Today, we announced Scott Kolins’ new Dark Horse series, Adam.3. A few weeks back, I also had the fantastic opportunity to sit down and talk to him about the series, which has been incubating since his high school days over twenty years ago. We discussed the core concepts behind Adam.3 as well as his hopes for where the book— and the comics industry— will go in the future.
Alex Lu: Why don’t you tell us about Adam.3‘s story?
Scott Kolins: The story is— how do you succinctly put this story? This is a little bit difficult because, so far, all Dark Horse has announced is this five issue miniseries. However, I’ve been working on this puppy for over twelve years now, so I’ve got like fifty or sixty issues worth of story built around all this stuff.
Basically, as far as we can tell at the start of the story, a few people live on this one island with all kinds of animals of all different types— and not just ones you’d typically see on an island. Our hero, Adam, has a complicated family situation, which is a bit of a struggle and gets worse as the story goes on. On top of all this, in the beginning of the first arc, a monster crash lands on the island.
Lu: It sounds like a lot of the setting is shrouded in secrecy.
Kolins: Exactly. There’s a bunch of mysteries for the readers to kind of dig into. What are the origins of Adam and his family? Where did this monster come from?
Lu: The mysterious island concept seems similar to the one we see in Lost.
Kolins: Yeah, yeah. There’s a lot of that. Interestingly, the animals on the island are important to the story because they are Adam’s friends, and they get in trouble real quick when the monster comes to town. It takes control of them and things start to go badly.
Lu: Adam has a very interesting look. What is that inspired by?
Kolins: I guess it comes from all of my artistic heroes, that kind of thing. There’s built in stuff of there from Jack Kirby and Barry Windsor-Smith. Most of it came about just by the idea of me trying to go, “What aren’t other people wearing? What aren’t they doing?” I actually first drew Adam in high school.
He was very much my own silly version of a Superman/Shazam/Captain Marvel character. At the time, he was just a part of a whole bucket of characters I had created. Then, about twelve years ago, I ran across a drawing of him and said “You know what? There’s still something cool about this guy.” I totally revamped his uniform and eventually it morphed into this guy that I have now, which I am hoping everything in all the hundred of books that are published out there is stands out as unique.
Lu: Dark Horse is announcing Adam.3 at Emerald City Comic Con this year, but you’ve had preview images of the series up on your DeviantArt since 2012. What’s the story behind the book’s production?
Kolins: It’s been a long process. Like I said, I’ve had this character since about high school. I retooled him and made him the character he is now in the early 90s, just shortly after I broke in. At the time, so many people like Mike Mignola, who’s also been a huge inspiration to me, were creating their own material at places like Dark Horse and Image. [Dark Horse editor] Randy Stradley and I have kept in contact since the 90s when I did work on Godzilla and he’d always tell me that “When you are ready, when the time is right, we’d love to take a look at your ideas and projects and things and figure out what could work for both of us.” Dark Horse and I had initially had some serious talks about this book in 2011 and we almost had it set up in 2012, but it hadn’t quite gelled yet.
Then, when I signed on for Past Aways, Randy and I discussed the possibility of doing Adam.3 as an extra side project. They know that I am one of those guys where I need almost too much work to be happy and satisfied and fully functional. As crazy as it might seem that I have a monthly book and then have this miniseries on the side that I am writing, drawing, and coloring, it’s what keeps me alive.
Dark Horse had kind of assumed for a while, even though we had signed contracts and agreed to do this miniseries, that we wouldn’t get this out until 2016 or later. And I went, “No, I can’t wait anymore! I have to get this out. This is killing me. And we have an agreement to do this, I will move heaven and earth and lose all my weekends and my nights and everything else if I have to during these next six months to get this thing out.” The first issue comes out in August, so I have two or three months to get the word out.
Lu: In a way, Past Aways and Adam.3 are polar opposites. The former is a completely collaborative book where you and Matt Kindt play off one another, whereas Adam.3 is completely your own.
Kolins: Adam.3’s all mine. It’s so much extra work to put something together from scratch and trying not to duplicate all your previous glories or any of the older stuff that you really liked. With Adam and with Past Aways, I’m always saying: “Everybody does A, B, and C. We can’t do A, B, and C. We’ve got to find something else. We’ve got to push elsewhere.” Yes, it is still a rogue story and maybe there’s these similarities to a story like Tarzan of the Apes, but I have to push the work beyond what came before it.
Lu: Definitely. At the same time, however, contemporary stories are always indebted to works that came before them. Are there any influences on Adam.3 that you’d like to talk about?
