CCI: Barzak's Rides "Skate Farm" to IDW

While IDW Publishing makes its way across the comics marketplace with a string of film and TV tie-in series, the San Diego outfit also dishes up a wide slate of original properties whose purpose is nothing more than to see more comics on the stands. One of the announcements made in that vein at this weekend's Comic-Con International was word that IDW would take on the publishing of indie cartoonist Barzak's "Skate Farm" graphic novel by reprinting the original self-published volume as well as helping the creator complete the series' second installment early in 2009.

"This story is about these cosmic boards that happen into the hands of some kids at a skate camp," Barzak told CBR News. "They all come from different backgrounds and areas of Southern California, which is something that really struck me when I moved out here, how you can drive ten miles up the freeway and see extreme differences in socio-economic standings, whole different worlds just bumped up against each other. People's lives and culture can be so drastically different just five minutes from each other here. Skateboarding is a good vehicle to explore different cultures, etc since the sport itself is like that. It crosses divides �" racial, cultural, national. I think that's cool. I never want to be exclusive with my work."

What "Skate Farm" Vol. 1 included was a SoCal mash up of teenage hijinx, cosmic conspiracy, pirate street gangs and fast-paced action as the lead gang of an outsider teen, a skating professional, a troublemaker and an overachiever absconded with the otherworldly enhanced boards �" a plot which will become much more complicated in Vol. 2.

"I can't say too much or it'll ruin it, but there will be aliens, oh yes, there will be aliens," teased Barzak adding, "Well, I have a guy getting assaulted with (hair) clippers in book 2. When I was working on that scene I was thinking 'I know that this has never been done.' I'm not saying it should have been done, but that's what drives me. Doing things you haven't seen before."

Many readers may be asking themselves, "Why haven't I seen Barzak before?" and the artist knows that a large part of pairing with IDW will be the challenge of introducing readers to his creative world for the first time. "We did self publish the first book, with Richard Johnson being the editor and publisher. So now that IDW's behind us, and reprinting book 1, we'll reach a much broader audience. I think IDW will make Skate Farm the success it deserves to be; in a way we just couldn't self-publishing."

Already, the book seems to have prompted a strong response from younger readers, which Barzak appreciated very much even if it caught him slightly off guard. "You know, the 14-years-olds really seem to dig it," he said. "I've always been like Ivan Drago and doing this for myself, and now as I'm working on book 2, I find myself worrying if I'll let down random 14 year olds, which is weird."

Of course, the artist's influences lining up well with teenagers probably contributes to the success, as Barzak introduced a heavy level of pop culture inspiration into his work. "Probably I was most influenced by graffiti art and designer toys, and a lot of animation," he said. "I watch way more cartoons than any grown man should! But I draw from everything around me; tees, TV, album covers, that dude on the corner, whatever. Maybe I'll see an ad for sunglasses that has a nice design element, then I'll apply that to a comic character or something unrelated and there you go; now it's a new idea."

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