The Power of Graphic Storytelling: An Interview with Lovern Kindzierski


L Kindzierski pic2By Adam Petrash

Lovern Kindzierski is a writer, artist, colourist, and creator of comics based in Winnipeg. He’s worked for some of comics’ biggest publishers (DC, Dark Horse and Marvel) on some of their most successful titles, and he has been recognized as one of the most influential colourists in the history of the industry.

Kindzierski and I connected recently to talk about his journey so far, the importance of comics, his comic book trilogy, SHAME, and what’s next for the man with many hats.

What can you tell our readers about yourself that they wouldn’t get from your author’s bio?

I don’t think it spells out how much I fret over artistic decisions. I would be a lot faster if I didn’t think so much.

People always seem to ask who a person’s influences are, but they rarely ask why. That said, who are yours and why?

I have many influences – too many to list here. I like certain things about an artist’s work and those things form a patchwork quilt of influence over what I do. Some favourite writers are Michael Moorcock, James Lee Burke, Neil Gaiman and Clive Barker. They all bring me to a different reality and the way they write me there is embedded in my brain so I try to forget their influence and then try to be original.

What ultimately made you decide to pursue a career in comics?

My father’s influence, my love of representational art, and opportunity.

You’ve done great work on some of Marvel’s best known series (Hulk, Spider-Man, Thor, Wolverine, X-Men) and were nominated for some top awards because of it, too. What did you take away from those experiences?

The big thing I took away from those jobs was satisfying a fan boy dream to work on my childhood heroes. The other was the gratification of getting the approval of my peers and some of my idols.

Was it and/or did it ever become creatively unfulfilling working for Marvel? If so, why?

I have always enjoyed working for Marvel. After all, the talent at any of the publishers is more than enough to fulfill many of my creative impulses.

When it comes to the literary world do you think comics are, for lack of a better word, underrepresented?

No, not any more, and their forays into literature grow deeper every day.

Going with that, what role do you think comics play in the literary community? How have comics become an important medium?

They are important because they are a different medium. Literature can explore stories now in a way that only the comic medium could allow. It’s another arrow for the writer’s quiver.

In years past comics were mainly (if only) associated with kids. This is obviously not the case now because adults are reading comics now more than ever (with many comics now being written for adults). Do you think the shift in audience was inevitable? Did all the kids grow up? Or do you think comics have the ability to draw in adults new to the world of comics too?

I think for a small while the popular media thought that comics were for kids and that time has passed. More and more people are becoming aware of the power of graphic storytelling, bringing in more readers of the medium every day. More people are aware of the works of Frans Masereel and Lynd Ward (both artists known for their wordless novels on woodcuts) and the history of the medium.

With having the successful career you’ve had (and continue to have) how do you continue to set challenges for yourself as an artist?

I have had the great good luck of finding many like-minded and wonderfully talented people to collaborate with. These artists, writers, editors and art directors are just as excited as I am to try a different take or an innovative approach that will push the boundaries of what we’ve done before.

For those out there that may be unfamiliar with your comic SHAME what can you tell our readers about it? What’s the story?

Images from Shame 2b

Images from Lovern Kindzierski’s Shame, art by John Bolton

Shame is a trilogy about a woman called Shame and how she came into the world. It is an allegorical tale of how Virtue, a powerful good witch, makes a selfish wish and falls victim to Slur, the demon of Ignorance. Slur uses Virtue to bring his child into our plane of existence to further his power over us. There are some unusual births, some revenge, some Infernal deals and much wailing and gnashing of teeth. I like to tell the women I meet at conventions that I have written it for them, meaning women in general, but it does encourage many of them to give the book a look over.

You said in a previous interview that SHAME was originally a story first and that you mulled over which medium you thought best to tell it through. Why did you ultimately decide on a comic?

Back when the story first came to me I saw it as a novel. After thinking about it and discussing it with friends I realized it could be a graphic novel or a film. I talked to a Hollywood producer and he loved the idea, but said it would be much better as an HBO series. We went a little way in that direction, but I found what we ended up with was no longer the original story. After that I decided I wanted to do the original story and found the best damn artist in the world for it! (British comic book artist John Bolton.)

You’ve said previously that the idea of SHAME goes decades back but never came to fruition until recent years. This is proof that your belief in this project has never wavered. Why is SHAME this important to you?

All of my stories are important to me. I have many other orphan stories that I hunt down places to settle. Or at least I am always looking for opportunities to have them published. Someone once told me that as a writer 90% of what I did would never see the light of day. It doesn’t mean that I won’t try and get them all out there.

What is it like to be the author of SHAME rather than the artist? Have you always been a writer, too?

In my teens I thought I would be writing and drawing my own stories. As I got older I learned that I would have to work with others and my first break in the business was to be the studio assistant to penciller, inker and colourist George Freeman. I helped out with whatever George needed help on. I did a little inking, mostly filling in blacks and whiting out. I didn’t get to write anything, until I started the comic book colouring and inking studio, Digital Chameleon.

Do you feel being an experienced artist and writing SHAME gave you an advantage over, say, someone who is only a writer?  If so, how?

I don’t think it has. What you need is the ability to visualize the story to see the page as it will be drawn or painted. My experience in the comics has helped in finding an artist and publisher, but hasn’t made much difference in writing the script. Though, if I was doing my own artwork it would be another thing altogether.

Did you write SHAME with the intention of it being only a trilogy? That said, do you think that some comics out there should’ve been shorter runs than they are? Why?

The story of Shame originally started out as the first book of what is now the trilogy and soon to be first of several trilogies. I don’t think that any comics out there should have been cut before they finished their runs. I think that there are some that should have been allowed to run a bit longer as they were on the verge of finding an audience when they were cut.

Finally, what else are you currently working on? What can our readers expect to see from you next?

Oh dear. Well I am writing a new series called Necromantic that Dave Ross will be drawing. I am also writing a graphic novel called Underworld and Greg [GMB] Chomichuk is the artist on that one. With my other hat on, I am finishing the last of the colour on the adaption of Neil Gaiman’s Graveyard Book. Renegade Arts Entertainment will be publishing Underworld and Necromantic, while HarperCollins with be publishing the Graveyard Book.

Underworld is a story about a man in Winnipeg lost downtown believing he is Odysseus in the Land of the Dead. Necromantic is an action adventure story with spies and soldiers and romance, and a new kind of undead.

And then shortly after that I will have all of John Bolton’s gloriously painted pages of the last book in the first Shame trilogy to script!

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Adam Petrash

Adam Petrash is a writer and journalist who was born on the frozen tundra we call the Canadian prairies. He lives in Winnipeg with his partner and two sons.