Kolins: When I was first reading comic books. I was a huge John Byrne and George Perez nut. By the time I broke in, I was heavily into anything that Frank Miller did or Barry Windsor-Smith or Michael Golden. However, when I was a kid, I didn’t appreciate Jack Kirby all that much. It took a few years for me to realize that everyone else was standing on Jack’s shoulders. He built so much of the foundation of how American comic book stories are told and he’s a major influence on me nowadays. I don’t think many creators today realize what guy like Jack is able to do. Imagine yourself walking over to DC Comics and going, “I’m going to create a whole new pantheon of gods with a bunch of complex relationships between characters and all these crazy powers. Then, I’m going to spread them across four books and connect them all. Ha-ha!”
Holy mackerel! That’s an amazing feat for any creator. Plus, [a character like] Orion wasn’t a copy of The Thing or Thor or Iron Man. He was a new concept, and that’s what I’m trying to emulate. I’m hoping that the monster I created for Adam.3 is a good and original mix of classic monsters and things you haven’t seen before. Adam’s relationship with the animals on the island, although [initially] somewhat similar to Tarzan’s in a lot of ways, is actually quite a bit different. And then there are all these other characters.
For example, Adam and his family have, for lack of a better term, this incredible dog. His name is Mojo. He’s the size of a saber-toothed tiger, but he’s got these giant bunny ears as well. He’s really cute. Someday, if I’m lucky enough to get the chance to do all sorts of extra things [based] off this book, I want to make a plush toy of Mojo. My kids love what I am doing on Adam, especially my daughter. Every time she seems me drawing Mojo, she gets all happy and giddy about it.
Lu: You’ve mentioned Adam’s family a few times. Tell us about them.
Kolins: Family is a core concept of Adam.3, and it can be a difficult one for comic books to navigate. I know that. A lot of superhero books retrofit and burden their characters with a family after casting them as single guys running around being real cool superheroes [for years]. It can be jarring for the readers. However, when I look at other material like The Incredibles, I see that you can have a family setup that’s very dynamic and exciting. It has to be core to the whole thing.
I also wanted to invert another science fiction stereotype that I had been noticing— the way father-son relationships are portrayed. I see a lot of stories that are about the sins of the father. You can see it in Star Wars where you’ve got Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen the dad make a mistake that the hero has to fix. They’re cool stories, but they have really been done to death. I just wanted to do something different, so in this case, Adam’s son, Beo, is the troublemaker.
Lu: A lot of the time, when a hero is a burdened by his or her family, it is because the family is helpless, so they’re constantly being targeted by the hero’s villains. You mentioned The Incredibles when you were talking about Adam.3‘s family dynamic and how the entire family in the movie was capable of taking care of themselves. Will Adam’s family be similarly self-sufficient?
Kolins: Yes, very much so. Their skills are going to be softly defined in the first arc because they’re not the core conceit for their characters or a key to the plot. However, in the second issue, you see Beo fight a giant shark.
Lu: Oh, that’s AWESOME!
Kolins: And he does well. None of them will be these helpless mortals who can’t do anything. They are all going to be able to defend themselves. At one point during the story, Adam is out trying to save animals on the island and capture the monster. Of course, he’s left his wife behind at home and the monster comes and attacks her. However, she does okay. None of the main characters that I have in this story are just going to be victims of any sort. They are all going to have a positive role to play in bringing this monster down.
Lu: Are we going to get clues that point to the monster’s origin?
Kolins: The editor and I actually are talking about that now. I’ve got a specific sequence where he alludes to the possibility that he did not come to the island alone. However, my editor and I are talking about what we should and shouldn’t show. Right now, I need that piece in the story now in order to make something in the villain’s plan work, but we will see how it goes. If my editor proves to me that the scene is too distracting, I’ll work on it. Again, that’s one of those things that I might not be able to fit in a five issue mini.
Lu: Oh, man, it sounds like you have so many ideas for this book. I want to see it all come to completion!
Kolins: So do I! I really do. If I can get to it, parts of the book involve other planets in our solar system. Adam.3 goes into space. Plus, we’ll learn why Adam and his family are all alone on this island and why they’re being watched. By the third or fourth miniseries, the family members are going to be vastly different people from the ones they are right now. Everything and everyone will just keep growing and growing. My fingers are crossed that this can continue on.
Lu: You said you have sixty issues planed, but you only have five issues for this first miniseries. If this is all you end up getting, what do you hope this arc will represent for Adam?
