Taking 'Flight': Kazu Kibuishi talks new indy anthology

The comics anthology is one of the tougher projects to produce and market. From a creative perspective, working on an anthology can be a very rewarding job, the chance to participate with other creators on something big and varied. On the other hand, it's not an easy task coordinating the efforts of numerous creators, making sure they all deliver their content on time. One person misses their deadline and the entire project is delayed. Add to that fact that generally anthologies don't sell particularly well in the direct market. But, in the face of these very challenges, passionate comic creators happily embrace the format and produce amazing publications.

Kazu Kibuishi is one of those passionate individuals. A Southern California resident who works in the animation industry as a story and 3D artist, Kibuishi decided to gather up some of his friends to produce an anthology slated for release later this year called "Flight." CBR News caught up with Kibuishi to learn more about this independent anthology.

"'Flight' began as a tiny little project that Catia Chien suggested just a little while after the Alternative Press Expo last year," Kibuishi told CBR News Thursday afternoon. "We had such a great time at the convention that we felt we should put together a book full of short stories to sell at our table the next year. I thought it was a great idea, and I had been planning for a few years to do some sort of comics magazine or anthology that I wanted to call 'Flight Patterns' full of Moebius and Miyazaki-influenced material. The two ideas sort of converged, I shortened the title to 'Flight,' asked a few friends to contribute, and began putting together some material."

Kibuishi then went through the task of lining up talent for "Flight."

"Everyone on this book was asked by either me or another contributor to join the project. I'm fortunate enough to have some really talented friends, who are also some of the nicest people in the world, and I asked them first, or rather, made them feel guilty if they didn't contribute. Once we had several artists onboard, it took literally only five or six more e-mails to sign on the entire current list of contributors. I first asked Joel Carroll to join the project during a casual e-mail exchange, and he asked Jake Parker, who was really excited to do the project, seeing as he had a similar project in mind for some time. Next, I asked Enrico Casarosa, then the Pants Press Gang, Kean Soo, Neil B, and Derek Kirk Kim joined soon afterward. It all sort of snowballed from there. The current contributors also include the French comics artist Bengal, Bill Mudron, Catia Chien, Clio Chiang, Chris Appelhans, Dylan Meconis, Erika Moen, Hope Larson, Jen Wang, Khang Le, Phil Craven, Rad Sechrist, and Vera Brosgol. You can find a list of links to their Web sites on the 'Flight homepage.

Creators involved didn't have to come up with a story that related to the name of the project, in factm Kibuishi gave his creators no limitations for themes they could explore in the book.

"Some of the contributors decided to use the idea of flight as a theme, but it was entirely optional. I figured it would be best to let them see the work already going into the book and let them find their own niche in there somewhere. This is where the Flight Forums played a huge part in the creation of the book. I basically set up a private forum where we showed each other the work, and we all received critiques and comments. The forum made it really easy for me to art direct (if you can even call it that), and really gave us a sense that we were working together in a single studio to build one big project. In the end, I think people will be surprised at how cohesive the book will feel despite such wide-ranging styles and subject matter. The contributors are also located all over the world! I haven't even met most of them."

For Kibuishi, producing "Flight" comes from a need for a creative outlet outside his regular job. This is a project of passion and making money came secondary to creative wishes.

"I had a lot of faith in the contributors to create some comics that people would really, really want to see," said Kibuishi. "It also didn't really matter to me if we made money or not. I just wanted to do it, even if it cost me an arm and a leg to do so. In some ways, this project also stems from my frustration of working on large projects at my day job that don't go anywhere. I pour so much into these projects that end up on a shelf somewhere.

I get paid, but nobody sees the stuff. It's difficult not having an audience for your material, because that's the biggest reason I feel we do these things in the first place."

The original plan was to self-publish "Flight" and have it ready for release at this month's Alternative Press Expo, but as everyone got into the project they realized that wasn't going to be possible. So, with the delay in the project, Kibuishi decided they'd approach some publishing houses about bringing "Flight" to life. Once a publisher is found, final publication plans will be made for a mid-to-late 2004 release. The final book will be over 200 pages.

"…['Flight'] contains some of the best comics work I've seen in recent memory (and I'm being very objective here, folks!). We've been flying by the seat of our pants from the very beginning, so I guess it wouldn't be fitting if we didn't land the same way. The experience of working on this material with these people has already been more than worth the time and effort on my part. I loved every moment of it.

"There have been quite a few challenges, but the biggest one would be trying to juggle this project while still performing my duties as a company partner at Shadedbox Animations. At times, the other partners were a little concerned that I was getting a little too into this project, but I think after a while they realized how much this thing meant to me, saw that I was going to do it no matter what, and trusted that I wasn't going to walk out on them to do comics full-time - which was never my intention.

"The biggest thing I learned on this project is that being organized and staying ahead of schedule can really pay off. Can't say it'll pay off financially yet, but it definitely pays off on the stress meter and 'inspiring the others to work' meter. I started the work on my comic really early and presented every step of the process as I went, and I think this helped everyone feel that the crazy guy driving the bus was actually going to get them to their destination! I really hope that by having done this, along with several other contributors who were more open to critiques, we were able to inspire the other contributors to work harder and to do the best work they possibly could. Seeing the work of some of the others definitely inspired me."

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