You mention going edgier with your story and I admit I was blown away, it’s a strong story but the tone just wasn’t what I was expecting. Your past stories have had an emphasis on the seasons and a feeling of encroaching change or growth. Do you feel your work reflects this artistically? That you also place on an emphasis on consciously changing, growing, experimenting?
Oh definitely. I've always been naturally drawn to work that emphasizes growth and change, and the changing of seasons provides a great backdrop for these kinds of stories. Much of it is drawn from the films of Akira Kurosawa, most notably his film Dreams
. Whenever I think of how I want to present a story aesthetically, I almost always think of that film. I viewed the movie at three very different stages in my life, and my reactions to it were so varied they made me realize how much I had changed. My favorite works of art tend to be mirrors that reflect our lives, and whether or not it was intentional, Dreams
had a profound effect on the way I viewed myself. I can only imagine that this is also what the changing seasons do to an individual, as I've never actually lived anywhere the seasons changed.
With works like DAISY and COPPER, their design has more of a simplicity or sense of cuteness but with your FLIGHT story featuring two grown men and having to capture expressions of panic and shock, was it a challenge to work with subjects with more character in their physical appearance?
No, not at all. Before I began Copper, I hardly did any work that could be considered all-ages. As far as my taste in storytelling goes, I generally prefer reading material like "The Iron Gate". As a creator, I just enjoy the challenges presented by different types of storytelling. With Copper, I was challenging myself to make children's material that wasn't too saccharine or condescending, and with Daisy I wanted to create a genre piece that transcended the category. With "The Iron Gate", I wanted to create a short story that had the power of a good war movie.
These days everyone seems to be getting a book deal so tell us how having an agent helped further the reach of FLIGHT as well as your own work.
We're still at the early stages of all this, but so far my agent Judy Hansen has been instrumental in helping us establish a great foundation upon which to build. Agents generally don't make the opportunities happen so much as help you navigate the territory once the interest in the material is there. Without Judy, I would have had book deals, but they wouldn't be very good deals. She made it so that we were protected from poor contracts, given much bigger advances, and she guides the project even beyond completion by following up with publishers to make sure they're on the ball. In short, Judy has been like a guardian angel. In fact, I just see her as my third mom now (the first being my own, and the second being Amy's).
Right now you have loads of great artists interested in contributing in FLIGHT but how do you look to new contributors, do you seek out artists to contribute or do you have enough already simply coming to you?
Well, my fondest wish is to see the people that are already here return to the plate. I want to see them get better and better within this book, and not have to look for new talent. I love this team already, so I don't make an active effort to seek out new people. However, when someone with talent and the right sensibility strolls along, we definitely extend an invitation. This whole process actually happens very naturally and organically.
You’ve some experience with writing screenplays and a lot of the FLIGHT creators lend themselves well to animation in their artistic styles. Do you see film as a next step for your work? Even the collective/collaborative nature of the FLIGHT crew reminds me of other such groups as PIXAR.
When I was in high school, I was pretty determined to become a filmmaker, but somewhere along the line I realized that without good storytelling, there would be no good films. And if there were no good films, there could still be good storytelling. That's when I saw that comics- something I had always done throughout my life- afforded me a great way to develop storytelling skills without taking on the kinds of risks a film would entail. I wouldn't rule out eventually being involved in film, but for now, I think I would rather focus on my comics and let the film people deal with the films.
What was the inspiration for AMULET? It seems to have elements of Alice In Wonderland, Labyrinth and Disney all mixed together?
Simply put- it's the comic book that I wished I had as a kid. I wanted to create something that would have made me sprint like crazy to the book fair before all the copies were sold out! Heheh. Seriously though, one of my career goals has been to create some of the greatest fantasy graphic novels ever made. Daisy Kutter was my warm up session, to see if I could do it, and Amulet is theory in practice.
I originally began tinkering with the project after I graduated from college. I had this story about these kids getting lost in an old puzzle maker's home. I knew it was really cool, but I wasn't quite sure what I wanted to say, so I shelved it. Shortly after college, my family went through a period of turmoil that eventually led to me having such a terrible nervous collapse that I was admitted into a hospital. I felt my life was over at that point, but after snapping out of my deep depression, I picked up the pieces and rebuilt my career with a very different outlook on life - one that was less predicated on decisions based on fear, and this became the foundation for projects like Flight
. Years later, when I finally had the opportunity to do my first fantasy graphic novel, I remembered both the story of the children in the puzzle house and my experience with my family during that trying time. It made sense to bring these two things together, and all of a sudden I had a good book to work on.
As for the style of the piece, aside from the obvious love for Miyazaki, I have been very influenced by the work of Steven Spielberg, most notably E.T
. and Jaws
. Another major recent influence has been H.G. Wells's The Time Machine
. I read an old printing of it (from 1912), in a small book format, and it felt like reading an exhilarating graphic novel since it was so short. It reminded me of the potential of powerful short form narrative, and bolstered my confidence in trying to create something that was short in length but epic in scope.
AMULET is the largest single volume piece you’ve taken on and your approach to the story has changed somewhat as you work on it, at its very core though what do you want to say about your characters personal journeys?
I am hoping that children and parents alike will be able to read this story and see their own relationship with each other. The idea being presented is that adults are simply older children, and that children are simply small adults. If the two can understand each other, they can begin working together. In the books, I want to chronicle the growth cycle of one family by following Emily and Navin's journey into adulthood.
Do you feel there’s a drive to tell more all ages tales? Not just in your work but in general, there appears to be a great desire to create something that will appeal to a younger reader.
In light of the themes in Amulet, without younger readers, we can't have older readers. If we only cater to the people sitting in the middle- who often have no desire to have children- then who will pass these books down to the younger generations? If comics want to grow, then they'll have to reflect human growth as well.