Jeffrey Kaufman inspires & encourages creators
Many comic fans will be familiar with Big City Comics Studio from ongoing convention appearances and from the many original comics and projects produced by Big City’s president, producer and writer, Jeffrey Kaufman.
A recent Facebook post to Big City’s fans and followers, which greatly impressed me, was both promotional in nature and inspirational in its execution. So many times when a creator thinks about promoting his or her work, they think only about how they can get attention for and market their projects, but rarely do we see it done in a way that attempts to empower other creators.
But as an independent title and comic publishing company, Big City Comics Studio knows all too well the trials and tribulations of successfully marketing and getting original work out to the public. So much so that any creator innately understands that believing in oneself and continuing to fight the good fight, while still working another job so as to be able to work on and create those stories we are each passionate about, is simply not an easy task. So when I saw Jeffrey try to market and inspire all at the same time, I could not help but appreciate it and want to push that positive energy forward.
The following is a promotional post card Jeffrey Kaufman produced for convention use, while also encouraging others to use it as they saw fit, which in essence pushed the following thoughts, ‘What do I want?’, “How do I get it?’, ‘Create’, Evolve’, and ‘Inspire’, along with space for aspiring creators to work on two ‘To Do’ lists: Twenty Things you Want and First Tasks to Start. Here’s what Jeff said,
“Couldn’t sleep, so I finally got around to creating and ordering two thousand of these 9×6 postcards to give away at conventions. These are for all those people who want to do their own book but don’t think they have the time. Feel free to download it for your own use.”
Jeffrey Kaufman is an amazing talent who has shown he has the tenacity, creativity and desire to produce comics for the sake of producing them and comic fans should become familiar with his many projects if they have not already done so! One of Big City’s most recent projects, Angel Falling, is a beautifully created graphic novel, which I was fortunate enough to have been given an autographed copy of when I attended a “Jay & Silent Bob’s Super Groovy Cartoon Movie” premier in Orlando, Florida, with Jeffrey Kaufman, his wonderful wife Julie Fink Kaufman and a mutual friend and convention MC, Marc Lee. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Angel Falling, and was also equally blown away by the great art and amazing coloring. So along these lines, I thought it would be appropriate to republish an interview Jeffrey Kaufman did with ENR, ExPRess News and Reviews.
“Angel Falling is about a woman who wakes up in an alley, she has no clue whom she is but she is one of the most dangerous people on the planet. She is being watched over by a 17 year old autistic kid who is even more dangerous than she is because he has physical photo memory – meaning all he has to do is see something once to repeat it. He is really the first mainstream special needs kid n the planet that you don’t pity. Knowing that I have a seven year old son who is autistic, I didn’t want to create a character that you felt bad for. Connor Jacobs is one of those characters that I think can really last. You like him even though you know what he endures and suffers through.”
Yep. I told you. It is both fresh and interesting. These are two VERY hard things to put together in the comic medium these days. I couldn’t wait to dive into the cerebral aspects of this project. So I did at first chance. I asked straightforwardly, “What was the key dynamic between Connor and Angel? When writing these two characters what is the most important thing to keep in mind?” He smiled, and paused because he wanted to give an answer that matched the quality of the work. I don’t know how I knew this but I did.
“Well imagine this; you’re a really bad person. You are a terrible human being and suddenly you forget who you are. You keep being told you are a bad person and your desire to remember…you know, WHY would you want to go back to being this person if you have a choice. Can I move on with my life or do I need to know who I was with the possibility I might go back to being this crap human being. Well, Connor knows she is a crap human being. He knows that life was a terrible one and he is doing everything possible to keep her from going back – but sometimes you can’t help people.”
I picked up on a notation of the mind I had made while reading the book. There is an insightful love and a quiet self-respect in the Connor character. He is acutely insightful at times, he is aware he cannot help her and it shows. It occurred to me how difficult it was to demonstrate some of these VERY subtle conveyances of emotion and mood in the writing part of this book. Being as this is his brain baby I asked him if the ability to demonstrate these moments when dealing with Connor came directly from interactions with his son.
