Editor/Creator: Nathan Kempf
Interview Participant And Contributor: Myrjam Van de Vijver
Interview Participant And Contributor: Brittany Matter
Comic Book Yeti's Byron O'Neal interviews editor/creator Nathan Kempf about his Kickstarter children's anthology project, Adventures Everywhere. Transcribed from the ongoing Saturday Twitter Spaces creator chatform.
COMIC BOOK YETI: This is Byron O'Neal for Comic Book Yeti sitting down with Nathan Kempf, the mastermind behind the new Kickstarter kids’ comics anthology Adventures Everywhere. Welcome.
NATHAN KEMPF: Thank you for having me.
CBY: This is your Kickstarter debut. First off, why don't you tell us a little bit about the project. What is Adventures Everywhere?
NK: Adventures Everywhere is a comic book anthology made specifically for kids and younger people in general. I feel like it's something new in the way that when comic books are made, they're not necessarily made for kids, or when they're made for kids, they can be 60, 70, 80 pages long. An anthology can be a great format for kids, so I feel like it's new in this way. I'm excited for people to be able to read it.
CBY: What made you want to put together a project specifically for kids and young teens? Do you have kids yourself?
NK: I don't. I wish I had, but I don't. I worked as a teacher for a while in France, and I've been a part of many summer camps taking care of kids. It's something I love doing, being near kids, taking care of them. When I was a kid, I never really had comic books made for me like as a child. Living in France, there were Tintin, The Smurfs, and stuff like that, but mostly I feel like it was made for adults hoping it would stick with kids. I just wish I had books like that, especially now with COVID. With everything happening, kids need things in which they can lose themselves in a good way to just let their imagination grow from there. That's why I wanted to do it just to be able to give kids what I wish I had as a kid, especially in times like this.
CBY: You definitely wanted to tackle some deeper material for the anthology. It explores sexual orientation, gender identity, grief, self-acceptance, leaping into the unknown. It is quite the departure from Asterix I would imagine.
NK: Yeah definitely, but it's also what kids are facing these days. Especially now when people are getting more public, and it's a good thing, people are getting more public about who they are and the process they went through to find out who they are. Even older people who are just like, okay, maybe I'm not the person I thought I was. It's something that is in everyone's mind and kids now will tend to question themselves about those points way earlier too. Once again, that's a good thing, because the sooner you find out who you are, the sooner you can develop those points. So, I felt like it was important in today's world to be able to talk about these issues to kids in a way in which they can process them easily.
CBY: I have a teenager myself. I believe kids are capable of handling so much more than I think a lot of adults believe they are. You've got so much diversity of material in the anthology. Why not keep it a little more focused on a singular topic? What made you want to take on all these different things at once?
NK: Well, why not? There wasn't a thought process behind it. I think I just wanted to be able to tell adventures to kids and not necessarily adventures that go to a crazy place or discovering the world. It's what happens if your brain is indoors and the things around you, discovering what your world can be. All those issues are part of what your adventure can be. I just wanted it to happen.
CBY: How did you go about recruiting everybody for the anthology?
NK: “We all have kids in our life that need adventure. They need to disconnect a bit from everything happening right now, and I think having short stories they can relate to no matter what, because we made sure every kid can relate to the stories, can be an amazing escape for them. They all have good conclusions. They all do great things that can help a child grow, and I think it would be a bummer to miss out on this, especially right now. There are 11 days left, and we are 40% funded so far.”
NK: I know I'm not the most well-known person in the comic book industry, and that's okay. So, I just went on Twitter thinking if anyone is interested, just send in an email, and we'll just see where it goes from there. I was genuinely thinking I would get 30 or 40 submissions, barely enough to make a book with it. I was surprised to get close to 200 submissions. It was absolutely crazy. I was not expecting that. I had to go through all of them individually, taking time for that out of work. I just went through and instead of being like, okay, I want this story and this story, I was just going through randomly. There were many different rounds going through stories and choosing enough to make a book and not too much for it to be too big of a book for kids either. I thought it was easier for me, for the way I work. Then from that point, I just contacted everyone individually. I made sure the process was good for everyone. I didn't want to just say, ok this is the deadline and if your life cannot fit around the deadline, too bad for you. I made sure to send out surveys to evaluate everyone's expectations, to know everyone's timeline, to know what was possible for everyone. I wanted to do what was best for everyone, to not put them in a rush because anthologies are not jobs that give you a livelihood. They're just often projects you want to take part in, but unfortunately not well-paying because it's not possible for an anthology. I just wanted to make sure everyone was feeling safe, was feeling comfortable. I think that so far, that mission has been accomplished.
Myrjam could say more about this. I'd love to hear what Myrjam thinks about it, how she went through these experiences as a creator.
CBY: Sure, let's get her in here. Hello Myrjam, welcome.
MYRJAM VAN DE VIJVER: Thank you for having me, as well. So, I'm one of the creators in the anthology, and I'm one of the few solo creators that wrote and drew my own story in its entirety. Like Nathan was saying, it was a very easy process in the sense that I felt like Nathan was always very open to all the feedback and to making sure that we could be part of this amazing anthology, which was really cool. There was a lot of communication along the way, which was amazing. It is just a very cool anthology to be a part of for all the reasons that Nathan said before.
