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Horror, Comics, and Being Creative: A Conversation with Kyle Starks

Title: Horror, Comics, and Being Creative, a Conversation with Kyle Starks

“Comics will break your heart.”-Steve Ditko

If you can allow me the aside, dear reader, I want to start this article with an anecdote not related to horror.

I can still remember when I first read Kyle Stark’s ROCK CANDY MOUNTAIN. I picked it up on a whim in 2018 using a gift card to the comic shop in my hometown, a shop that no longer exists. I grabbed both volumes based solely on the title and the wild, frenetic artwork on the covers, having no familiarity with the book or any of Stark’s previous work. At the time, I hadn’t read many, if any, comics outside of the dominant superhero zeitgeist, but something about that book caught me and I took it home, where I read both volumes in a single sitting. Then I reread them. Then I reread them again. I was captivated by the way Stark juxtaposed incredible violence with a deep, earnest emotional honesty and then framed it all with the wild, cartoonish aesthetic to create an atmosphere that felt totally and unbelievably original.

Stark opened the door to the wider, weirder, and more artful world of comics from beyond the Marvel/D.C. universe, and I am excited to introduce the talented, hilarious Kyle Starks to a readership who might be missing out on the terrifying, wild, original stories that he is telling today.

So without further nostalgic introspection:

Kyle Starks: In Conversation

-To get us started, tell me a little bit about yourself. Where you’re from, how you got started in comics.

Oh my god, what a loaded, open question [laughs]. I’m from southern Indiana, I’ve lived here my entire life. When I was a kid I loved comics, I worked at a comic shop when I was a teen. The comic shop was a video rental store, used books, and music. Baseball cards, pornography, it had it all. It was a pop culture super center, and we were allowed to take and watch and read whatever we wanted. I loved comics, I was a teen in the 90s, and the 90s were not a great time to love comics, I don’t think. It was a very sparse, sort of desolate, dark time. Not that there aren’t some gems, there are, but for the most part I feel like comics were trying to be very serious and they weren’t fun. And so I sort of faded out. I went to college to be a painter, to be a fine artist and to drink a lot and do drugs and try to score for the next however many years. Eventually…I got married, I met my perfect wife. I got a union job. I was working at a factory, I was working for newspapers. Shockingly being a painter is an impossible task, so that didn’t last very long. I did production art…I worked for one of the greatest places in town to work, which is a printing facility, and when we were about to have my second kid I realized my time would no longer ever be my own. And I made a list of things I wanted to do before my time wasn’t my own, and number one on the list was: Finish a comic. Not make a comic, finish a comic, because it was the one thing I had never done.

When I was a teen and in high school I definitely started a lot of things. I definitely drew like some five page comics for zines and stuff, but I never finished a comic, so I gave myself that challenge. And it's funny, because I don’t remember anything else on that list. I only remember this one thing. I started doing a webcomic called THE LEGEND OF RICKY THUNDER, which is about the world champion of wrestling who has to defend the earth from an alien invasion, because he is the world champion, see. And, uh, I didn’t promote it, it was just for me, and it got discovered. People started reading it, and then I got to do conventions, and along the way I just fell in love with the process of writing and drawing comics. I just, it’s the happiest, sort of zennest I can be. And so I really took to it, I was like “what a great hobby I have.” This hobby pays me a little money instead of costing me money like most hobbies do.

Long story short, that factory closed down. I said, “we have to move, this is the last place, I’ve worked all the newspapers, this is the last printing place.” [My wife] was like, “do you think you could make comics for a year?” And I was like, “I think I could do it for one year.” I thought I could do three Kickstarters if I had to, because I was mostly doing Kickstarters at the time. Wife cleaned bathrooms at a hospital for two years, which is a terrible, thankless job that’s awful. And you know, I fell into Rick and Morty, and my books sold well enough that we could afford to keep doing it, and here we are six years later. I’m a professional comics boy. That’s my origin story. Asked and received.

-So, what is your history with horror? Have you always been a fan of the genre, is that something you got into later on?

See, now this is a good question, because I rarely get asked this. I definitely did not care for horror when I was little. I saw THE FLY in the doorway when we were visiting one of my parent’s friends, and I have never been more terrified in my life. We used to watch KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE like every birthday party when I was little, but that’s so campy and goofy and that’s why I liked it, not that it’s scary. It seemed to me at that time as a youth either like the biggest horror movies were either those silly franchises, which now I adore, or they were like super scary. I remember being in school and kids talking about HELLRAISER, and I’m like, “that sounds like something I would not enjoy.” So, I never really embraced horror.

