Talking Comics with Tim: Kevin Colden
When this interview first began with Kevin Colden, his Zuda (Mature Content) project, I Rule the Night (ITRN), had been on hiatus for around 10 months. So the initial round of our email discussion focused on his non-IRTN projects, including his two upcoming IDW projects (Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper and Grimm’s Fairy Tales) as well as the recent Seth Kushner-directed music video that he was part of with his band, Heads Up Display (Colden is the band’s drummer). But fortunately (for fans of ITRN and for the sake of this interview) ITRN came out off of hiatus and hit the Internet metaphorical ground running. My thanks to Colden for two rounds of an interview.
Tim O’Shea: Was Zuda waiting for the big transition (dropping the monthly competition) until they brought back I Rule the Night (ITRN)? How agonizing has it been waiting for the news to drop?
Kevin Colden: We had originally planned to bring back I Rule the Night as the first mature readers series, but needed to wait until we got the mature filter in place. It was in the works for a long time, and got caught up in changes at DC that had nothing directly to do with Zuda per se. It just so happened that everything came together at the same time. I wouldn’t say the wait was agonizing for me so much as inconvenient for the readers. Time flies in my world, so I only noticed when I looked at the calendar. The bright side is that now there’s less of a wait to read it.
O’Shea: Were you glad to see the monthly competitions go by the wayside?
Colden: I have mixed feelings about that. IRTN was an instant win, but I was in the competition once before, and it really is hellish on the competitors. The competition became more about electioneering than good comics, as competitions of this sort usually do. All of the strips on the site are stellar, but there were a few cases where the best strip of the month didn’t win. Still the egalitarian ideal of the competition was good, and there are a lot of great creators who have come out of it, so I’m hoping that DC comes up with a similar way to find and develop new talent.
O’Shea: Now that the series has a mature content label, does that mean you will be ramping up any element of the mature content, or does the label change have no bearing on your approach?
Colden: I think they made the label so that I could do the comic I originally pitched to them! Actually the mature filter was planned from the get-go, and we always knew that I was going to need that to continue. We had hoped it would time out to be in place some time last year. I haven’t changed anything at all, except for adding obscenities back into some of the earlier pages. But those were scripted and censored for the all-ages readership.
O’Shea: In a recent tweet, you wrote: “I’m hoping to get some serious cred for IRTN season 2 when it drops, because drawing it is like birthing a 10-yr-old sideways.” What’s the biggest challenge to this birthing process?
Colden: The stylistic difference between the present day and flashback sequences gets ramped up to an alarming degree in season 2. The pages I’m working on right now incorporate graphic design and book design into the narrative to an extent that I haven’t seen yet in comics. I wrote that comment as I was penciling a particularly intense page and trying to figure out how the hell I’m going to finish it. I’m stating for the record right now that the guy who writes I Rule the Night is an asshole. If another writer asked me to do the things I ask of myself, I would quit.
O’Shea: You’re definitely making up for lost time, given that you have enough of a backlog to offer “9 pages a week until July, Mon-Wed-Fri updates”. How happy are you to be able to provide that much new content and that quickly?
Colden: Oh, I’m very stoked. That schedule would never have happened without the hiatus, and I’ve always been of the mind that this story would work best when read as completely possible. In fact, it will be a whole different book when read in print.
O’Shea: Care to tease folks with what’s ahead with IRTN?
Colden: I’ll just say that there will be a lot more crazy going on. We’ll be seeing a lot more of Lainey Lord’s early life, and she tends to see things… differently from time to time. It’ll be an adventure.
O’Shea: How did the idea to use puppets come about in the Heads Up Display video of Formula vs. Perfume? Were you involved in the design of the puppets?
Colden: The idea for the video came about because our singer/guitarist Josh Dillard used to intern at Sesame Workshop. We all have a fascination with the muppets going back to childhood, so I drew up a band flyer with us as muppets for fun. We talked idly about how great it would be to do a video like that until we finally started making the puppets, which took a almost a year. I did the initial concept art and helped sew them, but Josh is the man with the real building skills.
O’Shea: The video was directed by Seth Kushner, but you also have directed some videos (if I’m not mistaken). Were you involved in making the video?
Colden: I’ve done production design and art direction for a few films, and wrote the script and storyboarded the video, but Seth and Carlos Molina did the hard work of executing the filmmaking. I did gofering and some puppeteering; there’s a great shot of me on facebook with my arm in a toilet and my hand up my own (puppet) ass.
O’Shea: Some of the locations where the video was made were interesting. Did the crew have to get a permit to shoot on the subway? What comic book store was used for the video?
Colden: We went gonzo for the whole shoot. In New York you have about 10,000 film students every day shooting something on the street so people just took photos or ignored us. We shot at Bergen Street Comics in Park Slope, which seems to be a hotspot for filming lately. We’re blessed with a number of great shops in the NYC, and when one of our locations fell through, we put in an emergency call to owners Tom and Amy Adams and they let us come in and take over the store for an hour. They even hosted a premiere party for us.
O’Shea: As both a musician and an artist, I’m curious–which medium comes closest to giving you some form of (almost) instant gratification in terms of allowing you to express yourself?
Colden: Honestly, the music is a lot more instant because there’s an audience physically in front of your face reacting. It’s more immediate, and it’s more of a shared experience. Any form of art is communication, and sometimes it’s more gratifying to do that face to face. Sometimes.
O’Shea: You have a long-standing relationship with IDW, dating back to Fishtown. But how did you end up on the Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper project?
Colden: I had been talking with IDW off and on about projects since Fishtown. IDW and I had been talking about a different project and I was offered a script from Joe Lansdale for Robert Bloch’s Yours Truly Jack the Ripper. I don’t think anyone in their right mind would turn that down. So I dove right in and have been swimming around in 1943 for the last half-year or so.
O’Shea: In working on Ripper, did you try to reference the original 1940s Robert Bloch story–or did you intentionally avoid it?
Colden: I read the story when I was a kid, but in the interest of being as original and as true to the script as possible, I avoided rereading the original or any other adaptations. My brain is like a food processor; it takes things in and spits them right back out, so I try to be careful not to accidentally rehash other people’s ideas.
O’Shea: What else is on the horizon creatively/or would you like to discuss other topics that I neglected to ask
Colden: I have an illustrated edition of Grimm’s Fairy Tales coming out from IDW later this year, and some still in negotiations projects for various publishers.
O’Shea: How many of the Grimm’s Fairy Tales did you tackle?
Colden: The Grimm’s Fairy Tales looks like it’s going to be two volumes, totaling about 50 stories. It will be the original text, with spot illustrations by me.