Real Interviews – Kevin Church

Greetings Kevin Church of The Rack, The Line, The Loneliest Astronauts and the rest of Agreeable Comics.
Hi, Luke, who, uh, writes Changeling and the odd ransom note? Can we talk about that here?
Which ransom note actually got through to you? I think you have an email filter.
It was the one that was cut up old panels from NIGHT MAN with the words you didn’t want used blacked out. So it was 12 pages long.
Oh, well that was because you weren’t aware of my other webcomic Socialfist and you didn’t mention Nerdcenaries. It was preemptive ransom.
Oh, right, Socialfist. I need to get back on that. I slacked. Mea culpa. I have a bunch of things in my Google Reader that have backed up severely.
Socialfist is actually in indefinite hiatus as I am working on the new print version with a new team.
That’s good. I’d like an actual floppy of that to read instead. WHICH REMINDS ME – I’m pretty sure I bought a Changeling hard copy I never got. Talk to your customer support team.
You mean Joe Hunter, the colorist for the next chapter of The Rack?
I do mean that very person, I guess! Good segue.
I will not argue about my segue skills.
Your Segway skills, though, are for shit. I mean seriously, you STAND ON IT. That’s it.
Well I need to have a Segway to have skills on them. Now for those who are not familiar with it, what is The Rack about? And it is similar to the Pamela Anderson comedy classic Stacked?
The Rack is a comic strip about a comic shop. It’s been going for about four years now and unlike a lot of nerd-friendly strips, we have slowly turned it into a sitcom sort of setup. It’s more WKRP IN CINCINNATI than THE BIG BANG THEORY, though. That’s my elevator pitch for it. And that’s why it won’t get as far as webcomics that make jokes about whatever happened this week in comics. And it is, sadly for many, not that similar.
But now you also do a lot of other series. Why are you doing so many series?
I was joking about this with Ming in the gym yesterday. I can either play golf or make comics. Either way, I’m going to be frustrated, but at least with comics I’m not waiting for some guy who’s taking forever on the ninth hole. I love making comics.
Instead you get frustrated at waiting on artists.
I love stretching my brain and trying different approaches and different ideas. I don’t have to wait that often! Sure, deadlines are missed sometimes but it’s not like anyone’s paying for our comics. Trust me, everyone feels bad when a strip doesn’t land on time. I try to give everyone the breathing room they need to work on other things, too. Paul gets a few weeks off after every THE LINE, I try to write ahead for Birdie and Sandra. Ming and I have the convenience of living near each other so we’ll do work dates.
Haha, I can understand that. I usually write an entire arc of Changeling in advance.
I don’t want to write too far ahead myself – I think it’s because I’m very worried about writing pages instead of installments, but over the Christmas break, I wrote quite a for what’s coming up. I went back and tightened them up before sending them over. I’m a big believer in each installment of a webcomic being pretty self-contained for the most part, outside of something that’s obviously doing the serial fiction thing like SHE DIED IN TERREBONNE. Like, with webcomics, every strip is somebody’s first and thankfully the medium has archives that are instantly accessible, but you still want to make it so people get the setup and “feel” immediately. Sometimes I’ll see strips that are the middle of somebody’s longform thing and they’re just messes on their own.
I can understand that though I’ve found that people usually will try and go to the beginning for story based comics.
But if you don’t tailor the dose, you’re less likely to get people clicking around. That’s one of the things I like about John Allison‘s work – he really gets how to make each strip a microcosm of the whole in a snapshot and from there you want to explore a bit.
Hmmm, I can get that. Speaking of the king of British webcomics, who are some of your other favorite webcomic creators?
I know he gets a lot of guff from a lot of people (and his attitude can be…condescending, to say the least) but outside of the Christmas comics, I always check in to see what’s happening with Scott Kurtz and PvP. He’s really turned that into a model of how to do things, even if sometimes the jokes run a bit thin.
I agree with what you say about Kurtz. I’ve been following to follow from a business perspective more than for the comic.
The thing with Kurtz is, though, he really does like these characters and they all have their own voice without ever lapsing into Claremont-style patois. And he doesn’t do that very 1997 webcomic thing of giving everyone a bundle of neuroses and tics. Brent’s kind of a jerk, Jade tolerates him, etc etc. There’s not much in the way of growth or change, I guess, but he’s very good at running the storytelling engine.
It is a very efficient comic in a lot of ways.
Let me check my google subs here to see what’s on my thing.
You know, Tom Scioli’s American Barbarian is inspiring and it violates the exact thing I was talking about but at the same time, every strip gives you a real dose of what it’s about. You look at it and you instantly know if you like it and want to read it all or it’s not your thing.
