Creator Blair Kitchen, when not working on animation, self publishes comic books including perhaps the greatest hero ever, The Possum. Blair was gracious enough to take time from his busy schedule to tell me about himself as well as the secrets of The Possum. CBI Chief Correspondent: Canada Hal Hilden recently spoke with Blair…
HAL: Where were you born and raised?
BK: I was born inHamilton,OntarioCanada. We lived in a small apartment in Bronte (20 minutes outside of Hamilton) until I was 2 years old when we moved to Milton Ontario, where my parents still live in the same corner house today. I only have one really vague memory of the Bronte apartment which is looking out the window at cars until my dad got home from work. I know it’s a real memory and not one derived from a photo, because in my memory we were really high up, but in fact we only lived on the second or third floor.
HAL: How long have you been drawing comics?
BK: I’ve been drawing comics in some form or other since before I can remember. When I was really young I used to copy drawings that I liked. I was big intoGarfield(that’s probably where The Possum’s eyes come from), and I used to copy Don Martin drawings, Bill Watterson and Sergio Aragones drawings as well. My brother, Mike and I would then create our own characters that were pretty muchGarfieldrip offs. Most of my influence from when I was younger was Saturday morning comic strips, and it wasn’t until I was in high school that super hero comics took the front seat as far as influence went; Although I had some John Romita Jr. Spider-Man and a couple Neal Adams Batman comics that I used to copy as well, back when I was little.
HAL: How did you break into the industry drawing comic books?
BK: I’m not sure if I’ve even “broken into the industry” yet. All as I’ve done is started drawing comics and self publishing them. I still make most of my money working in animation, which, surprisingly to me, a lot of independent comic artists do too. Maybe one day I’ll be able to feed my family by just drawing my own comics and to me, that’ll be when I “break into comics”.
HAL: In my opinion you have indeed “broken into the industry”, its just the comic book companies haven’t seen your talents yet. We’re hopingCBIcan help you with that.
HAL: What [and who] is The Possum?
BK: Well, the sales pitch goes like this: “The Possum is a funny super hero comic book which follows the exploits of 18 year old aspiring comic artist, Stuart Spankly, who one day gets the super powers of a possum! With the gifts of no vital signs and an uncanny ability to take a beating, our hero must protect his town, as well as deal with the pressure of being an unemployed teenager with no living expenses.”
My goal was to create a hero with the lamest super powers I could think of. He pretty much ends up being a punching bag for the villains, but because of his lame powers, perseverance becomes his real super power.
HAL: Where did you get the idea for The Possum?
BK: The idea for The Possum came while I was bored in English class in grade 10. My high school notebooks were 80% doodles and 20% notes, and a friend of mine and myself were doing everything we could to not pay attention to the teacher by creating lame super heroes. I would usually draw and he would watch and throw in his two cents. It wasn’t until years later that my wife and I were preparing to move and I was packing our closets into boxes that I came across my sketch book with the drawing of The Possum in it and it made me laugh, so I pulled out my recent sketch book and started drawing him again. The rest is history.
HAL: The Possum is so much fun! Do you have any plans to carry him from comic page to possibly animation cell?
BK: Like I said earlier, I make my living from animating, and traditional 2D animation is one of my favorite things to do, so naturally I’d love to do something along that lines with The Possum. With that being said, the business of animation can be a real headache and one of the things that has drawn me to comics is that it’s a medium where you can tell a story the way you want to with little or no outside forces (ie. Producers, executives) telling you what you can or can’t do. If I was ever to take The Possum to animation, it would have to be on my terms and that would most likely mean setting up my own studio, although I have a 5 minute Possum short that I have mostly storyboarded out, and I’d love to get to animating that some day.
HAL: What can we expect to see happen to The Possum in the coming issues?
BK: Well, he’s definitely going to get beaten up! I’m currently working on issue #6 which is a stand alone issue where he fights a hypnotist named Waldo. I have the next few issues roughly planned out in my mind after issue #6, and weaved throughout all of the issues is a larger story line involving one of the characters, Steve Tacola, which will unravel over the next 8 or 9 issues or so, which will make up the first main story arc of The Possum, but I can’t give away much more than that. I can tell you that issue #7 will involve a prom, tuxedos and a 1959 Ferrari 196 S.
HAL: Do you have any formal art training?
BK: Yes, I am a graduate of Sheridan College’s animation program, in Oakville Ontario.
HAL: Who are your artistic influences?
BK: I touched on some of them earlier (some which I’m not so proud of). I’ve always loved Mad Magazine, especially Don Martin and Sergio Aragones (Groo the Wanderer was always one of my favorites).
HAL: How do you focus when drawing?
