Earlier this week Graeme posted about creators who answer fan emails. Neil Kleid, writer of Ursa Minors!, Brownsville and Todt Hill, among others, answered an email I sent him a few weeks ago, which led to him agreeing to guest blog with us all next week. We’ll see if he adds my email to his spam filter after next Friday …
Seriously, we’re thrilled to have him on board, and he has some great things lined up for next week. To give you some background on our latest contributor, we asked Neil a few questions …
B@N: First off, welcome to Blog@Newsarama. We appreciate you taking the time to play in our sandbox this week. For those who may not be familiar with your work, can you give us the rundown on your current comic projects?
Neil: Hey, thanks for letting me play. I’ll try to keep the toilet seat down while I’m here.
About me: In 2003, I received a Xeric Grant to produce an experimental graphic novella entitled NINETY CANDLES which documented the life of a cartoonist, birth to death, one panel per year. In early ’06, BROWNSVILLE, my graphic novel about the Jewish mafia with artist Jake Allen, debuted from NBM Publishing and the softcover hit in August and I am currently wrapping an action/comedy mini-series entitled URSA MINORS! for Slave Labor Graphics about three fine young men in robotic bear suits and the hijinks they get in. I wrote a short Colossus story for X-MEN UNLIMITED #14, an adaptation of Jack London’s CALL OF THE WILD with artist Alex Nino for Puffin Graphics and coordinated/contributed to various anthologies such as HOUSE OF TWELVE, 9-11:EMERGENCY RELIEF, TRUE PORN and next summer’s POSTCARDS.
I’m currently working on my second cartoon book, MIGDAL DAVID, for niche Judaic publisher Seraphic Press while working on two webcomics: an adventure strip called TODT HILL with Kevin Colden for the Chemistry Set collective at www.chemsetcomics.com and a second super secret web-OGN entitled STARSTRUCK with co-writer Marc Bernardin for a soon-to-be-named Big Time website.
Feel free to look through my website: www.rantcomics.com
B@N: So are the main characters in Ursa Minors based on anyone in particular?
Neil: For those unaware, URSA MINORS! is the four issue action/comedy mini-series I co-created and mold for Slave Labor Graphics (Issue #3 ships to stores on October 25; Issue 4 is in the latest Diamond PREVIEWS – Preorder Now, Preorder Often!) with Paul Cote and Fernando Pinto. The high concept: 20-something pop-culture obsessed slackers in robotic attack bear suits. While most folks would use this wealth of technological power for good or evil, Tom Johnson, Harry Woodworth and Richard Harrison — AKA Bears One, Two and Three — have decided to use them to spend their time talking about pop culture, reading comics, drinking beer, chasing women and occasionally saving Bigby City from robot Kevin Smiths, ninja delicatessen owners and English cults. It’s action, comedy, bears versus robotic quantum physicists and, more often than not, a soul-searching quest for acceptance in a world that hates and fears hippies. There are also keen back up stories like “Rabbi Ninja”, “My Grandmother, the Goth” and “Explodey, the Clown that Explodes.”
I often tell people that the men of URSA MINORS! are based on myself and my ex-roomates… but they’re really based on three tailors from Bay Ridge, New York with smiles and a dream – F. Mordy Fishbein, Leon Gold and Joey “Lippy” Lippman. God bless those crazy clothiers.
B@N: What do you find are the main differences between print and web comics? What are the pluses and minuses of each?
Neil: Well… one I can give to my kid brother so he can take on his upcoming overseas plane ride and the other I can email to my older brother so he can read it during his lunch break between trials. I think the main difference between web and print is the immediacy – instant gratification seems to be the reason the internet is so popular (oh, get your sick minds out of the virtual gutter!). I can write a print comic, and it takes six months before it shows up in the reader’s hot little hands; I can write a web comic, and it’s live tomorrow.
