Of all the upcoming Black Mask titles for 2016, “Kim & Kim” is arguably the most interesting. It’s unabashedly feminine but also doesn’t stray from the edge of an action adventure story featuring bounty hunters. Coming out this June, “Kim & Kim” by Magdalene Visaggio, Claudia Aguirre and Eva Cabrera is a personal story for it’s writer and that’s part of it’s appeal. I had the chance to talk with the entire team about the series and the inspirations behind it. “Kim & Kim” debuts late June.
For those still catching up with this great slate of books, what is “Kim & Kim?”
Magdalene Visaggio: “Kim & Kim” is the story of two punk-ass interdimensional bounty hunters, Kim Q and Kim D, making a go of it in the world of cowboy law enforcement. They’re young, stupid, and ambitious as hell. I guess it’s kind of a punk rock buddy comedy road trip in space. The Kims are poor twentysomethings who started their own bounty hunting business, live out of their flying space van, and beat people up for money.
They’re not super great at it, and they live from bounty to bounty. “Kim & Kim” is basically about a couple of young adult women who trying to keep their lives together against the the day-glo psychedelic backdrop of a wild sci-fi omniverse.
How did this story come together? What were some inspirations for it?
MV: I like to describe “Kim & Kim” as Cowboy Bebop meets Broad City, which is still probably the best way to talk about it. But I’m actually coming at it from a bunch of different directions.
I’ve always been fascinated by road stories and travelogues. Night Train to Turkestan is one of my all-time favorite books, and I read On the Road pretty incessantly as a kid. I’m sort of this wannabe punk beatnik anyway, so stories about people basically living in subcultural margins and scraping by through luck, pluck, and the generosity of friends is something I’ve always really been attracted to.
It’s like that part of me that always wanted to be a gyrovague crusty punk and still sorta does. Or like, there’s this radical Christian band, like tribal folk-punk kinda shit, called Psalters, that just kinda drove around playing shows and living on kindness. That shit fascinates me. Giving into the wanderlust. Kim & Kim sorta taps into that impulse for me, and that was the starting point.
But the real heart of the book is in the friendship between the Kims, and that was always a huge priority for me. We don’t see a ton of really awesome female friendships in comics, and I wanted to do a book that communicated how rad and empowering they are, how meaningful they can be. I wanted to do a book about two people who are just unabashedly on each other’s side.
A huge part of that was influenced by my relationship with the book’s editor, Katy Rex, who has become one of my absolute closest friends. In a lot of ways, the friendship between the Kims is pretty much my relationship with Katy. We’re weirdly close. Hell, the whole vibe of the book is basically just kinda our deal. It’s sort of a document of our friendship.
How did you and the art team of Eva Cabrera and colorist Claudia Aguirre come together?
MV: When Katy Rex (“JSPS”, “Strange Wit”, and the editor of “Kim & Kim”) and I started pitching artists, we basically said fuck it and pitched Tess Fowler, who was working on Rat Queens at the time. She was obviously not available, but she really loved the book, and suggested we pitch her friends Eva and Claudia at Boudika Comics, a comic art studio out of Mexico. Eva and Claudia actually have a cameo in an issue of Rat Queens.
Anyway, we pitched Eva and Claudia, and they loved it, and they jumped on board.
Eva and Claudia, what were some of your inspirations in bringing these characters to life through the pencils and colors?
Eva Cabrera: I think that being young and reckless as they are, they should wear flashy and colorful clothes. They design their own clothes and styles, rebellious as they are. As soon as I received their descriptions I immediately knew how each would handle their wardrobes and color schemes, since I want them to match their personality. They’re very unique so it’s always fun to design outfits for every issue.Continued below
Claudia Aguirre: I think I’m very inspired by 80’s saturday morning cartoon and day-glo color schemes. They both have very different personalities so I get to mix and match moods for them, following Eva’s ideas and her direction on what they should wear color-wise.
Each Kim has her own distinct style so what went into their design?
EC: Kim Q has a very punk-rock vibe, like a rockstar with pink hair and colorful tattoos (And a bad attitude) She represents a savage freedom that I want to how on her clothes and her choice of weapon: a badass electric guitar that also shoots electricity because hell yeah, mayhem! She’s got this determination and boldness I want to show through her appearance. Kim D is more sober and I usually give her a military-styled wardrobe to emphasize her assertiveness and responsibility over the team, but not nearly rigid enough that she can’t look great on suspenders, short shorts and a plethora of combinations.
CA: For me, Kim Q gets all the splashes of color and crazy outfit combinations. She’s wild, aggressive, and hot headed and her color choice is always brilliant, like a small frog flashing red and yellow that screams “Don’t eat me, I’ll $$%& you up!” But Kim just goes head-first to the fight. I always try to give her that edge. Kim D is definitely more subdued because she’s assertive and in control all the time. Or most of the time. Okay…she tries to be in control. I use earthy tones and desaturated palettes with green, brown, orange and red, for example.
