Posted September 4, 2017 by Carlos Alcazaren in Comics

HOBOS AND COMICS: An Interview with Kyle Starks

A great “almost every action movie” parody in Sexcastle, a nonstop vertical ride that was Kill Them All, and an ongoing train ride to Rock Candy Mountain. Kyle Starks has been the mastermind in all these comics and FlipGeeks had the chance to get to know more about him and these great titles as well as some insight into his other works like Rick and Morty, and the tabletop game-based comic Dead of Winter.

Kyle Starks

FLIPGEEKS: Where are you from?

KYLE STARKS: I’m from Southern Indiana. I’m a Hoosier boy!

What comic books were  your favorite during your when you were young?

Oh man, when I was little I read the most basic books: Spider-Man, Incredible Hulk, X-Men, JLA. I think I grew out of that and moved into a really diverse group of books but I think I came in with the basics like everyone else.

What are your favorite comic books now?

Right now?  I think Kaijumax from Zander Cannon might be the best book on the shelves. I love anything that John Allison works on. I love anything Swedish cartoonist Jason works on. I love Saga, Southern Bastards and Sex Criminals like everyone else.

Do you work at home or in a studio?

I work from home. I have a very small corner of the house that I huddle in to work on.

How many comic books are you currently working on?

I am currently working on:  Rock Candy Mountain from Image Comics and Rick and Morty from ONI Press. I also have Dead of Winter coming out for the next three months and in September Kill Them All from ONI Press. I’m super busy.

How do you usually start your creative work?

It’s a boring answer, but I go to work every day. I start by getting up and sitting at my desk. If I need to jumpstart a new idea or work on ideas for a new book I tend to do it by walking around a lot. But ideas are made, you can’t wait for inspiration, and that means getting to work.

What led you to tackling Rock Candy Mountain?

I had recently started to learn about and watch a genre of Kung Fu films called Wuxia and I was really fascinated how there didn’t seem to be an American story in that vein and really interested in what that would be. Rock Candy Mountain came from really delving and considering what that story would be.


You got this great action sequential on your work, do you get inspired creatively from films?

I think just by the amount of time that they take versus comics I ingest more film and television. But I love comics, comics are my heart, but I have television or a movie constantly running in my house, even if it’s just background noise.

What films inspired you with Rock Candy Mountain?

I don’t think any films were a direct or indirect inspiration on me for Rock Candy Mountain. There could be something subconscious, for sure. If you’re looking for a good hobo movie there aren’t many but I recommend Emperor of the North with Lee Marvin and Ernest Borgnine. I think my storytelling and therefore Rock Candy Mountain is just a mosaic or gestalt of four decades of consuming story.

When doing research, have you tried being a hobo, like riding in trains and such?

Nooooooooo! Don’t do it! Hopping trains is super dangerous. I grabbed a train once when I was very very young but only rode it for a mile or so. But I could never. I’m very indoorsy. I like air conditioning and keeping all my appendages.

Like in the comic, to you, what situation would you make a deal with the devil?

I can’t think of any? I have a beautiful wife, two really great kids, I’m telling stories for a living and telling the stories I want to tell. I can’t think of how you improve on that. Maybe if, like, I could teleport. I don’t know. I don’t think that’s worth sacrificing my eternal soul. I think I’m good. I hear Hell is terrible. That’s not for me.

Other than movies, what other things do you get inspiration from, like music, people and such?

Again, I think it’s maybe it’s a cheap answer, but – everything? The news, books, people I meet, things I see. Inspiration comes from the least expected places, but it’s also everywhere at once. If you keep you eyes and ears open, show an authentic interest in the humans around you there’s always some future story happening.

Could you tell us the challenges you have when doing a monthly book?

For me? Telling a story that ends in a brief amount of time that does so in a way that compels interest in the next one. I really have always considered my graphic novels like film and trying to do a monthly is like television. It’s a completely different way to tell a story and even after doing it, I find it very challenging still.


With your work at ONI Press, Dead of Winter, how did you come up with the story?

That game has some narrative already in it, so it’s a full world. For me, it was a matter of taking the classic zombie story and twisting it to where the greatest dog of all time is leading the way.

What’s the challenge when adapting it from a tabletop game?

I think, handedly, the biggest challenge is to adapt it in a way that will appeal to someone who doesn’t know or love the game. I think saying “this is based on a thing you haven’t had an interest in prior” is a hard wall to climb. I didn’t want to make a good board game comic, I wanted to make a good comic – and I did. Which makes the next bit how do you do that but not lose the board game. Easily the hardest part.  Harder even than telling a story where the centerpiece is a dog.

Have you played the game?

Yeah, I adore it. I play it about twice a week. And that’s not interview talk. It’s maybe not my go-to in a new playgroup but it is easily my most played. I just got back from a huge board game show promoting the book and hunting down all the promotional items I don’t have.  It’s my favorite game, pretty handedly.

You have projects that let you write and collaborate with artists, are there any challenges when working with them? 

There are a ton of challenges. There are limitless challenges. I wouldn’t even know where to start. I’ve been mostly super lucky when I have to work with others that they’ve been great to work with.


We LOVE Sexcastle and Kill Them All. Is your process with Rock Candy Mountain different from your other/past works?

Only in the sense that, unlike those books, Rock Candy Mountain is broken up into chapters for monthly issues. Which was a challenge, prior to Rock Candy Mountain I hadn’t written anything that wasn’t a 200-page graphic novel.

Do you draw comics traditionally or digitally?

I presently work digitally. It’s my preferred method for a ton of reasons. Speed and efficiency being the top two.

When you’re not working on comics, what do you do during your free time?

Oh, I don’t have free time. I’m always working. If I’m not sitting at my desk I spend a lot of times with my daughters playing games, goofing off. But I’m almost always thinking about something work related if I’m not directly working. It’s a 24 hours a day job.

Is making a graphic novel easier than doing a monthly book?

It is for me? It’s more work but you get to handle pacing differently, you don’t have to worry about someone taking a month off between pages and what did they forget or where will this one end – what do I have to edit out to make that end in 24 pages.

Rick and Morty

You write Rick and Morty, do you feel any pressure working on it because of its massive fanbase?

I feel some pressure, sure. It’s a wildly popular series written by actual story and comedy geniuses. It’s daunting for sure – but I don’t let it affect me. I love that show so I’m trying to my best to recreate that show in 18 pages and that’s a fun challenge.

How do you write it?

I will never give my secrets away.

Do people from the show tell you what to write?

Nope. I think they technically approve my plot synopsis I submit for the solicits but I’ve never been given a note or a suggestion or any recommendation. All the Rick and Morty comic is all me and that great team. ONI put together a great team to make that book, we all love the show and are honored to be a part of it.

Would you like your comic books to be adapted into movies/TV? Which would fit as films or as TV series?

Well, my first book, Sexcastle, was optioned almost immediately for film, which is a huge thrill. I think anyone who tells stories for a living wants as many people as possible to share in and experience those and certainly film/tv is a huge stage, so yeah I’d love for it to happen. I think Rock Candy Mountain is a mini-series but I’m not someone who makes those decisions.

Have you been to the Philippines? If no, would you like to visit the country?

Not only have I not been to the Phillipines, I’ve never left the US. But I’d love to! I’d love to visit the Phillipines, I hear it’s beautiful.

Have you tried Filipino food? If yes, what dish?

I haven’t! I suspect it’s not much surprise that Southern Indiana isn’t a hotbed for diverse food options. But it all looks PRETTY DELICIOUS.

Carlos Alcazaren