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DEREK KIRK KIM
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DF Interview: Derek Kirk Kim returns to the comics page with new ongoing sci-fi series ‘The Last Mermaid’

 

By Byron Brewer

 

A lone mermaid roams an endless wasteland on a quest beyond reason. To press ever onward, she must survive the interminable stretches between tiny pockets of water, the roaming bands of cybernetic cannibals, and the fearsome mutant beasts. What propels her forward to take such a risk?

 

From Image Comics comes The Last Mermaid by artist/writer Derek Kirk Kim. It was my extreme pleasure to chat up this coming book with its creator and welcome him back after a decade-long absence from comic books. Here’s what Derek told me.

 

Byron Brewer: First, Derek, before we make a splash into The Last Mermaid, I want to tell you how honored I am to conduct this interview with you and I (for lack of a better greeter) would like to welcome you back to comics! Can you discuss just a bit of what you did while on your comics hiatus?

 

Derek Kirk Kim: Shucks, thank you so much, Byron. It’s an honor to be invited on Dynamic Forces! It feels fantastic to be back in comics, telling my own stories again. After my last comic work, “Tune: Still Life,” all the way back in 2013, I got sucked into the world of animated TV shows for a good decade. I worked as a director, storyboard artist, and character designers on a bunch of shows including the Axe Cop adaptation by Fox; Adventure Time, Green Eggs and Ham on Netflix; and mostly prominently as a director on the Disney show Amphibia. All amazing experiences!

 

Byron: Discuss the overall story of this new ongoing series, if you would, and tell readers what might have inspired this literal fish-out-of-water tail… er uh, tale. Would it have anything to do with your time spent as a director on Amphibia?

 

Derek Kirk Kim: Not consciously, but you know, we did have an axolotl character named Loggle on Amphibia, so maybe he unconsciously inspired Lottie, my axolotl character in The Last Mermaid, haha!

 

But actually, what first inspired this story was something no one would guess: Rumspringa! What is Rumspringa? It’s the rite of passage for the Amish where they spend some time in the world outside of their unique community. A time to see what the “regular” world is like for themselves. When I saw that in a documentary, I thought, what if mer-people had that? One night in their lives where they get to go up onto the surface world and see what life among humans is really like. I figured they would need some kind of mobile fish tank of sorts to get around. So that was the very germ of the idea about a mermaid moving around on land in an aquatic mech suit which I first wanted to use for a short film or a graphic novel. But eventually this character got moved to an animated series pitch as a supporting character. I took that pitch around to just about every studio in Hollywood but got no traction. Eventually that dream faded, but the mermaid character didn’t. And thus she was reborn again in The Last Mermaid, a new series from Image Comics!

 

Byron: Introduce readers to your protagonist, a lone mermaid seemingly roaming an empty wasteland. Without spoilers, can you give us any information on her backstory? Who is she when we meet her in March and what challenge(s) lie ahead for her?

 

Derek Kirk Kim: Gosh, there’s so much to tell, but I don’t want to spoil anything. This is so hard, haha! But I can say she’s on a quest that she’s willing to risk her life for. She’s seeking something that would actually make this hellscape she’s trapped within worth living in. She’s been seeking it her entire life and when we join her in the story, she’s near the breaking point. Is what she’s seeking even real? Is she going to lose her life chasing after a fairy tale? But then she’ll meet someone who just might answer her question. But can she trust anyone after the life she’s had?

 

Byron: You are all-in for The Last Mermaid as artist and writer. Can you tell readers about how you have developed the canvas readers will enter soon? What sort of post-apocalyptic world do we have here with a mermaid “swimming” a desert sea?

 

Derek Kirk Kim: Well, for a mermaid, it’s literally the worse kind of world imaginable. There’s hardly any water, and the only small pockets of water remaining are trapped in caves deep under the ground. So naturally this story asks, “How would a mermaid survive in a desert wasteland?” And the answer is she rides around in her trusty H.A.V.C., which stands for Hybrid Aquatic Vehicular Chamber. It’s a bipedal mech which can also transform into a four-wheeled vehicle to traverse long flat distances. And most importantly the H.A.V.C. holds a large tank of water which the mermaid obviously needs to survive. Of course, everyone needs water, but it’s even more crucial here because this particular mermaid breathes through gills, not lungs. Hence she needs water just to breathe! But how did the world come to be this way in the first place? We’ll find out on this journey with the mermaid. And I guarantee it isn’t what you’re probably thinking.

 

Byron: What other characters are important to this new series? Can you spotlight some of them here?

 

Derek Kirk Kim: Unfortunately that would spoil things, but I can say it will gradually mount to many, many characters. Some friendly, most definitely not. The wasteland is crawling with mutant beasts and “boltjobs”—cybernetic cannibals! And there’s a reason for all of it which we’ll discover as the story gradually unfolds…

 

Byron: Again, without spoilers, can you clue us into the villain or villainous circumstance which tasks our mermaid onward? Who / what forces does she battle?

 

Derek Kirk Kim: There is a primary villain involved which we’ll get to further down the line… The less said, the better at this point, though. (winks) But I think readers will be surprised when this person first appears…

 

Byron: Is it like getting back on a bicycle, as they say? What does it feel like to return to comics? As you execute your current project, The Last Mermaid, tell readers what you have missed about producing comic books… and what is still a pain. (LOL)

 

Derek Kirk Kim: You know, it’s funny, it is just like riding a bicycle, except now there are electric bicycles! During my time away from comics there’s been a revolution in technology for comics creators. From Cintiqs to ipads, to programs geared specifically for comics like Clip Studio. It’s easier and more convenient than ever to make comics and I’m definitely benefiting from it. To do a comic like The Last Mermaid in the “old days” I would’ve had to bust out my watercolors again and it would’ve taken me AGES. Of course, it’s still a ton of hours to produce art like this, but it’s much faster digitally, at least for me. And oh man, I missed so many things about producing comics. But most of all, I missed the people. All my cartoonist friends and comics fans. All of us are in this for the love of the medium and it feel so good to be nestled inside this community again.

 

Byron: Derek, what other projects, inside or outside comic books, are you involved with now? What can you tell us about?

 

Derek Kirk Kim: I’m so excited to tell you this. Besides The Last Mermaid, I’m also working on a brand new graphic novel for Image Comics with the incredible Jacob Perez! Me writing and Jacob elevating it a 1000x with his gorgeous art! (Check out his Instagram to see what I mean! @jtp_art) It’s still early days in the final art stage so I shouldn’t say too much right now, but I can barely contain myself from sharing everything we’ve done far because I’m so excited about it. It’s a rip-roaring, 210-page crime caper entitled Royals. That’s all I can say for now! (smiles)

 

Dynamic Forces would like to thank Derek Kirk Kim for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions. The Last Mermaid #1 from Image Comics is slated to be on sale March 6!

 




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