Up, Up & Away! Kazu Kibuishi talks "Flight" Vol. 3

A few years ago at Comic-Con International in San Diego, an Image Comics anthology called "Flight" became the big buzz book of the show. Everyone seemed to be scrambling to get a copy, and with the release of the second volume, the excitement around the book has grown. The third volume of this anthology series, with each volume the size of a traditional trade paperback, is coming from publisher Ballantine Books this June, instead of Image Comics, and stands poised to conquer an even larger audience. CBR News spoke with the man in charge of "Flight," writer/artist Kazu Kibuishi, who explained why the crew moved to Ballantine.

"One of the goals of the project was to get comics into the hands of people outside of the already established comics market and get new people interested in reading them," explained Kibuishi. "When the idea of moving to a major trade book publisher came up in discussions with the artists, it was unanimously decided that we should give it a shot.

"Image did a great job with the book, but their setup had many limitations that made it difficult for me to run an operation of this size. With the move to Ballantine came the ability to pay people advances on royalties, and by taking this route I was able to work with my agent Judy Hansen to clean up all the paperwork this project entailed. So not only was the decision based on working with Ballantine, but it was also about working closely with Judy on this as well.

"The main change seems to be that Ballantine has more time to spend with this book during the production process. The copy editing has been pretty intensive and we're even working with a professional color separator in Pennsylvania that handles just the color proofs. The format of the book will be the same, although the paper stock I imagine to be a little thicker. I think we ironed out a lot of stuff over the course of the last two books and so this one will seem quite polished in comparison."

There's been some concern that "Flight" Vol.3 might get lost in the back of the industry ordering guide, "Previews," as it will be listed in the back section with the smaller publisher, instead of up front with Image Comics' other offerings. But the concern isn't coming from Kibuishi, who says, "I'm not too concerned, and I was happy to see that Diamond gave it a nice featured items spot in Previews. This is going to be interesting, seeing how it affects orders. 'Flight' 1 and 2 have been selling regularly through Diamond, long after its release, so while we may not get big pre-order numbers this time around, we'll likely be fine in the long haul. As far as Ballantine's reach in the book market, I'm not sure how that's going to pan out, and I'm very curious to see what happens. If nothing else, this will be an informative experience for all of us who are putting together graphic novels.

"With Ballantine, it seems that we're getting the treatment that a fancy full-color trade book would receive. They seem really excited about it, so I'm interested in seeing how far and wide their promotion goes."

As with the first two volumes of "Flight," Kibuishi has assembled an impressive array of creators, including fan favorites such as Azad and Becky Cloonan, and amassing these creators wasn't too difficult. "As with the second volume, this one came together pretty organically. There's a pool of artists that we chose to contribute material, and those who showed up and did a great comic got into the book. In the case of Bill Plympton, we shared a booth with him at Comic-Con last year, and I asked him to contribute at that time. It's been interesting to see how this volume took on a more storybook-ish quality. It also feels more weathered, more grown-up. I think that having a roster of mostly established professionals this time around had a lot to do with it."

Like any proud father, Kibuishi has some favorite moments in the product of his passion, but he also readily admits he loves every story. "I love all of them for different reasons, but I think the story that will get the biggest response is Phil Craven's 'The Rescue.' We were only days away from the deadline when Phil was working round the clock at my studio to get it done, but from what I could see of it, I knew it was going to be an amazing piece of work. I knew it would be worth holding back the book to have it in there, and man, did Phil deliver. I'll also have to make mention of Israel Sanchez's 'Saturday.' It's his comic debut, and it's one of the strongest short comic stories I've ever read."

With this volume, Kibuishi has been able to apply some valuable lessons in production and presentation, creating a stronger product for fans. "One of the biggest changes is in the presentation of individual stories," he admits. "Over the course of these three volumes, we've established a way of presenting title pages and keeping each story from facing another. The most significant changes, however, occur behind the scenes. For the first time, we have a decently organized system of putting the books together, from actually doing the layouts for both the English and translation-ready files at my studio, to a set of workable contracts for all the contributors. I've even been able to hire an assistant to help out with a lot of the production work."

CBR News was one of the first to speak with Kibuishi when "Flight" debuted, and he mentioned at the time not being sure about the future of the book, but as we all know, things have changed since then. "While I always believed there was a demand for a book like 'Flight,' I didn't realize how quickly things would pick up. It's been quite a rollercoaster ride, and I feel great about where we're at now and where we're going. The most rewarding part of this experience has been in getting to know the other Flight artists, and making some great friends. And although my fianceé Amy and I knew each other before this project was created, it did help bring us together, and so I'm thankful to comics and 'Flight' for bringing me such great things in life. In short, it's been a great trip so far, and I get the feeling that it's only beginning."

Some creators might be satisfied with simply being known for "Flight," but for Kibuishi, there's no stop to the work he's producing. "I'm currently working on an all-ages fantasy graphic novel series for Scholastic Graphix called "Amulet" and I will have a new short story in the pages of 'Flight 4.' I'll also be continuing my webcomic 'Copper' as well, which reminds me I should get back to work!"

Come back Thursday for more preview images from "Flight" Volume 3, pages from a total of 14 different stories!

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