Previously published through Kickstarter in black and white, Kyle Stark’s “Kill Them All” is now bypassing the elevator and mowing a bloody swath up fifteen flights, all in full color when a new edition of the graphic novel arrives September 27 courtesy of Oni Press.
Starks’ “Sexcastle” was up for Best Humor Publication at last year’s Eisner Awards, right around the time he successfully funded its spiritual successor “Kill Them All,” and he has since gone on to script comics based on the “Rick and Morty” animated series with artists including Marc Ellerby and CJ Cannon. In anticipation of this new edition of “Kill Them All,” featuring colors by Luigi Anderson, it’s the perfect opportunity to look back on this raucous sendup of ’90s action cinema.
The story follows the head-on collision of two very dangerous people out for vengeance, one a disgraced detective named Iruka, the other an assassin known as the Tiger’s Daughter. But really, it’s about the kicking and the screaming.
CBR: Can you talk a little bit about your process as a cartoonist and how projects like “Kill Them All” might differ from your collaborations on “Rick & Morty?” Was there a learning curve there, scripting for other artists?
Kyle Starks: My process for myself and working with others are super disparate. For my stuff – for “Kill Them All” or “Sexcastle” I don’t use a script at all. I tell myself the stories and work them out and then I just start doing them. Perfect cartoonist boy Andy Hirsch called it “comic book improv” and it’s not far off. I have maybe an outline. But for “Rick and Morty,” obviously, a script is needed. But I also do full layouts for “Rick and Morty” so sometimes it is the same as my process and then I just put a script together as a formality. That being said, working with other artist is definitely a different experience since I have to spill my idiot head out onto a script for them and pray I explain things in a way that makes sense to them like it does to me.
Let’s talk about this killing. Who’s doing the killing and why? Are any of us in danger?
Are you a baddy? Do you have evil in your heart? Are you plotting devious shenanigans? Then you’re likely safe. In the case of “Kill Them All” the killers are an alcoholic ex-cop, a recently wronged lady assassin and the killees is the criminal enterprise that wronged her. I feel like maybe that didn’t sound, like, appropriately bombastic – how about: Two hard as hell bad asses are going to kill their way to the top of a 20 story building filled with criminals and mooks and nogoodniks and they are going to their bloody revenge.
When will your bloodlust be sated? When, Kyle?
When all the baddies have been appropriately dealt with then I know I can set my pen and paper down, and relax in my easy chair. But until then, there are stories to be told. Stories that have a ton of kicking in them.
This all started in black and white with the initial independent Kickstarter, right? This takes things a step further.
Yup, the middle of last year or so I kickstarted it as a black and white, novel sized printing – Oni saw it and liked it enough to reprint it, bigger better, to a larger audience.
The added color lends a lot of atmosphere and mood. Do you consider this version…sexier? Is either version definitive for you, or is it simply a matter having the opportunity to offer choice?
I think it’s definitely sexier. You’ll 100% want to kiss it – but resist! For “Kill Them All” is a book and thus a series of pages and a smoochy paper cut is the worst paper cut of them all. With this printing being larger and in color, and Luigi doing a really great job of adding to the story with the color, it’s definitely the definitive version.
“Sexcastle” wore its ’80s action movie influences on its sleeve (or, well, supple, bare arms). Is this from that same place?
As “Sexcastle” was my love letter to ’80s actions movie this one is sort of more a love letter to ’90s action cinema: buddy cops, estranged killers, dangerous crime cabals, skyscrapers to fight in. I was inspired to make “Sexcastle” after watching “Roadhouse” for the 300th time, and I made this after seeing John Woo’s “The Killer” for the first time in over a decade. I then immediately re-watched “Hard Boiled,” and it all sort of starting falling into place.
You mention John Woo, who uses wind and birds a lot. As wind is almost unheard of in comics, how did you compensate for the lack of wind?
John Woo was like the ignition in the chamber – there are also, unfortunately, no doves. “Kill Them all” is very good and fun and full of action and tough guy talk, but it is a Failure of Doves, for sure.
What is next for Kyle Starks and those who love him?
Well, “Rock Candy Mountain” just came out from Image Comics as my new ongoing and I’m wildly thrilled about it. People are really going to like it – kicks and jokes and hobos, I mean it’s the total package. The total action-adventure hobo package. I also am, of course, on “Rick and Morty” for a long time. I’m currently set to be on it up to 40, I think, which in this era of comics I think is a really impressive run. I’m here to make comics, and I hope to keep making fun comics for a long time and make new people to love me and give them more stuff to love and we’ll all just be laughing laughing laughing for forever.