Talking ‘Dead End Kids’ With Frank Gogol
Frank Gogol is an up-and-coming comic writer who found audiences with his first big work, Grief. Now, he’s has another book coming out from Source Point Press called Dead End Kids. I had the opportunity to talk to Frank about his book and about promoting your work.
Dead End Kids is your follow-up to Grief. Tell us about the book.
Dead End Kids the story of three kids (Murphy, Amanda, and Tank) in the late-90s who are trying to solve their friend’s murder. Think Stand by Me meets The Hardy Boys, but with a dark, gritty, 90s edge to it.
At its core, Dead End Kids is about these kids who all come from broken homes and the stability they find in one another and how the begin to spiral when that stability is torn away because one of them is murdered.
There always seems to be something special with stories about kids who have broken homes or not much of a future that end up bonding with others like them or finding one another. What makes it special to you?
Honestly, that’s what it was like for me growing up. For a lot of reasons, home was very rarely a stable or even safe place for me. And I found my stability and safety in the kids I grew up with, in my friends, who were going through a lot of the same things I was at home.
I think these kinds of childhoods are more common than most people know. For whatever different reasons, I think kids who grow up this way find these kinds of bonds and that’s a big part of how they deal with things.
But what you tend to see in coming-of-age stories is that these bonds don’t last. You see that in Stand By Me. You see it in The Sandlot. And that wasn’t my experience. My friends didn’t just come into my life for a summer, help me get through my problems, and then go off their separate ways. Not to be too dramatic about it, but we struggled through our formative years, but we did it together and that created a bond. I’m still friends with the kids I grew up with One of them is in my wedding later this year. That was my experience, and I wanted to write a story was true to that.
Do you think that seeing a bit of yourself as a dead end kid helps make who the characters are inside the story a bit more realistic?
I’m sure that helps. But what I think really makes the characters resonant is that so many other comics readers, at one time or another in their lives, have felt like they were dead end kids. Either because someone told them so or because their life circumstances made it feel that way.
Stories like this always leave the reader with a character that they maybe see a part of themselves in or just a favorite. With Dead End Kids, was there one character that stands out?
In Dead End Kids, that character is definitely Murphy. In a lot of ways, he’s most troubled of the kids.
He’s an orphan and he’s been adopted into a family he doesn’t like, which are things that maybe most readers won’t necessarily be able understand intimately, but Murphy is also angry. He’s angry, on a cellular level, at the hand life has dealt him, and I think that’s something everyone can identify with. What it like to be beaten down and to frustrated by that fact. Not only that–but being 14 years old and not having the maturity or capacity to parse those feelings in a healthy way.
The first issue sets the scene for the kids in an almost bleak surrounding, fairly dark in tone. Is that what the rest of the series will be like?
When I wrote this book about a year ago, I was feeling really nostalgic for my childhood, for those days playing outside, building forts in the woods, and being in by the time the streetlights came on. But the more I thought about those days, the less golden they seemed. I started to remember the bad stuff too. The problems at home and in my friends homes.
I started to realize that we sort of romanticize childhood as this perfect, untouchable time, but it’s not, not really. But it’s not all bad, either. So, what I was going for was an honest look at childhood. The good and the best. So, yeah, there’s some bleakness in there at the start and like most stories things get worse before they get better.
Dead End Kids also brings back one of your Grief collaborators, Nenad Civiticanin. What made Nenad the artist for DEK?
Let me start by saying that Nenad is the star here. His work on Dead End Kids, to me, is his best to date and he absolutely nails it.
As for why Nenad was perfect for this book–honestly, working with Nenad over the last few years has been such a breeze. He’s talented and he’s easy to work with and he’s a hustler. He gets the work done. And for me, these things all add up to the perfect collaborator.
What’s the toughest part about transitioning from smaller stories like you wrote with Grief to doing a mini-series?
I didn’t really feel like it was particularly hard. That’s not to say scale up a story across multiple installments didn’t have a learning curve, but that it felt like the natural next step.
Part of the reason I started writing short stories first is because it taught me to pare down and focus on what’s essential. That can really hard in just 5 pages. And doing that for a couple of years really helped me hone my send of what is necessary for and what can fit in a story of a certain size. So, when it came time to write 20+ page chapters or issues, like I said, it felt natural.
I feel like a lot of creators aren’t out there promoting their work in the capacity that you are but you do spend a bit of time on social media talking about your work. You do a lot of shows and seem to do so much to get the word out on your work. Do you feel like that level of interaction and/or marketing is paying off?
I absolutely do.
I’ll give you an example. This year, at C2E2, Source Point Press and I announced Dead End Kids. This was my second year working the show and I did a lot of work upfront to talk about DEK and about how I was going to be at the show on social media. Then during the convention, Bleeding Cool broke the news about the book.
And all of these things translated in awareness for the book (and me) in one way or another. I had people who I’d met the previous year come to the booth to see if I had any new work they could check out. There were convention-goers who’d read about the DEK announcement on Source Point’s social media who came by. Some had read about the book on Bleeding Cool. And some were people who’d found me over the last year and saw me posting about it on Instagram or Twitter.
And that’s a really long way of saying yes, marketing does payoff. It’s not necessarily measurable as a number, but the benefit, I think, is clear from my C2E2 experience this year.
And these are the kinds of things that drive me to keep up with the marketing aspect of making comics. It sucks to put yourself out there and to have to sacrifice time you could writing or drawing to post on Facebook, but it’s part of the game. It’s probably as important as doing the actual work because you can be the best artist in the world, but if no one knows who you are, no one is ever going to see your work.
What’s the street date for Dead End Kids?
Dead End Kids #1 is available for preorder right now (Diamond order code MAY191908) and it hits shops on July 24.