Kolins: I’ve crammed in the biggest introductory parts that I still consider core to the overall story. There are tons of other villains and characters I’ve got waiting and ready when the time comes and somebody else says, “Yes, do another one.” However, the core of Adam.3 is this heroic Tarzan/Herculean story with a little bit of Flash Gordon mixed in. I took a cue similar to Mike Mignola and Hellboy again in all his interviews, when they ask, “How did Hellboy come about?” He answers, “I like to draw monsters.” Well, that’s what I like to draw, too. I love that kind of hero versus monster dynamic, where the stakes are the safety of Adam’s family and all the animals on the island.
After the first arc, there are a bunch more twists and turns. There are origins for half of these characters that I can’t get into yet. Hopefully, this miniseries will cover enough that everybody will like it and I can do another.
Lu: Matt Kindt was talking about how he thought the best comic concepts— and he mentioned Kirby for this specifically as well— basically gave the creators a blank canvas with which to play with. You can see it in Sandman and Past Aways, which each have a very broad concept that you can play with and morph into any kind of book you want to. Is that what you’re looking to do with Adam as well?
Kolins: Yeah. It is very much one of the reasons that I’m so excited about this book right now. Again, I’m trying not to copy what I see in mainstream books right now. When I was making Adam, I told myself that “he’s not going to wear a cape. He’s not going to have x-ray vision or the ability to fly. He’s not going to be in Manhattan.” That cuts out half of my connections with all of the mainstream books out there. I’m starting with a new thing. It’s in its own continuity.
One of the reasons I think superhero comics are so versatile, and why I think they’ve survived as it long as they have, is because they have so many influences. Adam.3 has a little bit of everything. It’s a mystery, an action title, and there’s romance. it’s also a thriller, a little bit of horror story, science fiction, and a fantasy.
Lu: So this is a passion project for you in the purest sense.
Kolins: Oh, yeah. Totally. Nothing against Past Aways— Matt and I are having a great time with it, but with Past Aways I only do the pencils and the inking. My work on Adam.3 is all encompassing. I’m finishing up the coloring on issue two right now, and I am not the fastest colorist. That’s the toughest part. I could probably write and draw a book a month without a problem. However, even though I keep trying to simplify the coloring style I’m using, it is still taking between five and ten hours for me to color a page.
I’m losing a lot of sleep, and I still have young kids that I usually spend a fair amount of time with. They are not seeing so much of me right now. We still talk, and they are fully behind me and are all excited about the book, but there has been a little bit of resentment too.
Lu: It’s understandably tiresome. A lot of time and energy goes into each step of the creative process, and the coloring in Adam.3 is gorgeous, so that’s clearly not a rushed job.
Kolins: Thank you for saying that. Again, every piece of this [book], from beginning to end, is very much a dream project. I am not cutting any corners.
Lu: When all is said and done, do you want Adam.3 to be your magnum opus?
Kolins: Oh, it could be. However, I am so used to this industry having its way with any professional that comes along, so I’m trying not to think too far ahead about what the public reaction will be and what Adam.3 could mean for my career. I just want to have a lot of fun and put out this really cool story.
Lu: I’m not even talking about public opinion— that’s ultimately in the hands of time. I was just thinking that it’s so rare for one person to take on an entire comic book nowadays, so this book serves as a cornerstone for your career because it’s an embodiment of your unique creative vision.
Kolins: Yeah, it is [rare], which is kind of a sad thing. I know there are bunch of guys out there that I think are just as capable, if not plenty more capable than I am, of doing that same thing. I’m waiting for the next wave of creators to really push themselves because I know they are out there; I’ve talked to a bunch of them. Honestly, without trying to sound too crazy or egotistical, I think the industry needs more personal voices. I think it is an integral part of this American medium [of comics] and I think that is vitally important to the medium’s survival.
Lu: I agree. Occasionally you’ll see someone like Bryan Lee O’Malley, Scott McCloud, or Chris Ware pop up. They’re influential and prolific because they have very unique voices and tell stories that only they could tell. However, creators like that normally produce graphic novels rather than serialized comics. Was there a particular reason you decided to put Adam.3 out there as a monthly miniseries?
Kolins: Initially, Dark Horse and I talked about a graphic novel. However, I think the five issue monthly miniseries is one of the best ways to publish Adam.3. It works really well that way. I love cliffhangers and I love the time between issues in which you get to mull over and worry.
