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Kazu Kibuishi, creator of Flight, talks about his comics

Kazu Kibuishi, creator of the Flight anthologies of comics and graphic novel artist and illustrator talks about his favorite books and comics

READERSVOICE.COM: How do the artists in Flight anthologies work together and constructively criticise each other’s work?

KAZU KIBUISHI: Everyone is encouraged to post the progress of their stories in the private forums. Flight artists give very sharp, but encouraging, critiques, and each artist can pick and choose which pieces of info they want to apply to their story based on the work of the people giving the crits. It’s a great way to both motivate the artists and fine-tune the final stories.

RV: Story is important in Flight anthologies. What are some lessons you learned about story telling from your time working in an animation studio (Shaded Box)? What are the main lessons you give Flight artists about story structure?

KK: I learned most of what I know about storytelling from the comics I produce (especially Copper) and the films that I watch, but at the animation studio, I learned a lot about giving and taking critiques. I also learned how to pitch a story after having to visit a bunch of movie studios and telling the same story again and again to the producers of the biggest films in Hollywood. It was nerve-wracking, but after that experience, I learned to look at the craft of storytelling more objectively, with no worries attached, and how to be more efficient in my delivery. I don’t give too many lessons to the Flight artists about storytelling in general, but I do hope they’re learning about the craft through observing the specifics of everyone, including myself, creating and critiquing the work. In fact, I think they teach me as much as I teach them.

RV: Can you recommend a few books you’ve come across?

KK: I really enjoyed Einstein’s Cosmos by Michio Kaku. I think I like any work of art or literature that is obviously a loving tribute to something or someone else. This book is full of love and admiration. Amy’s really into Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, and I have to admit that the story is wonderful. It’s no wonder the book is a timeless classic.

And of course, I’m reading Harry Potter right now. I still have to make my way through Book 6 to get to the final book, but I’m enjoying it all immensely (both the stories and the excitement for them). In a time when so few popular entertainers seem to understand the value of good storytelling, it’s such a relief to know that someone like J.K. Rowling is creating great new work, and that people love it.

RV: What are some of your favorite comics?

KK: Bone by Jeff Smith and Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind by Hayao Miyazaki are my two favorite comics and they are the biggest inspirations for my own work.

Recently, I’ve become a huge fan of Naoki Urusawa, and I look forward to picking up every new volume of Monster as it becomes available in the US. I can’t wait to add his more recent work, namely 20th Century Boys and Pluto, to my library.

RV: I’ve read that instead of inking your comics Daisy Kutter and Amulet that you use a pencil. Why do you prefer not to ink?

KK: For one thing, it doesn’t hurt my hand as much. I also found that ink tended to make my drawings look a little static. Since movement and action are really prominent in my longform comics, I wanted to preserve as much of the energy and motion that I saw in the thumbnails. Drawing the final linework in pencil helps do that. With computers, it’s also very easy to adjust the pencil lines to look more like ink lines.

RV: I was wondering if comics artists usually color the characters before doing the inking of the outlines, or the other way around.

KK: For my comics I draw the pages before adding color to them. The color is the final stage in the process. I can see how some artists who use traditional media, such as oil or acrylic paint, would want to apply their linework after the colors, but I imagine most artists work the other way around.

RV: What are some of the steps to create your web comic Copper and which programs do you use?

KK: While working on a number of other, bigger projects, I begin mulling ideas for Copper strips over in my head. When I’ve decided on an idea, I begin with a rough thumbnail sketch drawn on any old scrap of paper (often the envelopes of bills or bank statements).

After the thumbnails, I pencil the comic at 15 by 15 inches on bristol paper, and I then ink it with a Hunt no.102 crow quill nib and Higgins Black Magic ink. Once it’s drawn and inked, I scan the comic in about 6 pieces on my crappy scanner. The scanned file is then cleaned up and colored in Photoshop, using very basic brushes and tools. The final file is saved at a high resolution for making prints, and a web version is saved for my website.

RV: What are the pros and cons for someone if they are thinking of doing a comic strip on the net, as you did with Copper?

KK: I think there are many more pros than there are cons. In fact, I can’t think of many negative things to say. As for the positives, it’s simply a great way to find an audience. If it wasn’t for Copper, I never would have met all of the great people I did on the internet, including my wife! For those of you out there who tend to be really quiet and meek about their own work, the internet is a great way to allow an audience to help bring you some confidence in what you do.

RV: What are some of your plans as far as graphic novels go, Flight 5, continuing Daisy Kutter or other projects?

KK: I plan to continue working on Amulet for at least five books, and my story for Flight 5 will actually feature Daisy Kutter. In fact, I realized that putting her adventures in Flight may be the only way for me to have time to do them at all. With Flight, Flight Explorer, and Amulet coming out every year, I’ll be sure to have my hands full for a while.

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