Kevin Conran, Sky Captain and the Art of Tomorrow

In this episode we hear from Kevin Conran; Art Director and Co-Creator of the amazing film ‘Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow’ and author of ‘Sky Captain and the Art of Tomorrow’.

He talks with us about the process of bringing the film to life; from the project’s humble beginnings of two brothers, a low powered Mac and a small room to the amazing cult classic we know it as today. We get a peek behind the scenes as we go through the evolution of the film and learn what could have been, with the extended universe the brothers had in mind.
We also have a dive into Kevin’s Geek background, where his early influences were and how he grew up in a nurturing, creative environment.
Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow is available to rent or buy in HD from Amazon Prime.
Sky Captain and the Art of Tomorrow is available from all good book stores, some of which are linked below.
Amazon (US): http://amzn.to/3gwoFtD
Amazon (UK): https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/1524107476
Forbidden Planet (UK): https://forbiddenplanet.com/320451-the-art-of-sky-captain-world-of-tomorrow-hardcover/
Midtown Comics (US): https://www.midtowncomics.com/product/1991608

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Transcript

Kevin Conran:
Hi, my name is Kevin Conran, and along with my brother Kerry, we made a film called Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow.
It was the first film of its kind, fully shot against a blue screen, and it paved the way for everything that came afterwards, up to and including the Marvel films that we’re all enjoying today. Beyond that, I’ve worked for just about every studio in town. All of the best here and there; DreamWorks, Sony and Paramount. And so that’s currently what I’m doing. I’m working on some animated projects in Canada and trying to keep myself busy in between those with my own stuff.

Paul:
Must have been a tough couple of years for you with projects sort of being delayed and not knowing what’s going on.

Kevin:
Yeah, it was really well, I mean, I hate to complain about it because everybody was sort of in a similar pickle. We were all; nobody knew what was going on. But when I did get back on projects that were finally given, animation was one of the first things back up to speed because you didn’t have to go out to a location and get permits and have new people. We could literally start work from our own homes over the Internet and Zoom, and we can still do what we need to do. So in a way, I felt very fortunate that I was one of the people in entertainment who got to keep working. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t without its challenges. It’s very hard to run an art Department when you’re not in the room with the artists and you’re trying to navigate over three different time zones and still have deadlines. But we figured it out.

Paul:
I was having a look at the sort of work that you’ve done. You’ve done quite a wide range. Probably the most memorable one for people would be Sky Captain. Just how much it did change things. Did you have any idea at the time what you were getting yourself into?

Kevin:
Well, with regard to what I was getting myself into, no. because it’s just my brother and I with one antique Macintosh in his one-bedroom apartment, and we just stretched a blue screen across one empty wall and started shooting our friends. And it just sort of went from there. And next thing you know, we’ve been into it for seven or eight years before we ever pitched it to anybody. But I think once we were funded and once we were in a building working with other industry people and actually making a movie, yeah, I actually think we did know what the promise was of what we were doing and what it could mean to filmmaking.
The thing that surprised both of us and continues to surprise me to this day, I write about a little bit in the book is that we thought there’d be a Legion of people right behind us doing the same thing. In short, and I’ll credit to my brother, his idea was to make a big movie for no money like we were just two guys that had a certain amount of ability in some areas. What could we do with our limited resources and skillsets? Right. I’m an illustrator by trade, and I’ve always designed and drawn for all kinds of people, so I could do that. And Kerry is one of the most clever, talented people I’ve ever known. But he’s not a modeller, he’s not an animator, and neither am i. So we had to figure out a way around that stuff. But we let our limitations become our strengths, and I think that’s the key to moving anything forward. But anyway, I’m getting off track. But what I wanted to say was what we did was we finally got a little film together, a little short, took it into this producer, and he went forward immediately. He said, what do you guys want? And we said, we want $3 million for the whole budget. That’s what we’re going to do that movie for.
And we could have if it didn’t have A list actors and all the other stuff we see, too. But we were fairly certain that once people saw what we were doing there they’d go, hey, I got a great, big, huge idea that would normally cost $200 million, and now I can do it that way, too. But none of that happened. There still hasn’t been a film that was as ambitious as Sky Captain was for that kind of a budget, using that kind of limited focus. And what they did is they took those same approaches and they applied in two big-budget movies. They began to use them more and more. Everything that you see out there now.
And yeah, there still hasn’t been an army of eager 20 something filmmakers coming out and doing something like we did for $5 million. And it surprised me. I thought it would be inevitable. Now, I don’t know that it will happen because the whole film industry has changed so much. And if you’re not an existing IP or a comic book franchise or a sequel, it’s really hard to get a movie made and much less distributed through the traditional channels.

Paul:
Yeah, because that’s interesting because people say that with technology the way it is now, the Internet the way it is now, but it’s never been easier, is it not quite as true as people would suggest?

Kevin:
I think it depends on what your ultimate goals are. To be honest, Kerry and I never anticipated in a million years that we would get people like we did and Paramount would release it around the planet. We’d be flying to London and all this stuff. We just wanted to make a little quirky black and white movie that maybe we could get into Sundance or someplace like that. That was as ambitious as our dreams allowed us at the time. So, yeah, I feel like in some ways it is easier, You can make your stuff and you can get that. There’s nothing preventing you from posting something to YouTube or anywhere else, right. So in that way, sure. We’ve got tools and technology now that allow you to create and make stuff, and you can even get it out into the world to a limited extent.
But it’s all about distribution, and that’s where the Studios still hold sway. You still want to get it out there to a mass market. You want to get into a couple of thousand theaters, on Netflix, those avenues. There was a brief window, I think, when ambitious young filmmakers had an opportunity that is now being gobbled up by the traditional guys. It’s tough again.
I think what I would just tell young creators is to, or old ones, too maybe, who wants to do anything, just do it, just make it. Because that’s where most people stop. You can’t really worry about distribution and all that other stuff. You got to have the thing first. So make the thing. And as long as you can find enjoyment in yourself, you’re still excited about it. You look forward to working on it every day. It has value to you. You think there’s something there. As long as you believe that and are inspired by it, you have to keep doing it. And if it is any good, somebody will find it. It doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to be in a zillion theatres across the globe, but you’ll find your audience, I think, and there are plenty of people doing that and having great success at it.
So, yeah, I think your likelihood of hitting a huge out of the park home run for a half-billion dollar box office is probably not that great, but I don’t think that matters to artists, really?

Paul:
No. The love of what you’re doing I think comes most. What were you doing at the time? Because you started this project, as you say, you didn’t have the ambition to get it where it was. Obviously that would always be great, but it’s not what you’re thinking about at the time. So what were you both doing at the time?

