This week I got to talk to comic creator Kevin Miller. His book, Meth The Immortal has been a favorite of mine for a few years now. I hope you enjoy our conversation was much as we did!
An Interview With Kevin Miller
Aaron Iara: Thanks for taking the time to talk to me this week! I have been a fan of your work for a few years now. Please tell the readers a little bit about yourself and the work you do.
Kevin Miller: I’m a writer and filmmaker. In addition to writing Meth the Immortal, I have a series of children’s novels–the Milligan Creek Series–and I also make documentary films. My next one is called J.E.S.U.S.A. It’s about violence, Christianity, and American nationalism. I’m sure it will ruffle a few feathers. I like to say I make books that make kids happy and films that make adults angry. 🙂
Aaron Iara: That is quite the dichotomy, haha! What made you land on comic books as your preferred medium?
Kevin Miller: I’ve been a comic book fan for as far back as I can remember. I became a serious collector in the mid-1980s, just in time for Crisis on Infinite Earths, Watchmen, and The Dark Knight Returns as well as the indie direct-market explosion (think Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and The Fish Police). It was a tremendous time to get into the medium.
Aaron Iara: That is an amazing time to be alive. Those are some of my favorite comics. Where did you come up with the idea for Meth The Immortal? I think it is a fantastic idea for a story.
Kevin Miller: I like to think that I didn’t come up with Meth. He found someone to tell his story. Like all stories, it started with a simple question: what if another animal accidentally ate a fruit from the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden myth? For some reason, my mind settled almost immediately upon a pig–perhaps because, being one of the animals that is “off the menu” in the Jewish scriptures (a.k.a. the Old Testament), it seemed like the most irreverent creature to have done it.
After all, poking fun at religion is part of my agenda with this series. At any rate, once Methuselah (Meth for short) entered my brain, he seemed eager to tell me what he’s been up to all these years, so I started writing down what I was hearing in my head. Everything else just grew from there.
Aaron Iara: Though I am not religious, I have always found religion and mythology to be fascinating. I think that is part of why I am drawn to Meth so much. Also, I love pigs. My wife and I collect any little pig knick-knack that we can find, especially flying pigs.
What are your biggest obstacles when it comes to writing comics and telling stories? How do you overcome them?
Kevin Miller: Breaking the story into a panel-by-panel format. It’s a very exacting medium where you can only show the most important story beats. So, I spend a lot of time boiling things down. I also like to think in terms of questions and answers, setups, complications, and resolutions, with one panel asking a question and another one answering it and so on. I also think about each page telling a story that ends on a question or development that compels readers to turn the page. All that left-brain thinking can get in the way of the creative process if I get too hung up on it.
With Meth, I also ran into a huge delay on issue 3, because in the process I stumbled across a development that sent the entire backstory of my world in a completely unforeseen direction. So, I spent a lot of time world building before I could get back to the script for issue 3. That’s one of the joys/pitfalls of writing, the process of discovery. It will take you in unexpected directions that you have to respond to in real time and then figure out how to make it fit with what came before and what you have planned.
Aaron Iara: Do you ever get performance/release anxiety when you are showing your work to others?
Kevin Miller: Definitely. But by the time I release something, I’m pretty confident in it. That said, I’m always elated when my instincts are confirmed–not that it happens consistently!
Aaron Iara: Making comics takes a lot of time and effort. What do you do to stay productive?
Kevin Miller: I am a big believer in breaking big tasks into small pieces. So, I have a “one thing a day” rule. I do at least one thing every day to keep my dream projects going. Usually it’s more than one thing. I also wake up early! I give myself at least an hour each day before breakfast to work on my personal projects before I shift to other things. Little by little, that helps me achieve a lot.
Aaron Iara: I love the indie comics community. How has your experience been with the indie comics community online or in person?
Kevin Miller: I love it too, because most people involved are in it for the love of the medium–they certainly aren’t doing it to get rich! In most cases, indie creators are unconstrained by any sort of corporate limitations or agendas, so there’s a chance to take some creative risks. One of my favorite things to do is go to a comic con and interact with the indie creators I meet there and buy their work or trade my work for theirs. Everyone is friendly and encouraging.
Aaron Iara: How do you foster creativity? Do you wait for inspiration or work at it?
Kevin Miller: Early in my writing career, I read that you can’t sit around waiting for inspiration to strike; you need to go after it with a stick. That’s exactly what I do. I make my living as a writer and filmmaker, so I can’t wait around for ideas to hit me. At the same time, it’s not like I’m ever lacking for ideas. What I’m usually short of is time–and money. Money would buy me more time to work on my own projects rather than ones that pay the bills. Maybe one day. My primary creative question is, “What if?” Every story ultimately starts with those two words, so I’m constantly taking in information and asking what if things were different. Once you develop a healthy curiosity about the world as it is and the world as it might be, coming up with story ideas is as natural as breathing. I do writing workshops with kids all the time, and I’m constantly amazed with their creativity once channeled in the proper direction.
Aaron Iara: What advice can you give for people who want to start creating comics?
Kevin Miller: If you’re going to do it, do it well. Don’t sacrifice quality. Don’t expect to make any money. Do it for the love of it.
Aaron Iara: Do you have any upcoming projects or events you would like to talk about?
Kevin Miller: I’m trying to figure out how to fund the next several issues of Meth, so I may do an online fundraising campaign at some point. However, I hate asking people for money, so we’ll see what that looks like. My new documentary, J.E.S.U.S.A., comes out in February, so keep an eye out for that. Trailer and poster releases in November. I also have my latest children’s novel, “The Great Grain Elevator Incident,” coming out in October. I love writing these books. Great for ages 8-12. Finally, I just released Meth the immortal issues 1-3 as a trade paperback.
Aaron Iara: Thank you for taking the time to do this! Please tell the readers where they can find you and your work!
Kevin Miller: The best place to find me is at www.kevinmillerxi.com.