But many years ago Benito Cereno, who writes the essays for I HATE THIS PLACE, started doing a Halloween list of… “here’s the horror movies you should watch.” And he broke them into categories…and I had never heard of some of them. So, I started watching the ones I had never heard of…and I like horror. I've always liked it, but I always felt like maybe I didn’t see the right ones, you know? And then once I sort of started seeing, again the right ones, which is vague, I kind of grew to like it all more.

And the thing is, I think one of the things I like about horror is like I grew up on superhero comics, I love pro-wrestling, and horror does the same thing these things too. Which is, this: in general they’re okay to fine, but if you enjoy going through these motions, you’re totally okay with okay to fine. It’s an enjoyable experience. Superhero fights, wrestling, there always has to be a fight. Every solution is a fight, right? In horror people have to get violently murdered, almost always. They have these boxes, these narrative boxes that they’re very much stuck in, and like if you love that it doesn’t matter if it’s good or bad, and they’re both almost always good. They’re never horrible, right? Somehow these three things are never horrible. They’re always at worst, fine to okay.

If they elevate above that it feels like such an achievement that it’s such a high to see an amazing horror film or an amazing superhero comic or an amazing wrestling show. And so I think that’s something that really attracted me…So I think that was my attraction. These things that are “low art” that shouldn’t be called that but sort of are, and to see them rise above their own constructs, I think it’s so thrilling. And like I’m a comedy guy, you know. I’ve done comedy before I did I HATE THIS PLACE and WHERE MONSTERS LIE, and horror is very much similar in terms of storytelling to comedy…I’m keeping my Shudder subscription all year round rather than just one month, right? I wanted to try different genres besides just action comedy, and horror seemed like a natural fit. And it has been, because I love it. It’s a lot of fun.

-I think that’s a great perspective, because, myself included, when you ask a lot of people who are really into horror, they’ll give you some story about “Oh I read Stephen King way too young,” that is exactly what my story is, and they can’t really pick apart what makes them love the genre.

I definitely read, I mean I’m 46, so it was almost law that you had to read Stephen King, but I never enjoyed the Stephen King books that I read. I didn’t love them, but I love the Bachman books. They were horror adjacent, I think…Like, monsters and that stuff don’t scare me, but I find that there are truly frightening things, and I think the Bachman stuff, maybe, in my opinion, it’s been more than 30 years since I read a Bachman book, but I think that’s why I was more attracted to that is that it wasn’t straight horror, but it was still unnerving. I say that a lot…in I HATE THIS PLACE, which is about a haunted ranch, not just haunted there’s monsters and UFOs, but to me the scariest stuff is being with a loved one in a place that’s so awful and having to constantly be concerned about their safety. These two people, Gabby and Trudy, one is a sort of relentless optimist and the other one is a survivalist and both have been put in a situation that is in no way friendly to either one of those ideas. Like, how are you going to be relentlessly optimistic when there are spiders that yell help at you? Or there’s some sort of monster in the woods that makes you relive your worst memories, and that to me is way scarier than the monsters, right? But I think that’s the great thing about horror… there’s so many ways to do it. But yeah we had to read Stephen King it was the law. [laughs] We had to.

-So, one thing I want to dig into is that all of your works sort of run the gambit on genre and tone, but they all have this similar usage of intense, frenetic, stylized violence, and I wanted to know what inspired that. I know you said you’re a big wrestling fan, and I grew up a big wrestling fan, so it does seem like it could be inspired by that.

I mean, that may have played a role, but I would say more than anything really what inspires my love for action. I was really raised on action films. My dad would get a VHS for anything, and would watch it and didn’t care who was in the room. There was probably a good third of it that I never should have seen [laughs]. My first published title, SEXCASTLE, was an homage to 80s action films. I tried to make the best 80s action film ever made, and I think I succeeded, for what that’s worth. I was raised on that stuff. And it was the same with superheros and the like. A fight should be the resolution for something, like that’s the most thrilling conclusion to any good yarn, I think. They should fight at the end, and good defeats evil. Or maybe it doesn’t and maybe that’s the story.

