Chris Schweizer is the creator of the Crogan Adventures, a series published by Oni Press (http://www.onipress.com/series/crogan )
What is the Crogan Adventures about?
The Crogan Adventures, as a series, is about a dad telling his kids about their ancestors. Each individual book, however, is its own story. The most recent book to come out is about the unexpected reunion of two brothers fighting on opposite sides of the American Revolution.
Each book is a different genre and time period from the ones that preceded it, so you’ll eventually have a pirate, a ninja, a flying ace, a secret agent, a private detective… basically any iconic historical profession.
What inspired the idea for the Crogan Adventures?
Partially it was my own family history. My dad always told me stories about my own ancestors, whose records we have dating back two, three hundred years in some branches. But mostly I stumbled into it, drawing a few characters and realizing that there might be a way to unify them into a series.
I liked the idea of all of my future projects being under one blanket, but I was terrified of being trapped by it. Too many people seem to feel obligated to work on their most popular thing while really wanting to do something else. The framework of The Crogan Adventures gave me the freedom to have my cake and eat it, too. I could do one series forever while having the freedom to do something completely new with each installment. As soon as I realized that, I was dead-set on seeing it through.
Did you have to do any research before creating Crogan?
I have to do a lot of research before doing each book. It probably amounts to about six to eight months of full-on research for each new project, although I’ve changed my method somewhat to where I’m staggering the research with the production of the current book. I used to wait until I was finished with a comic before beginning my readings for the next one, but doing nothing but research for months on end makes me feel very unproductive. Doing it this way makes the comic itself take longer to complete because I’m dividing my attention, but it’s probably a more productive approach overall.
You’ve said that the Crogan Adventures stories are “for adults that are safe for kids to read—elevate them rather than writing down to them.” (http://www.onipress.com/series/crogan) Do you think that is a common mistake for some writers make?
Sometimes, but I don’t think the fault lies with the writer, usually. Amateur writers who are trying to “break in” to the kids’ book market write down, but you rarely see it done by choice in the professional arena. Usually dumbing things down for kids is a corporate dictate more than an artistic one. I did some work once where I was only permitted one and two-syllable words, and no compound sentences, in order to make it an easier read for the younger kids, who were the demographic for that project. I understand the reasoning, and I’m sure that the sales reflect the validity of the publisher’s choice to do that – they sell in the tens and hundreds of thousands, I think, whereas my personal work is just in the thousands – but I dislike the idea of a book, or movie, or anything, being for one specific demographic. If I put more than a year of my life and a truckload of emotional energy into a project, I want that project to have the potential to reach as many people as possible, young and old. For me, writing up is the solution.
Are there any other projects you are currently working on?
Mostly Crogan Adventures stuff. There’s a season of Crogan Adventures radio dramas that start to air in March, and I’m doing the designs for the illustrations that will accompany them. I’m doing another American Revolution tale, “The Black Brigade.” It’s a short story that will be part of THE GRAPHIC TEXTBOOK, a curriculum-based comics collection. I’m editing a western anthology that will be coming out through Comixology, and doing a western Crogan Adventures story for that. It’s called “Unheeled.” Plus I’m penciling the new graphic novel, Crogan’s Escape, the story of a circus daredevil whose recent brush with death has left him terrified of taking risks. It’s set in Warlord-eraChina, in the 1920s, aboard a tramp steamer.
Outside of Crogan stuff, I’m writing and drawing a short story for a comic of a show that I like a lot, but I’m not sure if I’m allowed to mention that publicly or not. I’ll be hitting roughs on that as soon as I finish “The Black Brigade.” I’m also writing a science fantasy series called Konqueror. It’s about a group of mechanically-augmented human rebels whose champion is determined to overthrow not only the Monsterman society that rules their plant of Powerworld, but also the very rebels with whom he fights. I’m just writing that one; the art is being done by Rory Morris, who’s a truly fantastic cartoonist. It’s far funnier and more dynamic that I’d have been able to make it on my own.
And I’m teaching. I teach comics at the Atlanta campus of the Savannah College of Art and Design. That’s how the western anthology came to be, actually; I was setting up a western comics class, where we’d go horseback riding and learn to quick-draw and study films and books and comics and all that fun stuff, and the idea of doing an anthology kind of snowballed from there. There are a number of great folks involved. One story that I’m particularly excited about is by the great John Arcudi, and it’s got art by Arielle Smith. It’s just masterful. People are going to flip over it.