CBY: Your story is "Chloe and the Quest for a Mighty Gift," is that correct?
CBY: That's about the perfect gift for a new baby. What's the perfect gift for a new baby?
MVDV: You'll have to read the story, but it's actually based on what I did when my baby brother was born when I was two. I don't remember it, but it's a story that my parents still tell on what I did the first time that I met my baby brother. I did give him something that they still occasionally mention. It's just a story about love for siblings. A lot of what I hear from friends who are having kids is siblings being jealous of their younger baby being born, and I just wanted to show the other side of how some kids can be full of wonder that they are going to have a new playmate.
CBY: You have a background doing other kids stories. I looked at your website, and I love Nana's Cows. That spoke to me because my grandparents had a huge farm. I would spend most of my weekends as a child with them, and my Nana and I would feed the cows by hand every evening. So, this one definitely hit home. What inspired that story for you?
MVDV: What I do is on my webtoon. I publish short stories, picking anything between 8 and the longest one I had was 32 pages. That's the longest I've ever gone. Most are around 8 to 24 pages of stuff that I can print in a mini comic and take to conventions and stuff. I just generate random titles and then I go from there and come up with a story. That was one of them. I was just like, Nana's Cows. It's about loss and it was inspired by saying goodbye but trying to remember good thoughts about someone. As I wrote that story, I actually lost my grandma which was very sad especially because I live in New Zealand, and she was in Belgium. I wasn't able to say goodbye or make it to the funeral. I was really careful because I really wanted it to be a beautiful message for kids. So, I was really careful about writing the end. I think I wrote it about five times because I wanted to strike that balance between "it's okay to be sad," and "it happens," but also "remember so many good things that happened with this person and be thankful for what they brought to your life." That's why you're actually sad, because they meant so much to you.
CBY: Oh, that's a very sweet story.
MVDV: I hope it is. I haven't put it out yet. It's going to be available on my webtoon on Monday, actually.
CBY: I saw it was soon to be released. What drew you to this anthology specifically?
MVDV: Kids and adventure, that's kind of my MO. It's what I love doing. I'm really focused on kids' comics. I think it's amazing to be able to write. Stories for kids should be able to add more of that wonder and that sense that everything can be an adventure. I actually started on the Find Anthology Twitter page, if someone wants to check that out. I was like, alright yes, I need to do this, this is in line with what I want. Then, I heard there were over 200 submissions, and I was like, oh, I'll never get in.
NK: “To all the backers and the listeners, I want to thank you. That's really amazing. If you know any schools, if you know any teachers, if you know any libraries who would be interested in these stories, we would love for everyone here to just reach out and tell them about this anthology. We're actually working on a teacher's guide to make sure that this book can be talked about in classes in the best way possible. So yeah, we're trying to make sure this book can get into the hands of kids whose parents can't necessarily afford to back it. If you know anyone that would be interested, it would be amazing to get the word out.”
CBY: Well, you did.
MVDV: Yes. I received an email from Nathan and it was like, oh, thank you so much for your submission. I was looking for the unfortunately in the email. I was like, okay, where is the "unfortunately we can't"? I had to read it two or three times and was really excited about that.
CBY: What's it been like working with Nathan? Give me the inside scoop.
MVDV: It's been really good communication. He's very open to talking via email and open to talking via Twitter. There's been a couple of creator initiatives to promote the book, and he's been super open with us doing stuff on the side and making it look amazing. It's going to be the first time someone else is going to letter my comic, so that's really exciting. I can't wait to see what he does with that as well.
CBY: Nathan, let's jump back to you for a second. You're more used to lettering comics, so how does this role of being an editor feel to you?
NK: Yes, I'm a letterer. That's what I do most of the time. That's how I got into the comic creator world. I don't know, I've always loved writing. I love writing stories, especially for kids. I want to eventually publish graphic novels for kids in shorter novella formats.
I'm sorry, can you repeat the question? I'm a bit tired.
CBY: Yes, absolutely. It's getting late there in France. I was just saying that you're more used to lettering and Myrjam was talking about you lettering on her story, so I was asking how do you like the role of being an editor so far? Having all these submissions, is it fun? Is it grueling? How are you feeling?
NK: I definitely have a lot to learn, but it's been great so far. I learned through some other experiences that are close to editing comic books. I've been able to use that.
Honestly, it's funner than I thought it would be. When I saw all the submissions, I was pretty sure it would be a really daunting process. It was long. It was so interesting to see what everyone had to bring, and how I could make sure all my choices through the entire process would ensure all the stories worked together in a way that can make the group of them the best. When it comes to checking the art, when it comes to making sure the colors are good, that was basically half of my job when I was working for a creator studio in France, so I'm used to it. All the reading part is really new and I think it's exciting. I wish I would have the opportunity to read more in the future.
CBY: What's the biggest hurdle been so far for you?
NK: Honestly, I feel like so far, it's been communication. I'm really not the best communicator. I've always had social anxiety, so having to answer the emails, having to look through them all, can be really daunting at times because it's anxiety-inducing. Other than that, everything has been really fun. It's ju