Joe Kelly: "I Kill Giants"

This July, Goliath better watch his back. Image Comics' I Kill Giants, a seven-issue miniseries written by Joe Kelly and illustrated by JM Ken Niimura, finds a young girl struggling with the pressures of growing up -- and giants. CBR News caught up with Kelly to discuss the new project.

I Kill Giants is the sort of book I've wanted to write for a long time,” Kelly told CBR News. “It's the comic equivalent of an indie film--funny, raw, starring real people going through real problems -- with a twist. I couldn't be more proud of the story and the book itself, which is going to be gorgeous.

“The story follows Barbara Thorson, a troubled but resilient fifth grader who's a bit of an outcast -- Dungeons & Dragons, fantasy and general mopery are her hobbies. But it looks like she's taking the fantasy thing a little too far. She's always talking about giants, reading books on giants, setting traps for giants, getting ready to kill a giant. Almost the entire story is told from her point-of-view, so we see what she sees: pixies, critters, and a monster that lives upstairs in her house, so terrifying that Barbara only sleeps in the basement. So is she crazy, or does she know something that we don't? Does she have an active imagination, or does she see another world?

“The story kicks off as this fantasy world begins to crack because of some outside forces--a bully, the school psychologist, and her first real friend.”

If Kelly’s description of an “indie film” comic seems a bit of a departure from his superhero books like Action Comics and JLA and the animated adventure series Ben10 for which he is perhaps best known, the shift is a long time coming. “I love superheroes and always plan to have a foot in mainstream comics, but the truth is I should have been writing stories like this ten years ago,” he said. “My sensibilities are for quirkier, 'darker’ stories, and that doesn't always jibe with mainstream stuff -- the quirk, not the dark! We tend to get pigeonholed in this business, and my brain just doesn't work that way. I love kids’ stuff, I love Vertigo books, I love small indies and epic manga. So now, that's what I'm writing, and luckily Image is happy to have it!”

The tone, then, is dark without reaching for a “mature readers” label. “Barbara's story is meant for teens and adults, definitely,” Kelly confirmed. “I really enjoy 'stories about children that are for adults,’ which is a weird sub-genre to me. Something like Pan's Labyrinth fits in here, Heavenly Creatures, etc. There's a magical realism aspect to I Kill Giants that hits the more mature reader, while the humor and the meat of Barbara's story is something any 13-year old can relate to.”

Joining Kelly on I Kill Giants is a newcomer to American comics, JM Ken Niimura. A Japanese-Spanish artist who has contributed to the Japanese in Mangaland language instruction series and several European comics, Niimura met Kelly at a convention in Spain. The writer describes Niimura as “a mad genius.” “Ken is a brilliant artist with an incredible depth of style and technique. He's also heavily manga influenced, so the book is being done in what I'd call a 'loose manga’ style -- his line is very fluid and relaxed, wash inks, etc. He brought so much to this book, it was like I wrote it for him. I'm seriously lucky to have gotten to work with him before anyone in the U.S. (or the rest of the world, for that matter) knows his name -- this guy is going to be a superstar. I plan on locking him in my basement.”

I Kill Giants is the first of many stories Kelly is working on that are off the beaten trail. This year's slate also includes Four Eyes, a revenge story about illegal dragon fighting in 1930s Brooklyn. “It's awesome and drawn by Max Fiumara,” Kelly said. “We'll have a preview of that book available in July.

"Then my children's book, Douglas Frdericks and the House of They, comes out later in the year, drawn by Ben Roman. I'm very proud of that as well, it's gorgeous.

“I'm also writing a crime book for Vertigo, and have plans for two new Image books next year,” Kelly said. “It's key for me personally to experiment, and comics are the perfect medium in which to do so.

“And look for my return to Marvel this year with Spidey. I can't wait for that!”

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