Spotlight on: Kyle Latino!
We’re back for another edition of Beaucoup Pop's Independent Creator Spotlight! This week I had the pleasure of interviewing comics’ most dapper creator Mr. Kyle Latino! Kyle is a jack of all trades. You can catch him making podcasts (http://thepanelistspodcast.com/), being a colorist on books like Image comics’ “The Activity”, drawing for books such as Horror Double Feature and Outlaw Territories Vol. 3 (out this summer)!, and hustling as the writer/artist of his own webcomics, Sinktown Slink and So Long Sweetberry! He was kind enough to let me pester him with questions.
Kyle when did you first start drawing? Are you self-taught, or did you have a lot of teaching along the way?
|An Ipad painting of The Wasp by Kyle|
Though I've been doodling all my life, I didn't decide to draw comics until after I graduated college with a non-art related degree. What happened was that I read Tom Strong and Rocketo in the same afternoon, and I was never the same again. I had, however, no time or money to go back to school for training or teaching in art. So I did what everyone has to do to get good at something, do my best work and compare it to the work of those I admire most, then pick out the specific differences between their work and mine, and attempted solve those challenges. Also, I ask for portfolio reviews from veteran artists, not editors. Editors are paid to be nice to us and they rarely hire from portfolio reviews at conventions. They'll just tell us to “work on your anatomy and storytelling”. An artist might actually be able and interested in helping us become better artists.
What first got you interested in comic books? Do you remember the first issue you ever read?
|Yes, it's a real storyline. Comics everyone!|
I distinctly remember watching the first X-Men movie in high school, then going across the street to Half-Price Books to raid the quarter bins. I think the first thing I read was a Scarlet Spider story. He was fighting a female Doctor Octopus who had purple hair. There was a scene where a couple of civilians had been hooked into a VR machine, and fell in love even though they were strapped into chairs and their brains where being used to create digital dinosaurs to attack NYC. It was incredible. So much more vital and imaginative than the solidly written yet placidly executed 90's Spider-Man cartoon. Soon after reading some more clone saga issues, I found Astro City from the Alex Ross covers, which was the point of no return for me as a reader and fanatic. Haha!
I have deduced from your DeviantArt (link)and your website, that you too are a fan of Jack “King” Kirby. What is it that draws you to the King’s work?
Everything! Jack was the king of ideas. We can explain all of his books and stories very succinctly and they still sound exciting. We find the real meat when we start to read the artist's life into the works he created, specifically his philosophies on Life and Anti-Life which echo through all his greatest work.
Then we realize that the man was a master of panel composition, that we can isolate almost any single panel from his comics and it's crystallized drama. He was operating with single images on a level that few ever have, similar to Rockwell. But he didn't stop there, he lined them up and stacked them to communicate all kinds of fantastic nonsense! He was just some brat from the Lower East Side of Manhattan, but he dreamed up bigger stuff than even Hollywood today can portray! Jack is the exception to nearly any rule or limitation we can set for a visual artist.
His work on adapting the 2001 film is his finest moment in my opinion. Also, there are shocking great moments in OMAC and Devil Dinosaur that I don't see getting enough praise.
|Kyle's take on the Kamandi: The Last Boy on Earth|
What do you think Kirby would think of comics and webcomics today?
Not to put too fine a point on it, but I think he would be thrilled to see so many people making such splendid comics without the involvement or control of publishers. I couldn't know for sure, but I've read and listened to about all there is on the man's views and career. Listen, print comics aren't the devil, but they broke his heart.
Do you have any thoughts on the rise of digital comics? For example, companies like Mark Waid’s Thrillbent imprint. Do you see these as the future or just expanding on what we already have?
I really think the next person to have as much influence over comics as Kirby exerts will come from webcomics and merely skip off the surface of publishers. I guess you could say I am looking for the return of the King, in that respect.
Thrillbent specifically is astounding! I love the power that comics gain in that format, and the panel control and page transitions is a powerful tool. There are a lot of tricks they use that I don't like, but it's nearly brand new, and the ones that work are deadly potent.
|A typical Sinktown citizen|
Sinktown Slink and your other webcomics seem to draw some inspiration from the likes of Carl Barks and Don Rosa. Who would you say serve as inspirations for your work?
Barks and Rosa are excellent cartoonists, but I haven't sought out their work yet. It's more from Floyd Gottfredson, Will Eisner, and Tezuka Osamu. The thematic through-line with those names is a purity of heart that avoids sugariness. It's true, I consider myself an earnest student of the visual techniques they used, but technique is only a tool to an emotional destination. Emotion is the goal of my favorite art, I might even say “all” art, and those three artists really knew how to put in on the page.
Sinktown looks like a terribly, awful place to live, is it based on your hometown?
Heavens, no! It's about this crazy place called You Ess Hey! It was built by genocidal pilgrim slavers bent on the mad goal of dominating a continent from ocean to ocean in 200 years. They were men and women characterized by deep philosophical and spiritual contradictions, which resulted in at least 2 civil wars, though the first was shorter than the second. Along the way, they left have many vestigial nodes of concentrated populations that have outlived their usefulness in the goal of expansion, these nodes are called “towns”. Sinktown is such a place. As you can see, it's a fictional place, nothing that crazy could exist! Any resemblance to a real location is purely coincidental.
Yeah, how could a place like that exist? So, tell what’s it like being a self-employed artist?