I just had a conversation with someone who was talking to me about me, which is always, for my ego, the most thrilling thing that can happen, and they were talking about the way I do action, which I don’t think is unique, but I choreograph my action sequences. It’s really important to me that you see the whole fight, and we were talking about how I’m moving into floppies, and floppies, you know monthly books, makes it so much harder to do these battles. Like these physical conflicts that I think tell an additional story, and the alternate is this Kirby, four-panel sequence. Which of course is great, but like I said I grew up on kung-fu and action movies. I want to see the fight, the fight tells the story. There’s so many things that I do that are real estate on the page. Which is like, it’s comedy, pacing, even a lot of the horror…You need space that’s like the quiet before the storm, and it’s funny because…they said that to me, “oh, that’s why WHERE MONSTERS LIE is WHERE MONSTERS LIE.” Which is essentially a four issue fight. It’s just one guy fighting like all of your favorite horror archetypes. To me it’d be a movie, a two hour movie. Not that I think about it as if it were a movie, but I see it cinematically in my head…So yeah, I love the action stuff, and I think WHERE MONSTERS LIE is very much a result of me having to do 20 page books…I did SIX SIDEKICKS OF TRIGGER KEATON with Chris Schweizer, who’s my best friend, and he’ll do the fights, but it’s a lot to ask someone to draw, like to ask “Can you put ten panels on this page?” because I want to do this intricate fight sequence. Most artists don’t want to do that. They don’t want to go to 10 panels, that’s a lot to ask.

-Speaking of WHERE MONSTERS LIE, one thing that I noticed as a theme that I also remember seeing in ROCK CANDY MOUNTAIN, which was the first work of yours that I read, and it also appears in SEXCASTLE and I HATE THIS PLACE is this theme of family, and especially found family, the complications of family. So, where does that running theme come from for you?

I would suspect that some sort of family subtext is in everything I do…maybe not literally everything maybe not KILL THEM ALL maybe not like DEAD OF WINTER which is about a dog fighting zombies, well maybe DEAD OF WINTER a little bit…You write the things that interest you and you write the things that matter to you, and I’m not always looking but I always seem to come across a new sort of take on that theme that’s interesting to me. SEXCASTLE is about parental responsibilities, how our parents choices affect us and how our own choices affect us. Six Sidekicks is absolutely about found family and trauma from your found family or the sort of families that you’re put into. Gabby and Trudy [I Hate This Place] is obviously all about surviving as a family.

Every one of them has it and it’s just like, I’m 46, I have a family, I started making comics because my daughters and my wife made it possible, and that’s the subject that interests me most. And friendship, I’d say friendship is maybe like 1B, but what is friendship? That’s just family, too, you know what I mean? Friendship and family are two things that interest me the most as subtext…and it’s almost, is it going maybe too far? I hope not, because it’s my favorite and it’s what I like the most. Just like I’m putting dogs in everything now, and it’s like, man I gotta pull back on the dogs, I’m putting dogs in everything, but also I mean I’m not going to stop doing the family stuff, because we all have families and we all have different baggage from that. There’s so many different ways to look at that shared experience in an interesting way, I think. Maybe once I reach the point where I feel like I’m starting to repeat myself with that theme I might change it out, but I can’t imagine that coming any time soon.

There’s so many things that are [interesting to me]. Loyalty, there’s legacy, my book OLD HEAD is about a father/daughter fighting, but to me that book is really about legacy, and not just the legacy of a creator but the legacy of a parent and what they pass on…We all write who we are, you know what I mean? I think about PULP, like Brubaker’s PULP, which is such a great book, but that’s just about the comics industry [laughs] you know what I mean? It’s like Stephen King, later on, all of his characters were writers. It’s because… he was too far removed to write about being a gas station attendant, right?…We’re all writing what we know, and I think people who use subtext are important because I think it adds layers to the story. And emotionality to the story. You write with what is most meaningful to you, and it’s family for me, for sure no question. Also, ripe for horror opportunities too [laughs].

-Well, family is such a broad topic that I feel like as a writer you can probably focus in on it how you feel it’s relevant to you and ten people will read it ten different ways.