Kevin:
During the day, I was a freelance illustrator. I was a young married guy with a couple of little tiny kids and I had a studio at the back behind our house. And I worked primarily doing advertising illustrations. I painted beer bottles and Coca Cola bottles and ads for this and the other thing. And I’m a huge sports guy, so I did a lot of interesting jobs in that regard. I worked for Major League Baseball and National Basketball Association, NFL. I did a lot of sports-related content, which was a lot of fun. So I was very happy being an illustrator and doing that.
My brother, he went to film school, and all he wanted to do was make a movie. And he was a little less of a defined lifestyle than mine, let’s say that. He was doing this job and that job and freelancing himself in the early days of digital publishing and stuff. So he was setting up magazines and templates for people. Anything he could do to keep his autonomy so he could be a freelancer and have time to put into this crazy project of ours. Yeah, that’s what we were doing. And honestly, we worked on it constantly. I had to do my paying jobs and deal with my family and stuff. But every spare minute we had, we were either together or on the phone or talking about what comes next. And we just kept going. Kerry had an apartment over in Sherman Oaks, and he had this; I don’t remember what the version of the Mac was. It was an early Mac. It would take us let’s put it this way. The Holy grail that everybody’s been chasing for ages is now out there; real-time rendering with these game engines and stuff, right, Which is beginning to be used for film work for us. We weren’t shooting film. We were making shots that we would string together. So we put a shot together and then kick it off to render. In those days, it would take 24 hours or longer for a single shot to render. So you can see why this took us seven years and we’ve been insane, really looking back, but frequently, regularly, you send a shot up to render. It would come up the next day and be like, oh, my God, that looks like ass. We got to restart. That’s just not what we wanted. That’s terrible. And you just Chuck it and start again in another 24 hours. So, yeah, that’s what we were doing.

Paul:
You managed to get; because I was reading some of the story earlier. A producer came on board, helped you sort of get to the next step. I was curious how it was for you because this must be something that people think about. You were an illustrator who was doing a passion project, and all of a sudden you’ve got this giant baby on your hands, and it’s almost like you’ve gone from this passion project to this whole machine where everyone has an expectation of what everyone’s role is. How is it from you going almost from hobby to professional, taking that jump and people looking at you saying, this is what we expect of you?

Kevin:
That’s a great question. Without trying to sound immodest, I didn’t worry about it at all. I felt fully prepared. I don’t know why it was well, actually, I do. I’ve said it many times over the years. A certain amount of naivete was great for both of my brother and I. We didn’t really know what we were getting into, and neither did anybody else. That was our saving Grace. It’s like we were doing something really new so we couldn’t be questioned about it in a way like people didn’t get in our drills about it. They just kind of let us do our thing. And fortunately for the first year, year and a half, we were in production. It took about two and a half years in total. To me, that way, again, very much like an animation schedule, animated feature kind of a thing. But first year, year and a half, we were on our own. We were in this little crappy building over by the Vanua’s Airport and roughly 100 of us and really the only people okaying things or passing them on as approved was my brother and I, that was it. So we just went with our gut and did our thing. And then it got a little more complicated once Paramount came around and our producer moved into the building and this and that, but we were so far downstream at that point, they sort of had to continue to trust us. And honestly, as far as working with other artists and their expectations of me, that’s one of the things I’m most proud of the whole experience, to be honest. Most of these guys I worked with have gone on to continue to have excellent careers in the business. Several of them work in Disney and have big roles over there now. And almost to a person, they’ll tell you that our little experimental film was the best experience of their careers because Kerry and I were good to people we weren’t jerks to work with. We valued them as artists. And I think that’s why it works, because as much as it was very personal and I was really the only person in concept art, which is unheard of, they trusted us. And it was because I always allowed the better decision to win if somebody came up with a better idea than the thing I presented. And that happened regularly, I could give you a laundry list of times when Michael Seanfoly or Zach Petroch or Steve Laws or dozens of guys, Yamamoto, all these people who are really in the weeds working on the specifics. And I’m trying to keep the bigger world in focus, right? They come back and say, hey, this is a cool thing, but I think I have a different approach. What do you think? Show me. And you know, and it would be like, Dang, that’s a really good idea. I should have thought of that. Yeah. Do that. Your idea is better. We’ll use that and you get a long way treating people nice. They will work like dogs for you. And everybody felt a certain amount of ownership over that film creatively. So we just had a great time. It was a wonderful crew and everybody worked so hard and got along so well that it kind of ruins the rest of my career in a way, because I don’t think I’ll ever be in an environment like that.
I don’t know. I don’t even know what the word is. Just supportive, I guess, and enthusiastic. And we had all these young people because we had no budget and no money. Even when we were funded, it was a $17 million movie. So We got a lot of people who it was their first film or their second film or they’re just begging to get a toll in the industry and nobody was really getting paid. And man, those guys were like animals. Probably most of them didn’t have families at that time. They’re just young, single people. They’d work till 11/12 o’clock at night and be back in at 08:00 the next morning every day. We were having fun too. Kerry and I could never thank these people enough. I mean, I still see a few of them a little bit, but everybody’s kind of gone their separate ways. We trip over each other once in a while and I always tell them how appreciative we are of what they did for us, because we really were. That’s why when I read things and have read things over the years that this movie costs $90 million and that kind of stuff, which is all nonsense, I mean, think about it. We were two completely unknown guys who were doing an experimental method of filmmaking, who would give $90 million to guys like that. Nobody did and nobody will, insanity,

Paul:
but then even saying that, just thinking about it. If someone turned around to me tomorrow and said, right, you’ve got $17 million to do something with your passion project, I think I would just sit there and go, my brain cant even comprehend that.

Kevin:
I don’t think I don’t think we ever looked at it like that, honestly, because we were so because you got to remember at this point when we were finally funded, we’ve been working on it for seven years or something a long time. And I think that’s part of why I ended up being the only artist on this thing. Not Just because I’m an egomaniac. That’s one part of it. It was just mostly done over the course of seven years. When Kerry is trying to put the short film together and we’re trying to make our shots. I never stopped drawing. So by the time we went into the building with our new crew, I probably had 80% of the artwork already done. I knew what the world looked like. I had drawn characters, I had done everything. So Consequently, when all the artists came on, it was really easy for them to jump on board. It was all so visualized, and we were very clear on what we were trying to do. We knew the movie we wanted to make, and while you always make concessions in that kind of collaborative environment with Studios and producers and stuff, we largely got the movie on screen as we wanted to. we
There are a few things here and there, but for the most part, we were doing what we did, what we tried to do, and that’s why I think we never felt weird about that. We knew what we wanted to do.

Paul’:
The product that you made is incredible. I was watching it today in full HD, and just the details that I haven’t seen before, simple things like he was cutting the wire and the fabric of the sheaving of the wire, the little details there, it just made it feel so real. It was unbelievable. And it’s that sort of thing that you take the step up to HD in some films and then you think, oh, it’s not going to stand up as well as I remember it, but I was just sitting there going, this feels like I could reach out and touch it in some places. The detail that you went to is incredible. raving

Kevin:
Well, thanks. We really labored over that, it matters to us. It’s funny that that’s the example you picked, because I remember dealing with it. That’s a specific era thing, right? And we try to be as accurate, realizing that we’re making a fantasy world that doesn’t really exist. But we wanted to go rooted in our idea of somewhere vaguely from 1939 to 1947, and everything kind of get crashed together. But those little details matter to us. We want them to be reflected accurately and not take people out of the story. It’s very rare that a person like yourself will even mention something and pick up on it, but at that point, you’re just committed to what you’re trying to do. And we knew it mattered to us, so it had to matter. And it is. It’s very gratifying when you hear people that appreciate that effort that went into it. and

Paul:
Well, you can tell it shows when someone is that passionate about something, it comes through. And I think that’s why it’s been so successful and people always look at it so fondly because of that sort of level of detail, the general concept of it. You came up this magnificent world, the look of the world. What are the early inspirations for you that all came together for this?

