I met Kate in a fairly modern and new way, on the social media site Reddit (a site I spend an obnoxious amount of time on). Despite my being a complete stranger who could have just as easily been gunning for her kidneys, she gave me a few review copies of her published work, Bandage. After reading it, I needed to sit down and talk with her about it. And so, we did–separated by that which introduced us, the LCD screen. The interview is verbose and wordy – just how I like them. Enjoy.
Alex: What compelled you to make Bandage?
Kate: In my first year of college, I attended Pratt’s Utica campus, Munson Williams Proctor Art Institute, for my foundation art classes. It was the first time I had been fully submerged in the arts, specifically fine arts. Until that time, the majority of my inspiration came from comics, cartoons, and video games. I loved it all, but felt a very rigid separation between my artistic loves.
Munson’s campus is blessed with the The Museum of Art, and in its collection is a piece by Ida Applebroog, “circumsize/ostracize.” I saw it first while on a tour during campus orientation. It defined for me exactly the magnetic north my creative compass was pointing. It was the first time, and still the most powerful, I saw all of these guidelines and artistic definitions, separations, and genres blur and meld together into a non-point as they all played a part in one single painting’s creation.
That summer break I began sketching around with characters and forming a vague story around them. It was a comic because that’s what I had always drawn, but it was not defined panel by panel. The world was based on ambiguities juxtaposed with specifics and suggestions in place of instructions. Something about the world stuck with me enough to pick it up on breaks, and even still through the volatile post-college years.
Backing up a few years, I had a particularly difficult time in my life my graduating year of college (2004). It hit me then that the protagonist and I were similar, or at the very least, connected by the time we’d spent together. I looked back through the material I had up to that point with the intentions of transplanting some of my moments into his and found that some of them were already there.
After a few more years of revising, pitching, and refining, I had lived with Bandage floating in and out of my focus for roughly ten years. Milestones in my life had become chapter breaks in this book. Bandage had been with me for so long and had become so personal, I owed it to the characters to try and get them some closure. And I guess by that point I had become one of the characters.
A: Why did you choose Kickstarter to fund it as opposed to online publishing, local small printings, etc.?
K: For several years I had been pitching Bandage to comic publishers throughout various stages and revisions for the simple reason that I had always seen it as a comic. I began with the notion and excitement that its unorthodox format would be an advantage–something new–a fresh take on the medium. That was before I knew how business worked. It became very clear very quickly that it was a handicap, and if I was going to publish the book I envisioned, then it was going to be a challenge. After several rejections, I turned to the Xeric Grant, but that also was not to be. I didn’t think there were any other options for my book at that time when a friend informed me about Kickstarter. I took a moment to work on other projects and get over that particular hump of rejection, and then I figured I’d pour all of my remaining efforts into that. I was close to the end of my rope for Bandage at this point; I figured, if it went through it would be amazing, but if not, I could allow myself to shelve it. It had been almost a decade.
Another obstacle for the relatively unknown self-publisher: no one gives a fuck about you. If you don’t have a publisher backing you with advertising, it’s hard to get the word out in a sea of information, and if you don’t have a publisher fronting you, you are one in a million names of other talented folks trying to get their work out. Kickstarter is a very intimate way to get to know a book before completion, and a very personal way to get to know its creator as you’re dealing with them directly. Kickstarter is the perfect avenue to find and involve those who were looking for the book I was making. It’s an amazing platform to connect creators, contributors, and fans, but almost as important, it simply makes these potential people aware of your book’s existence. Being as niche as Bandage is, this was incredibly important for it as its supporters would not be readily available.
I feel like the act of reading any piece of literature includes holding the book, and flipping the pages, losing and possibly finding your place, and bookmarks. It’s more than just the content–it’s a ritual. This is why I avoided online publishing. I wanted Bandage to be a physical entity, especially if it’s acting as someone’s unofficial journal. Some kind of proof that someone existed.
A: Bandage is definitely a different comic, in that it eschews traditional page layouts for a much more storybook quality. What would you define this style as? Apart from what you’ve mentioned, what are your influences?
