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A Conversation with Kazu Kibuishi - Part 3

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Kazu Kibuishi , in the concluding part of a conversation with Neil Figuracion, talks about having an audience, the Flight gallery show, and his heroes.

Part I

Part II

BF: Who do you imagine as your audience right now?

Kazu Kibuishi: Anybody. I want to be able to share my books with my family most of all, like my little sisters. They don’t have much to read. Like my little sister, one of them, she’s twelve, and she is reading Dan Brown. I always give her Shel Silverstein books, all the classic fantasy literature. She’s big on Phillip Pullman. She’s really current on keeping up to date on all these things, but she is always running out of stuff to read. I’m not necessarily a novelist, I wish I was sometimes, but I feel like I can do a graphic novel, and I can do it well, and I’d like to have creative material for those people to be able to get those types of things. As a kid I would’ve loved this stuff, basically. I’m doing this for my five year-old self.

BF: What was it nowadays that made Flight so interesting to new readers?

Kazu: Well, I don’t know. To them I guess it’s new, to a lot of them. For me I’ve seen it around amongst my friends, they were already doing it.

BF: The kind of work that you’re doing?

Kazu: The kind of work that’s in there, I’ve been watching these people do it, and I knew it was better than a lot of the work that was propagated out there. People when they think of comics they don’t think of this type of stuff. Because they are thinking that the medium is defined by the content, and that’s not true.

BF: Meaning superheroes?

Kazu: Well, anything, [from] superheroes to the alternative, there was a lot of stuff that was all niche market material; nothing was made for the common reader anymore. It was very much geared towards... it’s like the fan boys took over the culture. And it goes right across the superhero side to all the alternative comics guys. As if the alternative comics guys are so exclusive to themselves, “Oh we only like this and that.”

BF: The artists themselves?

Kazu: When I look at the material it feels like that. I mean I don’t think the artists themselves feel that way, I’m sure Chris Ware [creator of Jimmy Corrigan] would love everybody to read his work, you know. But it is not so much geared... but it would attract a certain group of people, and because of that, those people kind of guard it for themselves. In some ways, it becomes this exclusive culture. Same goes for superhero comics, the same thing. You got to be putting all these books on your pull list, so you know what’s going on in every big soap opera that is being produced by one of the big comics producers. And it was inaccessible to me, inaccessible to my friends. So I was like, why don’t we make something that was accessible to all these people? Mainly us.

BF: There was the Flight gallery show recently, what was the reception for that?

Kazu: It was good; it was sort of a release party for Flight volume two. We had just come back from doing the Alternative Press Expo, and we sold a lot of copies that night. The show did really well, sold a lot of prints.

BF: Who attended the show?

Kazu: A lot of industry professionals, I think mainly because we spread out a lot of postcards to the animation studios, because a lot of my friends work there. Nickelodeon, DreamWorks, Cartoon Network. A lot of those people were there, plus friends, family, whoever else heard about it.

BF: Was that the first time the artists had a chance to meet fans?

Kazu: No, no, not at all. I think Comic Con is always there for that purpose.

BF: When was the first Comic Con that Flight appeared?

Kazu: Flight volume one appeared at last year’s. It hasn’t even been a year; oh my God…it hasn’t even been a year since Flight was released. It was released in stores in August, but it came out at the Comic Con in July.

BF: Was there a thought of bridging the gap between pop art and fine art at the gallery opening?

Kazu: It’s not really an overriding goal, but the material tends to do that.

BF: Where do you see the series over the next few years?

Kazu: I don’t know, we’ll see.

BF: So no plans?

Kazu: No plans, basically going to keep playing it by ear. Trying to make the right decisions for the project, and not let it run into the ground.

BF: For you, what is the best thing to come out of doing Flight?

Kazu: Meeting these people. A lot of them I haven’t met. I’ve been fans of their work. I didn’t meet Jeff Smith [creator of Bone], and now I talk to him on a regular basis. Not too regularly, but regular enough, and to me he’s an idol. He’s one of my heroes. Him and Hayao Miyazaki [creator of Nausicaa] have done what I’ve always wanted to do. That is to create an epic, fantasy graphic novel. Bone and Nausicaa, when I look at them, those are like my Bible. So it was an honor to have Jeff Smith be a part of the project. What was even greater than that was to have him so supportive of the project.  It was like validation for everything we’ve done.

BF: You had some other big names:  Scott McCloud...

Kazu: Scott is the best. I mean I see him in a lot of ways as being like an adopted dad to me. I look at him as my mentor, and as a guide in all this. I trust him more than anybody else on this planet. I love Scott, he’s great. He is a fantastic person, and he does so much for the medium, and for the people involved in it. Comics are lucky to have Scott McCloud.

BF: He is definitely a sharp dude too. I remember that you are in the works for a new project, a fantasy project?

Kazu: Yeah, yeah, that one hasn’t landed at a publisher quite yet.

BF: I’m sure you will find one.

Kazu: Well it’s in discussions. We’ll be solid in a few weeks I think.

BF: What can you tell us about it?

Kazu: It’s an all-ages fantasy project; it’s a project I’ve been thinking about for quite a long time. Ever since I left college I’ve been wanting to do this, and just felt like this was the right time, just get it out of my system, get it off my back, do it quick and fast.

BF: Can you tell us about the characters?

Kazu: Well it’s basically a couple of kids who lose their dad in this fantasy world and they have to go find him. They had already lost their mom to a car accident, and they are not willing to just give up on the final parent they have. In the meantime they’re realizing they are not as grown up as they think they are. Basically it revolves around the idea of surrogate parenting. What is parenting outside the more natural child birth aspect, you’re raising a younger version of you, what does it mean when you are actually helping and guiding other people? That’s it.

BF: What is the project called?

Kazu: It’s called Amulet.

BF: Sounds like a lot of fun. I’m looking forward to it.

Kazu: Thanks, I’m looking forward to finishing it.

BF: How far away is that?

Kazu: From being done? A long time. I’ve only done sample pages, and some rough story ideas. I’m just going to wait until it lands at a publisher and talk with them a bit about the format and then pace for the format that I am gonna end up with. I think it is going to end up being two 150 page books.

BF: Wow, that’s huge.

Kazu: Yeah, I’d rather it be 300 pages all in one. We’ll see how this goes. I don’t want to put too much pressure on a publisher before they have tried working with me. I want to do what makes them comfortable at this moment, for printing cost. I know how much it costs for those bigger books. I have a lot of faith in this one. I think it will do well.

BF: Well thank you very much.

Kazu: Is that it?

BF: Yeah.

Kazu: Thanks.

- Neil Figuracion

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