MUTE an Interview with Frank Cvetkovic

Posted April 4, 2014 by Oscar Russell in Comic Books

We The Nerdy were fortunate enough to get the chance to interview Frank Cvetkovic about his upcoming Kickstarter project MUTE which you can find here.

We The Nerdy: Just for those who haven’t’ checked out your Kickstarter project MUTE, what can they expect?

Frank Cvetkovic: MUTE is a 48-page silent noir comic, written by myself and is being drawn by Michael Harris. Our story follows Adrian Kim, a deaf steel mill worker, and his lady friend, Meg, as they find themselves on the run from a ruthless killer, after Adrian accidentally mistakes the killer’s smartphone (filled with incriminating evidence of grisly murders) for his own.

Because Adrian is deaf, there is absolutely no spoken dialogue or sound effects in the comic. You, as the reader, are just as “deaf” as Adrian is. Which means that there aren’t any sort of advanced warnings of oncoming danger. No footsteps slowly growing louder or gunshots ringing through an alleyway; just bullets whizzing past your head.

WTN: Writing about a character who is deaf, seems like quite a personal thing to do, where did you inspiration for the book come from?


FC: Honestly, it just made sense for the story and the character. I had wanted to write a silent comic for a long time, but didn’t want it to be silent for the sake of being silent. There had to be a reason, a real world reason why there wasn’t any spoken dialogue. I didn’t want to just throw in some otherworldly sci-fi macguffin that sucked all the sound out of the world or something, y’know? It eventually came to me that the main character should be deaf. If he couldn’t hear other people speaking to or around him, then the reader shouldn’t be able to read what was being said to or around him. Eventually, this idea started to bond with another story idea I had, about a man on the run from a killer after a fairly nasty case of mistaken identity, and really gave it an extra shot of tension. How do you escape a killer you can’t hear coming?

WTN: How did you all as a creative team find each other?

FC: Michael and I have known each other for about a dozen years now. We met at an art school in Columbus, OH and quickly became friends and frequent collaborators. We’ve worked on some minicomics and pitches together years ago and I’ve lettered some comics he’s drawn recently.

WTN: Has the process been hard, trying to get what you want on the page without having words? The art story telling is clearly going to be top draw, how has that been?

FC: Not at all, actually. In fact, it was kind of a fun challenge. Once I figured out that Adrian was deaf and the plot was about an accidental smartphone swap, the comic became a lot easier to write. I could make up for the loss of spoken dialogue with a couple of text message info dumps, limited and very easy to interpret sign language, and some very specific facial expressions. Like a lot of comics, this meant that the art was going to have to tell a lot of the story, but in a much different way. Which is why Michael was the first and only person I approached to draw MUTE; he is one of the few people I would trust to visually tell a mostly wordless story.

f56cf6f1b093cd8019c85985812caad2_largeWTN: The comic is in black and white, what made you go for this?

FC: A couple of things. First of all, it sets a certain mood for the story. This is a story that is full of tension and suspense. It’s in a modern setting, it’s about a smartphone, but I wanted it to feel old. I wanted to evoke the feeling you’d get from watching old noir movies. Also, Michael’s art looks amazing in black and white. He has such a great handle on how to perfectly balance light and shadow. Probably the least important thing that made us go with black and white was cost. Color printing is more expensive. But, if the story NEEDED to be in color, then that’s what we would have done.

WTN: You have done some work a Dark Horse book previously, what are the key differences with an indie project to that?

FC: For the record, I only worked on one three-issue miniseries for Dark Horse (NEVER ENDING) and that was as a letterer. So the two aren’t really comparable. I’d say the main difference, was that in working with a publisher on a more high profile comic, there are a lot more hands touching the book. There were two writers, a penciler, an inker, a colorist, a couple of editors, and myself, not to mention Dark Horses’ marketing department and senior staff. It also means that there is money to pay page rates, printing, shipping and distribution.

With something like MUTE, it’s just Michael and myself (and Adam P Knave, who edited the script). It’s all on us. We’re not just writing and drawing the book, we also have to raise the necessary money to produce and ship the book and get it into readers’ hands. Which is cool in some ways, because we know exactly who is doing what and when they’re supposed to be doing it and, when the book is finished, it’s going to be something we did by ourselves, y’know? On the other hand, some days I would KILL for a department of people who handled all the marketing and distribution stuff. Haha!

WTN: Any tips for aspiring writers?

FC: It’s cliché, it’s something you hear from every other writer when asked this question, but it’s true: write every day. You don’t have to spend your entire day plugging away at that great American novel or comic script or whatever it is you want to write, but you have to write something every day. Write a short story in one hour. Write about what happened to you that day in a journal. But WRITE. It’s the only way to become a better writer.

WTN: Have you looked at getting any charities involved in the project, to help raise awareness at all?529a5da1bd96777eab588579c79ae059_large

FC: You know, that was originally something I wanted to do as a stretch goal for the Kickstarter. Had we made X amount of money over our original goal, we would donate X% to a charity for the hearing-impaired. Unfortunately, promising raise money to give to charity goes against Kickstarter’s policies.

WTN: How has the whole Kickstarter experience been so far?

FC: Running a Kickstarter has thus far been a completely frustrating and maddening and wonderful and amazing experience. Haha! I spoke with several friends who had all run campaigns before, asking them what I should expect after mine launched and, they all gave me great advice, but it’s kind of one of those things where someone can tell you exactly what is going to happen, and you think you know what to expect, but you have NO IDEA until it’s actually happening to you. Haha!

There were two things I was warned about. One was the sheer amount of promoting you have to do when running a campaign. You have to talk about it ENDLESSLY. You need to do interviews and podcasts, you need to tweet and post about it a million times a day and somehow NOT annoy and alienate everyone around you. The other thing was I was told to be aware of was just how obsessed you’re going to get with watching that clock quickly tick down to zero as that dollar amount ever so slowly rises. For all the promoting you do, sometimes it doesn’t feel like enough. Especially when there are people you know and are friends with who, in the last week of your campaign, message you saying “Hey! I didn’t know you were doing a Kickstarter!” Haha!

At the same time, though, I used to run a webcomic and having a direct relationship with the reader was, I think, my favorite part of the entire experience. Being able to speak directly with Kickstarter backers and talk to them about your book, getting to answer their questions and comments about it, having people claim a certain kind of ownership over this thing that they like and support and believe in and want to see get made so badly that they start promoting it, too, is just such an amazing and inspiring feeling.

WTN: Are you attending cons to try and promote, or what other methods of spreading the word about MUTE have you used?

FC: Unfortunately, there won’t be any conventions in the Midwest to attend and promote the book at before our campaign is over, so we’ll be sticking to internet-based promotions, like interviews and podcasts and shouting about it on various social media websites.

You can check out the Kickstarter page here with the campaign due to end on April 8th, so go check that out, you can also visit the MUTE facebook page to keep up to date there as well. Frank is on the twitter @GoFrankGo and Michael has a Deviant Art page, which you can check out. We The Nerdy will hopefully be back to review MUTE once the project is complete.


About the Author

Oscar Russell

Comics Editor for WTN, and co-host of the All New Comics Dash Podcast. I like comics and tabletop gaming!