Writer/artist Rich Koslowski has had an unpredictable career. Early on he did numerous illustrations for Archie Comics, most notably as the artist on the popular “Sonic The Hedgehog” comic. It was during that time ten years ago that he created “The 3 Geeks,” a series of self-published comics that starred, well, three geeks names Keith, Allen and Jim, each with a disproportionate love and enthusiasm for comics and all that comes with it. That enthusiasm and relative innocence of those characters helped them find a quick fan base, with readers seeing a bit of themselves in these three young men.
While “The 3 Geeks” have remained in off and on publication since their creation, Koslowski has worked on two graphic novels, both published by Top Shelf Productions. The first, “Three Fingers” was a VH1 “Behind The Music” type documentary meets “Roger Rabbit” about scandals behind the scenes in the animation industry that rocked the business to its very core. His next long form graphic novel was “The King,” about the world’s foremost tabloid writer on all things related to Elvis whose job it is to land an interview with an enigmatic new Elvis impersonator selling out nightly on the Las Vegas strip. Two very different graphic novels, both wildly different than “The Three Geeks.”
Having done comics and graphic novels, for his next project Koslowski directed his energies to the world of prose. This July, through his own 3 Fingers Prints, Koslowski will publish his first illustrated novel, “The List,” his twisted take on the mythology of the biggest holiday of the year, Christmas. CBR News caught up with Koslowski to see if he’s in the naughty or nice column of said list.
“I figured someone hadda do it – wreak havok on Christmas – so why not me,” Koslowski asked. “The premise is simple – if Santa Claus truly existed – and in my story we make the assumption he does – and he had this powerful List with all the people on the planet’s name on it saying if they were ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ then imagine the people who’d want to get their hands on this List? Imagine the lengths they’d go to get it? It gets nasty.”
Nasty indeed. The series is populated with numerous recognizable characters, starting with Santa, a bunch of elves and reindeer, with a whole host of characters that might be new to you. “There’s a character in the book that I stumbled upon in my research of Christmas lore that I’d never heard of before. Someone that was conjured up on, or around, the same time Santa was way back in the 1300s or 1500s or whenever the myth started,” said Koslowski. “I don’t remember exactly right now, but anyways, there was a ‘yin’ to Santa’s ‘yang,’ apparently, and he wasn’t so nice. After a couple decades he was, in fact, kind of fazed out of Christmas lore because he was so darned brutal. Well, I rediscovered him and have brought him back – and he’s pretty pissed at having been forgotten, let me tell you!”
The inspiration for this story – which Koslowski pitches as “The Lord of the Rings” meets “Santa Claus is Coming To Town” – comes from his youth, while watching those great holiday animated features on TV. “I, like so many people from my generation, grew up without cable TV and used to anticipate, and plan, the televising of all those wonderful Christmas shows they played every season – ‘Rudolph,’ ‘Frosty,’ ‘Santa Claus Is Coming To Town’ – and you got one shot! If you missed it, there wasn’t any video tape or TiVo. So, we knew when it was time to come in from playing outside (yep, no video games either, kids!) and we ran, man! You just did not miss those shows. It was pure magic; those shows, those times.
“But I’ve grown up now and I’ve evolved – my tastes have evolved. Now I’m watching things like ‘Lord of the Rings.’ But my love – my nostalgia – for those days long ago is still so pervasive. This book is a reflection of my love for my days of youth and their innocence and my tastes now as I’ve matured.”
For some, Christmas is a time to decorate, buy gifts, drink copious amounts of egg nog, anticipate gifts and celebrate as much as possible. But for many, as they get older, the wonder of Christmas wears off . “I’m afraid I’ve become a bit jaded in regards to Christmas and that jaded attitude is also reflected in my book,” admitted Koslowski. “The over-commercialization bugs the hell out of me! If not for my 5-year-old daughter, I’d just as soon skip Christmas entirely every year. But I want her to experience the magic I experienced when I was little and would do nothing to jeopardize that for her. So, I put on a fake smile and pretend. But the joy I experience through her is pure. She reminds me what Christmas is supposed to be.
“I try very hard in ‘The List’ to bring some magic back. And I hope that for other ‘jaded’ ones out there it has the desired effect. It certainly helped me.”
“The List” is a departure for Koslowski, it being his first novel, and the answer to why do this as a novel versus a graphic novel is a simple one – he likes new challenges. “I’ve done the sequential art thing, and I love it, but I need to try new things and I need to constantly challenge myself,” said Koslowski. “I also need to expose myself to new consumers. Hopefully this book exposes me to people who would never consider a ‘comic book.’ And that’s not saying I’m not doing comics anymore. I have a bunch of comics and graphic novels in the works. I just felt this story in particular lent itself well to the novel format. It’d make a great movie, too! (Shameless, but true, plug to movie guys!)