“I have a rule when writing. If I can see it, I can sell it. When I look deep into things I just start feeling it. I don’t mean to do it. I don’t spend a lot of time saying, ‘How does he feel?’ I’m in it. It’s a weird thing that I do I just start seeing characters, I start feeling what they feel and I don’t try to ask those questions from my point of view. I try to take it from Connor’s point of view. Being at the mercy of sight, sound smell and energy is so strong with Connor. I know that is how my son feels, but I did not directly channel my son. I created this second entity that had some of my son’s qualities but was higher on the spectrum. He was higher functioning where the chances this character could survive in the real world even with his limitations. So how he deals with Angel is a very difficult thing to think about. When it becomes time to survive in your world when you have these limitations, what does he fall back on? What does he rely on? I think he relies on what he feels. And what he feels is responsible for Angel even though he clearly isn’t.”
I switched gears here (you can’t really say more about that question anyway) and remembered his previous works Terminal Alice and Whore (which has been optioned by HBO). Both contained plot twists of the most mind bending, never-saw-it-coming-nature and so does Angel Falling. Since the first day I met Jeff at SDCC in 2012 he has had this reputation, this personal mission to keep his readers in the dark even when they think they are holding all the information. His style is riddled with these amazing moments of pure reader delight because of this. Because after he gets you once, you are always on the lookout for them. And as a reader always wrong about them too. He has always delivered the best twists and turns because his are better than the reader’s mind will allow. Kaufman has no such limits (plus he is writing it so he has the advantage . . . ha ha.)
I asked him the question all successful writers get at some point. “How do you top yourself each time? In your work the twist is so important to the way the overall work is viewed in the end how do you make it better each time? Is there ever concern you won’t be able to top it next time?”
Kaufman was unflinchingly honest about this. I can’t tell you how often I have wanted honesty instead of sound bites or copy fodder. Here I get it and it demonstrates how well honesty without pretense cuts through the atmosphere like an air raid siren.
“I think you have to fight for it. I think it has to mean something. Early on I didn’t understand that you shouldn’t just write. It’s not about writing the next book. It’s about writing the better book. I didn’t understand that earlier on in my career. I was writing and going, ‘Well it’s a cute idea let’s write.’ Now that I understand this I don’t want my next book to be anything but better than my last book. Now I might not achieve it, but it isn’t because I didn’t really bust my ass to try. My ending HAS to be better. My storyline has to be better. My characters need to be more solid. I HAVE to find something in my last book that I didn’t like. That I choose not to repeat again.”
At this I remember thinking…uh oh he is one of THOSE writers. What I meant in my head was that there are the writers that HAVE to have a burr under their blanket. A state of creative agony that every time a project is released (where there should be a moment or two of creative satisfaction) they are immediately taken to the flaws within it. While they know it is complete as is they lament their imperfections and head to the next endeavor. I know. I am one of those too. Yet again Kaufman surprised me with candor and a clear path when I asked him, “Are you an Alan Moore style scripter, where you lay out each detail panel by panel and are really specific or are you more of a free scripter that gives brief description and then says ,’go for it’ to the artist?”
“My scripts are a little different. I will do panels but I don’t describe every detail in the panel. I give the artists a ridiculous amount of leeway and I do some research for them. In my scripts I have pictures showing a specific gun or a specific alley or a specific building because I want to make things easy for my artists. I don’t do the ‘there is a flower in the background with four petals…’ No, I think artists are very visual and gifted people. I want them to take my vision but I also have to trust my artists to have their own vision – I’m not the only one on this book. That whole notion that I am the jockey and they are the horses is silly. It doesn’t work like that.”
