Sometimes a creator-owned book comes along that is completely different from anything else around it–that’s why we’re highlighting Wild Children, the upcoming one-shot from Image Comics by Ales Kot with Riley Rossmo (Cowboy/Ninja/Viking, Green Wake), Gregory Wright, and Clayton Cowles. Focusing on a group of anarchy-loving (and instigating) students, Wild Children hearkens back to the independent comics of the ’80s, but expresses itself in new and exciting ways.
We had the chance to interview writer Ales Kot about his inspiration for Wild Children, and what he hopes to tackle next. Make sure to check out our five-page preview, and then pre-order the book now to save 20%.
TFAW.com: What inspired Wild Children?
Ales Kot: Twenty-five years of living in a world with an education system that’s built primarily to create docile citizens. Citizens that won’t have too many questions, or too many needs, that will be out of whatever is considered to be ordinary in the 20th century. School, for me, was mostly a soul-crushing thing that needed to be survived until I got on my feet–I went through six different schools in 10 or 11 years, because the systemic, quiet violence of mediocrity always got to me. I wanted to become the best me I could become, and school felt like an obstacle created to stop me from realizing my full potential. So I left. I think I was 17 at the time, and there was never a moment when I felt like I made the wrong choice.
Besides that, a lot of different things served as inspiration–two specific comics that had a lot of impact were the long-unreleased Hellblazer: Shoot by Warren Ellis and Phil Jimenez, and Kill Your Boyfriend by Grant Morrison, Philip Bond, and D’Israeli. I looked at the intent and the energy these comics had, and thought, “What’s the best way to build on these two? What happens if I take them as inspiration for what can be done in comics in 2012, and push forward as much as I can?”
Then also a lot of music, the drone pop of Fuck Buttons, the glitchy idm of Nosaj Thing and Flying Lotus, Hakim Bey’s writing on temporary autonomous zones, Jean-Luc Godard’s Pierrot le Fou . . . I could go on!
TFAW.com: What were some of the themes you were interested in exploring with this comic?
AK: Communication. Expectations. Lies. Assumptions. Understanding.
What Wild Children turned into surprised me. I’d be giving away too much if I went into detail here, but I realized that the story opened itself up, becoming a more layered experience. It felt a bit scary–it’s easy to feel like some things might be out of my reach, especially since this was my first longer comic–but I had to dive in, even if that meant risking failure. Not risking failure would be much worse, because it would mean the story wouldn’t be allowed to reach its full potential. I’m glad I made the decision to jump into the void; it made this comic better.
TFAW.com: Do you think today’s youth are too complacent?
AK: I still consider myself a member of today’s youth. I’m 25, and I have no intent of ever becoming a grown-up. If I live, I evolve. If I let myself reach a state where I become a person that’s too fixed in space and time, I allow a reduction of my potential–considering myself a grown-up would do that. I can own up to the consequences of my actions and take care of myself without calling myself a grown-up.
But back to your question: I don’t think it’s my place to judge today’s youth like that. We are everything: complacent, concerned, loving, hateful, right, wrong, scared, embracing, quiet, loud. We are always everything, generation after generation.
Systems built in (and for) the industrial era (such as schools) that try to reduce us to simple mechanics and equations miss the point–infinite economic growth is a religious myth, and basing our culture around a religious myth is shallow, boring and harmful. It’s our job to transform these systems into a new, better, more interesting now that will be in love with the complexity of who we truly are.
TFAW.com: In this story, everyone reacts to these “Wild Children” in the most extreme, worst-case-scenario ways. Why?
AK: Because they were taught that it’s the appropriate response to what they perceive as extremely aggressive and dangerous behavior. We’re taught to expect the worst. “Media sells a trace of hate,” to quote Manic Street Preachers. But we sometimes forget about the other side of the coin, the balancing act: expect the worst, but hope for the best. And do whatever is right.
TFAW.com: What made artist Riley Rossmo a good fit for this story?
AK: Dedication to detail and storytelling, open-mindedness, collaborative spirit, and love for the comics medium that’s probably as obsessive and over-the-top as mine. Willingness to experiment and challenge himself. This project is the first one that Riley did in Ligne Claire style, which is very different from his previous work–much simpler, using less lines to convey more. I’m impressed with his evolution, and we’re figuring out what we’re going to work on next.
TFAW.com: Wild Children is a one-shot–do you see the story continuing in some fashion?
AK: Thematically, yes–I suspect many of its themes will find their way into my future work. Wild Children won’t be a comics franchise, though. Even if the comic sells well, it was always planned as a self-contained graphic novella, and that’s the way it stays.
TFAW.com: What sorts of comics would you like to write next?
AK: Oh, I’m all over the map. I want to be hitting a ratio where about 60-70% of what I write will be creator-owned work, and I have a self-imposed rule that every creator-owned project I create needs to be something that is new–comics that widen the reach of the comics medium, comics I’d immediately buy because they shine with passion and dedication, comics that will mostly transcend genres. Thankfully, I’m working on creator-owned projects that let me do precisely that.
Then there’s work for hire, the other 30-40%. I wrote a Batman story that’s currently being drawn by Ryan Sook, and I couldn’t be happier about it. There’s also a one-shot for another company, but I can’t speak of that as of yet. What I can speak of is the way I see work for hire–there’s a way to make company-owned stories as much fun as creator-owned, and that way lies in all sides surrendering to creativity and fair play, respecting the character and the creator at the same time.
If I ever get a chance, I’d love to write Aliens, or Adam Strange, or Hellblazer, or Judge Dredd (and so on . . . ), because I think I can make their worlds feel strikingly new while simultaneously honoring their roots.
TFAW.com: What are you reading right now?
AK: Cronenberg on Cronenberg, edited by Chris Rodley. David Cronenberg is one of my favorite directors, and one of the biggest influences on how I perceive not only fiction and storytelling, but also life. I never quite realized how deeply he and his work impacted me, but this book opened my eyes. He’s one of the honest creators I’m aware of, and creative honesty is a trait I nurture in myself as well. More than that, I put something he says in the book on my desktop, so I see it every morning when I turn on my laptop: “Speak the unspeakable. Show the unshowable.”
Men of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters and the Birth of the Comic Book, by Gerard Jones. A deeply fascinating history of the strange, complex birth of the US comics industry. I want to understand the roots–the more I know, the easier it is to see patterns, the easier it is to get a better feel for how certain attitudes were formed and others abandoned, the easier it is to think about what can happen next.
Strange Embrace, by David Hine. One of the strongest horror comics I ever read. Edgar Allan Poe meets Joseph Conrad. Scary and deep. Some very psychedelic panel transitions. On top of that, the collected edition is a beautiful object.
Ranx, by Liberatore and Tamburini. Ranx is messed up. The future is ugly and beautiful and full of sex and death and drugs and robots. Heavy on satire, black humor and fun. Heavy Metal Magazine comics at their finest.TFAW.com: What are you working on next?
AK: Besides the stories I already talked about, I’m working on a few projects that will be coming out later this year, and some that will come out in 2013. First announcements will be made at San Diego Comic Con in July, but I can say that I’m currently working on a contemporary horror story that’s making me very nervous, and a near-future science-fiction story inspired by Jean Baudrillard’s and Steven Shaviro’s explorations of hyperreality. The collaborators I’m working with are strong, dedicated storytellers, and the stories feel new, challenging, and exciting to write and read. I hope the readers will agree.
We want to thank Ales for his thoughtful responses to our questions! You can find him via his website, or follow him on Twitter at @ales_kot. Make sure to preview Wild Children and place your pre-order now.
Are you intrigued by Wild Children? Post your comments below!