Derek Kirk Kim Says "Tune," "Mythomania" are the "Same Difference"

After being awarded  a Xeric Award in 2002, the book Derek Kirk Kim published with the grant, "Same Difference and Other Stories," won him Ignatz, Eisner and Harvey Awards and established him as one of the most talented cartoonists of his generation. Since then, Kim has written "Good as Lily" for DC's Minx imprint, drawn "The Eternal Smile" for First Second and illustrated stories for the anthologies "1001 Nights of Snowfall" and "Bizarro World."

Last year was a major year for Kim. His webcomic "Tune" relaunched on tunecomic.com with Les McClaine ("The Middleman") now drawing the book; Kim also launched a webseries that he wrote, directed and co-produced, "Mythomania;" and First Second Books published a new hardcover edition of "Same Difference." 2012 marks the second season of "Mythomania," features more of "Tune" three times a week and the first volume of "Tune" will appear in print. CBR News spoke with Kim over e-mail to discuss his past and future.

CBR News: It's been many years since you wrote and drew "Same Difference." What were your thoughts on returning to the book? Was there anything that made you cringe or anything you managed to pull off that that really impressed you in "Same Difference?"

Derek Kirk Kim: With any old work, you can't help but see the flaws. But at some point you just have to let it go and separate yourself from it. We all know what happens when you don't. (Could've sworn Han shot first...)

One of the things I might do differently if I did it now would be the opening. I would probably start the story with something a bit more interesting than a simple wide shot of the location. And some of the art in the first handful of pages [is] kind of hard for me to look at. When I was drawing those early pages, I didn't take it that seriously. I thought "Same Difference" would be a good exercise; a simple story around 30 pages. I never imagined it would jump start my career or be granted a hardcover treatment someday! So in the beginning, I just sort of whipped out the art in the simplest and fastest way I could. If you compare the earlier pages with the pages near the end, you'll see a jump in the artwork. That wasn't because of artistic development; before "Same Difference" I did comics with much more complex and realistic artwork. So if I did it today, I would probably give more care to the artwork from the very beginning.

As for things that still hold up for me -- I guess more than anything, it would be the depiction of the characters. I still feel a real warmth for them, and they feel like real people to me. I hope that translates to the readers.

Why did you want to publish a new version of Same Difference?

The original version has long been out of print, and First Second and I figured now there was a new generation that would appreciate the story.

Why just the novella and not the short stories that were included in the original book?

In many reviews of the original edition, there were complaints that the short stories, which were wildly divergent, were incongruent with the tone set by "Same Difference." Or that they simply weren't as good as the titular story. My publisher agreed, and so did I.

Is there a chance we'll see a collection of your short work at some point?

I hope so. Besides the short stories in "Same Difference and Other Stories," I generated a lot of short material for my mini-comic series "Lowbright" that were never collected. So I think what I want to do is wait a long time, maybe when I'm near the end of my life, and just collect all the short material I've ever done in one book. That would be satisfying.

Turning to your other comic project, what is "Tune?"

"Tune" is a crazy genre-bending series about an art school drop-out named Andy Go -- he makes a terrible mistake and ends up in another dimension called Praxis where art doesn't exist. He's thrown into a zoo for "animals" from various other dimensions, and right now in the story, he's at his lowest point as a horrible truth about his situation has been revealed. Will he ever be able to break out and get back home? That's "Tune" in a nutshell. It's a really fun series, full of comedy, adventure, and plenty of agonizing.

"Tune" refers to the mode of travel between dimensions.

After the success of "Same Difference" and your other books, why did you decide to tell the story online one page at a time?

I had quite a good experience serializing "Same Difference" online so I thought I'd do the same with "Tune."

You drew the first ten chapters and then artist Les McClaine took over. Why turn to another artist and what made McClaine the right creator for the series?

It's a horrible life drawing comics, frankly. So I turned it over to someone who likes to be paid to have said horrible life! But mainly, Les McClaine blew me away with his art in his "Jonny Crossbones" series, and his style seemed like a perfect match for the story. Also, we have similar artistic sensibilities so I thought it would make for a smooth transition.