“Another reason is Christmas related, ironically,” continued Koslowski. “Way back in 1985, I received a Stephen King book for Christmas. It was ‘Cycle of the Werewolf’ written by Mr. King and illustrated by Bernie Wrightson. I opened it and was blown away! I loved books (especially Stephen King books), loved comic books, read voraciously, but I’d never seen anything like this before. I laid on the couch and devoured that book in one sitting. I loved the format, length, pictures – everything about it. I vividly remember thinking to myself, ‘One day I’d like to do something like this!’
“Well, here I am 22 years later. This book is my ‘something like this!'”
Knowing the length of the book would be somewhere between 150 and 200 pages, Koslowski began to map out how many illustrations he’d do. He decided on one picture for every four pages or so, with a handful of full color images throw in for good measure. “I laid out a comprehensive outline of the story and determined pivotal points in the storyline where I thought a picture would be most appreciated and enhance the story,” explained Koslowski. “After doing that I decided which of those pictures should be full-color factoring in importance and spacing. I didn’t, after all, want all the full-color images bunched together.
“So, I had an approximate total of images and which ones would be full-color and which B&W. Then I set about writing the book! And, occasionally, I’d take a break from writing the story to knock out an image or two. It was a fun process – invigorating! I did the full-color paintings with Guache and the B&W illos in my ‘patented’ ink-wash style using ink and watered down variations of ink. The pictures turned out better than I could have ever hoped. There are a few illos in there that are, bar none, the best things I’ve done to date. I already know which ones will never be sold. And my wife already told me she’ll kill me if I sell the one of Santa opening the box (no ‘spoiler’ here, you’ll have to read the book!)!
“The choice to use B&W and full-color images was completely aesthetic not economical. In fact, the B&W images will be run on the press as full-color to get all the little nuances in the ink. There are subtle hints of sepia tones, reds, etc. in ‘black’ ink that just wouldn’t appear if we ran the images as B&W grayscale images. So, technically, all the images are ‘full-color,’ I guess.”
Writing “The List” revealed something unexpected to Koslowski – he enjoys writing more than illustrating. “And that’s not knocking myself as an artist as I believe the artwork is very strong and that I’m a very capable artist,” said Koslowski. “But I’m a bit of an impatient person when it comes to my creativity and I have so many ideas I want to get out there. Having to actually sit down at the drawing table and produce art takes a lot of time. A lot. Whereas the sitting at the computer writing part I can crank! Sure, there are revisions and revisions, but the initial process of getting my thoughts onto paper is much faster than illustrating images onto paper. I can be much more prolific if I focus more on the writing aspect of my career.
At least that’s my theory.”
Koslowski chose to self-publish “The List” rather than go through a company like Top Shelf or any other publishing house. He did shop the book around to a couple of publishers early on, but found the process too slow and was concerned that if this idea floated out there for too long, someone might steal it. “I know, I know, paranoid thinking, perhaps, but things like this happen in this business,” said Koslowski. “So, after a couple months of the conventional route, I quickly determined that self-publishing was imperative. This idea has to get out there and it has to be obvious who it originated from. I wasn’t joking when I said above that it’d make a great movie. Whether people dig the book, or not, I think everyone who reads it will agree the basic idea is clever and it’d make a great movie.
“And, to be honest, I like self-publishing. I like the control. I like dealing directly with Diamond and the printer and I like packing up all the boxes and shipping them out when the orders come in. I do.”
Speaking of movies, Koslowski is also working on a “3 Geeks” film. “I just got the first draft of the script sent to me from the screenplay writer Jeremiah Hall two days ago. I’ve read the first few pages and can’t tell you how excited I am at his take on my comics,” said Koslowski. “He has a very good grasp on the characters and essence of the series. I will be working with him on polishing the script and once that’s done we are scheduled to start filming this fall. We’re hoping for a Comic-Con debut in 2008. That is tentative, though. Nothing’s concrete yet and I’m never one to count my chickens before they’re hatched. But we are moving along quite nicely on the project and I couldn’t be happier.
“Now we have to find the perfect Allen and Jim. I think we’ve got Keith and Sky Branovan cast already. And I have someone perfect for Uncle Jim.”
For fans of Koslowski’s art concerned that his love of writing will keep him away from the drafting table completely, fear not. He’s working with new writer Johnnie Arnold on the graphic novel “BB Wolf and the 3 L.P.s,” a new take on the Three Little Pigs fable. “It’s an excellent book and the illustrations are done in my ink-wash style,” said Koslowski. “I have 13 of the 69 pages completed and I think we’ll see the book out in 2008, maybe sooner. Johnnie’s shopping it around and the reaction, thus far, has been very promising.
“I’m also always developing my own stories and have a new ‘3 Geeks’ graphic novel in the works and an autobiographical graphic novel completely written and partially illustrated. It’s all just a matter of time! Not enough of it, and too many ideas! But 2007 is shaping up rather nicely so far and 2008 looks to have quite a few new projects by yours truly set to be released.
“I’ve been very, very busy.”
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