INTERVIEW: Ales Kot & Riley Rossmo on Cultivating WILD CHILDREN

It’s not so uncommon for children to revolt. Often, though, it’s a question of the animals taking over the zoo. Revolution for revolution’s sake, nothing more than mindless coup and a headline on the evening news. In Wild Children, forthcoming from Image Comics, the youth in revolt aren’t just in it for revenge or flashbomb glory. These kids want to change minds. On levels both philosophical and chemical.

i.e. Shit’s about to get real weird, real quick.

Here’s how Image describes it:

Guns. Acid. Cameras. School. Wild Children.

Written by Ales Kot (Batman) and drawn by a long-standing Image creator Riley Rossmo (Cowboy Ninja Viking, Dark Wolverine, Debris), WILD CHILDREN, a new graphic novella from Image Comics in July, explores an explosive high school hostage situation that threatens to unfold its own reality like a cheap origami.

The subject of school shootings behind the controversial Hellblazer: Shoot by Warren Ellis and Phil Jimenez merges with Grant Morrison’s and Philip Bond’s themes of teenage revolt in Kill Your Boyfriend, delivering a unique story of magic, passion and disinformation.

We spoke to writer Ales Kot and artist Riley Rossmo about youth in revolt, the method behind the madness, and their own permanent records.


iFanboy: Who are these Wild Children? Were they raised by wolves? Is this a Jungle Book thing?

Ales Kot: Wild Children are simple two-dimensional constructs. They’re so annoyed with the current state of the education industry that they don’t have the time to become more defined. They’re young and all about their agenda. Five kids that might just be smarter than their teachers.

‘Wild Children’ is not a Jungle Book thing and they weren’t raised by wolves, but there are some connections between the two – for example, some of the rules we impose on ourselves often clash with our deeper feelings and ideas. Also, Rudyard Kipling’s notion that “Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.” is, at least as far as I’m concerned, true.

And since I’m on a quoting roll, McNulty from ‘The Wire‘, also known as the most impressive TV show in the known universe, said this thing – “They can chew you up, but they gotta spit you out.” Wild Children are tired of waiting to be spat out, so they go deeper instead, tickling the education industry’s trachea, waiting for the gag reflex.

iFanboy: What do they want? Do they all want the same thing?

A.K.:

Saying anything more than that would spoil the surprise.

iFanboy: Haha, okay, if we can’t go into specifics re: the Wild Children’s agenda, can we talk about yours? What are your goals for the book and what kind of issues are you planning to address? Is this just about school violence or terrorism, or is there something bigger here? There’s some trippy things happening. I just saw a kid change colors.

A.K.: ‘Wild Children‘ evolved from its original idea quite a bit – I decided to make the comic about three years ago, and it originally felt more straightforward than it feels now. As I taught myself more about the craft of writing and creating art in general, I realized that many works of art I like the most are fractal, changing their shape every time I give them my attention. These works of art evolve with us. I realized that, in order to become the creator I want to be, I need to reach much further — and perhaps even fail miserably if needed — but nevertheless try to grasp that elusive feeling of creating a work of art that is alive.

In order to do that, I had to put all that was alive inside me into the comic and not be afraid to not make sense or be didactic or go against whatever it is Robert McKee decided the ultimate truth of writing was last night. I took everything that was dear to me, picked the bits that felt right and then worked long and hard on mutating them into something new and weird and 2012-appropriate.

I knew I wanted to take some of the youthful we-don’t-give-a-shit energy of ‘Kill Your Boyfriend‘ by Grant Morrison & Philip Bond and the social consciousness of Hellblazer: Shoot‘ by Warren Ellis & Phil Jimenez, then merge it all with influences such as Hakim Bey’s essays, music by Fuck Buttons, Nosaj Thing and Digital Mystikz, Godard’s ‘Pierrot le Fou’…I even fashioned a nice skirt out of the ‘Kill Your Boyfriend‘ pages because I felt that having a shamanic dress for the experience might make a bit of a difference, and it certainly made the whole writing thing more fun. Then I realized I was really heavily into comics theory and the entire story got another layer, and later on yet another way of understanding the story — a more scary, fucked-up way — came up. I’m pretty sure ‘We Need to Talk About Kevin’ and reading John Smith’s comics work such as Indigo Prime and Cradlegrave heavily influenced that last layer.

From Wild Children

iFanboy: Riley, this looks quite different from your previous stuff, even recent and concurrent projects. It’s a different kind of great. What’s the madness behind the new method? Was this all dictated by the script or are you just trying something new?

Riley Rossmo: I always aim to make art that will best serve the story – atmospheric for Green Wake, psychedelic and aggressive for Dark Wolverine…with Wild Children, my goal was to create art that would echo the institutional, cold feelings that get to you inside most high schools, eventually evolving into much more than that.

A lot of the look came from Ales’s script, the character designs, and our discussion of what the environments of the comic should be like. I also felt like I was starting to be recognized for having an agressive, expressive style, and Wild Children felt like the perfect comic for a cleaner approach.

iFanboy: Were either of you Wild Children back in school? How much of that is on the page, even if it’s just the attitude or questions? Or is this totally alien to your own experience?

R.R.: I was a pretty rebellious youth, A lot less balanced than the Wildchildren in my activism. I was interested in counter cultures, art, music. The Wildchildren’s looks are all based on a music movements I like.

I think there are some of my adolescent fantasies being played out in the pages of Wild Children.

A.K.: Oh, I definitely was. Or was I? I constantly questioned teachers because I wanted to understand why they taught us the things they taught us, and that made me pretty unpopular because the teachers usually didn’t have intelligent answers. I went through six schools in approximately eleven years. I was also pretty fat until I hit fourteen or fifteen, so I felt this constant need to prove myself to the world, because the world felt like it didn’t give a shit about me at all. Reading my answers here so far, I’m pretty sure some of that still remains inside me.

From Wild Children

I was a really quiet kid until my parents’ divorce – I usually read a book under my desk and I was pretty good at math, but I was also bullied precisely because of that.

All that went out of the window around the age of fourteen when I had a chance to turn the situation around and bully someone else – the people who used to bully me decided that I was suddenly worth their respect. I declined to punch one of my former bullies in front of the entire classroom, told them why, and quit the school a few weeks later.

Things got much more fun from there.

I once accidentally swallowed a not-completely-extinguished joint in order to hide it from a school teacher who decided to investigate the school toilets. I do remember a history lesson that turned quite psychedelic – I got 2+, the Czech Republic equivalent of B+, and I still say I was supposed to get an A. Everyone except the teacher knew about my state. That was a good one. There was at least one instance of sloppy oral sex in the school bathroom, some guerilla street/school art, rewritten teacher’s grade books, setting a thing or two on fire…strange broken electronic music and girls and boys and too much to read and too much to see and too much to live – so eventually I just dropped out.

You know how Renton had to make his choice in Trainspotting? For me, that choice was between school and life. So I chose life.

 

Writer Ales Kot, Photographed by Zoetica Ebb (http://www.biorequiem.com/)

Look for Wild Children, a 64-page comic novella of youth in revolt, this July from Image Comics.

Comments

  1. jasonhart jasonhart says:

    Everything about this is pulling my strings! In a weird way, I’m getting an “Asterios Polyp” through the punk rock lens of youth vibe here. Sign me the hell up.

  2. daccampo daccampo says:

    I’m in.

    Sold me about halfway through the interview. Love the way Kot is approaching the writing here.

    And if I hadn’t already been sold, the “Long Live the New Flesh” shirt may have pushed me over the top. ;)

  3. Agent Graves Agent Graves says:

    Cool tattoo.