The Kubert School Spotlight recognizes a chosen Kubert School instructor or alumni, showcasing their work and journey as a comic book professional.

    Talent from The Kubert School


    Kevin Colden

    Cartoonist, Illustrator

    Kevin Colden, a 2001 graduate of the
    school is best know for his pioneering work in online comics. He is currently the artist on IDW’s re-launch of James O’Barr’s The Crow.

    Interview by Michael Kraiger

    The Kubert School: You attended The Kubert School from 1998 to 2001. Were you right out of high schoolor had you attended another school?

    Kevin Colden: I had actually taken a few years off after high school to try and kick-start my acting career or my music career, and neither went anywhere. I'd recently been rediscovering the comics’ medium after a few years of not being really excited by it (this would have been the dark age of the mid-90's), and decided to really devote my energy to drawing again.

    TKS: What was your impetus for attending The Kubert School?

    Kevin Colden: When I was a kid I used to see ads in comics all the time for The Kubert School, and I came across one again in an issue of Nightwing (I think). I'd been working on samples since the second Marvel Comics Try-Out Book came out in '96 or '97, but after being rejected by every publisher (well, I only got HALF of the rejection letter from Marvel, so only half-rejected?), I figured I needed some education. I really only wanted to draw comics, but if nothing else I could also learn graphic design and find work doing that, if need be. This was right as the Internet was really becoming commonplace and there weren't as many readily accessible learning resources like we have today, so I had to leave my house and go somewhere to learn my trade. I even had to send in my portfolio by snail mail! It was a different time.        

    TKS: Had you any other career choices or interests previous to deciding on comics?

    Kevin Colden: I had pursued being an actor and a musician during my teenage years, and [it] was pretty promising on both fronts. Music has its own set of difficulties, and I didn't want to move to New York and starve for ten years working jobs I didn't like to be an actor. Neither are the most stable occupations, so if I could pursue comics and art, I could at least fall back on design jobs - which is exactly what I did for a long time. But I ended up moving to New York and starving for ten years, anyway. 

    TKS: Who are some of the artists that inspired you early on?

    Kevin Colden: When I was in first grade, I wrote an essay about how I wanted to be Larry Hama. Larry's primarily a writer, but he's also an artist (and actor, and a veteran, and probably a demigod, too), but he has the clearest, most amazing sense of storytelling. But Dave McKean's book Cages had a huge influence on me as I was starting to become serious about my artwork. I was becoming obsessed with EC Comics around that time, too, and when I was at The Kubert School instructor Alec Stevens did a great dissection of Bernard Krigstein's “Master Race” story, which began my huge fascination with Krigstein's work. I actually own a number of his pieces and my art table used to belong to him.

    TKS: Is there any one aspect of attending the school that best prepared you for your current career?

    Kevin Colden: Pretty much everything. But if I had to pick one aspect, I'd say that aggressive volume of work that the school demands was the most beneficial thing to me. I still have anxiety attacks in response to deadlines; but I also don't blow them. Last year I did a custom comic job that required full art (including full colors) in less than three weeks, and I hit the target, excluding revisions. As a side note, I'd add that the many, many stories the instructors have to tell have helped me avoid a lot of potential pitfalls. Wisdom is priceless. 

    TKS: What was your first job after graduation?

    Kevin Colden: I ended up doing graphic design for DVD menus, and then programming DVDs for many, many years. My first job was at a company that released movies you wouldn't give out as Christmas gifts (ahem), and then I did work for the music industry and children's TV. I did that full-time for about eight years until I could make my living solely from art. 

    That whole time, I was drawing humor and horror comics for small publishers like House of Twelve, Asylum Press, and the short-lived original content branch of Media-Blasters. In addition I was lettering manga translations. I also contributed to a number of anthologies before moving to online work in 2006.

    TKS: You were a part of Chemistry Set, an online comics collective. How did that come about?

    Kevin Colden: Chemistry Set was conceived by some writer friends of mine who wanted to do the type of online comics that ACT-I-VATE was doing at the time, but with creative teams instead of single authors. It seemed logical to me at the time - and this has been borne out - that we would eventually be reading comics on our phones or tablets of some kind, and that web serialization was the intermediate step. Neil Kleid and I had been friends for years, but had never gotten to work together. So we did Todt Hill, which only ran for about 50 pages before we both got too busy to keep up.

    TKS: How was that beneficial to you as a creator?

    Kevin Colden: One can only learn things like long-term drawing commitment and reader interaction by actually experiencing them, and that's the thing I learned. We also got a lot of press for that project because not a lot of people were doing online collectives of the same type and in the same sector of the business that we
    were. So there was some notoriety from that, and it also directly led to my ACT-I-VATE run.

    TKS: What can you tell us about your Eisner Award nominated work Fishtown?

    Kevin Colden: I've always been drawn to heavier, darker themes and Fishtown grew out of research I was doing for a high school comedy. I came across a news piece on a very disturbing murder, and wondered if it could be retold as a semi-fictional existentialist story. It ran on ACT-I-VATE for two years while I was drawing it, and was well received. IDW collected it, we got an Eisner nom, and "poof" – here we are.

    TKS: How did it come to be associated with and published online by Act•I•Vate?

    Kevin Colden: I had finished the first part, which was a first issue essentially, and submitted it for a Xeric Grant. At the same time Dean Haspiel had really loved the work I'd been doing at the Chemistry Set, and I had approached him about bringing it to ACT-I-VATE. When it became clear that I couldn't take the Xeric money to print the book and also publish it online, I chose to stay online because at the time it was easier to promote it that way, and I figured I would lose money on the print book anyway. 

    TKS: You were one of the creators whose work appeared on DC Comics online experiment Zuda. What was that experience like?

    Kevin Colden: Zuda was a great experience. From a creator perspective it was nearly ideal. I got a page rate to do pretty much whatever I wanted to do, had a very supportive editorial staff, and lived well for two years under contract with DC. It blows my mind how maligned the Zuda contract was when the details of it first became
    public. There were a few standard business ups and downs during its run, but we did something really unique over there, and I'd hope that someday DC or Warner Brothers puts together some new R&D program like it. I made a lot of very close friends from being involved with Zuda.

    TKS: What's the status of your work I Rule the Night, which was stated as a Zuda project?

    Kevin Colden: I Rule the Night is complete and available on Comixology or through the DC Comics App. It's nine issues long and the first one is free. Like drugs.

    TKS: I've noticed that your work often has a unique color palette. Fishtown was duotone, and Strangle Switch had a very interesting use of color. Do you have a particular philosophy of color usage?

    Kevin Colden: I really like black and white movies, and I sort of approach it like it's grayscale. I always try to use color as a storytelling tool or a mood-setter. Every single element should move the story along somehow. When I was a student at the school, myself and some friends commandeered a room so we could paint and I used to hurl paint at the canvases, so I guess it's a bit like that, too – putting a weird sheen on at the end of a piece. But lately I've been doing more conventional color (my Strange Adventures piece, or Baby with a Mohawk), which is more influenced by stained glass and film lighting.

    TKS: What are you working on now?

    Kevin Colden: Currently I'm drawing an update of James O'Barr's The Crow with dark fantasy novelist and Crow screenwriter John Shirley. That's going to keep me busy for a while. But I'm also occasionally updating my web strip Baby With a Mohawk, writing a new graphic novel and working on a few other things.    

    TKS: What are your future plans?

    Kevin Colden: I just want to keep on doing the best work I can and still have enough time to live a life. It's too easy to let yourself get chained to the table. I want to take my family to Europe!


    IDW, Zuda, ACT-I-VATE


    The Crow