For sure, I think so too…It makes me wonder. I was always, when I was in college, I was painting I was writing, and I’m sure I think maybe I drew for like a newspaper, but I was more well read and smarter and more clever 20 years ago, but I don’t know what I would’ve written about, you know what I mean? Like I don’t think it would have had any depth to it. So that’s the journey man, it’s the journey keeps going and creatively you’re trying to learn more about yourself and the world around you.

-Absolutely. I’m going to pull out a little bit and ask you a really broad question that is probably another one that you get a lot, but I think it’s always a lot of fun to dig into this. Do you have any creators, writers, comic artists, directors, that you see as major inspirations?

Man, that’s a tough one, because I don’t know if there’s anything that is direct. I can’t be like “Oh, it’s these things and these things,” but…there’s a Swedish cartoonist named Jason who, if I had never seen their work I never would’ve started making comics. And they do these sort of anthropomorphic animals, this sort of crazy genre mash up that look like if they were Hitchcock drew a comic. They’re very slow and deliberate, but they’re also kind of funny. Because I was a teen in the 90s, we read all of the indie stuff HATE, 8-BALL, it could go on and on, we read all of that stuff. You saw that there was a world that wasn’t super heroes, but that there was something in between was so mind blowing to me and to see like…I’m still only an okay artist, but it’s like I’m not a traditional comic artist. And to see, “Oh as long as you tell a good story and the art doesn’t ruin it you can make comics,” which is why I started making comics. It’s because that was the art I could afford, and I could kind of do what I wanted to do

I always say Jason, they’re such a big inspiration…because I consume so much media and It’s always for me I’ve always consumed it so critically it’s, “How could this be better, how did that work?” I think Evan Dorkin was probably a big inspiration…because I loved his work so much and when I started doing RICK AND MORTY, there’s no question that his BILL AND TED work had an effect, because you could do the stuff in a way that was interesting. I chose not to do that for the RICK AND MORTY, I decided to do more of the same, but I think everything he did was so unique and fun and playful and clearly him and that’s like.

I think now, the guys I think do what I do better, I like Edgar Wright and James Gunn…I wish I was on that level…they do the same thing it’s like throw a lot of stuff in there it’s action it’s comedy it has tension, it’s upsetting, but they do it at such a level you know it affects everybody. I love Urasawa. Whenever I needed panel help I’d open up PLUTO. Kirby’s the GOAT for figuring out how to draw a comic book page in my opinion, still, because if you’re like, “I don’t know how to make two people talk to each other,” between those two they have every dope panel composition that you can sort of just like take. Growing up, I don’t know man, I read so much stuff, I’ve seen so much stuff and you just become an amalgam of everything for me to be like “these four guys,” you know what I mean? I just can’t do that, but I do think Jason and his longform stuff for sure. I remember being at a convention once and someone telling Erica Henderson they saw her art and thought, “Oh I can draw a comic too,” which by the way you can’t draw like Erica Henderson, and she was so offended by it, so I hesitate to say it, but I saw those Jason comics, which are amazing comics I think they’re so good, and I go, “Oh, I could do this.” I think that makes him the most inspirational to me.

I have to think, what are the films I’ve watched the most? All those action movies are sort of one, you know what I mean? So there’s so many influences that also I wouldn’t be like, “My dna comes from, like, these three guys.” When I was trying to find my style, ADVENTURE TIME was on TV and I think you can see if you look at how I draw legs, you can see an ADVENTURE TIME influence. I don’t use perspective until maybe the last five years because they never did… I think I’m an amalgam of everything, and it’s still growing. As I see new stuff I go, “Oh, man I want to do that, I want to use that trick. I want to do that thing.” Or I’ll be watching a bunch of horror movies and I’ll be like, “I want to do horror comics,” right? Yeah, it’s a tough one. I should come up with a better answer, probably.

-No, I think it’s a perfect, honest answer to say “I am very inspired by Jason, Dorkin, Stephen King, whoever, but my art is an amalgamation of my lived experiences and the media I consumed as a kid and the stuff I look at now.” I’m always a little suspicious when someone, and this happens a lot in literary fiction, where they’ll be like, “I’m really inspired by James Joyce or Hemingway,” or even just someone will say just Stephen King. But there’s only one of them, you’re going to be your own artist. So I think that’s a really great answer.

Yeah alright I did. I did it then. I’m so pleased with myself [laughs].

