The last few weeks have been pretty good to Kevin Colden. In the first part of our interview with the artist, he made public his book deal with San Diego-based publisher, IDW, which is set to bring his Xeric-winning Act-I-Vate strip, Fishtown, to print. A few days later, Fishtown’s follow up, Strangle/Switch began its run, this time via DC Comics’ fledgling Webcomics syndicator, Zuda.
We spoke to Colden about Strangle/Switch, his music career, and why a bunch of junior high school students voted him most likely to be bitten by a radioactive spider.
You were thinking of self-publishing Fishtown before you won the Xeric. Was that option still on the table when you got further into the run of the series?
Not really. At a certain point, I knew that this the Web form was my self-publishing, and it really resonated enough that someone would put it together as a nice edition. Everyone that’s seen it liked it. I haven’t talked to one person who was indifferent to it. Though I don’t know—maybe they’re saying horrible things, behind my back.
Do you ever check out the message boards to see what people are saying about your work?
I sometimes do, but I haven’t seen a lot of discussion on the subject. I keep some tabs on myself, but not really. I have kind of a solid Internet presence. Sometimes I’ll show up on message boards and get into arguments with people.
About your own work?
No, about other things. But that’s mainly when I get really board.
Do you work from home?
I don’t–I work in an office, most days.
So the time that you spend in front of the computer is mostly at work?
When I have downtime. Which when I do have downtime, I have a lot of downtime.
What do at the office?
I actually do DVD authoring for a company that produces cartoons.
Is it technical stuff, or are you doing some art?
I started out doing graphic design for DVDs, and just sort of moved into the programming side of it, because that was the job. I’ve been doing that for the past six or seven years, because I know how to do it, and I do it well. It’s not the most exciting work in the world, but I do enjoy it.
At what point are you going to become a full-time comic book artist? Is that part of the plan?
I would like to, but the problem is that it’s tough to make the transition. I’m going to be 30 in a few months, so I think the time of being able to starve is sort passed. I own a home, I’m married. It’s hard to take that leap without enough money in the bank. I think it’ll happen soon. Things definitely started aligning, in the past year or so. The planets seem to be lining up for me to make that jump, but I don’t think it will happen immediately. But we’ll see how well the Fishtown book does, and how well certain other things do as well.
Does [Colden’s wife, Miss Lasko-Gross] do comics full-time?
She’s able to devote more time to it than I am, but she also takes care of pets. She’s a pet caregiver most of the time.
You’ve got a definite Web presence, but her best known work is the one on Fantagraphics [Escape From Special]. Does she do any Web stuff?
Right now she’s working on her next book. She has a verbal contract with Fantagraphics. It’ll be coming out either the end of the year or the beginning of next year. She’s just been working on that. It’s another 200-page book, so she’s been devoting a lot of time to that. We’re both actually going to have stories in a new anthology at SmithMag.net, called Next Door Neighbor. There’s a bunch of artists involved in that—I don’t know who all yet, but the two of us are going to be involved. That’s probably the extent of her Web presence now. There is a project that she keeps talking about doing when she gets time, but who has time?
Have you guys ever given thought to the cutesy, ‘let’s collaborate on a comic’ idea?
Interestingly, that’s how I really first started meeting people in the business, including her. We met at a party once, and we started working on comic together, which we worked on for about a year.
That’s a good pick-up line. “Let’s go do a comic.”
“Let’s go do a comic at my place” [laughs]. But we did start doing this comic and shopped it around to a few people, but it wasn’t that great. We talk about going back to it, every once in a while. But we’re still trying to figure out when we have time to sleep, because we basically just work all the time. We’re really the most boring couple on the face of the earth, honestly. We either watch movies, draw, or both. But she does have a story that will go up on the Web someday.
You’ve got some Web projects in the work at the moment.
I do, actually. It’s on Zuda. I have a story called Strangle/Switch. It’s in competition, this month.
You’ve got a really great collective and a book deal. Why Zuda?
For two reasons. Number one is visibility. It’s a whole different audience. I think that we can bring some of that audience back to Act-I-Vate. And number two, if I can win the competition, it means money. It’s really that simple. Also, the opportunity to work with DC Comics is something that I don’t think anyone would pass up. At best, I’ll put this comic up on Zuda and they’ll give me a contract, and I’ll have the presence. And if it doesn’t work out, it will be up on Zuda for a while and will continue on Act-I-Vate.
So you retain the rights in the contract?
Eventually. I believe it’s 90 days. So really, it’s a no-lose situation. I figured I’d take advantage of the fact that the people at Zuda saw fit to put me in the competition.
What’s the gist of Strangle/Switch?
It’s actually a story about several troubled people—
Sounds familiar, so far.
Yeah, that’s sort of my thing.
What happened to the comedy that you were going to do?
Yeah, really. Where did the comedy go? I don’t know [laughs]. My next one is actually going to be a comedy. I’m already working on plans for that. Actually, it might not be…it’ll either be a comedy or the exact opposite, like I’ve been doing. But Strangle/Switch is about a musician who’s mentally ill. And his niece comes to live with him, after her mother sends her away for deviant behavior. I guess her behavior is so bad that living with her crazy uncle is a better alternative.
Again, this sounds familiar.
Yeah, that’s ture, actually [laughs]. He’s a musician and he meets a mysterious stranger one night who sends him to a store where he finds a guitar that gives him really weird powers.
Robert Johnson or Faust…
More or less. That’s really where it came from. That’s the beginning of the story. You can find out where it goes a little bit later.
You’re a musician yourself.
I am, yeah. I had a little bit of a music career.
Did that payoff a bit when you started work on this new story?
Well, it’s interesting. When I was a kid, I wanted to do comics. I think I was voted the kids most likely to star in a Spider-Man comic, in the 8th grade.
The star? Peter Parker?
Yeah, I don’t know…But yeah, in high school I started doing music and theater too. I ended up being an actor for a while. I thought that’s where my life was going. And all through college, I supported myself playing at coffee houses, singing. I was trying to do both for while, and eventually things had to give.
I was battling a really horrible bought of writer’s block, as far as songs went, and I couldn’t really record in my apartment at the time, so I kind of had to put if on the shelf for a while. I haven’t totally stopped, I just haven’t really pursued it, because comics started being nice to me [laughs].
You probably miss it less when you have another steady creative outlet.
Yeah, there’s maybe one day a week where I ask myself, “why am I doing this?” but yeah, when I’m busy, it’s much easier. I have part of another record recorded.
How have your experiences in that world fed into this story about a musician?
It’s really ultimately about the creative process and how hard it is to do something original, when everyone around you is telling you to be the same. It’s hard to sell stuff that’s really original. It’s hard to find an angle to it and package it in a way that a lot of people will by, which is understandable. If you do something, you want it to sell.
But it’s basically a story about these people who are really not normal in the sense of the rest of the world. There’s something very different about them, but everyone around them is trying to make them normal. The advantage they have is that they have superpowers of a sort. They have this instrument that can do weird things, and they use it to their advantage to try to realize their vision, and there’s good and bad that comes out of that.