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Halloween horror with Source Point Press and Comics Experience continues with the October 30 release of Wild Strawberries at the World’s End! Written by Bruce Kim and with art by Katia Vecchio, the suspenseful story takes place in a rural South Korean town during the mid-’90s. There’s murder. There’s cults. There’s mystery. There’s the supernatural. It’s a perfect autumnal read when you want to enjoy a hot drink and a tingle up the spine.
But why don’t we let Bruce tell you more about it in his own words?
Comics Experience: How did you come up with and develop Wild Strawberries at the World’s End?
Bruce Kim: I grew up in Korea until I moved to New York for college. I visited my hometown in Korea again when I turned 30. What really struck me was how familiar and foreign at the same time it felt. The streets and blocks that I have vivid memories of were populated with unfamiliar faces and new stores. In Ingmar Bergman’s Wild Strawberries (an obvious inspiration for the title) the main character Isak, an old professor, visits his childhood home and sees his past memories coming alive in front of his eyes. That’s how I felt during my trip.
I wanted to write a story that captured and process what I felt at that time: the sense of longing and anxiety you feel as you enter adulthood. I wanted to write a story that was specifically Korean. In Wild Strawberries at the World’s End, the main character (Te-Su) comes back to his hometown for a friend’s funeral. While investigating his friend’s death, Te-Su confronts his regrets, nostalgia, and anxiety. The book explores these themes with the prism of a Lovecraftian mystery. I think the regrets you have as you get older can feel Lovecraftian.
Many of the plot points were taken from my personal experience. Korea was in a transitional period in the ’90s. We still had shanty houses all over the cities right next to new high-rise apartments. I grew up with friends who lived in makeshift houses, and those shanty towns all disappeared at some point. Now there are nice parks and malls on those spots. I’ve always wondered where all the people who lived in those towns went. And this became the inspiration for one of the central mysteries of the book.
CE: What is your process like with Kate?
BK: Before we started working on the project, we had research sessions. The book is set in rural Korea and capturing that local texture was crucial. Katia is an Italian artist, so bridging the cultural gap was important. South Korean new wave thrillers were key influences for the book, so I recommended 4~5 Korean movies to Katia. The most important one was Bong Joon Ho’s Memories of Murder (a serial killer film set in 80’s rural Korea) which we directly reference in one of the panels. In addition, I’ve created a detailed visual reference guide. In addition to being an extremely talented and versatile artist, Katia was interested in Korean culture and captured the texture of ’90s rural Korea perfectly.
My script (you can find it in the Comics Experience database) is much more detailed in its visual directions than standard comic book scripts. I often had specific ideas about panel layout, scene composition, and color palette. I knew how good Katia was as a visual storyteller, and I wanted to lean on that strength as much as possible. In comics, every text on a page needs to justify its existence. Either the text conveys information you absolutely cannot convey with visuals only or the prose has to be very memorable. (There are times when you need text to control the time a reader spends on a page, but this wasn’t an important consideration for our book) I was specific in my visual ideas to provide a jumping-off point to Katia. I wanted my script to start a discussion rather than stifle Katia’s creativity. I continued to cut down on texts as I got the sketches from Katia. I’ve also used Ales Kot and Morgan Jeske’s Change to size how many texts can fit for a given panel size – I almost used that book as a ruler. Change is a good book to use as a reference as it experiments with various panel layouts.
Grant Morrison once said that every issue of comic book needs one sequence that the reader has never seen before. And it’s something that I always think about. I think every book needs a formally inventive sequence that punctuates the story. For us, the key sequence is the wordless 12-panel grid + page-turn reveal sequence. In the sequence, lightening intermittently illuminating a pitch-black room reveals a stranger slowly approaching. Building suspense with a grid structure layout is not easy, and we went through multiple iterations to get it right. Katia’s subtle command of timing and facial expressions made this sequence possible. It is still the section that I’m most proud of.
CE: How did your involvement with the Creators Workshop and Comics Experience shape Wild Strawberries at the World’s End?
BK: I’ve posted my scripts in the creator’s workshop forum, and the feedback I got was critical in shaping the story. The members who’ve helped me out will notice that the key plot twist is different in the final book. I want to be a little cautious here not to spoil the story, but the feedback from the members made me realize that the initial twist was overcomplicating the story and undercut the theme of the story. It was very unwieldy on hindsight.
More importantly, many of the feedback had very thoughtful reflection on what the theme of the story was. At times, this made me realize subtexts that I didn’t realize I had. And it also crystalized what ideas weren’t working. This opportunity to self-reflect helped me streamline what ideas I wanted to explore more.
I think many members will notice that the second half of the book is quite different from the initial script. I’ve reread my 1st draft recently, and I was cringing the whole time. I believe that every Comics Experience member who gave feedbacks on the script are editors and collaborative partners of Wild Strawberries at the Word’s End.
Remember to pick up your copy of Wild Strawberries at the World’s End on October 30!