-One thing I wanted to get your opinion on is the intersection between comics and prose fiction, because I come from very much that prose world, and more and more book communities, BookTok and Boookstagram, all of those are including comics and manga right along everything else that they’ve read. Do you see that as a net positive, or do you see some division of analysis as beneficial?

So, I’m not a smart man, per se, but I think anything that brings comics into the mainstream is good. I think that there are statistics that show comics and graphic novels and manga are gateways for reading more, that they’re starting places for some people that have reading disabilities or reading struggles. So I think there’s no reason not to be side by side, they’re all in the library…I mean, honestly, I think comics are sort of the center between both those things. I mean I don’t think I’m saying something bold or crazy. Comics is sort of the youngest sibling of high art. We’ll use high art and low art, which I think is unfortunate because comic stories are just as moving as literature or film.

But I think anything’s good. Comic readership dips every year, it feels like, so anything that in the know, I’m 100% all for. There’s probably lots of variables in there that there’s so much of all that sort of pop culture content, at some point it’s just going to run over into each other. If you’re like, “alright, I’m talking about my favorite book,” how are you not going to talk about SAGA at some point? Just because there’s so much content, it’s unavoidable at some point, and I’m all for it. I’m all for anything, if it you gets you to read just one more comic…I really do think comics are a media that’s an experience…probably not as many people who will enjoy a film because you just sit there and you can passively watch a TV show, you cannot passively read a comic nor read a book, I think. So there’s pros and cons, but I feel like once upon a time we were on spinner racks and we were in news stands and everyone went to the news stand, because there wasn’t internet, you know what I mean? If you wanted to read your listicles you had to go buy the magazine of whatever genre you like at the newsstand and if they had a comic there for ten cents, maybe you’d grab that comic just to grab it, and we’ve definitely lost that as an industry.

So I’m all for anyone who can get anyone to read one comic. If you read that one comic, then maybe you read another comic by that person or maybe you ask your friend, “Oh I like that, what’s another one I might like?” I say this a lot, comics needs an influencer. It needs an unbiased person who can interact with the masses. Manga has so many people who are able to sell manga because they love manga and that’s what they’re doing and they’re pushing it, “Oh I found this new thing,” which is, by the way, what the comic shop was when I worked there. It was such a niche group that someone came in and they bought the comic that I like. I'd be like “Oh I read this one last night you’ll like it too,” and that used to be what it was. We were always just trying to spread the love of this media. I would love for there to be a 64 million like comic influencer who’s out there, like, you know. I think we need that. Journalism in the industry is starting to fail that way…So I’m all for BookTok. I’m all for it. Social media is how people are interacting now…That’s again a long story. I’m the king of long answers.

-I think it is interesting that manga has succeeded at that in a way that American comics haven’t.

I think there’s an easy answer, there’s a lot of easy answers and there’s probably much more nuanced ones, right? Which is, one, comics as an industry didn’t care about readers for 20 years. They didn’t try to get any new readers, while manga, one, never gatekeeps itself, it’s always, “look at this unique sort of magical thing we’re offering that doesn’t question anybody or anything,” and there’s so many cartoons that you can sort of see the story for free and go, “I like that now I’m going to read the book.” American comics don’t have that. We also pushed all the children away for so long. The 90s, again it all goes back to the 90s, there’s no way you would’ve let an eight year old read 60% of what was on a news stand, and whereas manga is like “all are welcome, old and young you’ll probably like this crazy thing.” I really want to believe that at some point someone who does traditional American comics is going to be like, “We gotta reverse engineer,” but I’ll also say this, because I know there was some division recently about manga vs American comics, and it’s like, those are comics. They’re reading sequential storytelling, and as a sequential storyteller, what do I want more than anything? For everyone to read sequential stories. It’s like, if you like CHAINSAW MAN or if you like ONE PIECE, guess what? You’ll probably like these other things, but it’s all about introductions and willingness to try. So yeah, I think it’s interesting, it’s really interesting. Everything industry related, like the sausage part of the comics industry is fascinating, all the time, so [laughs].

-I recently read Alan Moore’s ILLUMINATIONS, which has this novella in it called WHAT WE CAN KNOW ABOUT THUNDERMAN which is essentially just him venting his frustrations about the American comics industry for 210 pages, and it gets into a lot of that about the 90s pushing away young readership and trying to keep the nostalgic adults, so that’s really interesting to hear you bring that up.

