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 just this part where I really have to be like, okay, now sit down, look through everything and just talk to people. That's the one part that's been complicated.
CBY: I'm a backer myself. I'd love to see this project fully funded. Give me your "why should I buy this" pitch to everyone out there, because I'm already convinced.
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.
CBY: If you get it fully funded, is there another addition planned? Will you do this again?
NK: I will have a bit of time before that to make sure everything goes well because especially right now with all the paper shortages, there's still a lot that I have left to learn. I'm planning to do it again in the future, not with the same theme. I already have another theme in mind. Maybe in a year or so, – I don't want to just jump back in it right away. What I'm thinking, if everything goes well, if it gets funded, my goal is to have three groups of kids' anthologies to make a kind of a trilogy and cover three different genres. The first one is really adventurous, the second one, I would love it to be horror stories for kids, like Goosebumps. All those things.
CBY: That sounds fantastic. I love that idea.
NK: I wish it can happen. I hope we can make it happen.
CBY: Anybody have a question for Nathan or for Myrjam? All right, an Englishman in San Diego. Go ahead.
@ENGLISHMANSDCC: Thank you very much indeed. I'm taking a little bit of a break to listen from work, but it's been fantastic to listen to the conversation. Congratulations on how the campaign's going so far. I'm just curious, something you haven't mentioned is about the age range that you're aiming for [for] the book. Are you going to be focusing on very young kids or the slightly older teens range? The other anthologies that you're thinking of, will [they] be kind of broadly looking at the younger readership, or is a specific age range, because you were talking about doing perhaps a horror issue further down the line? That's more maybe skewed towards the teenage audience. Just curious because you said you don't have kids yourself in the age group that you're aiming for when you were putting this project together.
NK: First of all, thank you for the question. Thank you, it's really nice. I've been thinking mostly for kids between 7 to 13 years old because, especially in this anthology, there's a bit of everything. Myrjam's is about finding a gift for your newborn sibling. Then there are more stories for older kids. We have a story by Solomon St. John, which is about their experience going to their first Pride. That's for younger teenagers, but I still think every kid can find something in every story. Put them in front of any movie and they can find something for them in most things.
When it comes to horror, I was thinking maybe a bit older, like 9 or 10 to 14 or 15. I know when I was a kid reading Goosebumps, I was 7 or 8. I was feeling honestly pretty good reading it, and I loved reading it. I'm sure there's a space for horror in the middle grade age range.
@ENGLISHMANSDCC: Excellent. Thank you very much indeed for answering the question.
CBY: It looks like we got another creator that contributed to the anthology on. Brittany, are you with us? You are my fellow Seattleite.
BRITTANY MATTER: I'm doing well. Thanks for having us on. I just moved to Olympia. I'm not there anymore, but I visit often.
CBY: The story in the anthology "One Big, Happy Family," is that yours?
BM: Yeah, that's the story I helped edit with Heather Ayers, who's the writer. We actually worked on it about two years ago, so it was really exciting to see it have another chance at life in Adventures Everywhere.
CBY: Family dinners are certainly fertile ground for any child. It's something we can all relate to. Why did you have to go and make it scary?
BM: Heather likes to add a creepy bent to things, but it's not so much scary as fun. Creepy, campy if that makes sense.
CBY: Sure, like Lumberjanes.
BM: Yeah, that's exactly right.
CBY: What made you want to work on this project?
BM: I think the amount of heart that's in this anthology was really attractive and just the diversity of stories. I think, if I remember correctly (and Nathan can correct me if I'm wrong), he may have reached out to me and suggested I submit something. I was like, oh yeah, sure. It just seemed to really fit well with this story that Heather and I had already concocted.
CBY: Wells has a question.
@WELLSTHOMP: Nathan and I know each other, so I was hearing about this project leading up to development and a little bit during and throughout, so I'm really excited about it. I think something you told me early on was that you got over 200 submissions out of nowhere, and you just weren't expecting it. So, I wanted to know what it was like, what the process was like, going through all of those submissions and how you go about picking out the ones that are good, but not good enough to make it to the final product.
NK: Thank you for the question. Wells and I worked on a project together, and it's been amazing to work with him.
At the beginning, there were just so many that I had a hard time just being like, "Okay this one, not this one, this one, or this one." I just went through all of them. I went through many rounds of selection. During the first round, it was mostly just "will kids really connect to the story or not?" That removed 50 stories easily. I mean, not going into names or anything, but I had stories which are not really kid-friendly, so the first round was pretty easy to go through.
Then the longer it went, the more complex it got. What I did mostly was just finding what threads could work well together, which stories had the same background, the same theme. That was another round.