I love Parker and Moen’s BUCKO to pieces. It’s so goofy and Portland in that it makes fun of things they obviously love. I hope there’s more coming after this first arc is wrapped up. I really enjoy seeing those characters.
Also, K.C. Green’s GUN SHOW and Anthony Clark’s NEDROID are terrific joke factories. GUN SHOW is much more random, but has a consistency I find admirable. And I’m honestly shocked nobody’s picked up NEDROID for a series on CN or something.
KC Green is one of the most unstoppable artists I know. Were you aware of the carpal tunnel he picked up?
Yeah – and he played through the pain.
He is a soldier.
There’s tons of others. Some are made by people I call friends, so it can seem shameless, but Josh Krach and Shelli Hay’s TROOP INFINITY would be doing gangbusters if it were printed in a kid-friendly format. And, of course, AWESOME HOSPITAL. And Curt and Chris, of course. I mean, LBFA does the exact thing I don’t ever want to do because they do it exactly right.
Out of curiosity if you could have any webcomic illustrator do a series with you along with their normal comic, who would you like to write for?
Hmm. That’s a good qustion. Oh, Jamie Noguchi, who does YELLOW PERIL. That’s a good comic and his cartooning skills are amazing. I’d love to get him on a strip that’s like THE RACK or THE LINE, something with a big diverse cast. He’s amazing with body language.
I saw Jamie go up at Super Art Fight against Joe and he was pretty amazing.
Yeah, he’s one of those guys who’s got a very old-school technique that works really well with the material. Also, if I could, I’d lock down my friend Neil’s sister Emmy Cicierega, but she’s so busy doing her gorgeous arts. She’d be great for a fun all-ages thing. Also, if Max Riffner and Tracie Mauk (who should be announcing something soon) ever get free time again, they’re always welcome back on the Agreeable Compound.
When you say Agreeable Compound is this an actual building? Are you starting a cult?
I wish it were. If I ever had a few million, I’d totally buy a thing and set up a Periscope-style compound in Boston or NYC.
And boss kicks?
I’m actually not a crazy sneaker freak. I just like midline Pumas and New Balance (the latter for the gym) but if I had a few million, I’d probably get some pumped-up kicks. (That’s what that song is about, right? Sneaker shopping?)
No, it is about getting in the mind of a school shooter.
Oh, wow. That happy video and upbeat melody really fooled me.
Yeah. They are crazy that way. Now, you mentioned Max Riffner and Tracie Mauk’s comic and you also have Copernicus Jones in your portfolio of comics that you host. How do you decide what comics you would like to be “Agreeable”?
If a friend of mine wants hosting for their comic, I say “Hey, do you want hosting for your comic?” And that’s that. If they want it to be an Agreeable Comic, they can. Matt asked me and he mentioned that the URL he secured was kind of long whereas people can remember whatever. I’m actually hosting Katie Cook’s comic GRONK right now and she pays for the domain and I take care of the back-end. I’ll be doing the same for Bruce McCorkindale soon, too. I’ve got a pretty robust plan and I like helping my friends out, especially the not technically savvy ones. It’s good karma. (I hope. Considering what a monster I am, I need all the help I can get.)
Now, you have Joe coloring this new big The Rack story. What can you tell us about the new story?
Basically, for the next half-year or so, readers are going to be spending time with the cast at a massive comic show in Chicago, A2C2. It’s going to be us trying to hit a balance of commentary on the industry and continuing to tell the sort of jokes and stories we enjoy. It’s also going to be a big chance for the supporting cast to get a bit more play, as they’ll be manning the store while Jerry, Lydia, Danny, Aaron and Rick are at the con. It’s also an effort to get more new readers, frankly. Give them a hook.
Is it true that everyone will lose a hand and therefore also gain a hook for a hand? Along with flowing beards?
No, but there will be lasting changes to the cast as a result of this trip. Lasting. Changes. (eyepatches)
Well, as we wrap up the interview, is there anything that you would like to plug?
Gosh. We just started up a new arc in THE LINE, a comic that I think needs more readers than it’s getting. Paul’s a terrific cartoonist and it’s gratifying how many people tell me it’s their absolute favorite. I think the “conventional” setting may be a bit off-putting to webcomics readers, but hey. The same goes for DID YOU SEE ME COMING, which people praise to my face. (praise to my face sounds really weird. THEY TELL ME THEY LIKE IT.) ALSO, starting NEXT WEEK, Ming and I violate trademark with our Star Trek comic, BOLDLY GONE. For years, I’ve trashed fan fiction and now I’m doing it. (But, you know, we went ahead created our own cast, etc etc.) Boldly Gone is basically us telling IDW “Let us write and draw you the best Trek graphic novel ever.”
Fanfiction has lead to good things like the recognition of the Mary Sue.
It’s a thin line between fan fiction and licensed fiction. In fact, the writers of the earliest Trek novels were taken from fandom. (With occasional “real” writers like Greg Bear showing up.) God, I am a nerd.
Well NERD, thanks for doing the interview.

Luke Herr

Luke is a writer and an aspiring professional comic writer who is also the editor in chief of Nerdcenaries. He currently is working on a graphic novel called Prison Spaceship.