Also, he’s probably responsible for the 90s in general being so bad, which is crazy and I think he has intense regrets about it. It’s such a wild industry…imagine being so successful but also sort of creating the downfall in many ways. Comics has not, and I’m saying this with almost no thought, but I feel like comics didn’t respond to the internet, you know what I mean? They never bothered thinking that like now we can touch every single person, the industry, publishers, Not necessarily creators, but it’s like…there’s marvel unlimited but look at Comixology, just the arc of Comixology and how tragic it is. It’s crazy that the world changed and in so many ways comics didn’t, but I think it’s starting to. And that might just be optimism on my part, but I think manga 100% did. They did recognize streaming services and the value of being able to access things, whereas we’re just like, “You’re pirating our comic books please quit pirating our comics.” Manga seems to be doing fine, right? [laughs], so, it’s interesting. As I said I’m fascinated with the industry, I could literally talk about it forever, so

-I think the best example of that dichotomy is that an online subscription to Shonen Jump, which is where all the biggest manga comes from, is something like 2.99 a month, whereas that DC Unlimited thing they did for a while, but I don’t know if they’re still doing it was around 11.99 a month.

I think Marvel Unlimited is either 60 or 80 dollars a year, and you don’t get new content like you do with Shonen Jump. It’s all very interesting, you know? There’s also that manga had a nation that respected it as art. It was making great money and so it’s just icing on the cake, right? For them to be making huge sales in the US now, they were all doing great before…It’s so interesting and I think someone is going to figure out the solution, [laughs], and I don’t know what it is. I probably have some bad guesses, but…for years the Marvel movies [have been] the biggest thing in the world, but comic sales are not increasing, and why is that? And of course us creators are like, “why don’t they put a QR code at the end of the credits?” For like, get 30 days free of Marvel Unlimited, or like you get to read the INFINITY WAR comic, you know? Like I said, to invite people to consume media, and no one’s ever done it because the movies are different than the comics and they don’t really talk to each other and they don’t really care.

But case and point, James Gunn mentions the name of a book that they’re going to be making a movie off of and that book sold out, right?…SUPERGIRL, WOMAN OF TOMORROW, which was maybe the best book I read last year, I couldn’t believe people weren’t buying it. I couldn’t believe it wasn’t already sold out, because it’s so good. And it just goes to show you, there’s a way to get both, and I really believe if somebody reads a good comic or a comic that’s good for them, you know I don’t want to mix words here, but I really feel like if you read one you’re going to read another one. I say to people, whenever someone buys my stuff for the first time I’m always like, “Man, I may be getting a Kyle Starks fan,” like I don’t know if I’m making a comic book fan, but if they buy ROCK CANDY MOUNTAIN, man if they like that they might get more. If they got SEXCASTLE or if they got even WHERE MONSTERS LIE right now, and I think that’s how comics are like movies or records or tv shows or writers, if you’re the type of person who’s like, “I want more of this,” you follow the creators, right? And that’s what we always hope for, and if you follow Kyle Starks it’s like, “Oh, I bet I’d like Xander Cannon,” right? It’s just, you go down that hole. You just keep finding more of the things you like, and I believe in that, I really do. So, for them to finally sort of be like, “hey, we’re doing this very specific thing,” even if it’s not that specific thing when it comes out, you’re still showing people the story that you just watched and you liked, there’s more of that, there’s more of that out there and you can go get it right now and enjoy it…I really do believe even just saying something like that you can see what a difference it made, and a lot of these sort of people who are higher paid than me are going to go, “oh that’s interesting.”

-So, I don’t want to keep you too long over, so my last question is: What advice do you have for creatives currently in another space, like a film student or non-comics artists or prose writers, who might want to get into comics?

Man, you know what Jack Kirby said right? “Comics will break your heart,” and there's a lot of truth to that. Because, there’s no money in it. There’s money at a certain stage, but comics is something you have to love to do. Whenever people come to me who are specifically just writers and they’re like, “I want to make comics,” it’s like, well, you know you’re going to have to pay, the writer, are going to have to pay the artist…you’re never going to see a profit. All you’re doing is making comics to hope to get a job making comics, which again won’t pay that well, because you’ll need four of them a month to cover your bills. To just be a writer in comics is hard, and I also think, for me, I’m such a visual thinker and I’m thinking visually when I write and I express that myself visually, I see comics as comics. It’s never me doing anything more, and I’ve been asked to do other things that are a lot more money and I don’t know how to do that. I only know how to do this one thing, I have my mind geared to this one thing.