(Can someone send Stan Lee a copy of that last sentence please? What? It’s me…snark is part of my unending curmudgeony charm. At least it wasn’t a Man of Steel [ugh] zinger huh?)
I continued the line of thought containing write the better book in my head. While his answers were brilliantly given I wondered at the connection between collaboration and making the book better each time. So I asked in my usual point blank manner, “I asked the question about the artists because you mentioned always making the better book. How can you do this if you are not responsible for the art part of the book? Doesn’t the very nature of collaborating make the previous premise at least more difficult if not impossible?”
“If you are the art director than you have to art direct. This is where as a professional you need a relationship with the artist where he respects what you are saying. That doesn’t mean that you nitpick him. There are times where you realize – well it isn’t that important I will let it go. I don’t want to kill the artist on details. If he made a choice that I might not have made but it doesn’t affect the story then I let it go. But if there is something wrong where I don’t like the way it looks or it changes the mood then I have to say something. All the artists I ever worked with over the last three graphic novels are fully aware I cut them a break when it comes to things. I don’t make people crazy when it comes to nitpicking. I don’t think you should.”
At this time it seemed appropriate to mention the artists on Angel Falling. The amazing pencils by Kevin West are maybe the best of his career, which is extensive. West has had gigs at Marvel, DC, Image, Malibu Acclaim and Disney to name a few. I asked Kaufman about the team and he had this to say.
“Kevin West is a solid guy. Kevin West is a beautiful artist. I do not understand why he doesn’t have a regular book right now. He is a talented guy. He delivered in a big way on the books and I appreciate it. He worked with a great inker Mark McKenna (and friend of eXPress News reporter ROBotiX) who did a great job and the team was joined by Tom Chu who is a fantastic colorist for DC made this book really special. The hard thing is you have to be the boss, when you don’t act like the boss you don’t get your work.”
I noticed the vast departure from James Brown’s colors on Terminal Alice and Whore. I asked him if it was because of the angelic metaphors he was using or if there was more. He said, “Angel Falling is a kinder gentler book. As far as colors go, James Brown who colored Terminal Alice and Whore is a brilliant colorist. The choice for those books was more of a European style there was more violence, more death and mayhem that this book didn’t have. This book is about relationships. This book was a lot more cerebral. It was more about moving forward and developing relationships between these people. You look at Terminal Alice and I killed 100 people in 82 pages (no really he did). That was raw mayhem. Whore was insane; it was about what I could get away with what Mars would do next. There was a lot of sex and violence. Now, Angel Falling has no sex and no swearing. This is a handicap for me because I write what I see and during violent situations you are going to have sex and swearing. But since there was an Autism angle to the book (knowing people not used to comics would read it) I didn’t want to negatively affect one of the fundamental messages of the book which is Autism. I would never get preachy or political with it but I knew a number of people from the Autism community would be reading it. And I didn’t want to put a negative spin on it. It was hard for me to do but I did it.”
Special thanks to Jeffrey Kaufman and Big City Comics Studio, (I enthusiastically look forward to more amazing original work), as well as Expertcomics.com and ENR for this interview, which can be also be read in its entirety at the following link: http://www.expertcomics.com/enr/2013/11/nycc-2013-tableside-jeffrey-kaufman-angelic-amnesiacs-and-autistic-attendants/
Written By: Tye Bourdony Source: Expertcomics.com
Tye Bourdony is a Sci Fi cartoonist and creator of ‘The Lighter Side of Sci-Fi’, a mediator, science fiction reporter and the U.S. based content editor for Sci Fi Pulse. He is also a graduate of the Barry University School of Law, SUNY Purchase and H.S. of Music & Art. Tye currently works in Florida’s 9th Circuit as the Staff Family Mediator, is currently the Public Information Officer for the Osceola County Bar Association and has a regular self-published column in Sci Fi Magazine. You can visit Tye on facebook and at www.thelightersideofscifi.com or send him your thoughts and story/article ideas to TBourdony@scifipulse.net.