In film, subtle, mysterious and is-it-complex-or-am-I-just-missing-something works have historically been the ones nominated at award time. If Arthur Dela Cruz's book, "Kissing Chaos," was a film, it would have been a hit at the Sundance Film Festival. Instead, it's gotten him nominated for a 2002 Eisner Award for Talent Deserving of Wider Recognition.
"I'm sure everyone will say this, but I was surprised. I still am surprised," Dela Cruz told CBR News last week. "Mainly because I know with 'Kissing Chaos,' I achieved only a small amount of what I set out to do. I keep thinking, if people think this (the first series) was good, then the next one should get an even warmer reception! (Hopefully!) I never really expected anything from the first 'Kissing Chaos' series, it was really just experiment, to see if I could do a comic. So all of this is just a pleasant surprise."
"Kissing Chaos" is an ambitious project, of fairly broad scope, although Dela Cruz is playing his cards close to his chest about exactly what readers can expect from the story.
"If I had to sum it up, I would say 'Kissing Chaos' is a story about ordinary people, trying to survive in an extraordinary world. It follows the lives of a group of teenagers just trying to make it in the world. These kids are oblivious to a dark secret that ties them together, a secret that is slowly unraveling itself as the series progresses.
At least one critic has compared the series to the DC/Vertigo monthly "100 Bullets," but Dela Cruz doesn't think the book lends itself to so neat a comparison.
"It may have similarities to '100 Bullets,' in that they both deal with real people, in situations that aren't so real. But I don't think there is an actual genre that could umbrella all the ground that I hope 'Kissing Chaos' will cover. On one hand it could be crime fiction, on the other, it's a teen drama or a romance story, and at times it can be very dreamlike or surreal. I have to give respect to Oni Press for taking a chance on a book that could very well be unmarketable!"
In an era where popular entertainment tends to spell itself in fairly stark detail, "Kissing Chaos" is a little more dense, even somewhat obtuse at times. It's all by design, according to Dela Cruz.
"Well, on a personal level, the whole concept for 'Kissing Chaos' was to create a book that I would like to read. And I prefer books that don't spell everything out, that leave things to the readers imaginations. I enjoy films that present the audience with ideas, and leave us to create our own interpretation. There are plenty of comics out there that are great entertainment, and tell straight forward stories. I like to think that people out there like to have a change of pace, and read a book that lets them think, rather than just react. I would like readers to be surprised, especially if they re-read the series and discover something that they missed the first time. I find books like that more rewarding to read. Hopefully 'Kissing Chaos' will do just that for people who take a chance on it."
Speaking of taking chances, the first series' format was something of an eye-opener: Swimming against the popular belief that comics should be heading towards trade paperback or one-shot formats, "Kissing Chaos" came out in eight installments, once every three weeks, with the first seven issues clocking in only at 16 pages an issue.
"The different format was mostly the idea of my editor and publisher. I think they felt 'Kissing Chaos' was a different type of comic, so they chase a different format to express that. We did get some backlash and bad feedback about the format, but we also go some positive responses. I look at Japan, where comics come out weekly, and command huge audiences/print runs. This leads me to think that compared to one-shots or TPBs, the serialized comic book should not be considered a dated concept."
Previous winners of the Talent Deserving of Wider Recognition award have gone on to mainstream (i.e. superhero comics) success following the award -- with the prime example being Marvel Comics star writer Brian Michael Bendis. Dela Cruz isn't sure he's interested in following that path.
"There is one project I would love to do for a major company (which shall remain secret), but other than that, I don't think I'm cut out to do mainstream comics as they are today. I think it would b fun to try my hand at a super hero book, someday, but it's not really a goal I'm trying to reach. There are plenty of people out there that would die to do a Marvel or DC book, I wouldn't want to take that away from them."
In the meantime, he has a full plate of projects sans Spandex.
"Well, at the moment I'm working on 'Skinwalker,' from Oni Press. It's out right now. Then, following that is the next installment of 'Kissing Chaos.' As for beyond that, I'm still working on developing and pitching projects. But for the next little while, 'Kissing Chaos' will have my undivided attention."
Finally, Dela Cruz is staying firmly out of the prognostication business as far as it concerns the award, to be given out this Friday.
"I have to admit, though I do like to frequent the comic shops, I don't buy a lot. I have seen some of the other nominees' books in passing, but have not really spent much time reading them. I think it would be great if there was a draw, and a couple of the artists won. As far as I'm concerned, all the nominees are deserving of wider recognition."