Schmuck an interview with Seth Kushner
We The Nerdy had the chance to interview Seth Kushner, who is currently running a Kickstarter project for his upcoming anthology comic series SCHMUCK. You can check out the project and back it here, happy reading…….
We The Nerdy: For those that haven’t checked your Kickstarter project out yet, whats the brief?
Seth Kushner: SCHMUCK is a coming-of-age tale of love and loss and love in New York City. It’s a semi-autobiographical story based upon my own experiences during my “schmucky years”, after I was dumped by my dream girl and I went on a self-imposed journey to find true love. The journey consisted of blind dates, Internet hook-ups, drunken nights, hung-over days, vomiting, diarrhea and lots of awkwardness and pathos.
WTN: So the comic is semi-autobiographical, what made you want to tell the story and why would people want to read it?
SK: I began writing SCHMUCK as a prose novel back in 2003, during the time the actual events were occurring. It started out as a therapeutic writing experiment and over eleven years morphed into a graphic novel. It was both writing school, comic book-making school and therapy for me.
I believe my story is a universal one, and therefore very relatable to most Earth humans. I worked hard to expose certain truths about dating and relationships, from a male perspective, which I don’t think is very well represented in literature, when compared to women’s writings on the same topic.
WTN: Your Kickstarter page says this is going to be an anthology series, how did you select the artists that you wanted to work with on this project?
SK: Although all the “schmuck shorts” (21 in all) go together to tell one story, they each deal with a particular theme and that means they aren’t all the same tonally. A different artist with a unique style was needed for each story. For this type of autobio material, my taste runs towards a style of art that is somewhere between “cartoony” and “realistic”, without veering too far into either direction. Mainly. I prize smart visual storytelling over all else. I feel blessed to have found and collaborated with so many mega-talented cartoonists.
WTN: Its obviously quite a personal story, what is it like working on something like that as opposed to more fictional works?
SK: I’m not a “trained” writer, so I learned how to write from writing. I ascribed to the “write what you know” school of thought and what I knew was myself and schmuckiness. I didn’t have any idea of how to write a hardboiled mystery or an epic fantasy, but having told my story, I’m now ready to move on to genre and fiction.
WTN: What has the collaboration process been like, I am guessing that working with so many artists must have its challenges?
SK: I collaborated with 22 artists to make SCHMUCK and each collaboration was different. It always started with me writing a script, which I’d write as clearly as possible, but I also write sparely, so the artist has plenty of room to inject himself. I’m not Alan Moore where I might spend several paragraphs describing the items sitting on a table. I’ll only give specific descriptions if something is vital to the story. Because the book is so NYC-centric, I did occasionally provide reference photos for specific locations.
Many of the artists would show me layouts, which I encouraged so that we might edit together. Others simply sent me the final art. It varied greatly. I did the lettering on a few of them, I colored or toned a bunch for the book and I even did the layouts on one. I learned so much. It was truly comics school for me.
Some of the more experienced, master cartoonists / storytellers like Nick Bertozzi and Josh Neufeld send me notes on my script on how to make the story stronger, before they started drawing. Those guys gave me quite an education.
Some of the artists used SCHMUCK as an opportunity to try out a new artistic style, as Leland Purvis had. Leland drew the adaptation of the real-life story of how I met my wife, and the new painterly style he employed was sheer perfection.
WTN: For those that have followed your stuff on tripcity, what new things can they expect from this collection?
SK: I like to say SCHMUCK was beta tested on TripCity.net. The comics ran individually as bit-sized “schmucky shorts”, mostly in black & white. The book will feature re-mastered versions of the comics, many of which have been colored or toned and re-edited into a linear narrative to give readers the whole schmucky story in one place. Additionally, the book will feature stories that have not appeared online. The artists for these print exclusive tales are: Dean Haspiel, Josh Neufeld, Gregory Benton, Tony Salmons, James Smith and Tim Ogline. They’re some of the strongest stories, (and the schmuckiest) in my opinion.
The book itself will be a beautiful package. It’s being designed by Eric Skillman, who does all the stunning Criterion Collection DVD packages. He also designed my book, Leaping Tall Buildings and he won an Eisner for designing Tales of Sand. He’s already conceived of an excellent cover for SCHMUCK, with art by Joseph Remnant, who drew Harvey Pekar’s Cleveland.
WTN: How has the whole Kickstarter experience been so far?
Thus far, the Kickstarter experience has been exhilarating and anxiety inducing! It feels just great to have the support of my friends, family, followers and strangers, but I’m very nervous I won’t make my goal. Part of me fears I’m trying to fly to close to the sun, but I’m choosing to have faith that it’ll all work out. Fingers crossed!
WTN: What tips do you have for aspiring writers?
SK: I think the best way to learn to write is to actually write and to read. Also, watch great films and TV shows and pay attention to how they deal with story and narrative. The writing on shows like Breaking Bad and True Detective is among the best you’re going to find, so watch and listen closely.
WTN: Are you attending cons to try and promote, or what other methods of spreading the word about Schmuck?
SK: I’ll be at MoCCA Fest, Asbury Park Comic Con, New York Comic Fest, SPX and probably some others. I think going to cons and sitting at a table is important to getting your name and work out there. It’s showing up. One of my favorite quotes is by Woody Allen who said, “80% of success is showing up.” I couldn’t agree more.
As for promoting SCHMUCK, I’m working the social media venues as hard as I can. I’m doing interviews like this one (thanks for featuring me!) and talking peoples ears off. If you aren’t nearly sick of hearing the word “SCHMUCK”, then I’m probably not working hard enough!