When I felt like stories could not connect to the other ones, I just removed them – not because they were bad, but because they were not connecting enough. Then there were just different ones. I wanted to have a lot of diversity, a lot of different backgrounds to make sure we get it right. So, that was another round, making sure there was a space for everyone, so I didn't just end up with stories made by just white people or just one community specifically.
It was just different rounds, one after the other. At the beginning, I was thinking about 12 stories for the book. I just got to a point where I could just not choose anymore, and I had 16 stories left. So, I was just like, okay, let's go for it. Unfortunately, we've had two dropouts because of personal issues, so we have 14 stories now, but there's actually more stories than there was supposed to be.
CBY: Piggybacking off of what Wells was saying, were you trying to fit stories into specific slots? With grief, was there one story that you said, okay, I'm gonna get one slot here for grief and another for a different topic. How did you go about paring that down?
NK: I didn't have boxes to check throughout the process. I don't think there was a conscious process of, "Okay, I should have one story about this and another story about that." It just came naturally in how I really connected to them personally. The more I realized there was this link between all those stories with a really grounded theme...I thought it would be good to go for that, but that was really later on in the process. It was not something I'd planned on at the very beginning.
CBY: Is there anything else you'd like to touch on that we haven't so far?
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: Comical Foods has a question.
@COMICALFOODS: Hi, this is Chris. Going back to the subject about the teacher stuff, I just saw the reward. Can you go a little bit more into what the teacher guide is? I didn't notice it on the story section. It was one of the reward tiers. Do you guys have any, I guess, mockups or screenshots of how it's gonna look and how it helps the teachers teach the kids?
NK: Thank you very much for the question, Chris. It is still being drafted because not all the stories have been completed. So far, I have this script for every story, but not the art. It is going to be in a way that every kid can work with. It's not going to be very wordy. It is mostly to be going through thought process, discussions, and how to share opinions. I think it's important for kids to be able to learn that.
Every story will be talked about in the teacher's guide, and some stories will be mostly about discussion. What do you think of this? What do you think of this character's answer? What do you think of that direction? What would you have done if you were there? What can you do if your friend goes through the loss of a loved one? What can you do as a friend to help? If it can be a thought process, that would be amazing.
I know I'm not the best qualified to write a teacher's guide, but we have creators in the anthology who host conferences about teaching comics to kids, who have experience making teacher's guides. They helped us a whole lot making it, but I cannot show you how it looks yet because it's still in the drafting process.
@COMCIALFOODS: Sounds great. Thank you.
CBY: Brittany or Myrjam, is there anything you would like to add?
MVDV: I would just second what Nathan was saying. We want to get it in as many kids‘ hands as possible. If you're an adult that still loves anything about wonder, and excitement, and adventure, you would also think it's really cool. I love reading middle grade. I still read middle-grade comics, so if you're like me this would be great for you. It would be great for all the kids, nieces and nephews, anyone in your life you can think of. Think about people who would enjoy this, and if you can share it that would be awesome.
BM: Yeah, I feel the same. One of the rewards that we wanted to touch on was that kids can submit their own prose or one page comic to the book. So we're not only encouraging kids to read our stories, but want to encourage them to create their own as well. That's about all I have to say. Thanks for listening.
CBY: That's really cool. I didn't even realize that. What's the mechanism for that submission?
NK: It's through rewards in the campaign where kids under 15 years old can have their one-page comic or their one short prose in the book. Brittany brought the idea to me, and I thought it was absolutely amazing because it can give them a sense of recognition. It's one thing just having your stories for yourself. It's another showing them to the world and having them read. I think it's just an amazing idea, and it's through a reward that can be purchased on the campaign.
CBY: Well, thank you Nathan, Myrjam, and Brittany for joining me today to talk about Adventures Everywhere. If you have a child or a young teen in your life, I urge you to check out this amazing project and back it – I'm a backer myself – to support diverse stories for younger humans. Thanks, everyone, for listening, and thanks to those that asked questions. We appreciate you.
This is Byron O'Neal for Comic Book Yeti, until next time. Thanks, everybody.
This is a transcript of the interview conducted on Twitter Spaces with Nathan Kempf, Myrjam Van de Vijver, and Brittany Matter on Wednesday, November 3rd, 2021. Minor content changes have been made to assist with readability.
The image(s) used in this article are from a comic strip, webcomic or the cover or interior of a comic book. The copyright for this image(s) is likely owned by either the publisher of the comic, the writer(s) and/or artist(s) who produced the comic. It is believed that the use of this image(s) qualifies as fair use under the United States copyright law. The image is used in a limited fashion in an educational manner in order to illustrate the points of the author and not for the purpose of entertainment or substituting the original work. It is believed the use of this image has had no impact on the market value of the original work.
All Adventures Everywhere characters and the distinctive likeness(es) thereof are trademarks of and copyright Adventures Everywhere or their respective owners. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED