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WAITING FOR TOMMY
By Richard Johnston

RICHARD: Very. But is this really where the money is? You've expanding into animation, illustration, design - yet you keep coming back to the fold. You've demonstrated scriptwriting abilities that would put most sitcoms to shame, yet it's back to comics you come. Can you explain the medium's allure for you?

KYLE: For me, there's more control over the final product in comics. When I work on a TV or movie thing, the producer, star, and studio all have the power to change my work, so usually the finished product looks nothing like what I created. It's also impossible to be innovative in Hollywood. There's too much money at risk, so everyone is encouraged to do something that's ripped off of other successful products.

The other thing I like about books is they actually come out. I've written lots of scripts for movies and TV that never get made, even though I get paid for them. I've also been paid for lots of illustrations for advertisements that also don't get made. That's normal in these industries. You get paid well, and the product doesn't ever get released.

Magazines tend to only buy illustrations of celebrities. I'm not interested in celebrities. Also, those illustrations have a much shorter shelf life than my other work. When I was choosing celebrity illustrations to reprint in UNDERCOVER GENIE, it was hard to find any stars who were still commercially viable after ten years, or even five years.

Most importantly, I can do comic books at home, and spend more time with my wife and kids. All last year I worked at Warner Brothers animation in LA and I didn't get to see my family except at dinner time, which is right before bed time. We've moved back to the East Coast because that's where all our parents and grandparents are, and family is more important than anything to us.

RICHARD: Is it fair to say you appear to be disconnected from the commercial US world of comics. No longer influenced by it, barely creating for it, it's as if there's a private Kyle Baker world you're working for. Do you ever feel lonely there - and do you think Plastic Man will change that?

 

JOHN CASSADAY'S CAPTAIN AMERICA 8 INCH BUST - MODERN AGE VERSION  

KYLE: I was influenced a lot by Simon and Kirby's work on TRUTH. The fight scenes are all Jack Kirby tributes. I tried to do a lot of Kirby layouts and poses. I had a lot of his old issues on my drawing board when I was working on TRUTH.

In the last few years I've done a Batman story with Bob Kanigher, a Stan Lee Superman story, a Tom Strong, a Gen 13, Splash Brannigan, some Spider-Man covers... I've done quite a few super hero comics, including Captain America in TRUTH.

Since 1999, I've done three original graphic novels which have been published by DC, which is a huge mainstream US comic publisher. The total page count of those three books combined is 384, which is the equivalent of 17 monthly comic books. Add that to the work mentioned above, and Superman's Babysitter, plus Undercover Genie, and my page count equals about 31 comic books for DC and Marvel since 1999. I wouldn't say that's "barely creating". It's more than a lot of the big name superhero guys have done lately.

Plastic Man is yet another of my many DC super hero comics, and I'm having a fun time doing it.

RICHARD: At the other end of the scale, you've got a new self-published comic released in time for the San Diego Comicon, yes?

KYLE: It's called THE NEW BAKER, and it's available only at my booth at the San Diego Comicon. It's 32 pages of funny jokes and cartoons, including ten pages of my new feature THE BAKERS. I plan to publish THE BAKERS as a continuing comic book series later this year, as well as a regular anthology, KYLE BAKER COMICS. Also a graphic novel about NAT TURNER.

I've been wanting to try self-publishing for a few years now. While I enjoy working with DC and intend to do so for many years, I have some cartoons that just wouldn't work there. THE NEW BAKER, for instance, is just chock full of the kind of stuff that DC's legal department will never allow me to do. The book is designed as a parody of "The New Yorker", so the entire format would be rejected by DC legal, there are depictions of famous people doing nasty things, and lots of tasteless, insensitive stuff that I'm sure any editor with a conscience would reject.

THE BAKERS is obviously a cartoon about my family, and I don't feel like selling away any of the rights to my family's likenesses. "I'm sorry Lillian, you can't appear in the High School yearbook because you are a registered trademark of Time/Warner inc." "Yes, Liz, I know the family Christmas cards haven't been mailed yet. I'm waiting for DC to approve my sketch." I also don't really need any editorial input on my life story; "Kyle, readers are really responding well to the neighbour character. We want her to move in with you. And we think your son Isaac should be a girl."

NAT TURNER is the true biography of a Black American hero, and I'm publishing it because I want to handle the marketing personally. I can think of tons of places to promote it, and sell it. It's a powerful, important book, and I don't think any publisher would have the vision or the desire to give this book the push it needs. It could be another MAUS. It's that good. I also think it makes a very important statement that the author, illustrator, and publisher is descended from the very slaves that Nat Turner died to emancipate.

Kyle Baker's work can be found at www.kylebaker.com. Kyle Baker can be found at San Diego. Rich Johnston writes Lying In The Gutters and can be found wherever there are noodles.

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The Waiting For Tommy Archive

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