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!

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