Zero Gain: Ales Kot talks about Zero

Trevor Hogg chats with Ales Kot about comics and the creation of Edward Zero…
“What is an artist?” asks Ales Kot. “If anything done sufficiently well is art, then I certainly come from a family of artists. My mother was a social worker and became an interior designer; her mother worked at the post office most of her life and her father worked as a steel worker, an army specialist, and a truck driver. My father worked as a miner, then sold steel and then built up a soccer club; his father worked on a high position in a steel factory and taught physics and mathematics while his mother worked in a store selling food most of her life. Thankfully, I was always encouraged to read and write and think on my own, at least by certain members of the family.” Kot believes, “Any merger of visuals and text is comics. Most things are comics. If we’re talking that what we call the comics ‘medium’, the first instance I remember well is when I was about three years old and in bed with pneumonia or something like it. A member of my family, I do not remember which one, brought me a Donald Duck / Scrooge McDuck / Mickey Mouse comic and I devoured it. I was transported. For a while, I forgot I was sick.”

The childhood reading experience was an introduction to comics industry which would provide a career for the writing talents of Ales Kot. “I chose the path and then the path changed plenty of times. I chose what I wanted and then I got it. The way I got it and who I am now morphed from my ideas while at the same time staying the same. I don’t know if anything is by accident; that is a question about the nature of this universe. I am merely exploring and taking notes.” The digital revolution has not necessarily reduced the challenge of earning a living by creating comics. “It certainly is easier to publish a comic. Nowadays the middle man is gone. Not from the industries, not from our culture – but the middle man as a guardian of the only publishing route that can reach wide readership is certainly gone right now. I applaud this.” As for favourite comic book movies, Kot clarifies, “I presume you mean favourite comic book adaptations – in which case, sure Akira [1988], Ghost World [2001], Tim Burton’s Batman [1989] and Batman Returns [1992], Blue is the Warmest Colour [2013], Oldboy [2003], A History of Violence [2005], Ghost in the Shell [1995], Blade [1998] and Blade II [2002], and more.”

When it comes to storytelling Ales Kot, who describes himself to be a “narrative designer”, is drawn towards speculative fiction. “It abandons borders of genres and allows the creator to do anything. I can choose to write however I want. In genre, out of genre, straddling lines, merging – whatever I want to do.” Previous projects have impacted on the latest one by Kot which deals with a disheartened soldier named Edward Zero who could find camaraderie with rogue operatives Jason Bourne and Sergeant Nicholas Brody. “With Wild Children, I learned that I could truly create anything I wanted and it could very well be successful if I was honest and committed as a creator and put my will and self-belief in service of the story. With Change, I learned that comics can rewrite my own behaviour and that I can use the act of creation to change myself in ways I can steer via the narrative. I also continued to learn that comics can be a wonderful vehicle for self-exploration and that being open to new things while the creative process is already moving is a rather important thing. With Zero, I am folding these lessons in while creating a narrative that begins in a simpler place than either one of the comics I created before. These lessons can also be used for any kind of a creative act, not just with the making of comics.”
Inspiration came from a spy movie franchise which recently celebrated a 50th anniversary. “I saw Skyfall [2012] and loved its cinematography but was annoyed by the wonkiness of its script. I thought about what would James Bond be like now – and then came Zero.” The author of The Black Dahlia and L.A. Confidential had an impact on the literary style amongst several other influences. “James Ellroy’s economy of writing, the complexity of characters in the fiction of Garth Ennis [Preacher], the physicality of Terence Stamp [A Clockwork Orange] and Daniel Craig [Munich], the ruthlessness of Jim Thompson [The Killer Inside Me] novels, the will, ambition and imagination of people behind Breaking Bad, the ‘container comics’ approach to storytelling of Global Frequency where each issue works on its own and is drawn by a different artist, The wisdom of Philip K. Dick [Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?], Václav Havel [The Garden Party], Werner Herzog [Rescue Dawn], David Lynch [Blue Velvet] and David Cronenberg [Eastern Promises], the bleak male stereotype perpetuated by so many different works of fiction that celebrate revenge and war as something to be adored or impressed by, and the idea of such fiction as a healthy release. It’s an interesting dichotomy.”
Time shifts are used as part of the narrative structure of Zero where the protagonist faced with being executed looks back upon his violent exploits. “It just felt right. I wanted to explore the way we change – and don’t change – in time.” A different artist has been used for each issue. “I was interested in creating a container series for quite a while. This meant creating a series where each part would be self-contained yet at the same time also a part of the larger whole. From a creative standpoint, I find this energizing and inspiring. It also felt like a great way to let myself grow by collaborating with so many new creators and learning new things.” A creative challenge is the introduction of characters. “For me it’s not a matter of a trick but a matter of just letting the scene come naturally; that is perhaps a combination of studying and inhaling fiction over the past twenty-seven years, the same with life experience, and then also being somewhat skilled as a person who can have visions which then translate into what is hopefully art.” Kot reveals, “I avoid exposition. I avoid thinking about story in this way. The exposition has to come naturally. Otherwise the story is fraudulent.”
Zero, Vol. 1 An Emergency which collects issues #1 to #5 marks the end of the first story arc. “I am delighted that I wouldn’t change a single thing about it. Every single one of my collaborators pulled it off perfectly. I love the story and am looking forward to continuing it. As for an image or a sequence that stands out – well, I love the entire thing. The past couple of days I found myself coming back to the last image of issue five. I love the density of it, the dread, the awe, the change of narrative. It’s a mystery to me as well, in its own way.” The future of Edward Zero remains classified. “I would rather let you find out for yourself while reading the story. I don’t believe that my stories should be explained beforehand. However, I do believe they can be teased, and I will tease something very specific. Issue nine is set in 1993 Bosnia therefore during the war and I cried while writing it.”
Many thanks to Ales Kot for taking the time for this interview and make sure to visit his official tumblr site as well as Image Comics for more information.

Trevor Hogg is a freelance video editor and writer who currently resides in Canada.

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