Kevin:
Oh, boy. So many. I mean, just so many. As I say in the book, I personally, as a designer, stole from everybody, too long a list and we’d be here for a week. But if I had to pinpoint one single thing that launched us, it was the Fleischer Brothers Superman cartoon in the 30s, right. In fact, Mechanical Monsters, I think is one episode of their cartoon that we took from liberally. That’s basically our big robot marching down Fifth Avenue is all a nod to that cartoon. And this is, again, something that, as I said earlier, looking at our limitations and trying to make them our strengths. oh brother we had to be really particularly smart in those early days. Okay, so I finished the film last year that’s going to be coming out in July. It’s Blazing Samurai. It’s sort of inspired by Blazing Saddles, but it’s a family film with cats and dogs instead of race relations. It’s cute and it’s funny and it should do pretty well. But the technology we had to bring to bear on this one, you can have crowds and what feel like hundreds of people in a crowd scene. We really don’t because it’s still complicated and still money and still cost. But back when Kerry and I were on one Macintosh, we wanted to show Time Square in New York. There was no way in the world we could possibly fill it with people. It was impossible. So Kerry went back and he looked at those old Fleischer cartoons because they had the same issues. They couldn’t really sit there and pencil a thousand people any more than we could animate them. So we leaned on things that became sort of the earmarked, our style, off screen sound effects and shadows cast on the wall or close on feet moving. We just duplicate them over and over and over on top of each other and any kind of trick we could use to make us as a viewer think there’s more there than there’s really there. And I’ve continued those techniques all the way through today because typically I’ve worked on small projects that, again, don’t have huge budgets but have ambitions and want to try to have some of that richness and everything through.
So I still use some of those cheats and tricks, and when they’re appropriate, what we didn’t show was the key to making that film. We really leaned into the noir feel on the black and whites because we could hide all our imperfections in those shadows. Those shadows became part of our signature. Even today, when I’m working on things with other people, that still remains a challenge to get people to commit to things upfront. Typically in Hollywood there’s a joke. Well, we’ll fix it and post, right? Well, traditional post in my mind anyway, it doesn’t really exist the way it used to because we use these tools up and down the line all the time now. So post sort of happens constantly. You’re sort of always in production and post production at the same time, and you’re going back and forth and Ping pong things, shots back and forth. So in order for that to work, you have to know what it is you’re trying to do. You have to commit to it up front. You can’t suddenly get halfway through your film and go, oh, Jeez, I want to flip the camera around here and fly it around and shoot that wall over there. Well, you can’t, because we didn’t build that wall over there. It doesn’t exist. And we shot a plate with actors against green. We can’t fly the camera around now, so you got to know what you want to do. That doesn’t mean you don’t have latitude and you don’t go back and redo things. Of course you do. And there is latitude within a given shot. But there’s something to be said for knowing what you want to do. And I’ve worked on a dozen things in all the entertaining years where we’re well into production and shows being Greenlit and been funded. We’re lighting shots for making the movie, and then we’re a couple of months from release and they change the script. It happens all the time. It’s remarkable. It happens all the time. And you’re just left scratching your head like, how in the hell did this even get this far? Did you people not know what you were trying to do?
Usually I think people that aren’t actually in the weeds working on this stuff, putting their hands on the keyboard and making these magical things happen. I think the people behind them get nervous and start to lose faith in the things that they initially liked because somebody went in there at one point, pitched this thing, and somebody said, yes, that sounds awesome. Let’s do it. And you start to do it, and they start to deconstruct it halfway through the production because that’s not quite working. It’s one of the hardest parts of the business for me. It’s very frustrating. Yeah. I won’t lie to you. It’s difficult. Your only options are to walk away or buckle down and try to make it work. And I like a good challenge. I like to figure out the problems and I like to figure the way around them. It doesn’t mean it’s always fun and it’s not frustrating, but that’s how movies get made.

Paul:
So, yeah, talking about how they get made, I’ll jump into more of your background in a minute. But obviously you’ve got the book now, Sky Captain and The Art of Tomorrow, which is in the stores now for everyone listening. So why now? Why did you think now would be the right time to sort of look back and take it apart?

Kevin:
Really good question. A friend of mine, Shannon Denton, who is the editor of the book, we’d worked together on a couple of animated series, a couple of different projects, and became friends. Shannon’s a big comic book guy. He’s worked for all the big publishers and a lot of big titles in his professional life, and he just wouldn’t let me alone. I’ve had offers to make a book for more than a decade. I just didn’t want to do it. I think, honestly, Candidly, making Sky Captain was hard, and there was a lot of rough patches associated with it coming out the other side. I’m not going to lie about it and say that it was always easy for my brother and I. We had our own difficulties at times, and thank God, nothing insurmountable and we’re very close and all of that, but it’s a lot of stress, and it was on the two of us. And then that in turn got down to our families. It wasn’t all fun and games, and it’s Candidly, I felt like my brother and I kind of got taken advantage of in certain aspects of the whole thing. And so I was a little, you know, a little bitter about parts of that stuff. And when, again, as you said, it’s a passion project. It’s hard to describe passion to people that are just looking at numbers on a ledger and we work like dogs for this thing. And it really mattered to us. We were really trying to do something. And when we ultimately succeeded, it’s the whole be careful what you wish for then. So that’s a long way of saying I just wasn’t in a head space to want to sit down and enter that world again. I left that world behind. I was ready to move on.
But Shannon and a few other friends sort of stayed after me to the point where I have three kids who were little, tiny kids who were making a movie, and now they’re young adults, right? He’s like, do it for them. If Nobody else, do it for the people you work with. When we were making the movie, sideshow toys, who does all these wonderful collectibles I’m sure you’re familiar with, they came and visited me in my little, tiny office with all my drawings, paper to the wall, and they just said, we want this one. We want this one. They wanted to make toys, everything, all the ships, all the robots and characters, which was, for a nerd like me, super exciting. That’s almost cooler than getting the movie on my desk. I want that thing. And we had a Japanese animation studio that flew over to me, Kerry and I, they wanted to do a 20 episode series that they were going to fund. And that’s why I didn’t do the book ultimately, because what happened in both those cases is the powers that be above us didn’t choose to work with one another. Like, it all came down to people arguing over what cut they got for this and that, and they frittered away the time. And ultimately Sideshow has to get toys out before the movie is released. And the animation studio, these people back here wanted money upfront from them. They’re like, no, that’s not how we do it. We’re taking the risk and put the money up. If you make money, you get money. So all that stuff went away. And it was just really sad. And I think Kerry and I honestly would have loved to have done a 20 episode animated series almost more than the film, because we had so many other places we wanted to go with this world, and we had a sequel in mind. I don’t know if we’ll ever get enough to riff on that again or find a way to bring those parties together that have to ultimately agree to say, yes, we probably pursue an animated series with this thing right now. It’s just that there are two groups of people that would have to be on the same page, and they weren’t. And I don’t know if they are now or not, but it’s hard to put that together. Yeah.
So that’s why I held off on the book. And then I don’t know, I guess all these people in my ear and stuff finally just convinced me I should do this. Now that’s done. I’m glad I did, obviously.

