Above: “The Current State of Me” by Brandon Graham
Great interview with Brandon Graham by Gavin Lees, where Graham talks about the origins of King City and whether there will ever be a follow-up:
I began working at The Strand bookstore in Manhattan, unloading trucks and everything. That’s when I started King City, only at the time it was called Cat Master. I just drew it entirely for myself. I drew the first 40 pages on my lunch breaks, not even planning, just doing it page-by-page. I remember I had a rule that I would tell myself, that if there was another element that didn’t advance the plot, then that’s what I needed to spend the most amount of time and pages on. If something advanced the plot, then I wanted to ignore that as much as possible and get it out the way. [...]
Yeah, the book feels very free — very creatively liberated. Was there ever a worry that people wouldn’t get it, and Tokyopop would tell you to rein that in and make it more conventional — put all the things that advance the plot back in?
BG: Actually, Tokyopop was doing that the whole time. I think that it pushed me to develop what King City was even more, because they would bring up these things like, “What’s this character’s motivation? What’s this?” It just made me react the opposite direction. I always joke about this one thing when this guy called up — this is when it was getting really autobiographical — and he’s just like, “What’s Joe doing? The guy’s a total loser! What’s he going to do with his life? We need to give him an arc where he becomes a better person in the end.” And I was thinking, “I’m not going to become a better person by the time I finish this book!” [Laughter] I think it’s disingenuous to think that the characters have to change in 200 pages. It’s cool if they do, and maybe there is some character change in that, but I certainly didn’t want to force it.
In the second half of the book, I actually had a really good editor at Tokyopop, this guy Troy Lewter who had read the first one as an assistant editor, and then they moved him over. The first editor I had — whose name I never remember — was really difficult. I remember we got nominated for an Eisner and he didn’t care. He was like, “Eisners won’t sell books.” But Troy was fantastic to work with because he had a different take on it, he was throwing these basic plot-points at me, and I came up with so many great ideas with him being like, “What about this?” and it gave me an understanding of what the reader might expect in a standard adventure story. Also, a fantastic thing is reading people’s reaction to the book, and reviews, and what they expect to see next. I read some comment online where somebody said, “Oh, I can’t wait to see where Cat Masters come from!” and it had never occurred to me to show that. So, I started the second half of the series with that because I was like, “Oh shit!” and I was really happy with that and it would never have come out of my own head.