Interview: James Kochalka Pt. 3 (of 3)

Categories:  Interviews

James KochalkaHere’s it is, part three in the infamous James Kochalka interview trilogy, the Return of the Jedi of the comic book creator Q&A set. Like Empire, part two ended on a bit a downer—instead of finding out that his dad was a sled named ‘Rosebud’ (oops, um, spoiler alert), however, Kochalka simply revealed how much he hates clowns, thereby causing the members of the Barnum & Bailey chapter of the JKS Fan Club to reconsider their direction in life.

This time out, instead of big Ewok celebration, we discuss how the Incredible Hulk’s life’s work might be affected, were he cursed with a high voice—still a pretty good way to go out, if you ask me. The only real downside to the ordeal is all of the pod racing that you have to look forward to, twenty years from now.

Part three of three, post-jump.

Do you have a lot of people specifically asking not to be in the strip?

I had one friend who didn’t want me to draw him, and actually, forced me to take some of the strips out. In the American Elf book, I included one strip with him in it, but I took the rest out. He wanted me to take them all out, I think, but I just spaced out on the other ones, so one I left in, by mistake. There was one where I’d drawn two in one day, so no one noticed that there was one missing.

How often do you do two in a day?

A few times a year. Last year it happened at least every month. The way the website is set up, I can only upload one per day, so if there’s two, I just save it for the book.

Are there days when nothing happens?

No. I could write a full-length graphic novel about every day of my life. So much stuff happens, every single day. You could probably write volumes about every single day.

So, what makes one thing stand out?

I don’t know. I don’t know how I choose. Well, I suppose there are a couple of ways that I choose… Some things I choose because they’re typical, and they seem pretty typical of what my life is like. Some things I chose because they’re unusual. Some times I pick the wrong thing. Some times something pretty interesting happens, and I draw about something else. If something good happened the day before, and I just missed it, I’ll write about it the next day. Those are often the kinds of situations where I’ll do two in one day.

When the books come out, do you revisit the old strips?

No, no yet. I’m planning on it. I hear the American Elf book is really good, but I haven’t read it yet [laughs].

Do you try to follow his work?

You know, I just did this other interview with someone, and they asked about [Kochalka’s wife] Amy reading the strips, or, “how does she feel about it?” Well, Amy doesn’t read any of the strips, anymore. The truth is, I don’t read them either. But I don’t really need to read it, because I wrote it. I’m kind of waiting, so that when I read it, it will all be brand new. I get the feeling sometimes that I would love to go see my band play. I think I would really like it, but I could never be the guy that gets to see my band play, because I’m in the band.

Do you listen to your records?

Yeah. I listen to my records way more than I read my comics.

So, how much of the music that you listen to on a daily basis consists of songs that you have made and recorded?

Uh, I don’t listen to my stuff every day. Probably only a couple of times a year will I listen to my own records, but I will put them on for my son, more often than that, because he likes to listen to them.

Forgive the clichéd artist question, but when you’re making comics or music, are you doing it with an audience in mind?

Hm. It depends. The music is pretty much to amuse myself, in some particular moment in time, and what I think are the best ones, I end up recording. And comics, I rarely think about what the audience is going to like, except in Superf*ckers, if someone has written in, and asked to see a character again, I’ve said, “why the hell not?” and put them in. Someone wrote to say that they like Plantpal, so I put him in the next issue. Someone else wrote that they liked Orange Lightning. I liked him too. I’d killed him off, but—should I say? Yeah, I’m bringing him back for issue four.

Back when we did that Spin interview—it has to be a year or two now—it sounded like you weren’t planning going past two issues with the series.

I kept thinking that after each issue that I was done. I would go to write another issue, but none of the various ideas that I had seemed as good as doing another issue of Superf*ckers. Those books write themselves. Just get them in a room, talking, and before you know it, you’ve got a whole book…six months later.

Would you ever be able to do a regular monthly series?

Yeah, I could. The trouble with Superf*ckers is there are too many panels per page. If there were less, I could put out more. Each page I could probably make two or three pages of a regular comic book.

I know that you’ve done a few stories for existing franchises. You did the Hulk one [“Hulk vs. The Rain”], and you’ve done a few for the DC Bizarro compilations. Would you have any interest in regularly working with a franchised character?

Yeah. I’d like to write it, because that would take a lot less work [laughs]. I could probably write a book in a day or two, as opposed to drawing it, which would take a long, long time. I pitched a Hulk series to them, a long time ago. Honestly, the guy didn’t really even listen to my pitch. He kept giving me his pitch for The Hulk.

What was your pitch?

It was ‘Hulk Squad’ [laughs]. About a team of cloned Hulks.

Fighting crime?

No, fighting the Hulk. They were all varying levels of success, in the cloning technique. It’s a team of sub-par Hulks together, trying to capture the Hulk. And you know what? There was a new issue of Superman, just a couple of weeks ago, with Superman Squad. Those bastards!

It’s a different company, and yet, still suspicious.

Well, I’ve been talking about Hulk Squad for years. It’s pretty much common knowledge now, I think.

If you had to pick a superhero book to work on, it would be The Hulk?

Yeah. He’s easy to write. I can relate to him. He’s a little bit punk rock, in that wounded teenager kind of way. He doesn’t understand things, so he wants to smash them. We have this game here, that we play, where I talk in a deep voice, “Hulk smash!” but then I said no, the Hulk talks in a very high voice, [falsetto] “Hulk smash!” It’s so funny. It’s so different. It changes the whole character.

Would the Hulk be the Hulk, if he had a high-pitched voice? You can’t really hear what he sounds like in comics.

No. it’s utterly ridiculous.


–Brian Heater 

No Comments to “Interview: James Kochalka Pt. 3 (of 3)”

  1. matt | February 28th, 2007 at 5:16 pm

    james, i think we would all love to see your take on a mainstream character.

    marvel’s been putting out some “what if?” stories again more recently. maybe you could pitch your hulk book again with that in mind. i bet having to write within the marvel continuity would inhibit the personality in your comics anyway.

  2. Journalista - the news weblog of The Comics Journal » Blog Archive » Mar. 1, 2007: Crucification
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