Paul:
Oh, I’m glad you did as well. It’s one of those funny things about filmmaking, its only sort of looking at your book that you kind of forget all the other bits that go behind it. There’s this weird disconnect between us as the viewers and the face of a film that we see. And then there must be a completely separate world of all the people behind. And you’ve obviously made so many connections through the film, and you would have made a name for yourself behind the scenes. But from here, sitting here sitting in a cinema looking at the film, it’s the world you don’t see. And it’s nice to have a glimpse behind that and actually sort of get you out there and get all the work and the team’s work out there to show that all of this was going on in the background. All this is the stuff that you don’t normally see.

Kevin:
Yeah. It’s a little bit like having a child. You can’t know what you don’t know. People can tell you what it’s like to have a kid until you have one you don’t really know.
And there’s so many people that work so hard, and so much of that work goes unappreciated to the larger world out there that doesn’t really understand the process. Right. You’ve got people with whom you can’t move forward quite literally. You’ve got riggers that have to go in there and put the bones inside of all these robots and creatures and allow the animators to move them around. And the film comes out and they’re one of a zillion little single line names. And a bunch of names at the end of the film and you’re going nowhere without those guys. And they’re hard work. And that was up and down the line for all these various disciplines in making these effects heavy movies. I think fortunately, most people who do those jobs aren’t as bitter as I became. Like, they just take it as that’s the job. They’re willing and happy to have their name on the film and do the work they did, but they definitely do go, people behind the scenes do go unappreciated by the larger public. I think, man, it just takes a village, you know what I mean? It takes a whole lot of people to do this kind of stuff.

Paul:
Yeah. No, I think that’s definitely true. And it’s something that does get forgotten, and especially in a case like this, because it was your baby, you kind of brought all this up, especially because it’s looked at as such an amazing piece of art. And that’s your brainchild.

Kevin:
I’m really obviously very humbled and gratified when I hear that, because if anything, for me personally, what I contributed to it in my part working with my brother, was I brought that illustrator’s mindset to it. That’s a whole professional career in image making. But it was usually a piece or maybe a piece of sequential art or something, but that’s kind of what I wanted this to be. I wanted to be almost like 2200 beautiful illustration. So if you froze the frame anywhere, it’s well considered it’s composed. It looks like a piece of art.

Paul:
I don’t know if it’s true or not. Theres a bizarre fact on, I think it was on IMDb that the average shot length is something like 1.9 seconds.

Kevin:
Sure. I guess. I don’t know. I don’t have a clue. It was a huge labor of love. And it’s funny, I’ve never watched any of those DVD extras or any of that. I’ve never seen any of that stuff. Probably the same reasons I didn’t do the book initially. I just didn’t want to see it. I didn’t care. I lived it. Yeah, I didn’t want to.
But the one piece I did hear about and one little clip I did see was I think it was for an EPK in London when we were shooting, they had Angelina Jolie in her costume in her chair being interviewed, and she was laughing. She said, most people don’t work this hard, meaning all of us, not her, but all that stuff we just talked about, all the people behind the scenes in this huge army you got to put together to make this. On top of that, you got Kerry and I obsessing about things like the sheathing on a wire to be right. We had every little. Yeah, no details too small. We were trying to touch it.

Paul:
So more about yourself. Do you remember what your first experience of geek culture was?

Kevin:
You know, I can’t specifically say it was, you know, Spiderman number 222 or something like that. When we were little, tiny kids, my brother and I, my dad, I don’t know, he led us to some comic books or something. I just felt like comic books were always around. And he wasn’t an avid reader, certainly like my brother and I became. But he must have read them at least a little bit because there were a few laying around and they made their way into our hands. And I guess we were just hooked. When I was a little bit older than that, we’d moved to a different part of town, and I lived across the street from a kid who became a good friend of mine, a guy named Mark Westfall. And Mark had an older brother who, you know how as a little kid this guy’s five or six years older, feels like he’s 50. He was a comic book guy and he had loads of back issues up the wazoo he had found. And I don’t know how he did back then when they largely just sold comics on spinner racks and drugstores and stuff. But he had comics that really predated his age at any point. At some point he went off to College and he gave them to Mark. And I remember we would sit in my garage, my parents garage, and we would sit there and it’s hot, Michigan, humid summers, and bring a fan out there and point it at us and just sit there and read comic books. We put a stack between us and hardly ever said a word to one another. Let me just sit there and read. I guess it would have been the Silver Age Legion of Superheroes, and that was my favorite. And man, I couldn’t get enough of them. And they didn’t really exist when we were reading them because they were predated. They were all back issues that you had.
But it was funny because you spoke to me about geek culture and how it’s all taken over the world. Everybody is a geek, and you can wave that flag proudly. Now, back then, if you were reading comic books, you were a weirdo and a geek and not in a good way. You didn’t want girls to know that you were a little comic book guy and you hit in the garage and you read these comic books with your geek friend and you didn’t tell him what you did.
The other big part of my personality in those days was, as I said, I’m a big sports fan and I was a basketball player, and that was my huge passion. I was pretty good. I played on some good teams and I really enjoyed it. I still played well into my 40s when my knees couldn’t do it anymore. So I was living in this world where I’d go to school and I’m with all the jocks and I’m a Jock. And then here’d be Mark or one or two other guys or like my other secret life that these guys know about. I certainly never talked about comic books with my basketball guys. So it’s changed a lot. And I think some of that is great and some of it’s not great because it is really frustrating here in Hollywood when you; it’s a little less frustrating now, I’m kind of over it. But ten years ago, maybe when you’re going around taking meetings and talking to people, suddenly you’re meeting just different people around town that you have to pitch to or meet. And suddenly everybody, oh, I’m a huge comic book guy and you just sort of want to go, no, you’re not, liar. And you never read those books and it annoys the crap out of me. now, I don’t care. Whatever, who cares? Comic books are so mainstream now, I’ve kind of largely lost interest in a lot of them. They don’t appeal to me the way they used to. I’m far more inspired by people that are doing independent comics.
I still like the art form and the medium. I couldn’t tell you last time I bought an X Men comic or Superman or Batman. I dont have it in me anymore. They feel too corporate, do this and do that. I just don’t care about the characters anymore. I shouldn’t say completely. I will absolutely be getting a ticket to go see the batman.
Yeah. It’s just that whole, you know, we’re all geeks and geeks are cool. I feel like you didn’t take your beatings for being a geek. You didn’t suffer the slings and arrows of ‘nerd’ back when it wasn’t a cool thing. How dare you? Like, I was offended.

