Ales Kot Interview: Talking Change, Zero, and Image Comics!

Ales Kot, the writer of Change, Zero, and Wild Children for Image Comics, and Suicide Squad for DC Comics, chats with us about just what goes into making such a diverse, intense group of comics!

Ales Kot is one of the most original and innovative voices to hit the comics scene in quite a while. His recent work on Suicide Squad for DC has breathed fresh life into the title and his book, Wild Children from Image, garnered critical acclaim despite tackling some controversial topics. Now, Ales Kot sits down and discusses two other Image projects, Change (with artist Morgan Jeske and colorist Sloane Leong) and the upcoming series Zero with art by art Michael Walsh and Jordie Bellaire. So take it away Ales!Here’s the solicitation copy for Change (the trade paperback hits shops on June 26): “Dear Los Angeles: meet apocalypse. You have one day left. Unless, of course, someone decides to save you. Possible saviors include: a foul-mouthed struggling screenwriter who moonlights as a car thief, an obscenely wealthy rapper, a dying cosmonaut on his way back to Earth and one very deranged little boy. Good luck.”

 

 

 

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 Den of Geek: How did you initially hook up with Image?Ales Kot: I met Eric Stephenson, the publisher of Image Comics, in March 2011 in Seattle after a mutual acquaintance – another writer, Joe Keatinge – enthusiastically commented on some of my pitches and found out I was looking for a publisher. Eric and I had a conversation, I showed him the work, and he greenlit two of my comics based on that.DoG: Can you describe the collaborative process within Image, are you on your own to do your thing or are they part of the creative process?AK: I am on my own unless I choose to discuss something.DoG: Starting with Change, can you tell us about the genesis on the book?AK: I was at a point where I was dissatisfied with my personal life and I wanted to consciously create a story that would interact not only with itself, but also with the reality of the outside world. What started as “Last Boy Scout meets the Fifth Element meets H.P. Lovecraft” turned into something different rather quickly.DoG: How did you hook up with Morgan Jeske?AK: Morgan and I liked each others’ work and eventually decided to collaborate; this stemmed organically from our friendship, which deepened by the act of working together.DoG: Upon first opening Change, the colors absolutely hook you. Can you describe your collaboration with Sloane Leong?AK: I am glad to hear that. The collaboration with Sloane was very open and simple; I described what I was imagining, Morgan described what he was imagining, Sloane described what she was imagining. We found a road where our approaches merged and let Sloane travel it on her own, later giving notes on colors when needed, which was almost never.DoG: Can you give us the elevator pitch for Change?AK: Los Angeles is going to die in two days and the only people who can save it are a screenwriter turned car thief, a rapper turned producer, an astronaut on his way back from one of Jupiter’s moons, and a little boy hidden inside a bigger boy. Change is a speculative fiction horror thriller imbued with a healthy dose of absurdism and surrealism. It’s a rather simple story that becomes more complex as it moves closer to the annihilation of Los Angeles. It’s the best story I have written so far.DoG: The cast is incredibly diverse; can you describe the character of W-2 and why you decided to make a rapper one of your protagonists?AK: W-2 is a very successful, intelligent rapper attempting to become a big-time movie producer. He’s also dealing with his own psycho-spiritual crisis. I decided to make him one of the protagonists because he showed himself to me and including him felt right.DoG: How does the theme of change fit into your narrative?AK: Apocalypse is change. Apocalypse means uncovering; lifting of a veil, disclosure of knowledge. Apocalypse as a personal event. Change as a personal event. And…as a global event as well, because we are connecting  apocalypse with Los Angeles. DoG: Can you describe Sonia to the uninitiated?AK: Sonia is a young aggressive screenwriter who moonlights as a car thief. DoG: Both Sonia and W-2 are creative people, how does the creative impulse fit into your story?AK: Destruction and creation are two sides of the same coin. Employing our creativity can turn shit into flowers. DoG: Can you briefly describe the place of your cosmonaut in the story?AK: The cosmonaut is a separation; to say more than that would be to spoil the mystery of him.DoG: The threat of the book is very Lovecraftian, can you describe you creative relationship with the works of Lovecraft?AK: H.P. Lovecraft is a master of horror — human and inhuman. His work is a source of unending inspiration to me. What are the forces in his work? Are the Cthulhu what we are going to evolve into? These questions excite me. I also like to explore Lovecraft’s work so I can understand the way he builds dread, and sometimes just to psychoanalyze him.
  Zero is scheduled for a September 2013 release, and tells the story of Edward Zero, described as “perfect execution machine – a spy who breaks the rules to get things done. When a stolen device appears in the center of a long-running conflict, Zero comes to retrieve it. The problem is, the device is inside a living, breathing, bio-modified terrorist and there’s an entire army after it.”DoG: Judging from the solicitations and some of your other interviews, Edward Zero sounds like a guy who isn’t afraid of a little blood, how do you get into the head of a man like that?AK: I have a rather aggressive streak that stems from my genetics and very likely also from being bullied in school. Being aware of it, I can manipulate and control it by meditation, working out, running, practicing sports, martial arts, fucking, and simply by using it as a fuel for creativity. I wondered what would happen to a person who would live, from an early age, in an environment that would be interested in nurturing and using that aggressive force for its own reasons. Zero was born. So what I do when I write Zero is this: I look out of the window and into the mirror. Then I sit down and bleed on the keyboard.DoG: What themes will you be exploring in Zero?AK: Zero is my observation and investigation of the war meme. It’s a meditation on genetics, on nature, on nurture. It uses the existing storytelling tropes of spy stories, action thrillers and speculative fiction to explore new possibilities within them.DoG: Describe your collaboration with Michael Walsh and Jordie Bellaire, how much influence do their styles have on your scripts?AKZero is an ongoing container series; this means each issue stands on its own, each issue one mission of Edward Zero, each issue drawn by a different artist. All issues also come together as one big story that takes us from 2018 to 2038.Michael Walsh draws #1; his style is visceral noir, controlled and creative. Mateus Santolouco draws #2, set in Shanghai; his work is lush, flamboyant in its line and inks, and therefore very appropriate for depicting what is essentially a Kickstarter party for terrorists that Zero crashes in disguise. Morgan Jeske, my collaborator on “Change”, draws #3, set in Rio, Tradd Moore draws #4, set in Belfast, and so on.With Michael Walsh specifically, the collaboration is very organic – I describe what happens on each page and put dialogue in before he starts drawing, sometimes I call a certain angle for a shot, but usually I leave him much more space to invent. Relationships thrive through open discussion and I always aim for that kind of collaboration.DoG: If you had to cast a Change or Zero film, who would you pick to fill each role?AK: I had a conversation with Morgan Jeske, my collaborator on Change, and he said that Hugh Dancy (Will Graham in Hannibal) would be perfect as Doublehead. I agreed and also suggested Robin Williams as Fissure. RZA could pull off a great W-2 and Mia Wasikowska would be a swell Sonia. As for Zero: Michael Cera.DoG: What creative itch did each project scratch?AKWild Children was a primal scream; Change was facing the person in the mirror and talking to it, working things out; Zero is a much wider exploration and I am just at the beginning of it.Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for all news updates related to the world of geek. And Google+, if that’s your thing!