As we’re getting closer to releasing our short story comic Small World, I’m excited to have the chance to interview fellow blogger and friend, the talented writer Jordan Kirian. Jordan and I bumped into each other in the blogosphere back in January and a collaboration was born from a shared passion for honing our crafts, reading comics and reminiscing on 90s cartoons including an orange cat who gobbles lasagne. I’ve been dying to pick his brain on his process for writing comics, particularly works in realistic fiction and dark comedy. We both had a blast working on this interview. I hope that you will enjoy reading Jordan’s insights and maybe even pick up a few ideas that will help you in your own creative endeavours.
AZ: You recently completed a personal project and a quest of sorts where you blogged every day for an entire year (each article averaging 700-1200 words!). Congrats! That is no easy feat. What were some of the challenges of keeping a vigorous writing schedule? What did you learn about yourself and the craft of writing?
JK: The hardest part, by far, was writing something fresh every day. It doesn’t sound like much, but after a while, you sort of run out of things to talk about. I mean, how do I keep writing something interesting? How do I keep people coming back? It was difficult to pick a topic. I would think of one thing, and write it, and then think “ok, what will I write about tomorrow?” It was tough. Writing everyday wasn’t bad. It became habitual (as it should be). But finding the right topic, racking my brain for something new, that got tough.
AZ: What inspired you to become a writer and why write for comics?
JK: Well, ever since I was about ten, I knew I wanted to be a writer, not that I really knew what that would entail back then. But when I was in fourth grade, I was always exploring my imagination, it was great. I had a teacher who asked me if I wanted to be a writer, and I’d never really thought about it, but it seemed like something I could do. I was super into Roald Dahl at the time, author of many wonderful books, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory probably being the most famous. I guess he just captured my imagination. After that, I was reading all the time, and I wanted to make my own stories. Now, when I was in middle school and high school, I started reading comics a lot, they were fascinating. At first, it was just “Oh, cool! Super heroes!” Then it became a passion. I would read and read and read, and I became a real fanboy. Then, one day I was reading Harvey Pekar and he had a panel that said “Comics are words and pictures, and you can do anything with words and pictures.” And that just got me. And that’s when I knew I would stop just wanting to make comics, and I would finally start.
AZ: Tell us a bit about your influences.
JK: I am inspired a lot by humor. Books like A Confederacy of Dunces and Infinite Jest. I’m also really into pop culture. Modern stuff, but I’m more so into pop culture of decades gone by (a lot of 80s stuff). When it comes to comics, though, I’m hugely influenced by Alan Moore. To me, he’s like the comic book writer. His stuff is just so wonderfully complex, and beautifully crafted. Of course, Harvey Pekar is also an influence. He’s from Ohio, so I have to represent. I’m influenced by a lot of super hero writers, too. John Byrne, Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, and of course Stan Lee. I think every comic book writer owes him a credit.
AZ: If you could summarize Small World to us in one sentence, what is the story about and what was your inspiration behind the short story comic?
JK: Small World is about a man who’s turned into his own mind to escape the pain and loss of the outside world. I think my main inspirations were one day I was thinking about disorders, and agoraphobia popped into my head. I thought it would be very interesting to see the story from the mind of someone who had a disorder, who couldn’t see the outside world, but had his image of it. I wanted to explore someone who was, basically, stuck, and then figure out how he’d escape.
AZ: What really got me excited about collaborating with you is your interest in realistic fiction and dark comedy. You’ve written several short stories in this vein. What is it about realistic fiction/dark comedy that interests you?
JK: Well, with realistic fiction, it’s because it IS realistic. There are tons of fantasy, sci-fi, mystery novels out there, but those always feel, to me, removed. When I write something, it comes from experience, usually. Or from something I’ve witnessed, or real life ideas/concepts. So to me it’s like, when I’m writing, I’m trying to reach an audience, and how can I do that if it isn’t grounded in reality? It’s the most fascinating to explore because it doesn’t feel like simple escapism. Instead, it’s examination. Now, the dark comedy stuff really strikes a chord for me because it’s not supposed to be funny. We think that there are certain things we can’t laugh at, and I think to me that makes them funnier. Dark comedy looks at the world and sees it’s a crazy place, and there isn’t really order, but we try. And so everything is funny. I think it also gives a nice edge because so often straight up comedy has no bite. But when you write a story with dark humor, it gives more than just a cheap laugh. You have to think, and you have to feel.