Paul:
So the love stayed with you then from that day onwards. Have you always been into comics?

Kevin:
Oh, yeah, for sure. I mean, even now somewhere I’ve got probably 20 long boxes stuffed with the ones I kept in a storage unit somewhere. Yeah. And I have dozens around here. I do still buy comics. I just don’t roll in there every Wednesday and buy single issues anymore. I buy, you know, collected stuff in books. I still do. I just think my tastes have changed. You know, I was much more likely there for a while to buy anything Mike Miller did, Hellboy stuff as compared to, yet again, another justice league book or something.
And so following on all of that, we discovered everything else that was out there that fell into that whole genre heading. When we grew up in Flint, Michigan, there was a television station called Channel 50 in Detroit. It was an independent UHF thing at the time, but it wasn’t a big network. They showed reruns of all kinds of old crazy stuff. And so we would see the Flash Gordon serials from, I don’t even know when, I guess, the 30s or 40s or whatever that was. And we were mesmerized, man. We couldn’t take our eyes off them. We sat there and just gobble them up as long as they’d play and we’d watch them and re-watch them. We watched those early Marvel cartoons, Spiderman, the Hulk, Captain America, Iron Man. They were really little more than static images. Jack Kirby’s drawing, and they put dialogue over top of them and certainly not animated in the conventional sense. But we were all in, we’d watch them again and again. Yeah.

Paul:
What do you think was it about the comics that grabbed you so much? Because it seems like it was quite a quick process of you started reading them and you were caught by them.

Kevin:
Yeah. Hooked. I don’t know. I mean, I guess if I really had to think about it because I don’t think I ever have. probably there was that piece of me that was, I was drawing and painting as soon as I could pick up a crayon. I’ve just been doing that. So those are among the first things I drew. Superheroes. There’s always superheroes and basketball players. That’s almost exclusively what I do. And really at the end of the day, they were the same thing to me. They were both superhuman things. Pistol Pete Marevich or Walt Fraser were Iron Man and Captain America. To me, they were the same thing. But I suppose from the comics I was seeing drawings I couldn’t quite do at that age, yet I was trying to replicate them. The dynamism of the colors and the compositions. Just whether I was consciously aware of it at that age, I don’t think I was. there’s something in there that really appealed to me artistically. And I just loved it. Yeah, I think that’s sort of part of it. But yeah, the whole hero thing, it’s funny. I was talking with my sister, who also is in the book and contributed mightily to that film. And another person didn’t get credit for what she did, but I was telling her about this series of paintings I’ve been thinking about doing it for a while just for my own amusement and maybe throw them onto the world. But it’s the concept of heroes. So I was going to sort of play with that idea. And it wasn’t limited to heroes, but basketball players and musicians, people that are heroes to me, Right. I’m still tossing around. I don’t know if I would do anything with it or not. But I do think, getting back to your question, that’s where that came from. This idea of these larger than life people that could do amazing things that I couldn’t do, it’s fascinating to me. I still like that. Anybody that does something well is fascinating. There’s a great sushi restaurant here in LA. Going to watch the sushi chef put the food together is almost as much fun as eating. I’m amazed. I just watch the craftsmanship and appreciate it. So those kinds of things will always matter to me.

Paul:
It’s funny the way you talk. Some people kind of say that there’s a way that an artist’s mind works that is different. And I think what you’ve said there kind of illustrates it quite well that you kind of see the world slightly differently and you see the sort of the technique and the art in life.

Kevin:
Yeah. Again, I don’t want to sound like I’m blowing my own Horn. There’s something special I possess that other people don’t. But I do think that in as much as that statement relates to most artists, I do think there’s some truth to that. It took me a long time to kind of acknowledge it. I really was very conflicted about being an artist for the longest time. I really wanted to be a basketball player, Unfortunately, I wasn’t either tall enough nor good enough to be there.
I think that the idea that I see things a little differently took me a long time to come to that. It took me a long time to get comfortable with the idea of calling myself an artist at all. I was very conscious of that. I was an illustrator. I wasn’t an artist, which is ridiculous. But I made these kinds of distinctions in my own head because I was sort of afraid of the whole thing. And I think a certain amount of it was just allowing what’s really, truly in me to be out, to come out. And as I’ve aged, I’ve gotten more and more comfortable with that. And I realized that, yeah, virtually anything and everything I do and get involved in, it is all about how I see it and how it filters through and the appreciation for it. And yeah, it’s become kind of everything that I do now, and it’s a blessing and a curse.
I think at times it’s nice to be able to see the world in a way where you can see beauty and things other people miss or walk right past. And then it’s torturous sometimes when you’re trying to actually sit down and do something because you just beat the life out of it. That very thing that sparked your interest gets crushed to death under this manic desire to perfect it. Perfection should never be the goal, right?

Paul:
Yeah. On one hand, it’s one of those things that with this sort of mindset it’s easy to see that a project like Skycaptain and as you said, seven years in the making before you sort of really were able to take on the next step. It’s on one hand, kind of impressive that you managed to put that side of your brain to one side and be like, right, seven years. You’re going to keep working at this for seven years and not sort of, I don’t know, switch off in a way, because you’re looking for perfection, I guess, for what your mind is wanting on the page.

Kevin:
Yeah. My brother and I still talk about that a lot because it’s funny. He just handed a script to this producer over the weekend and I helped him with it a little bit at the end just to get it over the finish line because he literally, he would tell you he couldn’t finish it. Like he’d written and rewritten and rewritten and his mind was just clouded and just trying to make it so perfect. And so I went in there and just sort of did a few little silly things over the top of what he does and it was easy for me because I wasn’t putting that kind of pressure on myself. I could just kind of step back and see that he had already done all the work. He just needs to tighten his focus a little bit and he does that with me. When it comes to the visual stuff, I will labor over painting or drawing to the point where I’m sucking the life out of it. Dude, it’s done. Put the pencils down, go away. And it can be really difficult to know when to quit. It’s not always healthy. I actually think it’s taken a great toll on both of us at times. This desire to make things just every T cross, every I dotted the perfect way. It’s a tough way to live. And I know that there’s even been times in my personal life where I’ve allowed that to seep in expectations for your children or something that probably aren’t always fair.
It can be a wonderful thing, you can control it, and it can be a horrible thing if you don’t. Yes.

Paul:
Do you think in an alternate universe where you didn’t have that same support; as you say, your dad seemed like he was a really supportive person, obviously had your siblings around you, your friend across the road. Everyone was nurturing, despite you being in this environment of all of the jocks you managed to nurture this part of you. What do you think you in an alternate universe would be doing now if it wasn’t for that supporting environment?

Kevin:
I think I would have become a teacher and coached high school basketball and probably had a massive heart attack by the time I was 45 years old. That’s what I think. Yeah.