Plus, if a book is really doing its job, you shouldn’t be able to read it once and have caught every innuendo and every bit of subtext. If a comic book is really doing its job, you should read it through once and go, “Wow, that was really cool! Hey, I wonder what this or that meant.” Then, you read it through a second time or a third time and you go, “Wait a minute! I didn’t catch that on panel two. Holy crap, what does that mean?”
Lu: And then when new issues come out, you go back and look through the previous ones and you find out that you missed even more.
Kolins: Exactly. You can go back over and over again and look for Easter eggs or things in the beginning part of the story that pay off way later on in a big way. I have some things like that in Adam.3. There is stuff that I am putting in the first miniseries that won’t be paid off until the second or third.
Lu: So are you and Dark Horse planning on doing the second and third arcs already, or does it all depend on how the first one does?
Kolins: Depends on how the first one does. I’ve got breakdowns and scripts already, but Dark Horse and I are really stretching our budgets. Adam is not fulfilling my monetary needs, and that’s one of the reasons why I pushed for it now while we had Past Aways to work on for the monthly income I need to survive. The first miniseries has to prove itself before we make more.
Lu: Do you hope to move to Adam.3 full time?
Kolins: It is a possibility. I mean, I am really enjoying Past Aways so I would hate to move on from it too quickly. My hope right now is that it would go well enough for Dark Horse to be excited and very positive about doing the next miniseries in a year or two. However, again, it all depends on the readers, man. If they are screaming for it and would get mad if they had to wait a year for the next miniseries, then, yeah, I might have to take a short break from Past Aways for a little while. With comics, it’s an honest, survival of the fittest sort of situation.
Lu: You’ve been in the industry for a while. You’ve seen it grow and change over the past— about twenty years, right?
Kolins: Yeah. Over twenty.
Lu: How has the industry changed for you? Where do you see it going?
Kolins: The style and the content of books have changed quite a bit over the years. The industry has mostly moved in a positive manner, but people have fallen into giant storytelling pitfalls over the past ten years. I feel like a lot of creators and companies take too much time with their material. Their stories move too slowly to me. I have all of these great ideas for things and if I was doing Adam.3 at another companies this first arc would be twelve issues instead of five. I am going through stuff at a pretty quick quip without trying to cut any corners. When Geoff [Johns] and I were working on The Flash, our first issue had ten subplots and a main conflict that got resolved. There was references to stuff that happened years before and there were setups that led to repercussions for years to come. I hope Adam.3 is similar to that— cool and fresh in some ways, but also a throwback to the kind of stuff that I miss.
And then there’s the whole technology thing— whether comics are going paperless. I like Adam.3 as a [physical] comic book, but I am not opposed to the idea of it being only seen on people’s laptops or Kindles because I’ve already built the book with the future in mind. In fact, there are some ways in which Adam almost could come off better digitally.
Lu: How so?
Kolins: Well, the book is done in landscape format. That has been an issue for some people, but I am hoping that it comes off as cool. I found it invigorating as I was working on the book. The setting of the story is really a part of it.
Lu: Oh, my god. That’s amazing.
Kolins: I was conscious of the possibility that, by the time Adam.3 was ready for public consumption, I may not have been able to make a print version and would instead publish digitally first. Thus, I built Adam.3 in a way where being published digitally wasn’t going to harm my book at all.
I didn’t build in too many two page spreads or any of that kind of stuff because I think it would mess up the whole digital reading experience. The reader would have to backup or zoom in or do some other crazy thing. I wanted you to swipe, see the page, and swipe again to see the next page.
Lu: Looking at the pages again, they really feel quite spacious.
Kolins: Yeah, they do. It is a little tricky because I have to think about my layouts differently, but that was actually part of the fun. Before Dark Horse was involved, I was trying to make this little comic book for myself. I wanted to do something different, so I said to myself, “Okay, I’ve been drawing vertical comic books for some twenty years now. How do I draw a sideways comic book? How is that going to work?”
Lu: Has that significantly changed the way you plot things out?
Kolins: No. I’m used to writing and drawing, so I’m probably fairly old school at this point. I like each page to be its own short story, so the beginning and the end of each page should be a finished and an accomplished little thing. 60% of my brain is working on the problems of the page at hand and the other 40% is working on how the way the page works with pages three and five— is there enough variety between the panels and the pages in these first five pages or ten pages, and does this work with the back half of the book?
In general, over the years, I’ve learned how to build an entire book that is really enjoyable from beginning to end. It is a bit different with this landscape format, but that is okay. It is trying to ride a different kind of bike.
Adam.3 looks like it’s shaping up to be a revolutionary book by an industry veteran. Look for it on store shelves this August.