AZ: What purpose do you think short story formats serve which longer formats cannot accomplish? Do you have any plans to write graphic novels or ongoing series?
JK: Well, short story formats are much better at getting to the point, to stripping away the unnecessary stuff. Often times, with longer pieces, you tend to get off topic, you add stuff because you have to get to the end, but you don’t know how. So short stories are like a concentrated form of storytelling, and that is appealing to me. And since it’s shorter, you have to work a little harder to make it stick with the audience. It’s also nice because you can focus on shorter periods of times. On a short story, the setting can be like a period of five minutes. You can’t do that with a novel or a movie. At some point, I’m definitely penning a graphic novel. That to me is the ultimate goal. I also want an ongoing series at some point. I think the graphic novel will be great because it’s self-contained. But in ongoing series there is room for development over a long period of time. That’s exciting.
AZ: Tell us about your writing process for comics. Is there any significant difference in writing for comics compared to say a screenplay?
JK: Writing a comic isn’t much different than writing anything else. Sure, there’s a difference in format between that and, say, a short story. The main difference is, to me, in comics you really have to focus on dialogue more. I noticed that I was much more concerned with that. But when writing a short story, I’m not too caught up on it. Now, when writing a screen play, for example, there’s a lot more movement written into those scripts. Because movies are, well, moving. But for comics, there’s more description. And there’s more of a dialogue between writer and artist. For screenplays, it’s just pretty straight forward. But for comic strips, if the writer and artist communicate well, it’s reflected in the script. That part is really nice.
AZ: I’m surprised to find that almost everyone I know reads comics in some form or another. I think the popularity of comics continues to grow, perhaps attributed to the many film and TV adaptations over the years. At TCAF this year, I believe it was cartoonist and comics theorist Scott McCloud who named this the “golden age of comics” because the medium has expanded into so many genres. There’s something for everyone. What do you think is the appeal of comics that has allowed it to not only survive but thrive in the digital age?
JK: Well, like you said, there’s something for everyone. I work in a comic book store, and there really is something for everyone. Comics have grown into a medium all their own. They’ve matured to the point where it’s beyond just simple “funny pages.” I think the movies and TV certainly helped. But also, they are a lot quicker and cheaper to make than say, a movie or a novel, so they can come out faster, too. That helps them keep up with the times. I think once they found out they could successfully make comics that weren’t just super hero books, they decided to branch out and that’s what helped it to catch on. Plus they are so easy to get digitally now. It’s exciting. And I mean, it’s easier than ever to make them digitally, so they’re sticking around.
AZ: What’s on your comics reading list at the moment?
JK: Oh man, that’s a big one. I’ve started reading Preacher by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon. It’s an amazing series, and it’s going to be on AMC at some point. There are like 60 issues or something, and I’m on volume 3 right now. I’m also reading Judge Dredd, Madman¸ which is a fabulous story by Mike Allred, and some more of Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing. As for monthlies, I’m reading Chew, Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Prez, Lumberjanes, Big Trouble in Little China, Humans, and just a bunch of other stuff I try out to see if it’s any good, which is the best perk of working at a comic store.
AZ: Lastly, are you working on any projects which you would like to tell us about?
JK: Well, I’ve been trying to get this idea for a series I’ve had off the ground called TGIF about this girl named Friday. It’s another realistic piece, but it would follow the adventures of an energetic, smart girl. I like the idea of strong female characters. It’s not a big concept, but I think it would be fun and it would explore life. My projects center around comic book stores. The customers and culture are fascinating. I’m just look for artists for those right now. I also have a project about a mime I’d like to adapt, and I’d like to work on you with that one!
Thanks so much to Jordan for taking the time to do the interview! I just want to add that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working with Jordan and would definitely recommend him to other artists with similar interests who are looking to make comics. He has a unique vision and also an excellent collaborator who is down-to-earth, open to suggestions and easy to talk to. I’m truly excited for Jordan’s future projects. We need more stories with strong female protagonists as well as mimes! Small World is just the beginning and it goes without saying that I would love to work with Jordan again.
Stayed tuned, Small World pages and process will be released on Thursdays!