Cloonan & Cho Talk "K.G.B."

The name Becky Cloonnan is familiar to many comics fan. She's the artist of "Channel Zero: Jennie One," "Demo" and "American Virgin." She wrote and illustrated "East Coast Rising" and "Pixu," and wrote the recent Dark Horse one-shot "Tales of the Vampires," illustrated by Vasilis Lolos. Before she became a comics professional, Cloonan and two other artists who met at the School of Visual Arts in New York City started the website estrigious.com. One of those artists was Hwan Cho, who, while not working full time in comics, has written and illustrated dozens of webcomics, minicomics and short stories.

Now the two have teamed up to co-write and co-illustrate the new weekly webcomic "K.G.B." on www.kgbcomic.com. Starting September 9, Cloonan and Cho will be telling the strange epic tale of a Korean rap group with the tagline, "You paid for the whole seat, but you'll only use the edge!"

CBR News spoke with Becky Cloonan and Hwan Cho about "K.G.B."

CBR: "K.G.B." has been teased for some time. There have been postcards and there's been internet chatter, but it went live on 9/9/09 so you can finally tell us, what is "K.G.B.?"

HWAN CHO: "K.G.B." is something we had in mind when we were self-publishing our own book ten years back. Even back then, we wanted to make this a fun webcomic project. It got pushed back when we got busy with school, work and life. A lot has changed over the years - we're more mature and focused, and definitely have a better grasp of the industry. It makes more sense to work on "K.G.B." now then it was ten years ago - I don't think we would have been able to pull through it then.

"K.G.B." is the upcoming Korean rap group in the mid-'90s, trying to make it to the top! They're just awesome - I don't want to spoil the story any further than that.

BECKY CLOONAN: Yeah, we've had the idea for "K.G.B." for about ten years? Last year Hwan found these files and folders filled with notes and character designs we had done for the series when we first thought of it, and I was like, "You know, this isn't a horrible idea!"

The story starts just as the group is starting to break out of the underground music scene. They haven't released any albums yet, and have only done shows. There are four guys in the K.G.B., Tae (the lead singer), Jae (the rapper), Fatty (the choreographer, and me and Hwan's favorite chracter) and Yoo (the ballad singer). The guys have a great dynamic together, and as the story unfolds secrets of their past will be revealed, and events will be set in motion that will change their lives forever! It's epic.

What's your working relationship like and who's doing what on the comic?

CHO: We just get together every other day when we're free and share art/story chores. The K.G.B. designs are very specific since we can both adapt the style as our own since Becky and I have very distinct approach to our art.

It's a lot of fun working with Becky. Though at times it's hard for me to focus, having someone as disciplined as Becky working with me definitely keeps me on my toes.

CLOONAN: Our weekends are pretty full of "K.G.B.," so we dedicate two days and a few nights each week to the webcomic. We'll be updating one page a week and we've been working all summer, so we're four months ahead at the moment. The story is broken down in chapters, so after doing an outline of each chapter, we thumbnail each chapter, and we trade pencil/ink chores. It's an out and out collaboration, which makes it a lot of fun to work on.

Why a webcomic?

CHO: The theme of "K.G.B." is very international, so perhaps a webcomic is the best approach to reach out to more readers? Though I never thought of it in that big of a scale. It's a fun comic, best to be told a little bit at a time.

CLOONAN: I suggested doing it as a webcomic because we won't have to worry about print and limitations, and the one page a week schedule is something we can both keep up. Formatting was a little tricky; at first we were trying to cram a lot into each page, but then we decided to forget the limitations of only reading one page a week and just tell the story the best way possible.

I've never done a webcomic of this scale before, and I was a little nervous going into it. Luckily I spoke with a few webcomics people at [Comic-Con International in San Diego] this year who answered a few of my questions and gave me some good advice. After breaking down the story, it turned out that "K.G.B." a good fit for the medium, and it's also a great way to learn more about online comics in general.

It's set in 1995 in Korea. Why a period piece?

CHO: When we first thought of the idea, it was in 1999-2000? So when you think of it, it wasn't that long ago then. Also - and I don't think we consciously thought of this - but the '90s was a huge boom in the hip-hop/rap genre in the Korean music scene.

CLOONAN: I'm not sure how it came about, actually it's hard to even remember. When we were looking through the folders of notes, I was like, "Shit, man. What were we thinking?" Instead of updating the comic, we decided to keep everything true to the time when we first thought of it. Besides, we did a lot of growing up in the '90s and it's a perfect time for a little nostalgia.

Tell us about the format and the design for the pages of "K.G.B." and why you went in that direction.

CHO: The "pages" are formatted as a square to fit the computer screen. A CD booklet, almost? The actual style - going back and forth from the "serious" to S.D. (super-deformed) - works well with the comic theme. The story goes from heart-warming to drama to action and cute fun. It's all over the place!

CLOONAN: The comic is pretty straightforward. We decided on one page a week because it fit our schedules best, we couldn't handle any more than that, and any less wouldn't get any story across. I think it will take a few weeks for things to actually get moving, but once the story picks up I hope people get on board for it! It's even in color! Granted, only two colors, but hey, it's better than none!

We are also approaching the story like a TV show, with season finales at the end of each story arc and a few months "off" during the summer to regroup, spiff up the website, and get ahead on the next season.

Hwan, as many people may know, Becky has an occasional webcomic called "Comic Attack" which recently depicted her beating up fellow cartoonist Amy Reeder Hadley of "Madame Xanadu." Were you worried at all about working with Becky?

CHO: Becky has yet to lay a hand on me. Maybe because I'm older? The only fights I've been involved with are jerks - I can never hit a fellow women. Especially someone as cute as Becky.

CLOONAN: I resent this question!

So when people check out www.kgbcomic.com every Wednesday, other than a much needed dose of nineties nostalgia, what can they look forward to?

CHO: Cute boys? Rap-ballads? Dancing? Drama? Tears? Comedy? Friendship? I'm surprised at how we managed to fit all this to our comic! Hope everybody loves the "K.G.B." as much as we do!

CLOONAN: When you boil it down, our comic is very heart warming, but be warned: it's epic! We have a storyline that spans several years. "K.G.B." might start out light, but be prepared for a courageous tale of action and drama, full of twists and turns.

Becky Cloonan and Hwan Cho along with fellow artists Tara McPherson, Hilary Price and Melissa DeJesus will be signing and sketching at That's Entertainment in Worcester, Massachusetts on Saturday, September 12. More information at thatse.com

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