Paul:
Wow.

Kevin:
Yeah, I know. I’m sitting here having a nice conversation with you, reasonably calm and everything, and I think I project that. I think what you see is what you get with me largely. But I’ve always been a super intense person, super wired. I had an ulcer when I was ten years old. It had largely to do with expectations that I impose on myself, like athletics, art, grades, everything. Just desire to do things to their absolute best. And like I said, it took a long time to learn that perfection is an unrealistic goal anyway. You can’t hit it, it doesn’t exist. And if you constantly search for it, you’re going to make yourself crazy. You’re going to have an ulcer at Ten years old. So I think without the support system I had around me consistently helping me move forward, I may well have ended up doing something. Like I said, I could have very easily walked into a situation where I was trying to be something else and again, demanding perfection from people, and I’m never going to get it. It’s not going to exist. Weirdly enough, one of my closest childhood friends did grow up to be just that. He became a teacher and a basketball coach and a very good one. And then he eventually continued to move up things where he was a principal and all this other stuff. But ultimately he walked away from the game that we both loved because the demands were too great on him. They were reckoning he was constantly at odds with parents and, you know, arguing about their kids and their playing time and this and that. It just sucked the joy out of it. And hearing him talk about it to me, I realize I wouldn’t have lasted. Either I exploded because I hit somebody or I had a heart attack. It wasn’t going to end well. but

Paul:
Yeah, because you said you start to move away from looking at superheroes into some of the other things. Was that part of your process, maybe of stepping back and not looking at yourself to be I have to be perfect. And I think the aspiration the looking at the superheroes, and you sort of pushing yourself, almost kind of expecting that of yourself. And then as you moved into other things, sort of moving away from the superheroes? Pay

Kevin:
Well, I think you may have a future as a therapist if you don’t do that already. It’s a really interesting observation and connection that I have never thought about. But now you bring it up. It’s really interesting. Yeah, maybe so. Clearly, these were all aspirational things for me when I was a kid superhero, hall of Fame, basketball all star or something. Those guys are human beings, but not to me. They weren’t. They were as if they came from Olympus. They weren’t just normal people, had families and issues, and they were superstars. Yeah, maybe so. I’ve never considered that. But it’s interesting because the stories I’ve written, the stories I’ve sold, projects I’m working on right now I’m most interested in, are all about slightly damaged people, people who don’t have; they’re not superheroes, and they’re not from Olympus or in the hall of Fame. They’re struggling. They’ve got issues. And the films I like, the comics I tend to read, those are the things that attract me. Now it’s less about the big. I really candidly kind of lost a lot of interest in Marvel, DC Universes in terms of getting down there every week and buying copies when every year it felt like it was about this enormous crossover event that required you to buy every title they put out. And every year the threat was great. I’m like once you destroy the universe, what’s the bigger threat? It just became so ridiculous. I realized I really prefer the more street level heroes. I really did enjoy the recent Marvel series Hawkeye because it wasn’t Thanos destroying the universe. It was a couple of idiots running around as Robin Hood trying to stop some bad guys and I really dug it and he’s losing his hearing and she’s an under-baked want to be and it was really fun for me. Those are the kind of things I enjoy at this point. It’s more humanity. an

Paul:
So what stuff are you reading at the minute?

Kevin:
Lately I have been going back in time and just finding, it’s funny. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of this book: Alex Sinner, it’s a noir. I think the stories span from the 50s to the 70s, all collected. I love the look of the book. The stories are gritty and Raymond Chandler esque and that kind of a thing. Yeah, I don’t know, I’m all over the place anymore, but it’s stuff like that that I tend to buy more regular off the beaten path kind of things.

Paul:
The more you talk. Sky Captain really does seem like a part of you because you’ve got the obvious superhero In Sky Captain. You’ve got the real gritty noir bit, you’ve got the fantastical bits. It does really seem like this is every part of your personality has come together into one magnificent thing.

Kevin:
Yeah, I mean, I suppose there’s some truth to that. We really did throw all the things in there that we just grew up loving and care about, but from the perspective of an adult as opposed to a kid now, I had some technical abilities that would allow me to express these things that were in my head in a really professional looking manner. I guess it kind of all coalesced at a point in time and I hope there’ll be stuff that we continue to do in the future. I’ve consistently worked through them since then, but it’s not. To be honest, I’ve always been on things , I’ve been as impassioned about a lot of them. They’re just jobs. I want to do a good job and I’ve always given my best to people, but it’s been few and far between things. I’ve really kind of been like, wow, I can’t even say something I’m working on right now, I can’t talk about it because it’s not my project. I was brought into it to help a director in town who’s a well known guy, deals in a lot of the same things, and we have a shared interest in that kind of world, that noir thing. And so we’re working on something right now and I hope it continues to go forward because it could harken back those sky captain days. It would be unique and different, something we have seen and it would encompass all those things that I really do enjoy working with. So, yeah, fingers crossed. captain

Paul:
Fingers crossed. I hope so. It must be difficult when something that you were so passionate about kicked off a career. And then every now and then you get sort of into a project and you think this is just a job.

Kevin:
Yeah, it is. And you have to be respectful of the people on the project for whom that is not a job. It is their passion project. Right. So I really do try to always give people my best and my full attention and use whatever experience and skills in my brain to bear. And I tried to really do that. And I think for the most part, I do because they bring me back. If I was terrible, they wouldn’t. I think I mentioned Blazing Samurai earlier. That was a really cool thing to see done because the guy behind it, Rob Minkoff, he’s been trying to get that film made for over a decade, fits and starts and six steps forward and 20 steps backwards. And we finally finished it. And Lo and behold, it actually got picked up by Paramount and it’s going to be released in theaters in July. And that doesn’t happen for animated films. If you’re not Disney or Pixar or Sony, you can’t find real estate in the theaters. And this one did. So, yeah, somebody thinks we did a good job. And I’m really happy I could step in there and do that for them. But yeah, but there’s other things I won’t name because they’re not worth naming. I can try on them for sure. And in between all of that, Kerry and I have continued to develop our own stuff and sold pieces independently and together. But I actually sold an animated feature concept, a script I’d written to Amazon years ago when they were just starting to develop their studio. And somehow I managed to get in and get a meeting and I sold it right there in the room. And we were suddenly going to make this movie. And it, too, meant a lot to me. It helped a lot with my childhood and where we come from, all this kind of stuff. And then, much like John Carter, after sky captain, a series of events unfolded, it had nothing to do with the project or me or anything. Just what happens all the time. People got fired. The guy that Greenlit had lost his job and a new guy comes in, you got to convince him. And okay, we cleared that hurdle. And then he gets fired and another guy comes in and he says, we’re not making animated films, and it goes away. And that’s happened to me and my brother both has happened numerous times. I sold something to CBS, the big television network here in the States. Ridley Scott, one of my heroes, again, getting back to the idea of heroes, Blade Runner probably was as responsible for me wanting to do this kind of stuff as any film ever made, and blew my doors off when I first saw it, and Lo and behold, I’m working with the guy. Years later he bought an idea that I created, and we thought that was going to go and be a prime time television series. And then similar things unfolded way above my head. The project went away. It’s disappointing because all those things really meant a lot and put a lot of years of effort into them. They just disappear. he

Paul:
Yeah, it must be very difficult.
But on the other hand, I guess the bits that do come to life, they must make up for it, because otherwise you wouldn’t be doing it still.