I never thought I’d do comics on the web, preferring the heft of the tangible graphic novel or the feel of pages on my fingers and while many of my pieces have been posted on the web I’ve never set about writing a comic specifically designed to reach a web audience. And when it comes down to it, I’m still not – my webcomic projects came about for the need to do something that would force me tell a good story, stick to deadline and get that weekly one on one with an audience who will hopefully come back for more of what I have to say. When Studio ACT-I-VATE opened their doors there was this twinge of jealousy that these folks were creating something immediate and scheduled that unfolded week to week… that’s the reason I started serializing my novel, COFFIN, on Livejournal and when it comes down to it, it’s why I agreed to do webcomics. The artists I’m working with and I aren’t playing with the infinite canvas or anything such as that — we’re taking a story that in any other forum we would roll out in installments and serializing it a page or three at a time. Sure, we might muck with art and offer folks a pretty palette — but at the heart we’re setting out to tell well written, well crafted stories. We just happen to be doing it online, is all.
B@N: In addition to writing comic, you also have a “day job.” What do
Neil: Mild mannered reporter. Oh, wait. Strike that; Reverse.
Nine to five I toil as a workaday Art Director and graphic designer putting all my points and picas in neat little order to make pretty, pretty computerized presentations for a desperate layout-impaired world.
Short answer: I draw pretty on magic box.
B@N: How do the design skills you use during the day play into your ‘nighttime’ creative process? Do you see them as two different kinds of creative outlets?
Neil: Ah, see now you’re veering into some of the content we’ll be covering over the course of next week!
Comics and graphic design go hand-in-hand these days. Comics is a visual medium and without solid, clean, eye-catching design and packaging, your book is going to be left on the shelf while hands reach for the next PEANUTS collection. As a writer/cartoonist, you have to think about color, layout, format and iconic imagery to enhance the story you’re trying to tell. And having these tools at my hand – the design programs and facility to know how to use them properly and efficiently – helps me package my comics and graphic novels in ways that make them attractive and more valuable to my reader.
More on this next week with Antony Johnston, though. Come back Monday.
B@N: So do you have any free time? And if so, what do you do besides sleep?
Neil: HA HA HA HA HA HA HA … oh man … oh. oh. Oh, hang on.
No, I’m sorry. Can’t stop: HA HA HA HA HA “Free time.” That’s a good one. I have to write that down. Mind if I steal it?
Tonight I left my day job at 6 to meet a book editor at 7 to discuss a future graphic novel project I’ll be doing. I got home from that at 8:30 and helped my wife clean the apartment while laying the project pitch out in my mind until 10. Then I sat down, inked the last panel of MIGDAL DAVID, Page 34 and laid out pencils for Page 35 until 11:30, ate a quick sandwich and then sat down to answer these questions after which I’ll write 5-600 words of a short story for a prose anthology.
Every minute counts, boss.
B@N: What comics or graphic novels have you been diggin’ lately?
Neil: Brian Vaughan is kickin’ my ass these days with RUNAWAYS and THE ESCAPISTS. I’m a guy willing to try almost anything, comics wise, so I tend to come home with a nice range of books – a little spandex, a little indy, a little fiction, a little nonfiction. Recent graphic novels gems are Gene Yang’s AMERICAN BORN CHINESE, Scott Chantler’s NORTHWEST PASSAGE, Michel Rabagliati’s PAUL series (gems, these – as good as Eddie Campbell’s ALEC series of books) and I devoured Will Eisner’s PLOT – great piece of history there.
I’ll tell you what’s a good comic – Jason Aaron and Cameron Stewart’s Vietnam epic, THE OTHER SIDE. That first issue blew my freaking mind.
B@N: So what do you have lined up this week for our readers? Any hints
or teasers about what they can expect?
Neil: Lesbians and people getting hit in the groin – it’s what the internet demands!
Actually, I’ve been spending the last few weeks putting together a rounded schedule of articles and Q&As. I’ll be spotlighting some great creators – from the well known to who the hell? We’ll be talking about Big Important Things like graphic design as it relates to comics, how to build the perfect anthology and a very special look back at 20 years of Slave Labor Graphics. There’ll be laughs, information, quotes to remember, reviews and probably som plugs for my work, available at www.rantcomics.com.
I aim to make it fun and informative and who doesn’t like fun and informative? Except maybe Commies and Hippies.
Join us, won’t you?
Check back Monday for more from Neil!