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A Conversation with Kazu Kibuishi - Part 1

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Daisy Kutter creator and Flight editor Kazu Kibuishi tells Neil Figuracion about spaghetti westerns, designing in black and white, and which comic is closest to his heart.

Broken Frontier: When I first read Daisy Kutter, I was surprised to learn that you are not a fan of the Western.

Kazu: Umm, some westerns. Not too many, pretty much only the spaghetti westerns. I just like the style, it was really cool.

BF: The Good, Bad, and the Ugly?

Kazu: Yeah, and I actually did like a couple of the American ones, too. Pale Rider was interesting. Pretty much all the ones Clint Eastwood was involved in.

BF: What was it about those?

Kazu: I don’t know, most of them just looked cool. (Laughter) I think they just had a really good aesthetic. I was only taking the style. I haven’t begun work on Daisy Kutter 2, but it’s going to be a lot more of a throwback to a lot of the older westerns, like John Ford, Howard Hawks. So there will be more of an emphasis on the character drama.

BF: I thought there was a lot of great drama in Daisy Kutter.

Kazu: Yeah, actually Daisy Kutter follows The Hustler a little more closely than any of those older westerns that I can think of. If you read issue one and watch The Hustler, you’ll see where I was getting all that.

BF: Yeah, I saw the whole poker set up.

Kazu: I always thought, “oh man, look at this intense battle scene on a pool table”, you know? I’m going to take it to the poker table; I want to do the same thing.

BF: So you must be a fan of poker?

Kazu: Not really. I just used it as a narrative device. I like poker, I like the game of Texas Hold ‘em, because of the psychology involved. I don’t play it that much, and for the short time that I did I was actually really good at it. But I don’t gamble, in general, unless it’s just amongst friends, in a small environment. I generally don’t go to tables. I just don’t gamble.

BF: Daisy Kutter looks really different than [your web comic] Copper.

Kazu: Yeah, Daisy is actually a lot closer to the kind of comic that I always wanted to do, that was fusing a lot more of the realistic stuff with the iconic, and I always enjoyed seeing storytellers balance the two. I mean iconic as in “cartoon characters,” things that look a little simpler. Iconic characters are easier vessels for story telling, because people just get into them faster.

BF: What do you think the other extreme is?

Kazu: Basically, in Daisy the backgrounds and the worlds are fairly realistic, at some point almost photo-real. I try to push it in that direction, but Daisy herself always retains a quality that is closer to a smiley face or a character like Charlie Brown. But you accept it for some reason, the way it’s drawn.

BF: You do, even Tom with his block face.

Kazu: Yeah, I wanted people to remember him immediately, and that’s why I made him really simple; I made him a square.

BF: All of the characters in Daisy Kutter are really memorable; they have a very distinct look to them. I love Daisy’s curls at the end of her hair.

Kazu: Yeah, those are always fun to draw. I love drawing Daisy.

BF: It looked like it was a lot of fun to draw. Was it drawn in black and white?

Kazu:Yeah.

BF: It almost looks like it was drawn in color and then turned into black and white, because there’s all that texture.

Kazu: I probably should have done that, just so I’d have color files. I just thought it was going to be a little more affordable to print if I did black and white. In the end I realized that it’s not a huge difference, and I probably should’ve gone with color with that book, and I will for the next one so it will be a little more… I mean it will be fairly monochromatic, you can still do monochromatic with color, sure, but I almost wished they printed the black and white in color, because to me black and white isn’t black and white altogether. In the grains there are tons of colors, and that’s what often makes the richer black and white look more interesting.

BF: So did you originally design it so that it would be in black and white with all of those shades?

Kazu: Yeah, when you see it printed it’s pretty close to what it looks like.

BF: So between Copper and Daisy Kutter, which one is closer to your heart?

Kazu: I don’t know, they’re different. I think when I do Daisy it’s more me. When I do Copper it feels, I feel like I’m doing it less for me and more for a lot of other people.

BF: Who are the other people?

Kazu: Just the readers, the people who I imagine would be reading. My friends and family. I still do Copper for myself, for the messages in it, but it’s less self-indulgent than my graphic novel projects.  I’d imagine Copper would be a life-long project and Daisy wouldn’t be.

BF: Why is that?

Kazu: Because I have a very definite end for Daisy Kutter, I already see it; I know where it’s going to end. But with Copper I think I’m going to do it until I’m done. Yeah, I’ll do that comic every month until I’m gone.

BF: You’ve been described as the glue that holds Flight together.

Kazu: I guess so. I just sort of started it. I don’t know if I’m necessarily the glue, I think everyone is the glue. Everyone is a necessary component of the whole. I just kind of got the ball rolling, and I’m responsible for it.

BF: What was the initial vision for the project?

Kazu: I had always wanted to put together a comics magazine, much like a lot of people I’m sure. Not so much an anthology, more like something closer to Heavy Metal. I don’t know if that’s considered an anthology.

BF: I would think of it as an anthology.

Kazu: Really? Okay. I see it as more of a comics magazine, with filler that has regular text and different things in it, things that deal with the culture of comics. I always thought of doing something like that.

BF: On the ‘zine level?

Kazu: I don’t know about ‘zines. I’d like it to be a professional magazine. Like a professional magazine publication, I always saw it as being a viable way to do comics. And Cat [concept artist Catia Chien] had the idea to do a book; she had the idea to do a little B&W book for APE [the Alternative Press Expo ], so that we would just have something to sell the next year.

BF: “We” meaning?

Kazu: Just a few of us, like Chris AppelhansKhang Le, Cat and me, basically, and a few other friends. We just kept inviting people, without thinking about it too much. Before we knew it we had a whole bunch of people that just actually really wanted to work with the people already aboard.

End of Part 1 - Tune in soon for more of my BF's chat with Kazu Kibuishi!

- Neil Figuracion

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