Kevin:
No, it’s very true. There’s a lot of satisfaction to getting these things finished, and there’s a certain amount of camaraderie and working with these other artists and technicians and all the people need to make a movie that I miss when I’m here just on my own, writing something or painting something solitary. I enjoy that. But you come to realize that you miss all that interaction with other people that are similarly wiredstill

Paul:
Forr people who are in the same position you were back then. With a project in mind, what would you say to them to look forward on that project?

Kevin:
I think most certainly, living in Los Angeles, everybody feels like they’re tangentially related to the business. If you go to a pub or your meal at a restaurant, your bartender or your waiter has got a screenplay or they’re trying to act. That is really true out here. It’s funny to meet everybody trying to get a toehold one way or the other. I think for most of them it becomes sort of a war of attrition. After a while, if you haven’t gotten the necessary toehold, you’re looking at being 40. Am I going to still hustle around trying to get this heck and getting land and waiting tables? You know what I mean? There comes a point where I’ve seen it with many of my own friends who are completely committed to the business and gave it up and are now doing something completely unrelated and totally different. I guess it’s not fair for me to just go, hey, stick with it and do your thing. But I don’t really know what else to say, because that’s what we did, right? We didn’t do it at the expense of everything else in our lives. Like I said, I have family and regular clients. I had deadlines and jobs to do for, but we believed and we were relentless, and we just knew we had something good and we didn’t give up. And I think we could have given up a bunch of different times along the line. I think why we didn’t is because, again, we were dealing with stuff that we really loved. It was something that still interested us enough to get up and keep going every day. The minute it becomes a labor and I’ll go back to the screenplay that my brother just turned in. It was at that point with him. He just dreaded it. He hated it. He couldn’t even read it, much less write it. He was just done with it. We never got that with a sky cap. Every day we discover something new or new little bit or a new little bit of research that turned into something in the story or something visual. It was always exciting. We just hung in there. I remember one day Kerry was down at his place working on one of the shots we put together, and I was back at my drawing table at my place drawing. It was first drawing ever did of The Flying Fortress, Angelina Jolie’s boat in the sky. And none of this was in the script yet. And I said, Kerry, I called him up and I said, hey, I said, it’s a great idea. We should have an underwater dog fight. These planes can fly underwater and she’ll sail off it. And we’ll do this whole thing. We have Atlantis down there, and our dynamic continues to this day. But it was certainly true then. I’m enthusiastic, so cool, we can do this. And he didn’t say anything. It was like he just really put my fire out. But that’s not what he was doing. He was thinking it through. He’s much more methodical that way, and I’m more enthusiastic. He’s putting it together, and he liked it so much, he actually went back into the script and he wrote that we modified Joe’s plane. So there’s a really cool scene in the film where his plane goes underwater, and Dex did it, this whole thing, and it just grew from there. But it was those kind of moments that kept us going. There would always be something else. We could just see this world. And very early on, for me personally, I realized that I truly, early on could see the whole movie in my head. I just knew it. I knew what we were trying to do, and I could see it. I could see these big set pieces in these moments. And I realized before we’d ever went out to a single person or showed up to a producer that my job was going to be showing that thing in my head to everybody else, and conveying it to other people. So we could actually do it. Yeah, that’s what kept me going. And we actually failed with Scott Captain, if you want to call it.
Prior to meeting years prior, we actually did a very similar project. We weren’t calling it Sky Captain, but it might as well have been. It had the intrepid female reporter and the guy in the B 40, and he had a dog instead of dex, but it was a vaguely Nazi villain. It’s the same thing. We tried to sell it to Hanna Barbera as a 2D cartoon, and they wanted nothing to do with it. They just kind of ran us right out of it. And we could have quit then, but we sort of a couple of years later, those kernels resurfaced in what became Sky Captain, and we took those little basic ideas and we improved upon them.
You’ve always got the opportunity to quit. Yes. It’s just naivety and some self belief. But more important than that, I think if you’re enjoying it, what’s the real downside? As long as you can pay your bills and not abuse the people in your life that you’re supposed to love? You’re just making art at that point. You’re just making something because you want to make it, and I think you should do that. It may never turn into a movie or a TV show or record album or, you know, a show with the Met. I mean, it may never be any of those things, but you’re making it and you’re enjoying the process. So that’s probably reason enough to keep going.
When I was a little kid, I remember that pre Internet and pre computers and everything. It seemed like so many of my parents friends did creative things. They painted or they were photographers or they played instruments and they get together and jam in basements and they just did stuff. And nobody was trying to monetize it. There was no YouTube, there was no Internet to sell your wares. They were just making these things because they gave them joy and they can share them with the people around that’s been lost. I think the opportunity to monetize everything has corrupted so much of that creative instinct. It’s a shame.

Paul:
No, I think that’s very true. And people don’t do it just because they love it. Now there’s always something at the end of it, as it were, other than the thing that you’re making.
You sound like the kind of kids the two of you that would read a comic book and then strap a dish cloth to your back and then start jumping off your bed pretending your Superman

Kevin:
100% absolutely. numerous injuries and scuffs and bruises and sprains and breaks later. Yeah, we did. As a matter of fact, I was in College, so I’m probably 20 years old and Kerry’s a couple of years younger when he came up to visit. And I lived in a house with three or four other guys. And down the street there was this really fantastic playground in elementary school, and It had zip lines and all these crazy monkey bars, just different stuff that really felt more appropriate to a bunch of idiotic 20 year olds than a five year old. So we went down there and we basically played. We didn’t put the dish towel on our back for capes this time, but we were basically out there playing superheroes in war. We were all armed with firecrackers, and we were throwing firecrackers at each other. We’re 20 years old, we’re not seven. And to this day I can’t hear party, I’ve lost part of the hearing in my right ear because we turn these firecrackers into ICBM. We took pennies to them so we could throw them longer distance. And I pulled that thing back by my ear and I’m going to launch it, and it blew up right in my ear twice. once wasn’t enough. Once I did it again, and I don’t hear so great in this ear anymore. We were those kind of guys. eat

Paul:
I’m willing to bet you were the one that was generally getting both of you into trouble.

Kevin:
Yeah. That is probably true.

Paul:
it does go to show that the power of having people around you that sort of nurture you and encourage you, everyone around you was creative. It’s what you grew up in.