Well, I'm not a self-employed artist, I just play one on TV. I work as a graphic designer at a sign shop, which means I'm doing all my comics at 6am on weekdays, and all weekend long. But listen, if you want to do something, you find the time for it. If you don't find the time, you must not want it enough. I want to draw comics, so I wake up early to make them, and I don't go out on the weekends. I'm fortunate to have a loving wife, so I don't have to worry about not meeting someone because I stay in so much. Haha
How many velociraptors do you think you could fight?
From experience, I can tell you... infinite velociraptors.
|Kyle's answer has angered the raptors.|
I really like the inky, pulpy feel of your art. Do you like any of those old pulp heroes?
As a kid, on long vacation car trips, my family used to stop at Cracker Barrel to eat. My twin and I would buy Old-time Radio collections on cassette tape and listen to them on our walkmen. The Green Hornet was always my favorite because he pretended he was a bad guy. But I also loved the Shadow, Lone Ranger, and Sgt. Preston of the Yukon with his dog, King. I wasn't allowed to read comic when I was little, because “Biff, Bam, Pow, comics weren't for kids anymore,” so aside from Superfriends, the pulp characters were my only superheroes. And the Shadow could kick Batman's ass.
|Kyle has made two powerful enemies today.|
What are some of your favorite books without pictures?
I've never been a big reader. I have a reading disability, and I memorize spellings by their shapes, not their component letters, which means I read very slowly. It's one of the many reasons I am so attracted to visual and audio storytelling. My brain stumbles over the code of text, so I gravitate towards other codes that I can more easily decipher.
When I do read, I read almost exclusively from novelists who are also connected to comics in some way. It is so much work for me to make sense of written word. I rarely invest if I don't already trust the writer to do the job. Greg Rucka's books are incredible and flawless in my eyes, specifically the C&Q novels. I enjoy the ideas in Brad Meltzer novels more than the plots and characters, but they are still fun to read. I recently read Gun Machine by Warren Ellis, and thought the same of his prose. The ingredients were better than the meal, to my taste. Honestly I don't read enough prose to criticize it, just telling you my personal experience.
I've read a little of the pulps themselves, though I largely find them dull. But Edgar Rice Burroughs is pretty rad, if you can forgive the misogyny and racism. I find Philip Jose Farmer's work to be fascinating and enjoyable. He writes sexier versions of the pulp stories. Haha
My favorite book is Slaughter House Five, and Vonnegut is a must read! He's from my hometown of Indianapolis, so it lets me feel pride in something other than our record setting Syphilis diagnosis.
You’re in the Gender through Comics Super MOOC too. Personally, I have really enjoyed being challenged by the class and have had a lot of fun. What have been your thoughts on the experience?
Sometimes, I feel that there should be a kind of Hippocratic Oath for cartoonist to “do no harm” with their work. Then again, sometimes harm is the whole point of an artwork. All this to say comics have harmed and continue to harm images of sex and sexuality. Everyone who learns to write and draw, does so though emulation of what has come before them. In so doing, we copy the bad with the good. If we look at American history, we will see a long string of hateful and ignorant decision making, this of course includes artists.
For instance, if I am writing a Superman story, Superman has built into its foundation things like male privilege, white supremacy, anarchy, and tribalism. To tell a thoughtful and modern Superman story, one has to actively seek to avoid those pitfalls because they are so fundamental to the character. And it's not until we educate ourselves on the point of view of the oppressed that we will be able to do this successfully. Look, I'm a boring white dude who just turned 28, I have at least 25 years of “boring white dude” thinking to question and examine, and I need an outside perspective to do that. The Super MOOC is one of the instruments available that can help do that job. It's an extremely important job, and Christina Blanch is my hero for helping me rearrange my thinking and starting her conversation.
Cartoonists can and should say whatever they want, that's what makes cartooning so vital and important. However, that doesn't mean that artists shouldn't be held responsible for the messages in their work. Say it, but then own it too. When someone is offended, don't heap all the blame on the reader.
I guess you could say this topic is close to my heart. My feelings on the surrounding issues are complicated and messy, thus my answer was too.
|DC Women playing Dungeons & Dragons by K. Latino|
Well we have reached the end I think. Is there anything you would like to say to the folks at home?
I'm writing this on Free Comic Book Day 2013. It's a great day for the community and for retailers. I think Bodie Troll by Jay Fosgitt is going to blow peoples minds! Please buy comics that you enjoy!
That said, there are fantastic free comics on the internet everyday, and it's time to admit that some of them are better than what we are paying to read. Haha. Here is a short list (in alphabetical order):
Ava's Demon - http://www.avasdemon.com/
Cucumber Quest - http://cucumber.gigidigi.com/
Damnation of Charlie Wormwood (on Thrillbent) - http://thrillbent.com/
Lady Sabre - http://www.ineffableaether.com/
Little Guardians - http://www.littleguardianscomic.com/
Manta Man - http://www.mantamancomics.com/
Monster Pop - http://www.monsterpop.mayakern.com/
Prince and the Sea - http://emcarroll.com/comics/prince/andthesea.html
Starfighter (warning: +18 !)- http://starfightercomic.com/
Three Snakes - http://emcarroll.com/comics/snakeleaves/
Thunder Paw - http://thunderpaw.co/
Buy the merch, donate, pledge at Kickstarters, visit them at shows. Show these amazing artists that we want them in the world and they will help us make it a better place to live or, at least a more entertaining place to live.
You heard the man folks! Get out there and read good stuff! I would like to thank Kyle for his time and for shooting the breeze with me! Be sure to check out his site http://www.ktino.com/. You can link to his podcast or to his webcomics!