OG Interview – Grief creator Frank Gogol
Frank Gogol is a new creator in comics who is looking to get his book, Grief, to a bigger audience and has gone the way many do with a Kickstarter to push his project. I had the chance to talk with Frank about his project.
Is this your first comic project?
Yeah, this is my first book. I’ve written some other shorts before and since I wrote Grief, but this is the first project that I am presenting as a complete comic book.
In your own words, describe Grief?
At its heart, Grief is a book about struggle and hope. When I was young, some pretty bad stuff happened in and around my life. My father passed away when I a year and a half old. My mom struggled with addiction and was in and out of rehab when I was a kid. Those are a couple of the big ones. And comic books and novels really helped me make sense of what was happening to me and helped me feel like I wasn’t alone, and that’s what I wanted to create for other people with Grief. It’s a book that readers can look to and see that they’re not alone, that other people struggle, and that it can get better. And because it’s an anthology and the stories are all very different, there’s something for everyone in Grief.
What was your motivation behind Grief and how personal did the stories get?
Originally, I didn’t plan to write Grief. I had chatted with Steve Orlando (Justice League of America, Supergirl) about breaking into comics, and he gave me the advice to start with smaller stories that show a range of genres and characters and start building a portfolio. So, I started writing the stories, and when I had completed the first 5 or 6, I noticed that the characters and plots mapped pretty closely to the stages of grief. So, from there I made the conscious decision to build it all into an anthology.
Some of the stories are very personal. The fifth story “Prayer” is almost autobiographical.
You are using this anthology to tell a variety of stories, some of which are superheroes and some are not. Was it difficult to bounce around with different genres?
Yes and no. Yes, it was tough because each new genre I wrote in was one more concept and execution that I had to learn and apply. And no, it wasn’t tough because the stories are all thematically linked, and, I think, they are all character-driven stories, so in a lot of ways the stories are very similar.
With an anthology of stories, was there a story here that resonates more with you than the others?
I love all of the stories in Grief like they are my children, but there are a couple of standouts that hold a special place in my heart. Off the top of my head, “The Debt” and “Prayer” are a couple of my favorites.
It seems like a lot of people want to get into comics because they had favorite characters growing up and think about working to get to the point of that. Some just want their own stories. Where do you fall in?
I’m probably right in the middle of the road on this one. On the one hand, there are some characters who I love and would love to writer. Hawkeye, Black Panther, Iron Fist, and a couple of others. But on the other hand, I always have a lot of stories brewing in my mind and sometimes I feel like I couldn’t stop writing them down, even if I wanted to.
When doing a project like this, how does the story change over the course of being a story idea to the actual finished story?
Because of the way I develop my ideas, not too much changes. I’m a pretty healthy guy and I walk a lot. So, when I’m out walking, I mull my story ideas over and refine them so much so that by the time I go to script, the story is near finalized and I’m transcribing more so than creating. The biggest changes, probably, come when the artists interpret my scripts how they see them, but they always draw it better than I imagine it anyway.
Why go the Kickstarter route and how are you setting yourself up to succeed with this?
There are lots of reasons why I chose Kickstarter as a launch platform, but the main one is because I always try to model success. And some of the up-and-coming creators I admire have had a lot of success growing an audience and getting their work out into the world with Kickstarter.
In terms of making sure they campaign is a success, I’m juggling a lot of balls. Since this is my first book, it’s a lot of me reaching out to friends and family and making sure they support the book. I’m also a part of a few online communities, so I’ve been talking the book up with the other members of those communities and getting them excited for the Kickstarter campaign.
You are going all-digital with Grief. Was there a reason for going this route with your project?
There were a lot of factors that helped me decide to go all-digital with this campaign. One of those factors was that some of those up-and-coming creators I mentioned have had some success going the all-digital route. Also, I’m a big proponent of digital comics. Since I’m studying and re-reading my comic to improve my writing, digital comics are the best option for me.
Going more into the behind-the-scenes of a project like this, what was the process for getting artists on board?
Since these stories are some of my earliest work, the process for how I find an artist really evolved between when the first and last stories in Grief were written. I’ve got it down to a science now, though. There are a few groups on Facebook for indie comic book creators and a subreddit dedicated to comic book collaborations, and I post to these communities when I’m looking for an artist. I’ll give the details for the project and what I can offer as a page rate, and I’ll work my way through the portfolios of the artists who respond to the ad. When I find the artist I want to work with, I reach out to him or her and that’s really all there is to it. I used to think finding an artist was this very hard thing to do, but it’s really not.
What can you say about the art in this?
The art in this book is really killer. I worked with 6 artists on these stories, and as the stories were being drawn and I would get pages in, I would, without fail, be floored by how good the pages looked. And the same is true of the colors and letters. If someone had said to me a year ago, when I started working on these stories, that they’d look anywhere close to as good as they do, I’d have told that person he’s crazy.
Everyone seems to have artistic influences and I’m curious as to what creators helped influence you.
I’m a bit of sponge when it comes to influences, and I think all of the stories are influenced by writers whose work I’ve enjoyed. One of the stories in Grief—“Cassandra”—I call my Scott Snyder story because I tried to adapt a storytelling device he uses regularly for it. Another story—“The Debt”—is influenced by James O’Barr’s The Crow.
With the stories in Grief, the two creators who looked to a lot were Brian Wood and Jeff Lemire. One of Brian’s early works is a collection of one-shots called Demo, and what I love about those stories is that they are all about characters with abilities like super strength or invisibility, but those abilities are almost background elements of the stories, with the focus being they characters. And I think Jeff’s body of work has that same quality, that humanity, and that’s what I wanted to be at the forefront of my stories.
What is next for you?
Well if all goes well with this Kickstarter campaign, I’ll have funding to create my next book. Which book that’ll be is up in the air, though. I’ve got a few scripts ready to go—one that I’ve been describing as Silence of the Lambs with superheroes and another that’s an all-ages story that deals with adoption.
Thanks for taking the time for this interview. Is there anything you’d like to add?
No, thank you. This has been a lot of fun. If I had to add anything, I’d just want to tell readers what a fantastic place Kickstarter is for finding new books. Even if it’s not to back my project, everyone should head over there and check out the awesome comics that the Kickstarter community is pumping out. It’s a goldmine.