Just in time for Halloween, Comics Experience course alumnus and Creator’s Workshop member Timothy Bach‘s The Family Graves hits shelves as a Source Point Press trade paperback on October 23! Inspired by science-fiction films and the Universal monster movies that Timothy loved as a child, the story follows the adventures of a crime fighting family of monsters. Basically, if The Munsters joined up as Avengers. Also on this wacky ride? Brian Atkins on pencils and inks, colorists Dijjo Lima, Brandon Daniels, and Ander Zarate, and Marco Della Verde on letters.
“After creating a number of short comics and one-shots, getting better each time, I felt ready to tackle a mini-series that was also a team book. I had a few ideas, but I knew I needed a little more structure, so I took one of the advanced writing classes with Andy. Eventually, I honed things down to a superhero team of monsters, and that quickly became a family of monsters—who also happened to be a team of heroes,” Timothy says.
“But behind all the scary monsters, this is a story about family. It’s sort of equal parts horror, heroics, and heart. Having worked with Brian Atkins on Gargoyle by Moonlight, I knew he was the perfect artist to bring humanity to these all-too-human monsters. So I pitched him the idea, and we decided to take it forward and pitch it to Comics Experience as part of the publishing initiative.”
The Family Graves began as a four issue miniseries, but Timothy says there’s more to come for his venerable beasties in 2020. And yes, you heard that from us. After all, Comics Experience helped provide him with the foundation he needed to launch his career.
“I probably wouldn’t be making comics if it wasn’t for Comics Experience. I was already writing my own stuff and working in a creative field, but I didn’t know how to get my work out there. I didn’t have a plan. I lacked follow-through, and, really, I was just fumbling around going nowhere,” says Timothy.
“Comics Experience gave me not only an education in making and marketing comics but also a community of motivated people focused on making comics. Taught by working pros, the courses are excellent. I can’t stress enough how valuable it is to learn from seasoned pros who are so generous with their time and advice… More specifically, I wouldn’t have met Brian or Marco if I hadn’t been a part of Comics Experience. I’ve also met a lot of other great people who teach me and challenge me. And I try to give back by sharing what I know or making an introduction to someone I’ve met.”
…If you want a preview of The Family Graves trade paperback, you can head over to Moonrise Comics or follow Timothy and Brian on Twitter as they tease their way toward publication.
You can pick up your copy of The Family Graves trade paperback from Source Point Press and Comics Experience at your favorite local comic book store and online October 23!
Comics Experience alumnus and Workshop member Rich Douek‘s indie success Gutter Magic is back in print as of last week (September 25, if you want to be all exacting about it) thanks to Source Point Press! The four-issue fantasy series – whose team includes Brett Barkley on art, Jules Rivera on colors, and Nic J. Shaw on letters – now features four new covers by Fei Chen to celebrate the re-release.
“One of the reasons we wanted to rerelease the original issues is so that new fans can get into the series from the beginning, and not be confused by feeling we’re starting in the middle of something. But, we also wanted to give existing fans something new to get excited about, so we started to look for artists who could bring something new and awesome to the table,” Rich says.
“We found that in spades with Fei Chen, who created a slate of new covers highlighting the main characters in some of our favorite scenes from the book. She’s got a style that’s different from anything we’ve done before, but undeniably feels like Gutter Magic, and we’re really excited to get them out there.”
Gutter Magic started off as a 5-page short in the Introduction to Comic Book Writing course, and grew into a full series – first as single issues, then a trade paperback from IDW. A spinoff series, Tales from the Gutter, met its Kickstarter goal and expanded the alternate history steampunk universe further.
Rich says, “During the publishing process, Andy was an invaluable resource as an editor and advisor. It’s safe to say that Gutter Magic wouldn’t be what it is without Comics Experience, and I’ll always be grateful to it for helping to get my comics writing career off the ground.”
Make sure to keep your eyes out for the Tales from the Gutter, coming soon from Source Point Press! This will be the anthology’s first time in print.
If you’ll be at New York Comic-Con this weekend, make sure to catch Rich at Andy Schmidt’s Writing Comics Like the Pros panel, and pick up the new Gutter Magic at the Source Point Press booth, #2243.
New York Comic-Con runs October 3 through 6, and Comics Experience founder Andy Schmidt will be on hand to dish out advice on working in the comic book industry! He’ll be at the Source Point Press booth, #2243, when he’s not out and about sharing his knowledge on panels.
Andy’s panel schedule is as follows:
Writing Comics Like the Pros
Date: Thursday, October 3
Time: 2:15-3:15 p.m. EST
Description: A comic book script does NOT look like a screenplay! Lesson #1—how to write for comics—learn the dos-and-don’ts from top of the line comics writers and editors – everything from crafting a character-driven story to how to write effectively for your artist! Join comics veterans Greg Pak, Frank Gogol, Vita Ayala, Rich Douek, Tini Howard, and Writer/Editor Andy Schmidt for an in-depth discussion that will have your scripts popping off the page in no time!
