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Interview

Kazu Kibuishi, comics artist and creator of Flight

Kazu Kibuishi is a graphic novel artist and author, and creator and editor of the outstanding Flight anthologies of comics. His graphic novels include Daisy Kutter: the Last Train; and the children’s graphic novel Amulet. He also created the web comic Copper, and has put some excellent demonstrations of his comic-creating techniques on the net.

READERSVOICE.COM: Firstly, what’s your daily routine at the moment in Alhambra, California?

KAZU KIBUISHI: Amy and I get to the office between 10-11am and get our emailing and forum posting done. After lunch, I get to work on various projects. Currently, I’m working on coloring my story for Flight Explorer and drawing the thumbnails for a Flight 5 story. During this process, I’m also jotting down notes (but mostly keeping mental notes) for Amulet 2.

When I’m not working, I’m usually reading a book or browsing the internet. After heading out of the studio to eat dinner, we usually return and work until midnight. If not, we’ll play board games or watch a movie.

RV: Can you tell the story of how you and some others pitched the idea of the first Flight anthology at the Alternative Press Expo, and how it came to the attention of Image Comics?

KK: Before the Alternative Press Expo, I had planned on having copies of the book at the event. This was back when the book was supposed to be less than a hundred pages and printed in black and white. Since we had decided early on in the project to print the book in full color, I knew that we would need to find a publisher. Color printing was just something I couldn’t handle with the tiny budget I had set aside. When the color decision was made, and I saw that the book was going to be something special, I quit my job and dedicated the budget to covering my living expenses while we looked for a publisher.

The plan was to show the book to several publishers at the Alternative Press Expo, including Dark Horse, Top Shelf, and Tokyopop.

As I went around talking to various publishers about the book, Erik Larsen, the newly appointed publisher at Image Comics, came by our booth and said he wanted to publish the book immediately, before even seeing most of the contents.

What little he saw was enough. We were surprised by his enthusiasm, but he seemed very intent on publishing the book. In fact, nearly every day after the event, Erik contacted me and asked me when we would be publishing through Image.

My other contacts were interested, but they were a little averse to taking on such a risky project. Anthologies typically don’t sell well, and to do a 200+ page anthology in full color must have seemed really daunting. After seeing that the Image Comics publishing deal was a good one, and that the creators got to keep the rights to their works, I decided that it would be the right place to go.

I have to give credit to Erik Larsen for having such enthusiasm and confidence in our book, without which we would have had a much longer road to get the project to where it is now.

RV: Where did you find the artists and the 23 stories that appeared in the first Flight anthology?

KK: They were mostly friends of mine that I either hung out with in Pasadena, California, or they were friends of mine from the internet. A few were acquaintances whose work I also admired.

RV: Flight 3 reportedly went into its third print run of 10,000 with Random House recently. I was wondering if you thought Flight had broken through to a previously non-comics readership, or how long you think it would be before serious comics became as mainstream as movies?

KK: Judging by the majority of readers I’ve talked to, it seems we’re definitely moving beyond the usual comics readership. Many of the folks who pick up the book haven’t read comics in a great long while, or at all. This is great news, but it’s going to take a lot more than just one anthology to push comics into the mainstream. We’re really going to need a flood of material.

I think we’re still a few years away from seeing comics really find their place in the American mainstream. Much of it will be up to the new young readers. When they pick up their pens and find stories to tell, I imagine that flood will happen.

RV: Would you say that despite the variety of comics in Flight, that there is still a Flight anthology style? What are some of the common elements?

KK: Hmm, I guess the easiest way to describe the Flight anthology “style” would be to say that the stories feel nice. They’re very nice, honest, and heartfelt. Very polite. Heheh. Aside from that, I think the stories vary wildly.

RV: Where are some of the artists from in Flight 4, and how did you find them?

KK: As Flight continues to move forward, we tend to find people in all sorts of places. Sarah Mensinga came to our booth at last year’s Comic-Con and showed us her portfolio. After meeting her and talking for a few minutes, I felt she would be a perfect fit for the book. After reading her story, I think it’s one of the best we’ve had in any of the volumes.

Andrea Offermann was a friend of Catia Chien and was exhibiting her amazing work at Gallery Nucleus. Catia recommended she do a Flight story, and I was ecstatic. Her story is a visual tour de force, and is also one of my favorites in the series as well.

Ryan Estrada was an internet neighbor, of sorts. He is someone I’ve been acquainted with for quite some time through the webcomics community, and I’ve always admired his very down-to-earth attitude and optimistic spirit. His story is also one of my new favorites. It brings a very human touch to the project.

I could go on, but I guess that in short, new artists are just new friends we make along the way.

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