THE CONVENTION COLLECTIVE: Thank you for joining us in the Spotlight KJ! How did you get into writing and why did you want to become an writer?
K.J. Kaminski: I started reading comics when I was little and began drawing my own comics at a young age. But I really connected with the creative side of comics during the indie explosion of the late 80s through the Image juggernaut and creator-owned trend of the 90s. In my teens I had aspirations to become a comic book artist and fell in love with creating my own characters and worlds. When I was 17, I took a creative writing class that really sparked my focus on story. It was also around that time, comparing my work as an artist to others, that I realized I could do more as a writer and that was where my creative strengths lied.
TCC: What genre do you like writing the most?
K.J.: I’ve always been a big sci-fi fan and seem to set most of my stories in the genre. It’s a genre that allows a lot of world building and gives you the chance to create any environment you need to best serve your story and characters. From cautionary tales to hopeful futures, it’s also a great outlet to show changes in technology, geo-politics, or society that mirror our present-day issues. It’s a lot of fun. But I’m looking forward to doing more slice-of-life and crime noir stories in the future to tap in to my personal experiences.
TCC: What was the first work you completed, where you stepped back and thought, “Yes, y’know what, I can do this for a living!”?
K.J.: I think being a creator in most fields you are often filled with doubt about your work and abilities, because you always think you can do better. The reaction I got from readers of THE RESISTANTS’ Kestrel one-shot made me believe I could tell a good story and get people to dig my characters. But Sophia Saturn #1 was the first issue that I really pitched to other publishers. When I started getting interest and actual contract offers, that was moment when I said to myself, I think I can do this. There’s a saying in this industry, that it takes 8-10 years to become an overnight success. I’m not there yet, but I definitely feel like I’m on my way.
TCC: Which writers inspire you? And they don’t have to be in the medium you work in, either…
K.J.: I love comics and have to admit my biggest influences are comic writers like Warren Ellis, Brian Azzarello, Larry Hama, & Chris Claremont. Their creativity and ability to write complex evolving characters in long form narratives is everything I want out of comics as a writer. But the writer that has inspired me the most is S.E. Hinton. The Outsiders and Rumble Fish are books that spoke to me as a teenager and it still amazes me that she was able to find such a distinct voice at such a young age. Not traditional writers, I’m also influenced by movie directors with distinct voices like Quentin Tarantino, Martin Scorsese, and George Lucas.
TCC: Can you tell us your greatest fan moment, interacting with a personal hero of yours where you may have gone a little weak at the knees?
K.J.: I’ve never been that kind of fan. I’ve always looked at creators (and celebrities) as just people, and I don’t like to put anybody on a pedestal. One of the best things about comics is the accessibility of creators to fans. I’ve really appreciated some of the great conversations with the gracious creators I’ve met over the years. From Mark Waid, Barbara Kesel, Jim Zub, Robert Kirkman, Arthur Adams, Brian Stelfreeze, and so many more who have no problem giving you advice, talking about craft, or just their love of comics. I’ve been reading and collecting comics for over 35 years and I’m glad I’ve been able to tell a lot of creators how much I appreciate their work.
TCC: What is your favorite fandom? Who is your favorite comic book character/movie/tv character?
K.J.: G.I. Joe has always been my top science fiction action franchise. As a kid it’s what got me into comics and was my favorite toy and show. I never stopped collecting the action figures and still regularly throw on the cartoon DVDs on as I work. But my single favorite character in comics has to be Marvel’s The Beast. He is such a balanced character that showed both sides to many coins; brains, & brawn, self-acceptance & tragedy, viciousness and jubilance. When he evolved into the blue furry beast form he is most recognized for, his origin sounds like that of a villain, though he remained heroic. He became a bridge between two corners of the old Marvel Universe as both an Avenger and an X-Man. I’d love to one day be able to tell stories with him in the Marvel Comics Universe.
TCC: What’s your working routine? Do you work regular set hours and days, keeping certain days free for personal time, or do you find you create any time the muse takes you?
K.J.: I’m all over the place and work pretty much all day every day I can. I wish I could stick to a set schedule but I work out of the house, alone, so I’m usually doing whatever is most urgent at the time. My “day job” is selling collectibles on eBay and it’s a lot of hustle. I’m always shipping, listing, finding new product, sorting and preparing inventory. With my comics work, since I’m not only a writer, but a publisher plus I do all my own lettering and production, there’s always something different to work on. I think when I eventually make comics my sole work, I’ll be able to set some more reasonable hours and balance my life a little better, but probably not.
