We're back with round 2 of our chat with the inimitable Ales Kot. If you missed part 1, check it out here. Otherwise, read on!
David Fairbanks for Comics Bulletin: You've brought up a problem that I think practically everyone involved with comics on anything more than a reader's level has given a fair bit of thought to: disappointingly low readership. What do you think the industry (or particular publishers/creators if you'd prefer to go that route) is doing right? Wrong?
Ales Kot: This will be just a partial list, but I guess it's a start:
Wrong: Sexism. This is a societal problem, not just a problem of comics. Treating women as lifeless dolls and men as macho saviors is unjust – unless we're just talking role-play, which we're not.
Right: Criticizing sexism when it appears and making sure we get away from it as fast as possible.
Wrong: Pandering to the perceived majority and aiming for the lowest common denominator instead of communicating with readers and embracing diversity. Treating stories and characters as religions.
Right: Embracing stories and characters as tales and archetypes that have a potential to change lives for the better. Being responsible creators – not in a stale way where we only bring up safe topics, but by making stories about that what is alive within us.
Wrong: The whole ideology where corporations matter more than people.
Right: The rise of focus on creators' rights and unethical practices that need to be abolished.
Wrong: Ossified approaches to design and storytelling.
Right: Embracing experimentation.
Wrong: Weak marketing that focuses primarily on established routes – often routes that have less and less eyes on them.
Right: Finding new ways to talk about comics and new ways to engage potential readers.
Wrong: Digital rights management (DRM) on digital comics. What we have now is a glorified library system that is mistakenly called "buying comics". Starting a business on a misconception is not the best way to start a business.
Right: The increase of digital comics sales.
Wrong: Fear of digital comics on the side of some retailers and publishers.
Right: The embracing of digital comics as means of increasing sales of physical copies of comics by more retailers and publishers than ever before.
Wrong: Allowing creators who are not passionate about the medium to create comics just for the paycheck.
Right: There seem to be more and more creators who are genuinely passionate about comics.
Wrong: Not enough strong comics journalism. Not enough media promotion of good comics.
Right: More strong comics journalists, more emerging voices. Slightly increased media penetration.
CB: I know you're working on/have finished a digital Batman story (when I went to look for it, I came up with nothing, do you know if there's a release date for it yet?), but are there any other superheroes you'd like to write?
Kot: No release date as of yet. Ryan Sook is drawing it and I'm incredibly excited to see the entire thing.
Superheroes? Of course!
Batman's amazing, a perfect combination of a driven psychopath and a simple boy-man who just wants to do good, which is why it's easy for me to relate to him. I'd jump on a chance to write an original graphic novel featuring Batman in a heartbeat.
Superman is fantastic. The child-like sense of wonder, the idealism…
The Authority, but only if I could do it right. That rule applies to every character mentioned here. Frankenstein. Deathblow, although he's technically not a superhero, I guess? Same applies to Swamp Thing. If I ever get a chance to write Swamp Thing, I'm probably going to move to New Orleans for a year and write it as a sort-of merger of Jim Thompson's prose and the Pacific Rim.
Adam Strange, because therein lies an incredibly opportunity to (re)create a larger cosmology for the DCU. Hawkman if I could rip it up with someone like Mike Huddleston. I'd laugh my ass off doing that. You could combine the old-school psychedelic Heavy Metal magazine approach with the hyperactive way Taylor/Neveldine directed Crank I & II and whip up something new, engaging and properly ridiculous…
I'm enjoying the stuff Valiant is doing – especially Josh Dysart's Harbinger, that comic is so well-put together, dense and sometimes quite subtle but still totally in-your-face in the way the best superhero fiction featuring juvenile characters pretty much has to be…I'd love to play with one of the other Valiant characters for sure.
Is Hellboy considered a superhero? I'd love to write something in that universe one day.
And so on. I love superheroes.
CB: How does it feel to be named comics' Rookie of the Year by USA Today?
Kot: It's always nice to see someone appreciate my work. I smiled, mentioned it online, ate some Indian food, drank a bit of wine, made myself a peanut butter/Nutella sandwich, watched the first episode of Sherlock. Pretty much exactly what I planned to do before I found out.
I aim to not have my self-worth determined by what others think of me. Or how they feel about me. It made me happy, but the happiness was brief – a good thing, but nothing to focus on for more than an hour.
Maybe the USA Today thing will open some new interesting possibilities, as one tends to hope, I presume, when this kind of thing comes along.
Keep an eye out for Ales Kot's Change #2, previewed above and available in stores 1/9/13, along with Zero and The Surface coming later this year. You can follow him on Twitter at @Ales_Kot.
Photo of Ales Kot by Zoetica Ebb (http://www.biorequiem.com/)