BK: Well, working from home with 3 young kids (ages 3, 6, and it’s sometimes a challenge, but at the end of the day, I need to give myself deadlines. If I have a deadline, somehow the work gets finished. Working on The Possum doesn’t require too much to keep me focused, because I love working on it… It’s fun! I try to avoid listening to music or podcasts so I can concentrate better on the drawings that I’m doing. Silence is the best.
HAL: What types of technology do you use to draw?
BK: All of my drawing and inking is done on illustration board (S172 Bainbridge to be exact). I try to keep the computer out of that stage, but after the pages are inked, I scan them into photoshop for touch ups and to add gray tones and dots. Also, I mostly colour the covers in photoshop, except for issue #2, which was painted in gauche and then scanned in for touch ups. I love the feeling of pencil on paper and having to wash ink and pencil off of your hands at the end of a days work! You feel like you’ve worked harder if your hands are messy!
HAL: What was the first comic book you ever read?
BK: I can’t remember the first comic book I ever read, but I do know that my first real exposure to comic books was a box of my uncle’s old comic books that my grandma had at her house. There were Archie comics (with boobs drawn in pen on all of the girls), Sergeant Rock, Batman, A couple Jerry Lewis comics, Beetle Baily, and a bunch more. That box of comics later made its way up to my grandparent’s cottage where we spent a lot of time in the summers reading and rereading them. The first comic that I can remember buying was a three pack of comics from Zellers or K mart or one of those stores. I can’t remember what the other two comics in the pack were, but the one I remember (and it’s still is one of my favorites) is Amazing Spider-Man 232 by Roger Stern and John Romita Jr. where he fights The Cobra and Mr. Hyde. That comic has some of the best Spidey one liners.
HAL: Do you read any of the new comic books that are being published today? If so, which ones?
BK: The new comics that I pick up regularly are Savage Dragon by Erik Larsen and Glamourpuss by Dave Sim. Oh, and I’m also a fan ofSPYGUY by my brother Mike Kitchen. I’d be picking that up every time it comes out even if he wasn’t my brother. I recently bought a bunch of the Marvel Essentials comics as well, and I’m enjoying reading all of the origin stories, such as Spider-man, Hulk, Fantastic Four, etc. that I always knew the gist of but have never actually sat down and read. As I’m reading them, I’m thinking “why didn’t I do this sooner!”
HAL: Print vs. Digital. Your thoughts…
BK: Hooo, boy. I’m going to try to keep this short… Personally, I’m a print guy. I can appreciate digital and where it’s heading and one day I know I’m going to have to make The Possum available for digital download (It’s on my ever growing list of things I have to do), but I don’t think you can beat the experience of sitting down with a “real” comic book. I guess I see the digital comics as a form of disposable media, in the same way as comics were seen back in the day. For me, I love books and libraries and seeing walls full of bookshelves that are full of books. There’s something warm and inviting about that over a cold room with a computer in it. (I’m being a little melo dramatic, I know…)
HAL: What sources do you use for a cover image?
BK: I’m not sure I understand the question. If you mean sources of reference, I look at all my favorite comics and illustrations. I love the Pulp magazine images and the early Spider-man and Marvel comics, but mostly I get an image in my head first and I use reference to help me define and pin point parts of the image that are a little fuzzy to me. I’m not sure if that answers your question or not.
HAL: You answer was perfect my friend.
HAL: What other mediums or genres have you drawn for?
BK: There’s not a tonne of money in self publishing these days (but a guy can dream, can’t he?), so I pay my bills and provide for my family by animating. I went to school for animation and graduated in 1998, so I’ve been animating professionally for almost 14 years. I’ve worked on quite a wide variety of projects, from feature films (Titan AE, Osmosis Jones, Curious George and some of those crappy Disney sequels), to TV commercials (Frosted Flakes, Rice Krispies, Froot Loops, and lots of other things I won’t let my kids eat), to TV shows such as Wayside, Spliced, Scaredy Squirrel to name a few. Recently I’ve been doing story boarding, but in a perfect world, I’d be drawing comics and animating my own films full time.
HAL: Blair, it was a pleasure doing this interview and thank you for introducing me to one of my new favorite heroes…yes, I mean The Possum.
You can find The Possum at http://www.possumpress.com/
About the interviewer –
Hal Hilden fancies himself a warrior-writer. Having wallowed through the trenches with pen and paper in hand he has fired off script after script over the years. This has given him calloused fingertips and the intestinal fortitude to realize that working in the comic industry is easier said than done.
Hal’s co-creator owned property is Dreamland: 2047. He dabbled in the television industry writing a spec-script for a cartoon property. Hal is currently a staff writer for Red Leaf Comics and Chief Correspondent-Canada for comicbookinterviews.com.
Hal can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org