Since the publication of "Same Difference" much of your work has been in collaboration with others as in "Good as Lily" and "The Eternal Smile." Why haven't we seen more work that's both written and drawn by you?

The first volume of "Tune," coming out from First Second Books this year, will be completely written and drawn by me. But basically, I'm a really slow artist so that's just not feasible for me all the time. Also, I really enjoy writing a lot more. And others may disagree, but I think I'm a stronger writer than a comics artist. It comes much more naturally to me.

How long do you picture "Tune" being?

Well, "Tune" was conceived as an ongoing series, so I hope to keep doing it as long as there's interest. But if I ever decide or am forced to bury "Tune," I do have a final ending cocked and loaded, so there will be closure for the readers. And if "Tune" can only be sustained for the first story arc, it should still be satisfying as there is an ending to this particular story that's being serialized right now. But I really hope there will be enough of a readership to keep the series going. I have so many adventures lined up for Andy Go and Co.!

A few months back you debuted your webseries "Mythomania." For people who have not watched, what is "Mythomania?"

"Mythomania" is a show about a group of aspiring cartoonists. It's partially based on things my friends and I went through trying to break into the comics industry when we were in our early 20s. It's rare to find any true depictions of cartoonists in movies or TV shows ("Caroline in the City," anyone?), so I thought it would be refreshing for someone who has actually lived the life to put it on film. In the first story arc, Andy Go has to choose between advancing his career or his social life. Throughout my career, I've often found them to be in conflict being a cartoonist -- a mostly solitary life.

And as I mentioned, this series also stars Andy Go. How? Because it's the same character from "Tune!" Kind of. "Mythomania" and "Tune" are alternate timelines that stem from the same story. Both stories share the same characters but Andy Go and his friends go down very different paths after college in each series. This series will probably be particularly appreciated by readers who liked "Same Difference" and aren't as into my more genre-infused stories. "Mythomania" and "Same Difference" are very similar in tone and the kind of stories they tell.

What made you create a webseries?

The web has totally revolutionized and democratized film distribution. We're no longer dependent on giant corporate studios to distribute our work. I really wanted to be a part of that. It's actually very similar to what my cartoonist friends and I were doing when we first started making mini-comics. The web -- and the incredible advancements in digital filmmaking technology -- has done what photocopiers did for comics. It's really exciting to be a part of this revolution.

Did you conceive "Mythomania" as an alternate universe version of "Tune" with the same main character from the very beginning?

I already had characters who were struggling, dreamy-eyed artists, so it didn't seem necessary to make a whole new cast of characters. Besides that, I just really love these characters and I wanted to see what I could do with them in the "real" world. Sometimes I feel like they're my closest friends.

One of the things I enjoyed about "Mythomania" was the fact that it felt similar in tone to the early chapters of "Tune." Was your thinking a similar interest in exploring those characters and that milieu?

Yes, basically, I wanted to do a real world take on these characters. The challenges of being an artist in this world is just as tough as anything Andy Go in "Tune" will face in the multiverse!

Will we see a second season of "Mythomania" and what kinds of things would you be interested in exploring in a new season?

Yes! The cast and crew are all chomping at the bit to get back to the series. We're hoping to resume shooting in January.

I'm going to continue exploring the tension between social life and being a cartoonist, but we'll also see a lot of more of the characters just being themselves. I'm writing stories that focus on the other characters as well as Andy Go, so we'll see a much more fully developed ensemble cast.

The show featured cameos by Scott McCloud and Jason Shiga. Are there any other cartoonists you'd like to guest star on the series?

Oh, sure! If I could ever iron out the logistics and budget, I would love to do a story on the horrors of tabling at a convention as an unknown cartoonist. My cartoonist friends and I have so many horror stories. And if that ever happens, that would be a great opportunity for a cameo bonanza.

The "Same Difference" HC is on sale now, and "Tune" is serialized at www.tunecomic.com

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