A Conversation with Kazu Kibuishi - Part 2

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Flight editor Kazu Kibuishi  continues his conversation with Neil Figuracion about making decisions, strategy guides, and the birth of Flight.

Part I

Broken Frontier: Were there people who who wanted to be involved [in Flight] who you couldn’t fit in the project?

Kazu Kibuishi: Yeah, mostly due to their skill level, or they’re just not at the right place yet, or they’re not doing the type of material that we think would be worthy of being in the book.

BF: Who judges? Is there a process?

Kazu: I guess I would be the final decision maker, but we all sort of have an understanding that when you see the work you know pretty early on. If the person either has the capability of doing it, if they’re on their way already, you can tell. And if they just don’t have it, and if they’re just not going to have it for a long time, we are pretty much just going to say no to those folks.

BF: Do you get a lot of contributions?

Kazu: I get people submitting their portfolios and things like that, and generally I ignore those now, because I have decided to just decide myself, or go and seek ‘em out. I’m always looking at work, so if someone is doing something somewhere, anywhere, in the industry, on the web, it’s likely that through my network of friends that I would find it eventually, if it’s good material. The point is not to “make it” into the book. The point is  for everyone to do their best stories, and the ones they have always wanted to do. My biggest fear at this point is that people are looking at Flight as some kind of grand institution of comics-making, and that they are just trying to be a part of it.

BF: Kind of jumping on the band wagon?

Kazu: Not jumping on the band wagon so much as, they hold it in such high esteem, that they don’t want to fail, and going into it with an attitude like that they probably will.

BF: What is your best advice for those people?

Kazu: Just be confident, and do the best work they can for themselves, not for the book. And for anybody out there that wants to be in the book, I’d imagine that that is the best way to go about doing it.

BF: Just do your best stories?

Kazu: Just do it for yourself, it really shouldn’t be about being in Flight. And those are the stories I look for. When someone has an original voice, and it’s really, really strong, and they have good technical/foundation skills, and they obviously have a passion for what they are doing, and they seem like smart, nice, funny people. Very intelligent people I can spot pretty quickly, and I usually invite those folks. I invite people mostly on the merits of who they are, as people, because I have to put so much trust in them, it’s very important for me to know that I can.

BF: What was it about Flight, the theme of Flight, the title?

Kazu: No, that was just a title that came about through some mini-comics I was doing, and I was going to do this series of mini-comics about pilots (laughter). Just like, pilots in a fantasy world I created. They were going to be jet fighter pilots, it was as if you looked at the roster for F-Zero, you know, for Super Nintendo, or Starfox, and I have my profiles of each one and it was supposed to be an amalgamation of the mini-comics format and the super geeky video game culture thing. I wanted to mix the two, and make it high class. It went back to my love of strategy guides back when I used to play Nintendo.

BF: Strategy guides?

Kazu: Yeah, the artwork for strategy guides, like Legend of Zelda, or even like Master Blaster or something. I didn’t even play that game but I looked at the strategy guide all the time because it looked so cool. There’s so much exploring and imagination involved, and I remember that those things really had that magic of the imagination, and for a while I didn’t see much of that around anymore. So I thought I would do that on a small scale with little mini-comics, and when Cat asked me and our friends if we wanted to do a book, I was thinking “well, hey, we could call it Flight.” Because I was going to call my little thing Flight Patterns, which will be a book we will do eventually, we are actually doing both books.

BF: That’s a separate project.

Kazu: Yeah. But, that was our initial title, and I just cut it down to Flight, and that’s what it became.

BF: How do you find a balance between all of the voices involved, in terms of putting together a whole magazine?

Kazu: It’s fairly intuitive. It is true that when I feel there is a certain type of artist I think the book requires I seek them out. If I had a book full of just people who were doing whimsical, fun, fantasy cartoons it would be overkill. It would be like getting this huge sugar-coated pill with nothing in it.

Just like when I do my own stories, I wanted to mix them with the more introspective work. I was watching The Incredibles yesterday, and that is a film that does exactly that. It mixes both the geeky, super awesome, like the little boy just jumping up-and-down type of fantastic, with the more thoughtful adult side, introspective work, and it crosses all those boundaries. At the same time I do want them to just project their own voice. The only control I have is picking the people, so I just pick a good balance of those people. Like I said, the introspective with the fun cartoony stuff, and some people who are just doing stuff for the ornate purposes, the visual culture, something that looks really good.

BF: How did Flight find its way to Image?

Kazu: Image found us. We were at the Alternative Press Expo, and we were pitching to some other publishers at the time, and Erik Larsen had just taken over as the publisher there [Image]. And he stopped by, because he is located in Berkeley, so he is fairly nearby. He stopped by our booth, and told us he wanted to publish it, right there, sight unseen, and we were kind of taken aback. We didn’t expect that, and I had to chew it over quite a bit, and we talked with Erik for a while, and talked about getting into the bookstores and all that, because that was the intended goal for us.

BF: Like Barnes & Noble?

Kazu: Yeah, and he said they could do it, and we talked about it for a while. I decided Erik Larsen also is just a great person, I could tell, he is a true artist. He does different types of work than a lot of the work that I do, but I could tell he is very committed and devoted to it. Based on those reasons, we decided to go with them, we said yes. I think it worked out well with Image.

BF: Flight made a really huge splash when it first premiered.

Kazu: Yeah, I was surprised. I knew there was lot of buzz, but I didn’t realize what it was amounting to. I’m continually shocked that every time I go to any animation studio in the U.S., I’ve visited a few now, Pixar, Dreamworks, Nickelodeon, I was at ReelFX in Texas, and everybody knows what this book is, and everyone is trying to do their own now. It’s really amazing, just hearing from all these people trying to put together these anthologies. It is a bit surreal I guess.

BF: Do you feel like you are ahead of the curve?

Kazu: I don’t even want to call it a curve. I’m not trying to create a curve, or trying to create some sort of wave of material. I mean, ok, that’s not entirely true, because I do want enough material for there to be a new market of graphic novels, and that was the intended goal from the beginning. So this is, it’s like Flight is like a steam locomotive, where you’ve got a bunch of people holding on to the, what do you call that little cow guard thing in front of the train? Cattle guard? Or whatever, that thing in the front, and we’re just basically just pushing any way we can. Well whatever that thing is we are pushing it, and hopefully in the wake of all that pushing we will end up with an actual market. A new market that hasn’t been seen before.

- Neil Figuracion

Tune in soon for the final part of BF's chat with Kazu Kibuishi!

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