Fans and Taking On Dilbert:
A Fanboy Interview With Kyle Baker, Part Two
is an island, but apparently he can draw one.
part one of our interview,
Kyle Baker discussed the process of getting into Plastic Man,
on sale from DC Comics this week.
Baker has another, more personal, project in the pipeline.
At the time of this interview, he was prepping a collection
of cartoons about his family entitled simply The Bakers. Since
then, the artist changed his self-publishing plans from a
one-shot comic to a trade paperback, Kyle Baker: Cartoonist,
that includes The Bakers material along with some of his other
cartoons, more in line with his San Diego Convention exclusive
The New Baker, but a lot bigger. It will be available later
addition to his upcoming work, he has just come off of the
controversy of Captain
America: The Truth. Here in part two he addresses the
reasons for the approach he took on that mini-series, which
sharply divided fandom. Whether he persuades you to his point
of view or not, you'll have to admit he has some intriguing
things to say about the market -- and just who his competition
including a couple of panels from Kyle Baker: Cartoonist.
Click on the images to get the larger version and the punchlines
in bigger type.
now...more Kyle Baker:
You've finished work on the controversial Truth: Red White
& Black. In retrospect, do you have any insights on working
with Marvel on that? How had it changed from working with
Jim Shooter in the eighties?
Baker: Again, the thing about hiring me at this point
is that you're hiring me to do my thing. A lot of times, not
being a regular reader of Captain America, I would call them
and say, "should I do this? Would it be okay? What would you
out of it that when the first issue came out, I don't even
have a comic book store near me. I get free DC Comics. So
that's what I read. And I read my friends' comics, because
I get those free or whatever.
I haven't seen a Marvel Comic, literally, in years. So I go
to the store to pick up my comic book because Marvel doesn't
send you complimentary copies. This is true. They do not send
the talent free copies, because they are, god forbid, going
to sell them.(laughs)
way, the cheapest part of producing a comic book is the printing.
They pay the talent a fortune. They pay ten cents to print
the book. But they can't send me the book.
I'm at the comic book store. I'm doing my thing. "Captain
America!" I'm drawing it like Jack Kirby, I'm doing all those
Kirby poses and square fingers. You know what I mean? Splash
panels, and I'm like, yeah, and a little Sal Buscema because
that's how old I am. You lock into what you were into when
you were a kid. And I was into Sal Buscema and Mike Zeck.
to the store and I'm like, "ohhh…Captain America is traced
photos now. I'm sorry, I didn't realize this."
known this was what you guys wanted I'd have made it easy
on myself and traced some photos."
The Truth was definitely a case where editorially an issue
was added, as part of "writing for the trade paperback." How
has that affected you as an artist?
I didn't write it. More than that, a trade paperback is for
a different market. I find, having worked in both markets,
that the bookstore market is a different bunch of people.
told by Marvel that they were trying to get a different kind
of fan. They even told me not to look at their stuff. "We
called you to get your thing." They'd already got the Cassaday
fans. And I'm not trashing any of these guys; they're all
wonderful. I get to hang out with these guys. I like their
do that, we've got these fans. We want to get people who don't
buy Captain America to buy Captain America. Make it as black
as possible. We're trying to appeal to black readers."
way I do this stuff is to ask, why aren't I buying
Captain America? Oh, here's what I would buy if it looked
like this. And had this in it, then I would buy it.
trying for mass media. We're trying for CNN and New York Times,"
and that kind of thing. Okay, I've worked for the New York
Times. I've had my stuff published in the New Yorker. If you
look at the New Yorker and the New York Times, the stuff that
they buy is sketchy marker drawings.
in the New Yorker are very loose paintings. Even Art Spiegelman,
very simple rough style. The rougher, the better. That's what
those people like. And we succeeded on that. We got great
reviews in that media.
when you're selling to bookstores, you're trying to sell to
people whose favorite book is Dilbert. You're going
for that market. If you look at the comics that are selling
in that bookstore market, it's The Simpsons, Dilbert.
Eddie Campbell with From Hell sold a lot of copies,
a very sketchy style. That's what those fans like. If you're
selling to that market, you're going to have trouble in the
direct market and vice versa we find.
have to choose. We even had this discussion at DC. Who is
this for? I can get you on CNN, or I can get you in CBG. I'm
cool with either one, really.
Plastic Man audience we'll do real tributes to Jack
Cole, and my version of famous panels and stuff, because those
fans will recognize it. "I remember that scene, and that character,
and I liked that story. And oh, he brought back that situation."
You know what I mean?
the average Barnes & Noble guy, he wouldn't care that your
cover was an homage to the original Police Comics.
This winter you're going to launch The Bakers. From the preview
in your (Con Exclusive) New Baker, I really like it.
Thank you. Thank you very much. I've been doing stories about
my family. I tend to write from my experience, when I'm not
writing other people's characters. And lately, I have two
kids, I work at home, and I don't get out much, so really
most of the gags that occur to me…
been drawing these for years now, in my house, for the entertainment
of my family. Jokes about what goes on in my house. My kids
act like everybody else's kids and that sort of thing. There's
also the added pressure of working at home, and I can't get
anything done until they get to sleep. The first issue of
The Bakers is going to be called "Shut up and go to
bed!" and it's twenty-two pages of me trying to get these
kids to go to bed so I can do some work.
not become a corporate icon...
like "Daddy, I need a drink of water…Daddy…" Then I turn off
all the lights. "Daddy, I need a drink of water." I've got
to navigate through a living room where the floor is filled
with toys. Pointy toys. I'm going through the dark and I slip
on some kind of toy. All the toys make noise all the time.
And I'm always bumping it, or stepping on some Barney in the
dark, he starts singing "I love y - " And you're bleeding
from the scalp because you cracked your head open.
thing is that I wasn't sure anybody would like it, and then
I did this Con preview, and it turns out to be everybody's
favorite part of the book because they can relate. Which is
a relief, because that's the kind of stuff I'm really enjoying
So when is that due? January?
We're trying to set it up now. I'm self-publishing that, just
because I can't tie up the rights to my family. That's the
only reason. I have nothing against DC. People are like, oh,
you're self-publishing, you're through with DC and Marvel.
kid wants to do a comic book of her own, I can't tell her,
"sorry, sweetheart, you're the property of DC."
to clear the family Christmas card with DC. Then I'd get replaced
as the artist, "We don't think you're right for it. People
are writing that the dad is too fat, so we're replacing you
with a good-looking young man. People like the mailman character
better; it's going to be his book now"
You're also here with The Cowboy Wally animated thing…
Yes. I've been doing a lot of animation lately. I just worked
on Looney Tunes, the feature and there's shorts to
support the feature. And I just want to get my own show going,
so I've been developing the Cowboy Wally thing.
trying to set it up as a TV show or a movie. I've been doing
the animation myself. It turns out, I've discovered working
for Warners, Cartoon Network is upstairs, that the budget
for a half-hour of The Power Puff Girls is five hundred
grand…and the cartoon doesn't move.
cartoons that don't move for a living. They're called comic
books, and they don't cost me five hundred grand to produce.
So I've been making these cartoons. They're funny.
Oh, yeah, after San Diego we're going up to L.A. to do lunches
and meetings and all that. I've been talking to (Bill) Plympton
about alternative venues. He's never worked for the studios
and he does very well. And his whole thing is take it slow
and you'll make a profit.
wrapped up, and shortly afterward, a little more Hollywood
moving and shaking took place -- but that's for time to tell.
If you're interested, check out Kyle Baker's work at his
Man as Looney Tune...
so being pliable doesn't always work with the