Friday, October 18, 2013

Exclusive Interview with Kevin Zeigler and Jeremy Holt on the new series After Houdini

This interview is going to be released in parts. My conversation with artist Kevin Ziegler (pictured left) and writer Jeremy Holt (pictured left) was originally captured in video on Google Hangouts. Due to the fact that this interview is transcribed from an actual conversation, some of the questions and answers have been edited for readability.

The Frog Queen: First of all, thank you so much for agreeing to do this interview.I was immediately impressed with how refined this comic presents itself. The comic being After Houdini, I understand that the first issue has already been released. There’s a level of sophistication under all this adventure. I feel as though the writing and the artwork are a perfect fit for each other. How did you come to collaborate on this project?

Jeremy: I met Kevin through a mutual friend of ours, Trad Moore. I met Trad at 2010 Near Comicon and I was looking for a collaborator and Trad recommended Kevin. Trad and Kevin went to school together, they were roommates at one point. I looked at Kevins site and his work and obviously he’s very good. That’s how we met but how we got to Houdini was kind of a long work in progress.

Kevin: That pretty much sums it up. We started to work together when Jeremy had a book which was pretty cool. He had already tried a couple facets to get it published and he thought my art was very cool so he contacted me to do it. We tried working on it for a little while but then it ended up not working out. So then he kind of graciously said “okay what do you like to do? What do you like to draw?” At that time I had just come up with this crazy notion. I really loved anime and any kind of story where they took a historical figure and bump up the facts x100 so it’s no longer this biography. It becomes this action and adventure tale involving this historical character and that was Houdini. So Jeremy started to write. 

Jeremy: The original idea was to do a Houdini story focusing on Houdini. So we wrestled around with that for a while and we originally decided not to do a biography because that’s a lot of research and it can be quite boring and we wanted to add something that was fun. Especially for people who don’t know anything about Houdini. So we wanted to introduce some historical facts about the person but infuse that into a new story, with new characters, a whole new plot and try to get people interested. So we created Joseph, who is a fictional character because Houdini did not have any kids. We thought it would be easier for someone to jump on board  with the story if you take it from someone who travelling along in the story with you. Joseph is figuring out what and he's trying to figure it out, as the reader is figuring it out.

The Frog Queen: When I was reading this, I had so many questions, I had to go online and start researching Houdini. I immediately was asking myself if Houdini had a son? Come to find out of course, no he didn't have a son. But I had to really research this stuff. How long have you two been collaborating on this? Is this a year long process or a couple years in the making?

Jeremy: 2 years. As Kevin said, we were working on another project. It was something that I had already written. It wasn't something that we were co-creating. So when he pitched Houdini to me about 2 years ago, I think we had a couple false starts and there were timing issues.  I read this book which Kevin recommended called The Secret Life of Houdini, which is this biography that poses this idea that Houdini was a spy for American &  British intelligence in the  lead up to WW1. So I really liked the book and I pulled some of the ideas for the story. I would send Kevin a draft of ideas and then it was back and forth for a while.

Kevin: Houdini as a character is so rich. He has 4 or 5 different careers that are all interesting. He was a pilot, a magician, a movie star, a carnival act for a while in his early years. and he was a scholar. He had one of the largest libraries of his time. He had an entire staff just to look after his library. He was this man of all different kinds of faces. Our story takes this idea that magic is real, that it exists. Which, if you met Houdini he says "magic is not real, I am a performer, this is all part of an act" But I kind of think that in using that magic is real, we can give Houdini a different perspective while remaining true to him. Being the guy that debunked fraudulent and spiritualism and things like that. 

The Frog Queen: Why Houdini?

Kevin: I think I was really into some article online that I was reading. It was talking about "the biggest bad-asses in history". and I think they brought up Houdini, the man that performed who performed until his last dying breath. He died on stage. His death is still this weird mystery that nobody really knows about. Why this guy, who could pick locks with his toes, he fashioned his entire body to be this perfect weapon. What kind of stories can you create with that guy? He's like a living Batman. I think that is a really interesting start to a character and that's where I think it all came from. The fact that he knew so many important people in his time also contributed to that. He knew Ted Roosevelt, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle..

Jeremy: He was friends with people at Scotland Yard; he spoke multiple languages and he did these world tours where he traveled across the globe. He made for the perfect spy because he couldn't be captures and contained. It's just ripe for a fun action and adventure story.

Please visit in the future for Part 2 of this interview with the creators of After Houdini!