So, I think the real thing is why do comics? That would be the thing I’d say is like, “Why do you want to do comics?” Is it because you love comics? Do you love the media? Because I do, I love it, it’s such a unique way to consume and tell stories. So, to be like, “Oh I’ve been writing but now I want to do comics,” why though? Do you not like what you were doing before?…You can’t do it because you think it’s some sort of cool club to be in, that you get to hang out with the comic guys, or whatever. You have to love comics. But, here’s my advice for all people who want to be creatives, which is far nicer and is what I always follow up with. Because, man… I’m so lucky because I draw just well enough and I’m my own artist. I can always tell any story I want to tell, period…I can always just do it and put it on Kickstarter. I can always do it and just put it on the web…It’s tough, but whenever people are interested in story telling, which I think is more inspirational, and you find what is best suited for you. My youngest daughter, she’s very young and she’s like, “I want to be an animator some day,” and that’s great. You don’t have to do comics like your dad. Do whatever you want.

But I always say, make the thing you want to exist in the world, make it as good as you can, and then never stop talking about it. And I think if you’re always going, “I love coming of age stories,’’ tell the coming of age story you wish existed. Find what makes it yours. If you really like the TWILIGHT movies, then make your own vampire-kissing movie, right? Make the thing you want to exist in the world, just do it in a way that it will always please you. And I’ve always lived by that, and that’s probably why I sort of run the gambit, because sometimes I’m like, well what interests me, and it’s like, well horror stuff, scary stuff…As I’m getting farther away, we did a book club for ASSASSIN NATION, which I haven't’ read since it came out, was my least favorite, and I reread it and I was like “this is great!” Because I did the thing I always wanted to…It’s like, “Oh, I love this. It does all the things I want a story to do,” because I’ve always been critical of that story and why did this work and this didn’t and how could this be better?

And I think that’s the best advice for a creative person. Make the thing that will make you happy, and do it the best you can. And that’s the tricky part right? The tricky part is to do it the best you can, because you have to also finish. Which is my advice for anything. You have to stop at some point, you have to conclude it, probably sooner than you want to. That’s my advice, that’s my answer, sorry…maybe don’t do comics [laughs].

-Well I think that is a great point to leave off, do you have any sort of final notes or final things you want to mention? Or any upcoming projects you want people to be looking forward to?

Yeah sure! I currently have two books on the stands. I have I HATE THIS PLACE with Skybound, which again is about a couple that inherits the worst place on earth, they can’t leave and how do they survive that? And WHERE MONSTERS LIE, which is a four issue series from Dark Horse which is about a gated community for slasher villains. There’s also PEACEMAKER TRIES HARD, which I’m writing. [It is] very much inspired and in line with the show. If you like that show at all you’ll really enjoy it. I’m TheKyleStarks on all social media. Buy comics, read comics. Ask someone what you might like. If you’re a horror fan, it’s the golden age of horror comic book storytelling. Anything by James Tinnean, I think he’s an outright genius. SOMETHING’S KILLING THE CHILDREN and NICE HOUSE BY THE LAKE I think are amazing. Yeah, if you like horror stuff, read comics. If you like stories read comics. Go read some comics. Go to Hoopla, Hoopla is great. Read some comics. Hoopla supports libraries. Get them anywhere, you don’t have to go to a comic shop. Read all the comics you can, especially Kyle Starks comics, because I have teenage daughters [laughs].

A Conclusion:

For a lot of people either reared or born in the 90s, comics as a medium holds a strange ethereal allure. I am a fiction writer, and outside of photography I have the visual art skills of an infant. Even still, the medium has held an undeniable allure for me for most of my life. As long as I’ve been writing fiction, which is a long time, I’ve daydreamed about writing comics too. I’ve drafted some, though never finished them, and planned a half dozen more.

But, as Starks points out, comics will break your heart, and fiction already does a good enough job of that. Maybe that’s the root of some good folksy wisdom itself. To pick your heartbreaks. To pick them and do them the best that you can.

Kyle Starks is getting his heart broken by comics every day. Find him at:

@TheKyleStarks on social media

Thanks for Reading-BDL

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