Name: Kyle Starks
Website: Follow him on Twitter here.
Favorite Comic Book Character Growing Up: As a young kid, probably… I don’t know. Nightcrawler? I’m so old now it’s hard to remember growing up.
Favorite Comic Book Character Now: Probably my lead in “Rock Candy Mountain,” Jackson – I’m all about that dude right now.
Latest Work: In January I published Image Comics’ “Rock Candy Mountain” and Oni Press “Rick and Morty” #34
TrunkSpace: How would you describe your art style?
Starks: (Laughter) I like to call it kinetic and cartoony. I get a lot of “scratches on bar napkins” and “undetailed,” but I feel like it’s not without detail, it’s just gestural. Movement and pacing is really important to me. And clarity. I definitely focus on those things a lot more than “realism” and “anatomy.”
TrunkSpace: How important were comic books in your life growing up and is that where you discovered your love and inspiration for drawing?
Starks: For sure, as a kid I voraciously consumed comics. It’s funny, as a very young person I would’ve sworn I was going to be a comic artist when I grew up. I worked at a comic store through my teens and early twenties, but once I got to college I was really focused on fine art and over-drinking, so I probably went eight years without picking up a comic or even really thinking about comics. When I got married and started having kids and was thinking about things I might never get around to, I did a comic and that love came swooping back in hard and fast.
TrunkSpace: Was there a particular artist or title from your childhood that you remember being drawn to and inspired by?
Starks: When I was a kid I was a huge John Byrne fan, for sure. I’d say looking back now, not as a child but as a teen, probably Evan Dorkin’s work and DeMatteis/Giffen’s “Justice League International” were the biggest influences. As an adult, Kirby, Urasawa and the Swedish cartoonist Jason were my boys when I started making comics. I’m definitely a bigger appreciator of comics as an adult, seeing my peers make incredible work and seeing and hearing their influences.
TrunkSpace: How did you decide to approach your career in comics? Did you formulate a plan of how you wanted to attack what is known for being a hard industry to crack?
Starks: Oh, I had no plan. It was a lot of luck that got me here. I love making comics, so I was making them. I realized what I wanted more than anything was more eyes to see them, so I started using all my Kickstarter profits to go to conventions, that formed a lot of relationships with great people and as they say, “one thing led to another.”
TrunkSpace: What was your biggest break in terms of a job that opened more doors for you?
Starks: Through a series of fortuitous events, Matt Fraction read my Kickstarted version of “Sexcastle” at a convention, tweeted about it and emailed me to see if I wanted to work with Image. Just a lot of luck, man. I am fairly certain that he read that book because his plane didn’t take off in time. I mean, you can’t plan stuff like that. I guess the lesson is to make good work and try to put yourself in a position to succeed.
TrunkSpace: A lot of people say that breaking into comics is the hardest part of working in comics. How long did it take you before you started to see your comic book dreams become a reality?
Starks: I would definitely be the exception to that – like I said, I sort of tripped headfirst into it. I had no intention of being a professional, just rather to do something I loved as a profitable hobby. Getting in wasn’t as hard as staying in, being successful and happy at it. But, again, I can’t say enough about how fortunate I’ve been on my journey so far. It’s an unusual path.
In regards to the second part of that question, definitely 2016 was my breakthrough year – “Sexcastle” was published by Image and was nominated for an Eisner. I got an incredible, steady gig with “Rick and Morty” – there was suddenly money and momentum. I Kickstarted my first book in 2013 – that’s an unusually fast career path.
TrunkSpace: Is there a particular character or universe you always find yourself returning to when you’re sketching or doing warm-ups?
Starks: I don’t do a lot of warm ups – generally if I feel like it’s looking like a day that’s going to need them, I tend to take suggestions from my Patreon supporters or draw wrestlers.
TrunkSpace: Is there a specific title or character that you’d like to work on in the future and why?
Starks: I’m really happy with my creator-owned stuff and there are definitely some other creators I think about working with more than a specific title. I think we all got little secret dreams, but I would never jinx it by saying it aloud!
TrunkSpace: What is your ultimate dream when it comes to your career in comics? Where would you like your path to lead?
Starks: My ultimate dream is to be able to do this for a long, long time. This job allows me to see my family and spend time with my kids, to travel around. I mean, the benefits outside of punching a time card are huge. I love making comics, I love telling stories – there’s nothing I’d rather be doing and the only absolute dream would be to get to do it for as long as I want to, which is forever.
TrunkSpace: What would you say is the greatest strength as an artist?
Starks: My greatest strengths as a storyteller are definitely comedy and action, and I think the secret to both are pacing, timing and clarity. I think also that I have a distinctive style that’s easy to recognize. I am far from being the best artist in comics, I’m frankly not anywhere near that conversation, but I think as a storyteller or a cartoonist I tell stories in a different way than most – and I think being unique or different is a boon.
TrunkSpace: How has technology changed your process of putting ideas/script to page? Do you use the classic paper/pencil approach at all anymore?
Stark: I work 100 percent digitally. I’m so much faster from idea to finish, I can’t imagine doing it otherwise. Working digitally kept me in comics early and has allowed me to write and draw a series (“Rock Candy Mountain”) while I wrote and occasionally drew another (“Rick and Morty”) and wrote a third (“Dead of Winter”) last year. No way I could do that analog.
TrunkSpace: What advice would you give another young aspiring artist who is considering a career in the comic industry?
Starks: Never stop making comics, make the comic you want in the world, do it because you love it until it’s potential more than a labor of love and at that point start treating it like a business. Be professional.
TrunkSpace: Making appearances at conventions: Love it, leave it, or a combination of both?
Starks: I love it. And right now with the popularity of “Rick and Morty,” fiscally, I have to do them. I wouldn’t be where I am now – wherever that is, really – without conventions. I’ve met and made my best friends in this world, I’ve made the connections that got me work or opportunities and I think hustling your work and meeting the fans is literally priceless. I love them.
TrunkSpace: What is the craziest/oddest thing you’ve ever been asked to draw as a commission?
Starks: I’m not afraid to say no to something that’s too ridiculous – and I’m pretty sure I’ve been asked to draw some fetish-y, porn-y stuff that I said no to. I’m trying to think. There was a guy at my first convention who asked me to draw a space centaur? I don’t get so many weird ones, I guess.
TrunkSpace: What else can fans of your work look forward to for the rest of 2018 and into the new year?
Starks: “Rock Candy Mountain” finishes up with issue 8 in February and I’ll continue to write “Rick and Morty” for the foreseeable future and occasionally draw it. There’s been talk about another “Dead of Winter” series and I’m in the middle of contract negotiations for a series with a creator I’ve wanted to work with since my first convention. And hopefully a fresh new Kyle Starks’ joint for everyone to dig on at some point.