K: Some of my biggest visual influences are Stephen Gammell’s work on the Scary Stories series and Calvin and Hobbes. Conceptually, artists like David Shrigley and Donny Miller kill me, while I’ve drawn a lot from Teddy by Ethan Persoff, Maus, and 2001 Nights by Yukinobu Hoshino for their storytelling.
Also influential: coffee, beer, and Havok and Wolverine Meltdown for being the first painted comic I ever read.
A: How have other indie comics personalities taken to Kickstarter?
K: I’m really disconnected as far as any kind of scene or community, so I couldn’t discuss specific creators and what they’re doing with it. I can tell you that the comic category is thriving on Kickstarter and why I think it’s one of the best things to happen to indie books in a long time. Lucky you!
Publishers are businesses and as such make marketability the priority. This is a necessary evil to some extant, but it often ends up killing the art; it can curb a creator’s experimentation in to keep it safe for the largest possible audience. A book becomes accessible where it could be challenging and digestible where it could be interesting. So now you have a marketable but diluted book that was once art but is now just a product, a place for action figures to play instead of a place for someone to think.
Kickstarter and funding platforms like it relieve this demand. A book can be directly presented to the public, free from the business man in the middle (sort of like “monkey in the middle”, minus the happiness). Any solely financial motivations are displaced as a necessity.
A: How would you sumarise the “plot” of Bandage?
K:I prefer to leave the interpretation up to the viewer. I’d rather they connect the dots with the points I’ve drawn out. There’s a risk they won’t read the same story I wrote, but this way the reader can make it their own and that’s more valuable to me in this instance.
Here’s my personal plot breakdown, but bearing in mind what I just said, I consider all of it spoiler material to varying extents.
The protagonist stands at the edge of youth, at the beginning of a summer. He is enveloped by the security of–and love for–his two friends, his grandmother, his girlfriend, and his home. He has managed to make it to this point with all of these things intact, and he is optimistically aware of the power they hold over him.
At the end of the season, he passes some other kids on a walk that are aggressively antagonistic. He is by himself at the time, but despite this, responds to their verbal abuse with a physical reaction. They’re caught off guard but he wakes up in the hospital anyways, confused, and with a permanent limp. This physical injury provides a baseline with which to compare his impending emotional injuries.
It is now fall. The inevitable onset of adulthood begins to upset the transient harmony of youth. A longtime friend moves away for reasons pertaining to his employment; this sparks an awareness within the protagonist of just how heavily his happiness depends on these things remaining how they are, how they’ve always been. Compounding the blow, his girlfriend breaks up with him as they come to find themselves in two entirely different worlds. She has embraced mental growth and welcomes the future while he has fought tooth and nail against these changes within himself.
Spring: the only family we are introduced to, his grandmother, passes away, leaving only him and his best friend to sort out what’s left. In an attempt to find a release for this sadness and grief, he seeks out his previous antagonizers for their help in applying violence to his wounds once more. I like to think he made his mark, but it was four against one, and they knew what to expect this time.
*Legitimate Spoiler Alert*
*What Are You Still Doing Here?*
*Okay, Fine, Here We Go Alert*
The protagonist spends the entirety of spring in the hospital recovering from the injuries he sustained. He has a fleeting memory of his best friend visiting, during which he tells him to stay away. In his mind, they are too far from where they started to ever get back, and he does not want to insult that memory by continuing the charade.
Summer arrives once more and he is released into a world which is now completely alien to him and devoid of promise. Everything he longs for is in the past and the future stretches out before him in a solitary wave of hopelessness. He sells off all of his possessions, noting their place in his life as he does so. He leaves the money out in a child’s attempt at a will and final testament and hangs himself.
A: Is there a future for the Bandage characters, or are they well and truly out of your head?
K: Getting the book out was cathartic for me and I don’t feel driven to continue that, nor would I want to. I consider the contained timeline in Bandage seriously important to the book, kind of a statement on the protagonist’s desire to make time stand still.