots and talking animals.

You've talked a lot about how Silas (Emily and Navin's Great Grandfather) was a puzzle-maker. I was really intrigued by this idea and it figured a bit in the first book. Is that going to become a bigger part of the overall story later? The idea of puzzles?

Yes. Puzzles, and especially games, will play a major part in the last chapters of the series.

As a graphic novel creator myself, I've found a lot of wisdom in seeing you work through a creative process on Amulet. What's been the biggest challenge in creating these single volume graphic novels?

The biggest challenge has been in breaking down the writing process into a short, fast-paced schedule. Once everything is written and thumbnailed, it's very easy to schedule the production. The more I get to know the story and characters, however, I am finding that the writing is becoming more manageable. Oh, and I can't forget to mention the self-discipline. Since much of the book is created in a vacuum- with my publisher a country away and with no formal editor on the project (beginning on Amulet 3) - it's difficult to keep myself motivated to keep progressing at a proper pace.

There are a lot of artists out there who are wanting to create bigger stories like this, but are trying to figure out how to get started. What would be your advice to those out there who are trying to find their way as comic artists, or more importantly, storytellers?

Start out with something simple and manageable. I did many short stories before I even considered tackling a large project professionally. Of course, I did attempt to get large projects started in my free time for many years before Flight, Daisy Kutter, and Amulet, but I never was able to completely follow through. My ambitions were greater than my actual skill and experience. It wasn't until I created the Copper stories, which are single-page standlone stories with a beginning, middle, and end, that I found a way to build confidence as a storyteller. Since then, I began to see storytelling and worldbuilding as something simple and organic. Every story project is the same at their core, whether it's a single Copper comic or an Amulet book, but they can be allowed to grow bigger on their own accord. The concept for Amulet was simple. Much of it was built around two concepts. I wanted to show kids having to grow up faster than they intended, and I wanted to use a fantasy world to get these ideas across. Once that was set into motion, the characters took over and now I follow them. One of the great joys about my job is that I get to see these characters start asking larger questions I never thought to ask before, and I can go on the journey with them to see what answers they can find.

With two volumes now under your belt with Amulet, what have you found to be the best way for writing these single books? Do you approach it as one large script or break it off in pieces?

I write a very brief synopsis of the entire book on one page, and I generally stick to it as my guide. If it reads well in the short form, and people get excited about the book because of it, then I know I have a solid foundation to build on. After that, I break the story up into several manageable chunks and treat each section like I would a short story, and essentially create my own comics anthology. I don't write a script because I find that most times the images alone tell the story very clearly.

I was fortunate enough to help you on Amulet volume 2, The Stonekeepers Curse, and I found the process of working in a group a really rewarding one. I've made some encouraging friends and acquaintances because of it. How do you feel getting back to this type of system is going to open comics up for new creators to get more and more prolific work out there?

It is so much fun doing comics this way, compared to drawing and coloring it all by myself. I think two of the biggest problems a comic artist faces are often loneliness and an overwhelming amount of work. By collaborating with others who are excited about the project, much of the pain caused by these problems is alleviated. Perhaps it's because I just like being around people, but this system works well for me. Hopefully, this type of set up encourages people who are used to working in large companies to make the transition to drawing comics professionally.

We've been seeing a real encouraging boom in all ages graphic novels which has been great for everyone. Do you feel like finally comics are being given some real credit in help young people read and in education?

Since I grew up during a time when comics were extremely popular and watched as that popularity imploded over the years, I feel more like we're just beginning to get back on track with creating comics that service a true mainstream audience. The audience has, at least over the past decade, wanted comics to be a part of their life, but the creators moved away from the mainstream audience to service a very vocal minority, and by doing so backed themselves into a corner. The widely growing use of all ages comics as a developmental tool is a reflection of both children who are hungry for fun comics material (since very few people have been creating work for them) and an adult audience wanting to pass their love of comics down to the younger generations. The creators of comics are the ones who need to step forward and accept the social responsibilties of educating and entertaining the young readers, so it's not so much that the audience has been embracing the all ages comics but that the creators are more willing to make material for them.

You've started up a studio system now and you've been preparing a couple of new graphic novel projects. How has that experience been and is there anything you can share with us about those new projects?

The experience has been great. Get back to me in a couple of years and I'll let you know if it turns out well!

Thank you for your time. I can't wait for next volume of Amulet and everything else coming out of your studio!

Thanks Michael! And thanks for your help on Amulet 2!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

From Death Til Now Comes Back!

From Death Til Now
, my online graphic novel, is back in full swing with weekly updates. It was really nice to spend some time finishing up the line art of the first book. Hopefully soon I will pick up the weekly updates to more than one page a week. It's been nice to get back in the saddle though and start seeing some finished pages again.

In other news, Amulet 2 debut at the number 2 slot on the New York Times Bestsellers list for paperback graphic novels. Congrats to Kazu and the rest of the crew on a great book and first week!

See everyone next week with the next FDTN page.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Amulet 2 Hits Shelves Today

Above is a piece of fan art I did for the Amulet series by Kazu Kibuishi. When I sat down to do this, I really wanted to do something that felt like an official style poster since I've been working on my design skills. I'm happy with the result :-)

I was fortunate enough to be a part of the crew of people working on the sequel to this awesome graphic novel series: Amulet: The Stonekeepers Curse. I owe a lot to Kazu and his contributions to comics. He's been very kind to all of us who've helped him. The people I've gotten to know as a result to working on this has been a real added bonus. You guys are awesome and I hope I get to know all of you better.

If you haven't read the series or are already a fan, let me tell you, book 2 is awesome. It's everything you'd hope for in a sequel to the first book. So, pick it up everybody!