Do either of you have a favorite Kim to work on?
EC: I am in love with both of them, but I have to say that my favorite is Kim D, especially when she’s on this scene where she is riding a motorcycle and shooting things. It was like watching her ride a thunderstorm like a Valkyrie and roar defiance at it! I’m very thankful to be drawing these girls and to be part of such an amazing project!
CA: Oh boy, I don’t wanna pick favorites because the girls are both amazing, KimQ is savage and a risk-taker and she’s the kind of character I love to read about, but I’m very partial to Kim D. She’s totally my type: Assertive, cool, she keeps her hot headed friend in check and tries to keep everyone alive in dangerous situations. Also, perfect hair.
Mags, you recently came out as trans on social media. Did this journey of self discovery play into what direction Kim & Kim took?
MV: Geez, it doesn’t feel recent to me. But I guess it was only February.
Yeah. My transition played a huge part in “Kim & Kim”, and vice versa. I wrote this book in the middle of 2015, when I was still wracked with uncertainty and doubt about what I wanted to do, what I was capable of doing. And while I didn’t write this book for this reason, I was able to use the book as an opportunity to explore the headspace of a trans woman who wasn’t wracked by her decision. She was confident in it. Happy with it. She still had all these questions about herself but she’d moved on from the Big Scary One at the heart of her. It was really important for me to be able to get into that place.
“Kim & Kim” is also just…unapologetically girly, and a lot of that is due to my own fucked up relationship with femininity. Like, after a lifetime of shaming myself into not expressing the barest whiff of it lest anyone find me out, it’s always been kind of a toxic presence in my mind to the point where I was almost afraid to even say the word. So doing this book that’s so bright and Lisa Frank-y was really cathartic, and it let me explore femininity in this weird new way, where I could explore its outlines and see how it could be stretched.
Comics are going through some tough times right as far as inclusion. Where do you think Kim & Kim falls into things in the bigger comic book industry and what do you want to see from comics in the coming years?Continued below
MV: I don’t have any idea, and I’m afraid to prognosticate. I mean, yeah, as shitty as the business can be as far as inclusion goes, we’ve already got this amazing outpouring of nontraditional talent telling new kinds of stories in a mass market setting. There’s a market for this stuff. I mean, we live in a world where Squirrel Girl is a hit book. Anything is possible.
“Kim & Kim” is a weird book to place; it’s hard to pin down into a category. It’s a super queer book where everyone seems to be gay or something and there’s not a ton of straight-up white people. I’m not sure what that means for the industry, or where the book lands. Obviously I’d like buckets more queer people making and starring in comics at every publisher out there. “Kim & Kim” is in rare company in that it’s a book with LGBT heroes with a largely LGBT (and largely female) team behind it. And it’s the first time a mass market comic has been both starring a trans woman and written by a trans woman since Rachel Pollack wrote “Doom Patrol” for a bit in the late 1980s. That’s gotta mean something.
The fact is that we’re never going to get fantastic LGBT and minority representation in comics until we’ve got more diverse creators actually making comics, and that’s not gonna happen if publishers don’t start making it a priority. How shitty is it that there’s such a push for LGBT characters, but LGBT creators are pretty few and far between?
Even just restricting myself to trans women making comics, how many of us are there doing mass market books? Three? And there are so many talented trans women out there making comics outside traditional avenues. Annie Mok. Kylie Summer. Kylie Summer would own a book somewhere like BOOM! Studios. If we’re serious about queer representation in comics, minority representation in comics, then getting these people through the door needs to be a priority.
Why was Black Mask the right home for this series? Why not take this to Kickstarter as so many creators have done as of late?
MV: I’ve done Kickstarters and they are organizational nightmares.
Black Mask always seemed like a great fit for this book. It’s a company rooted in a punk ethos and committed to subversive, unique storytelling. And they’re making a serious push to diversify their lineup — I mean, they’re literally the company publishing Black, one of the most overt statements about racial justice ever put to paper in this business. “Kim & Kim” felt like it would find a really good home there, and that’s been the truth.
The real benefit to going through any publisher is that I can focus on creating the comic (and apparently promoting it) instead of trying to handle the logistical and organizational work of getting the book out and into stores. I get that a lot of people find value in crowdfunding; I never ever want to do that again if i can avoid it.
Black Mask has been a massive pleasure to work with, too; Matt Pizzolo has been really supportive of both the book and the team, and he’s clearly dedicated to helping us succeed. That kind of support, absent the organizational and business stuff, is so important because it helps keep us energized and excited to work.