Kevin:
It really is true. My mother, any artistic ability I may have visually comes from her. She could draw and paint. Had she grown up in a different time when women didn’t get married and become Housewives and raised kids. But aspired to careers or pursuits of their own, she could have done very well as an artist in her own right, because she was very talented like that. And she did it for a hobby for a long time. But by the time we were big enough that we required constant attention for one thing or another, she sort of put that to the side. So my dad had written and had a few things published, so he was always a great resource for stuff. And yeah, there was always something creative going on around the house, for sure. had
Yeah. It’s interesting. My sister, who’s almost ten years younger than me. So by the time I took off for College, she was still a little kid. And I missed a great deal of her childhood because of that, because I never really came back home. And she was sort of finding her own artistic path forward. And she had these two brothers that were immersed in it. That was tough for her, too. I know, because I think at times she’s ten years behind me. She’s not going to be the same quality of work. Right. Doesn’t mean it wasn’t good. She just hadn’t matured yet. And it was hard for her because I think she got compared to her brothers a lot, and she couldn’t measure up at that point in time. But she probably ended up surpassing us both in the end because she came out here to La, and she was a big shot art director at numerous places doing movie marketing and designing movie posters. And she was wonderful at it. She did all those things that are in the book. That was her work. Yeah. So it was a family affair, for sure.

Paul:
It’s incredible. And I suppose that is the power of creativity, and that’s the power of artwork. And whether people like it or not, that does include geek culture and comics and all of these sort of things which are often looked down on but have so much value to them.

Kevin:
So much. The first art book I remember buying, I was probably eleven or twelve years old, getting on my bicycle and riding crosstown. So I still have it. It’s worn and beaten, but it’s Frank Rosetta’s first ever collection of paintings. He wasn’t really known the way he is, it would come to be known, man, I wore that thing out, copying those drawings and bending that spine and it’s falling apart, but I still have it. I’ll never let it go because it meant so much to me in those formative years. Now, many decades later, guys like Frank Frasetta and Jack Kirby and all these wonderful creators that sort of existed on the fringes back then are posthumously getting their due, bummer in one hand. But that’s certainly the history of art anyway, right? Van Gogh died Without any money

Paul:
was there any points in your life where you were thinking about doing comic books

Kevin:
right now. Yeah, I never really wanted to. It’s weird, too, to think about it, because I just always felt like I didn’t want to commit to it. It felt like such a monumental. How am I ever going to do that? It felt like too much work, the irony of that. So I’ve been working on this little project of my own, off and on for years. When I have time off between things, I finally finished the story. It’s all written and I’m quite happy with it. I think it would fall under the heading of those types of books. I’m telling you that I am drawn to now or fracking people that have things over that it’s an existential crisis. My hero is going to be effectively right. But it all deals with the sort of visual aesthetics that I’m drawn to. And it’s not Sky captain, but it’s tangential and I’m really excited about it. I find myself running back to the board and knocking stuff out whenever I have a few little moments. Now the story is written, I hope to maybe produce a dozen pages of art or something and then figure out what to do with it, because at that point I think I’ll have enough that I can show somebody and perhaps turn into a book. Ideally, I’d love to turn it into an animated series, but I’ve still got several more months of work to do on it before I can present it to anybody. But yeah, it’s finally I’m committing to doing that. I’m excited about it. I like the world story I’ve created. I think other people will too.

Paul:
Oh, that’s incredible. I look forward to hearing more about that. Hopefully it comes together. It’s amazing because I was looking on your Instagram as well, and some of the bits that you’ve put up there, and also some of the storyboards that are available online about Sky Captain, and you can see the sort of the inspirations and the influences that are there from your childhood. You can see that it’s all coming together there.

Kevin:
Yeah. I think Kerry and I both were very particular and very methodical about how we put that whole thing together. And certainly a lot of it comes from just a love of discovering all these wonderful brilliant artists and writers and people we admired growing up and really delving into them. I’m not completely stuck in the past. I certainly look at what’s going on now and all the wonderful work that’s out there presently. But I do think that there’s a certain sameness to a lot of the work that’s done. You certainly see it in Hollywood films and visual effects movies. There’s almost a blueprint how you make these things now. And I think in much of the art you see online, wonderfully, talented people, they can create all these amazing things. But there’s such a sameness to so much of it. I think unique voices are still pretty rare out there. There’s guys out there that can do these wonderfully, beautiful pictures of these little girls faces and beauty mugshots of women. They’re spectacular. They’re great. But there’s a lot of sameness to that. I find it in concept design, film after having done all those robots for Sky captain, I can’t look at a robot anymore, mech suits and all that. It’s like the same thing over and over again, just not an original voice there anymore. I’m not interested in that stuff.

Paul:
It must be difficult, especially now, as you say, there’s so many big budget animation that it must be hard to have your voice heard. Yeah. Just in general, even trying to get a job, I can’t imagine what it’s like trying to work your way through

Kevin:
It’s getting comfortable with a lot of rejection. And that goes for everybody, not just the likes of me, but I mean, people at the highest end of this business are rejected all the time. And it’s not such a burden for some people because they can fall back on their vast bank accounts and post through just fine to the next thing. But for a lot of work people out here. Yeah. You are moving from job to job. And I just interviewed for I had people call me about a project the other day, television series that candidly between you and me, whoever’s listening. I am the perfect candidate for that particular project because I had a couple of things that specifically with my history and what they would require on this show, and I’ve never heard back from them. I won’t get to a job. It could be because they’ve already got somebody else and they’re just doing their due diligence or they think they’re going to pay me too much for a million other reasons. Who knows? But it frustrated me for about a day because I knew when I got the pitch from them about what the job entailed. I was the right person for this thing, and I’d be stunned if I ever hear from them again. You just don’t hear from people, not even to say, hey, we chose another path, but they just disappear. And that stuff really used to bother me because I try to be a little more considerate than that when I’m dealing with people. But you can’t expect that you’re not going to get it and you’re going to constantly be frustrated. The next thing will come.

Paul:
So to sort of sum it all up, what do you think is the power of geek culture for maybe a parent who’s humming and erring about kids wanting comic books or what have you?

Kevin:
Well, on a very fundamental level, I would have never known what words like behemoth were without a comic book. Reading is reading, take a comic book out of a kid’s hand, you might as well take any book out of a kid’s hand. I think if a child is invested in looking at this comic and expanding their vocabulary and their worldview and dreaming and thinking of that imagination as a muscle, you’re exercising. I know there’s no downside to that. Obviously, you don’t want to show them inappropriate content. There are comic books that are made strictly for adults. But I’m talking about your garden variety Spiderman book, something I’ve never understood why people would act like that was a bad thing for kids to be involved in. But yeah, I don’t know. Like I said, I think for me, comics were aspirational if you think about it, they weren’t really any different than the stories of the gods of Olympus centuries ago. Right. These bigger, larger than life beings that could swoop in and solve a problem or lift a building. You know what I mean? What’s the difference? And there’s something in all of us I think that aspires to be greater than what we are. For me, getting the opportunity to work on some of these film projects and certainly Sky Captain, that was the opportunity to be a part of something so much bigger than myself, something I could have never accomplished on my own. But I got to be a big part of something that was so much greater than me. That’s a great thing. If you can pull that from comic books and draw some inspiration from that, I don’t see how that’s anything but good.

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