GCE Exclusive: Interview with Fred Kennedy of BigSexyComicsApril 24, 2014
Some may know Fred Kennedy better by his radio persona “Fearless Fred” of Toronto’s alternative station 102.1 The Edge, or as the host of Teletoon At Night, but he is also the founder and writer for the independent comic book company known as BigSexyComics.
I had the opportunity to sit down with “Fearless Fred” Kennedy to talk about writing, BigSexyComics and his newest comic series, The Fourth Planet, which will be debuting in print form at Fan Expo 2014 in August.
What made you want to start creating comic books?
I did a bunch of the 24 hour comic book day challenges, and then when I moved to Toronto from Edmonton, I had a few ideas of things that I wanted to do. It was actually the first Sausage Fest we did at The Sound Academy — Kevin Smith was there and I was telling him how much I loved Guardian Devil. I like Daredevil and thought it was a really cool storyline. I was saying “You know, man, I’ve got my own comic book ideas” and he said “Why don’t you just do them?” …and I went “that’s right, I should just do them.” So I had these ideas in mind and I met Adam Gorham and we started working on things really seriously. I had tinkered with some other ideas, like Mike Gorbsmith, before then. But when I started working with Adam is when I really committed 100% to it.
How did Big Sexy Comics come about?
Well, it’s because of my friend Tony, who did the original short for Mike Grobsmith. We always called him Big Sexy and that’s where the name came from. That was just it really, it was as simple as that. I wish there was more of a grandiose story about it!
Lots of times you just get an idea and just run with it.
Yeah, I had a few others ideas that I wanted to do. There’s Helos which I’d always like to revisit and write it as a novel. I thought that was a really cool idea but it was too big for what I should have been trying to do. Even Teuton — if I could go back I wouldn’t have done Teuton the way we did it. I mean, we really had a lot of success with that book, it did really well for us and it showed we were serious. It was 3 trades in row and Adam cut his teeth really well on it; his art developed incredibly. It was a good lesson but I think we could have gotten further by doing different things, but hindsight is always 20/20.
Can you explain a little bit about what the Fourth Planet’s plot is?
It’s a group of human slaves that crash land on this alien planet and there’s 3 races that are already there and the most advanced of them is, maybe, renaissance level technology. They’re all at war with each other. So you have these humans that have these energy weapons, power armour and all that. They’re kind of torn about what they do because they’re in a position where they can control everything and everyone, but then they’d be no better then what they’re running from. The real “twist” of the story, I guess you can say, is when they crash land, it’s sort of the catalyst for something a lot bigger to happen that sweeps in everybody. But I can’t say anything more than that. I think the coolest thing about it is the art is just insane.
Miko Maciaszek has such an interesting and unique art style. Have you ever worked with him before?
You know, we met Miko at Fan Expo in 2011 and we were sitting next to him. So we met him and he’s a really cool guy and super artistic, his girlfriend was there with him and she was talking to us and we agreed to have him do a pinup. We just kind of kept in touch from there. Adam’s [Gorham] career is really taking off, things are happening for him right now, so we don’t really have time to do anything. We’re doing a few pitches but his time is spent doing paid work right now such as inks and stuff, but he goes “why don’t you just work on a web comic?”
I had this idea and I put a posting out and Miko was the first person to respond and in my head I was like “dude, I would love to work with you, but you’re a legit artist. I don’t know if this is good enough for you to work on”. So I created a contest and put out a sample script; I gave everyone a brief backstory of things and they all got the same page and the same amount of information. The idea was, ‘I don’t want to have to hold your hand through any of this, I’m just going to throw it all out and you do what you do’. Miko was the first person to respond and he didn’t ask any questions; he just gave me his page. There’s a blog posting on the website where I put a bunch of the recipients up there but his was just completely different then anything I was expecting and that’s why he won. I saw it and at first said “this isn’t what I wanted” but then I realized this it so unique; its so different and I decided that I wanted to do with it. I had this idea for a straight ahead sci-fi kinda comic, but with Miko’s art there, I can do anything.
So, the story is kind of out there, its esoteric and its got all of these philosophical meanderings; I’m confident with Miko that when the art comes it will all fit together. He’s really going to capture what I’m feeling and I think its getting better. There’s a page coming up in 2 or 3 weeks that I’m really, really excited to see, because I’ve never written anything like what I’m doing right now and its frustrating because it comes out a page at a time, so I’m caught in this “what do I do” situation. Do I release one page at a time or wait until I’ve got fifty pages to show? So that’s my mentality right now. I’m not focused on finishing it within a certain amount of time as I am telling everything that I want to tell. The reason I’m doing that is because with Teuton I tried to do the straight ahead, the heroes journey, and Helos was the same thing, but Fourth Planet is just for me. It’s all of the things that I like.
Did you have any specific inspirations from other sci-fi works?