TCC: When you’re creating, what do you use for background noise? Some creators use music or podcasts, some use a TV show that they just can listen to in the background. What do you use?
K.J.: It depends on how I feel and how things are flowing. Most of the time, I put on cartoons and sci-fi action movies. Sometimes I really enjoy having music on that can influence my mood. But there are some days when I just need silence to really concentrate to get a task done.
TCC: What was the first comic con that you remember attending? And, indeed, what was the last?
K.J.: I’ll never forget my first con as a kid in Michigan. I was 12 years old and my Dad took me to what is now the Motor City Comic Con, but back then in 1987 it was a much smaller show at the Dearborn Civic Center. There were probably just a couple thousand people in attendance, but I was in awe there were so many others (adults even) that loved comics, collectibles and sci-fi as much as I did. That was the year I declared I would work in comics when I grew up. I said I didn’t know exactly what I’ll do, but I wanted to make comics a big part of my life.
TCC: What’s your favourite element of a comic convention? And which bits could you easily leave behind?
K.J.: I love being able to interact with people that are as passionate about comics as I am. I grew up skateboarding and going to punk rock shows with my group of friends and, by the time we were in high school, I was the odd man out when it came to comics and toys. Most of my life I’ve been around more people that knew nothing about comics, but a lot has changed in mainstream culture. At conventions I can always find somebody to chat about the latest toy releases, classic cartoons, or the craft of making comics. Once I get going, it’s hard to shut me up. Unfortunately, conventions have become so long and sometimes feel like running a marathon. You really have to pack in as much as possible to promote yourself as a creator, learn more about your craft, and still find time to geek out about your favorite things. If only we could have a day off for rest in the middle of these 4 to 5 day events, I could do it all without killing myself.
TCC: At a convention, when you’re not behind your table or doing the things you have to do at a con, which corner of the show would we find you in?
K.J.: I spend a lot of time on the dealer floor. I’m always looking for new toys and indie or obscure comics to buy for my own collection, as well as finding deals to replenish my business stock. If I have time, I really like to go to panels to learn more about every part of making comics, or just chatting with other creators to pick their brains about their experiences.
TCC: A lot of creatives are also taking to crowd-funding – such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo – to generate income from their work. What’re your thoughts on that?
K.J.: I think these platforms have changed and continue to change the industry. From those just starting out to the biggest names in comics, it’s allowed creators to realize the projects that they are most passionate about. It’s amazing the kind of money that some of the top campaigns raise and even the moderately successful projects have made the medium more diverse and stable. For the longest time people were concerned that crowd-funding would hurt the traditional comic stores and distribution model, but it’s been shown that they can work in tandem. I’ve only dipped my toes in that water, but I see how crucial it is for the success and sustainability for indie comics.
TCC: What projects have you recently finished? What are you working on at the moment, what projects are coming up that you can talk about?
K.J.: I just finished a Kickstarter campaign for the final issues of my teen space adventure mini-series Sophia Saturn. We are putting the finishing touches on those books to deliver them to backers fairly soon. Later this year it will be moving to Scout Comics for a wider release in comic shops and book stores. With that off my plate, I’ll be back working on new issues of my high-action series THE RESISTANTS & HYPER-ACTION with a new Kickstarter campaign planned for this summer. I have some more projects percolating that I can’t talk about just yet, and I hope to be able to continue making comics for a long time.
TCC: How do you stay connected with fans? Do you use a mailing list or newsletters, are you active on social media?
K.J.: I have a mailing list that people can sign up for on my website BigBlueComics.com. It’s a great way for fans to keep up to date on all the comings and goings of my comics projects, plus I usually find ways to offer my comics and others for free. I’m also in the social-media-verse more nowadays and always looking for new ways to give fans what they crave.
TCC: Where can people find out more about you and reach out to you?
K.J.: On Facebook, Instagram, & Twitter I have @bigbluecomics across the board. On all three you can also find me personally as KJ Kaminski or some variation. You can always contact me directly at BigBlueComics.com.
TCC: Thanks KJ, for your time!
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