Panelists: Vita Ayala, Rich Douek, Tini Howard, Frank Gogol, and Greg Pak
The New Comics Creator Panel
Date: Thursday, October 3
Time: 4:45-5:45 p.m. EST
Description: The face of comics isn’t just changing, it’s expanding. There isn’t just one face of comics anymore, it’s now a diverse line-up of faces of different shapes, colors, creeds, and so on. Join Comics Experience’s founder Andy Schmidt and several professional creators, to learn how the diversification of comics creators and comics content go hand in hand, and what advantages to new comics creators this diversification holds. Learn what kind of background and training/education these new comics creators come from, and you’ll see why comics are changing and why it’s a good thing!
Panelists: Andy Schmidt, Heather Antos, Mags Visaggio, Sanford Greene, Tini Howard, Vita Ayala
In addition, if you’re a member of our Creator’s Workshop, an alumnus of one of our courses, or one of our mentoring clients, there will be a meetup just for you! At a secret location at a secret date, no less. If you’re interested in attending and want to RSVP, send us an email.
See you in New York, friends!
“I believe it all started with the ending,” says former Creators Workshop member Glenn Møane.
“An image came to me, and it showed a mother in her kitchen, looking at a photo of her deceased daughter. From there I began exploring who they were, the state of their relationship, and why one of them had died. It took a few tries, but in the end I found the approach I thought would serve the story best, by focusing on the grieving father and his relentless quest for closure.”
That end began The Love She Offered, the three-issue miniseries from Comics Experience and Source Point Press whose third and final installment comes out September 25. Glenn’s team includes Tirso Llaneta on art, Monte Thompson and Marco Della Verde on colors, and Sean Rinehart on letters.
The Love She Offered follows father Brian Thompson and his friend Ross seeking revenge for the murder of Brian’s daughter. This leads to the kidnapping of her boyfriend, the primary suspect… but he claims he didn’t do it. And he very well may not have done it.
Glenn developed his thriller during his stint in the Creators Workshop, and attributes his success to the support provided by the community.
“The critiques I received helped tremendously and the scripts ended up a lot more polished than their first drafts. For example, the original opening to the first issue depicted Sean coming home at night with a bloody knife in his hand. A workshop member pointed out a problem with the scene, which made me take another hard look at the issue’s structure,” he says.
“I ended up ditching the scene altogether and replaced it with a new one, which took place much later in the story… Overall, on the story front, The Love She Offered is a series that would not be in the shape it is if I hadn’t joined the Comics Experience workshop.”
And, of course, he shares the credit with his collaborators!
“I usually just let them do what they do best. This depends of course if we have worked together previously or not, but when reviewing a new page, my comments often boil down to ‘Thumbs up!’ or ‘I loved how you pulled off this particular panel!'” he says.
“I guess I’m boring that way, but I also believe in not micro-managing the artists I work with. Ideally, I want my scripts to be a pleasure to work on, something that doesn’t feel like a chore for my collaborators.”
Issue #3 of The Love She Offered – the last in the miniseries – will be released on September 25! Make sure to pick up your copy!
Creators Workshop member and course alumnus Frank Gogol‘s Grief is a 2019 Ringo Award nominee in the Best Anthology category! His compatriots include artists Nenad Cvitcanin, Kim Holm, Ryan Foust, Bethany Varni, Jey Soliva; colorists Luca Bulgheroni, Esther P. Gil-Munilla, Emily Elmer; letterer Sean Reinhart; and cover artist Dani Martins.
“It’s pretty surreal [to be nominated], actually. It’s incredibly gratifying and humbling to be nominated,” Frank says.
“But at the same time, it doesn’t feel like it’s real. Once a week since the nomination, I’ve had my partner, Catherine, slap to me in the face to see if I’m dreaming.”
He’s up against other familiar names to Comics Experience friends and fans, too! All We Ever Wanted: Stories of a Better World contains stories from our own Paul Allor as well as Creators Workshop member and alum Rich Douek. Luckily, the competition is a friendly one… we hope…
Frank says, “I found out when a fellow creator, Eric Palicki, reached out to congratulate me. Eric–who edited All We Ever Wanted: Stories of a Better World, which is also nominated for Best Anthology–is, of course, now my mortal enemy.”
Oh… oh dear… well, we definitely hope everyone stays friends! Frank seems to be taking things better than his throwdown would attest, of course.
“I’m very honored to even be being considered alongside books that industry veterans, like Shelly Bond, worked on,” he says. “The category is absolutely stacked with talent. So if Grief wins, more than likely, I’ll be celebrating in a state of complete disbelief. Honestly, I’d probably call for a recount.”
Ringo Award winners will be announced at Baltimore Comic-Con on October 19! Good luck to all the nominees and thanks to Frank for speaking with us!