Not really; I tried to stay away from them. I saw this one sci-fi web comic called StarVeil today and it was so refreshing to see. It’s… wow! It’s really good. That is a big point because I started this idea and I posted these pages and guys like Ramon Perez and Francis Manapul were re-tweeting it. That was a huge deal for me, personally. These guys who are superstars are thinking my work is really cool and so I felt like I was on the right path because I was doing what I wanted to do rather than I should be expected to do. Sorry, went a bit off topic…
But inspirations, sci-fi wise, the whole thing originally came from this fan fiction idea I had for Battlestar Galactica. That idea changed over the years and got developed and tweaked and what not. The idea for the 3 alien races came from this series on PBS called Walking with the Caveman. Millions of years ago there were 3 hominids that were dominant on the planet, all fighting for control. Humanity is unique that there is only one dominant race; one intelligent race. Normally it’s one or two and they fight and compete. So I had this idea that there are these 3 alien races, each with their own attributes, their raison d’être, I guess you could say. Then the humans land and they just screw everything up. One of the longest parts of it was writing the backstory for everybody. How long these races have interacted, where they are, what they do, why they are the way they are, how their societies work.
At this point in the story you’ve seen 2 alien races, but you haven’t seen the third. You’re not going to see the third for a while but when you do finally meet them, things will have happened by then that are pretty cool. The whole story is going to get flipped on its head in about 15 to 20 pages. Just a warning.
The first couple pages of the comic are now available online at bigsexycomics.com; what made you decide to do an online release first versus printed copies?
When you’re doing a comic as a print book, you work for months, you print it and there you go. With the web thing I can get a page up every week, so there’s always progress. I was actually emailing it a few editors I have come in contact with over the years saying this is what I’m working on now, take a look, tell me what you think, just to show people that I’m still working. I said I want to print copies up for Fan Expo (August 2014). That’s my plan to print how ever many pages I have for Fan Expo, but by then the website will probably be further ahead. But the print copy is to put in the hands of people.
So the print copy at Fan Expo will not be the complete book, only a portion of it?
Yes, it’ll be a portion of it. I’m going to get to a specific plot point and I’ll say this is the cut off for print. If you print, it’s hard to get that kind of traction on the website, but if I have a printed copy to give people with the website on it with updates every Monday, people will go check it out. If somebody reads the book, I’m fairly confident they’ll check out the website. The book is going to look really good too, I have ideas for what I want to do with it.
Where I want it to end [for print], I think we’re going to be able to get there in time. The story is just going to be starting where the printed copy ends so when you read it, you’ll have a distinct sense or what’s happening and then you’ll go to the website it’ll be another 5 or 6 pages that are already there, because we’ll print it about a month before hand.
Do you have any advice for aspiring comic book creators?
Just write. Write, but be smart about it. Don’t say, “Okay, I’m going to write a 100 issue series right now!” No you’re not, you’re not going to do that. A great method I would suggest is to write shorts anywhere between 12 to 20 pages and between them, read books about writing. Scott Chantler always recommends 45 Master Characters, and 20 Master Plots and How to Build Them. They are great books about writing. There’s also the Heroes Journey, How to Create Unforgettable Characters which is a book that Tony Daniel recommended to me.
You have to know your characters; you have to know who they are. Almost every person I know starts out writing a story about this man; grizzled, hard as nails, nothing is going to shake this guy. Everyone has read about Frank Castle; Conan the Barbarian. Don’t do that again. Create a unique character, know who they are. What’s their favourite band? How do they do their hair? What does their bedroom look like? What are their hobbies? If they weren’t doing this in the story, what would they be doing on a day off? Know who your characters are.
I was in high school and we were reading Lord of the Flies, which is an awesome story and only about 200 pages long. You don’t have to write these epic stories to make them good, but be direct and to the point. Our teacher said that all William Golding does is build the island; he makes the island and introduces the characters. Because he knows who the characters are, all he has to do is add a little catalyst and he knows exactly how they’re all going to react to it. Then he just keeps track of what they are all doing. That’s all writing is. If you know your characters and you know your settings, all you need to do is add little catalyst and everything happens. When you know where you want them to go and where you want them to end up, the characters will reach that point. Lots of people can come up with an idea but not a story — you need to know your characters if you’re going to write your characters.
I was very lucky one day; I got to hangout with George R.R. Martin [Game of Thrones] because I write short stories too and he said, “finish everything”. Even if it’s not good, you’re going to realize that and you’ll try to make it better. That effort to make it better and fighting with the story is what makes you a better writer. The next time you’re starting a story you’ll realize, “oh, here’s what was wrong, I’m not going to do that this time”. You just have to always write.
Thanks to Fred who gave us some time to speak with him! Make sure to check out the first pages of The Fourth Planet and all his other fantastic comics at Fred’s website bigsexycomics.com. You can also catch up with him on Twitter @Fearless_Fred or on Facebook. Fred will also be in Artists Alley this year at Fan Expo Toronto August 28th through 31st. Keep watching his Twitter account as the date gets closer for the announcement of where you’ll be able to find him at the convention!