'Sweets,' 'Punks,' And the Future With Kody Chamberlain

Comic writer and artist Kody Chamberlain's acclaimed crime comic Sweets has just wrapped up and he's jumping feet-first into the launch of his next project, the creative 180, Punks, which will be serialized here on MTV Geek during the summer.

Published through Image, Sweets saw the collision of a troubled cop with a psychotic serial killer just as Hurricane Katrina was about to assault New Orleans. On the other side of the coin, there's Punks, whose script by Joshua Hale Fialkov and design by Chamberlain could best be described as a sitcom thrown into a blender the the screaming fits of the birth of 1970's-era punk rock.

So of course we wanted to know more about both it and Sweets.

MTV Geek: To what degree is the final outcome of Sweets been the one that started out in your head?

Kody Chamberlain: I write in full script format, and all five issues were written before anything was drawn. So I'd say the book is about 90% of what I planned it to be. Along the way, ideas come and go, and things evolve during the creative process, so it never ends up exactly where you thought it'd be. Sometimes it's better, sometimes not, but overall, I think Sweets ended up better than I expected.

Geek: What kind of plans are there at this point for the trade?

KC: The collected edition of Sweets is in this current edition of Previews and can be pre-ordered from any good comic shop. It's set to hit the shelf in early August.

Geek: Do you plan to revisit the world and characters of the story in the future?

KC: There are a few other stories I could tell, but for now Sweets is all wrapped up. In a few years I may revisit some of the characters, but the story in Sweets wrapped up pretty well.

Geek: Tell us a little about the basic concept behind your latest project, Punks.

KC: The early concept for Punks was to try and do a punk rock comic in the style of punk rock flyers. It's changed a little as the characters evolved, and it's been a whole lot of fun to watch this thing grow into what it's become.

Geek: How did you and Joshua Hale Fialkov connect for this project? What made this the next project you had to do?

KC: I had an initial idea for the four Punks characters back in college and I really wanted to do it in the photo collage style of punk rock flyers. The idea sat around for a while and nothing ever came of it. I just had no idea what to do with it, I just had a visual aesthetic and a few character designs.

I told Josh about it at a convention and he mentioned a story he was already working on a story about a punk rock band trying to make it in the music business. It seemed like a natural fit, so when I got home, I sent him the artwork of the four characters that would eventually become the original cover of issue one. We got on the phone to discuss the project and Josh thought these two different ideas had a lot in common, but they didn't gel properly. So we brainstormed the tone and the concept for a bit, and then Josh went off and wrote the first issue of Punks in one sitting. The story he sent me was hysterical, he really brought these characters to life in an amazing way. It was an amazing read, I was laughing out loud at the whole thing.

Geek: What were some of the influences for you? I’m seeing a bit of The Young Ones in Punks.

KC: I was aware of The Young Ones, I had seen a bunch of episodes in the 80's, but that really wasn't a direct influence on the Punks style or character designs. My background is in graphic design, so the Punks style evolved from doing many flyers for friends in rock bands by using a cheap photocopier and found images, and experimenting on my own with personal illustration projects for class and work.

I was a fan of the visual tone of punk rock album art and flyer design, as well as Art Chantry and the work he was doing. I tried to create four characters that would fit into the world of punk, but I tried to avoid any direct sampling of popular punk personalities. The Young Ones is certainly one of many influences on the type of stories we're telling and the tone, but it wasn't a factor in the initial design of the characters.

Geek: Could you tell us a little about the visual style you employed for the book and why?

KC: The style is actually a byproduct of the art process. Everyone assumes the artwork in Punks is digital, but the artwork is actually done analog using photographs I shoot with my own camera that get printed out on my inkjet. Then I photocopy those on my old black and white copier. Those copies get cut out into different parts with a sharp X-acto blade and they're rearranged on my desk. They get crumpled, torn, stapled, etc. I then tape and glue everything together on an 11" x 17" sheet of paper to form the finished black and white comic pages. I scan that in, and then color digitally with Photoshop, and do the lettering at the very end of the process.

So the artwork in Punks is done with actual paste-up, the same way the punk flyers were done at the peak of the movement.

Geek: Were there any particular punk acts you were into?

KC: I do love punk music, and I had a few favorite cassette tapes back in the day. Black Flag, Sex Pistols, some of the Ramones stuff, and The Clash. Although I get asked about it a lot because of the book, I'm certainly no expert on punk music and I don't pretend to me, but for me, it was a very interesting mix of music, attitude, and visuals. More than anything, I love the synergy of that movement, it hit all the senses. That's what made it exciting, and I think that's why it remains interesting today.

Geek: How did you guys bring this project to MTV Geek?

KC: Tom Akel approached us several years ago about Punks when we released that first issue. He connected with the material and he saw the potential in it. It was obvious he was a fan of the material from the start and he really "got it," which was important to us. We tried to do collaborate with Tom on Punks a few times in different ways, but ran into scheduling problems, budgeting problems, or a combination of both. Eventually, Tom tracked us down at Comic-Con and told us about the MTV Geek project and it seemed like a perfect fit for Punks. Punks has always been a small, personal project for me and Josh, but this was an opportunity to show it to a much bigger audience. It was a no-brainer.

Geek: What else do you have coming up next?

KC: I'm currently writing two different scripts, and I'll be drawing one and collaborating with a different artist on the other. Neither of them have a title yet, but one is a crime drama and the other is an adventure story. Hopefully I'll be ready to announce the first of the two this summer during convention season. But for those interested in keeping up with the process, I do regular project updates on Twitter and Facebook.

The Sweets will be on sale in August and Punks will be coming to MTV Geek this summer.

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