The last time we spoke to Kyle Starks, he was burning it up on Rick and Morty with some of the most hilarious stories that series has had yet. Then we heard a new original ongoing was in the works and started to get hot flashes for how good Sexcastle was and we just had to talk to him. Below is a transcript of our conversation, which ranges in topics from Rock Candy Mountain (look for it April 5th with a March 13 FOC) to Rick and Morty and a whole lot more!
AiPT!: What’s your favorite thing about writing comics?
Kyle Starks: Man, that’s a great question. I think, in terms of process, my favorite thing about making comics is creating worlds to live in and characters to see those worlds with. I mean, it’s probably really pompous but I think of myself as a storyteller and I love it. I love creating yarns, I love seeing where these are going to go and what they’re going to do. In a broader response, my favorite thing about making comics is connecting with the readers, to make them laugh, make them smile, to make them feel something. I like delivering fun.
AiPT!: Your next book, Rock Candy Mountain, is about the world’s toughest hobo who gets into, as the synopsis puts it, “Lots of hobo fights.” What do you have against hobos?
Starks: I got nothing against hobos – I love the hobo culture. It’s more like what do these hobos have against each other and it’s a myriad of things. Jackson (the aforementioned world’s toughest hobo) is on an epic journey and all epic journeys are ripe with conflict and obstacles. And look in our real-life day to days – maybe an awesome right hook or side kick isn’t the way to resolve conflicts, but on the rails? On the rails, sometimes you have to bring the punch heat.
AiPT!: What goes into choreographing a fight scene? Do you act it out or go through storyboards?
Starks: I sort of just work out the environment and then try to imagine the sequences. It’s the same as writing – just tell the story over and over. Try to figure out interesting bits, tie them together.
AiPT!: Have you seen the greatest hobo movie ever (and one of my favorite films in general) Sullivan’s Travels?
Starks: Uh, NO. And I’ve done a ton of hobo research – this is the first I’m even HEARING of it. I would’ve said the “greatest hobo movie” was The Emperor of the North – which was based on the writings of super famous hobo king A-No.-1 and him meeting Jack London on the rails. Starring
Ernest Borgnine as a hard-as-nails railroad bull and Lee Marvin as the titular hobo king. Seriously going to check this out ASAP.
AiPT!: Why did you choose post-World War II America as the setting? My guess is there’s more hobos to punch.
Starks: Probably the Great Depression is really the Golden Age of Hobo Punching but the war plays into the story, and I think, personally, post WW2 America is something I can more clearly sort of envision than the America before then. A lot changed culturally, socially even technologically.
AiPT!: In a way, this sounds like a sequel or follow up to Sexcastle seeing as fighting and comedy are major elements of both series. Are these two series connected at all?
Starks: They aren’t directly connected but this is an oeuvre I really like working in. I like a great action sequence, I like a good joke – I like, though, on top of that to have stories that explore something a bit more sincere than they appear on the surface. Sexcastle is really as much about parental responsibility and personal choices as it is about nunchucks and kicking. Rock Candy Mountain I hope has that heart too.
AiPT!: What was your first job or worst job before getting into the comic book business?
Starks: I’ve been really fortunate in my life that I haven’t ever had a REALLY bad job. I worked in a call center for 5 years for a really, really, really bad bank and that was rough but I was also drinking a ton back then so really everything was enough of a blur. My first job was in a combination comic book, baseball card, used book, used music, movie rental, some porn spot. It was, as you can imagine, a very strong influence on me.
AiPT!: What is the process like working with colorist Chris Schweizer on Rock Candy Mountain?
Starks: I don’t think without Chris this book would be as good as it is. I think he’s maybe America’s Best Living Cartoonist or at least very worth including in that conversation. He makes perfect decisions for this book, he makes it better with every thing he does. I’m super lucky to have such a good comic creator partner and friend. The same is true for Dylan Todd who does the design stuff – these guys are WAY better at this stuff than me and they always make the best decisions. It’s awesome.
AiPT!: Could you see Rock Candy Mountain or Sexcastle as TV shows or movies?
Starks: Well, Sexcastle was optioned for a motion picture by The Workaholics and the Russos so I can definitely see that as a film. I could see Rock Candy Mountain too – I like to think that my stories are very cinematic and I don’t mean intended for another media – just a linear narrative with a good amount of things that would be entertaining.
AiPT!: Last we spoke you were writing Rick and Morty through #25 (which you’ll be illustrating I hear). How much longer can we expect you on that title?
Starks: I’ve written up to #29 – I’m drawing two books in that period. I plan to do it until they ask me to stop or I feel like I can’t meet the quality that the license demands. I really like the Rick and Morty franchise and think it’s honor to be involved.
AiPT!: Is there a part of the comic creating process you love the best? And a part you don’t like?
Starks: I think my favorite part is after I’ve laid everything out and I start really putting it all together. Where I’m just crushing panels for hours at a time. That’s the best because it’s so zen and when the moment is over you have all this stuff. I think that’s maybe the best. OR maybe those days where I’m just building the stories in my head. Walking around telling myself stories over and over – that’s pretty great too.
With this book there’s no part I don’t like. Everyone I’m dealing with are great and professional. Everyone is working to make the book awesome. I think that’s a really unique situation in any industry and I’m completely grateful for it.
AiPT!: In the perfect world, how long does the Rock Candy Mountain series run?
Starks: That’s tough to say. The cutesy answer is forever, but realistically, I want it to run as long as I have stories to tell in that world. So, forever.
AiPT!: Given the title, I must ask: What is your favorite candy?
Starks: Oh man, I’m diabetic! No candy for me! The irony!