Frank Gogol gained a tremendous amount of acclaim with his last book, GRIEF. He's now ready to catch lightning in a bottle again with his latest release, DEAD END KIDS.
When Frank reached out to me about his latest book, I was instantly intrigued. He had me when he said it was set in the 90's. After reading it I can say, without a doubt, that this is definitely a book worth checking out.
It has a touch of Stephen King and just enough 90's nostalgia to make this one hell of a book.
But who am I kidding, I'll let Frank tell you all about his awesome new book.
COMIC LOUNGE: When did you first decide you wanted to write comics?
FRANK GOGOL: I first knew I was interested in writing comics in April 2006. I was a senior in high school and I knew I wanted to be a writer of some kind. ThenI heard that Marvel was giving Spider-Man a new red and gold costume as part of the lead-in to the Civil War event story. So, I headed into my local comic shop, picked Amazing Spider-Man 528 and was an instant-fan. Not to long after that, I realized that writing comics was the kind of writing I wanted to do.
COMIC LOUNGE: You touch on a lot of dark themes in your stories, would you say that some of your writing is almost done therapeutically ?
GOGOL: Yes and no. My stories definitely delve into some darker topics like drug addiction and what it’s like to lose a loved one, but--I like to think--most of the stories skew hopeful. I think a big part of it has to do with me wanting to reflect life as it is--the good and the bad.
In terms of writing being therapeutic--I never mean for it to be, but it almost always is. I think it’s kind of unavoidable to be writing about characters who are going through something without 1) putting some of yourself into those characters and 2) reflecting on what they’re going through and seeing some what you’ve put into them of yourself. And that--I think--can be a very therapeutic and enlightening experience.
COMIC LOUNGE: Your last book GRIEF, was well received among readers and critics alike. Was that your first published work? What was it like getting such positive response to the book?
GOGOL: GRIEF was my first published work, but moreover it contained the very first stories I ever wrote, too. The last story in the collection--”Embrace”--was actually the very first comic script I created.
As for the response to the book--I am constantly and regularly humbled by the way people have and continue to react positively to it. This book was my passion project and so much more than a comic book to me, and for people to respond how they have, it’s been so incredibly gratifying and inspiring for me.
And it feels like it’s the gift that keeps on giving. From the Kickstarter campaign in 2017 to the book coming out in print with Source Point Press in 2018, readers have welcomed it with open arms. Just recently we officially sold out the print run in just over a year, which is wild to me, too.
COMIC LOUNGE: Ok the reason we're here is to talk about your new book from SourcePoint Press, DEAD END KIDS. Can you tell us a little bit about the story?
Dead End Kids is a three-issue miniseries about three kids in the late 90s trying to solve their friend’s murder. Think Stand by Me meets The Hardy Boys, but more violent.
At its core, though, it’s a book about four kids from messed up homes who find one another and find stability in one another and what happens to them when that stability is ripped away because one of them is murdered.
I’ve got kind of a love hate relationship with coming-of-age stories. I love the idea of a found family and themes that deal with troubled children--these are things I can very much relate to. But I never liked how, almost formulaically, the kids always grow up and grow apart at the end. You see that in Stand by Me. You see it in the Sandlot. You see it in IT.
Like the kids in the book, I had a pretty troubled childhood. Both of my parents struggled with drug addiction and home never really felt like a safe or welcoming place. And the same was true, if for different reasons, for the kids I grew up with. So we took care of one another, just like in the classic coming-of-age story, but the difference for us is that, to this day, we’re all still friends.
So, the classic coming of age stories have never quite rung true for me and Dead End Kids is my take these kinds of stories.
COMIC LOUNGE: The book definitely evokes a sense of nostalgia when reading it, especially having grown up in the 90's. What were some of your influences when crafting this story?
GOGOL: The influences are pretty varied. Definitely my own sense of nostalgia drove the whole thing. But in terms of specifics, Stand By Me, The Hardy Boys, IT, and sort of general 90s pop culture were big influences story wise and visually.
Music plays a big role for me as well. The book opens with lyrics from The Offsprings “The Kids Aren’t Alright” and kind of acts as a thesis statement for what the book is about.
COMIC LOUNGE: I can definitely feel the Stephen King influences, is he a writer that has had an impact on you as a writer?
GOGOL: I think so. CARRIE and IT are two of my favorite novels, for sure and I’ve definitely internalized a lot of what King was able to do with those stories creatively and literarily.
But the truth is, this book, and my stories in general, are influenced by almost everything I encounter. Sometimes I feel like I’m an engineer because I can’t help but to take stories apart to see how they work so that way I can put the best stuff into my own writer’s toolbox.
For example, I was looking over issue two of Dead End Kids the other day, and I saw something that I know for a fact I borrowed from the musical Wicked. I won’t say what, but that illustrates just how far-reaching the influences go.
COMIC LOUNGE: What are your plans moving forward on the book?
GOGOL: Well, Dead End Kids is currently up for preorder through Diamond. So, for the near-term, the plan is to keep telling as many people as I can about it and trying to get it in front of as many readers as I can.
It’s a story, like GRIEF, that I am very proud of and my only real goal is to have people read it and enjoy it. Honestly I don’t care about making money one bit. I just want people to read my stories and the plan is to make sure people can and do, whether it’s Dead End Kids, GRIEF, or some of the stuff I’ve got in the pipeline.
COMIC LOUNGE: As somewhat of a newcomer to the comic book scene, what piece of advice would you give to writers trying to break in to the industry?
GOGOL: The most important piece of advice I could give to a new creator is to finish something.
You might be Alan Moore and be the most talented writer in the world, but if you don’t finish a comic, you can’t put it into a reader’s hands and no one will ever know how great you are. So finish your damn script. Finish your damn comic!
COMIC LOUNGE: How can people learn more about Dead End Kids, how can they order it, how can they find info online, and what conventions do you have coming up?
GOGOL: If anyone wants to know more about the book (or me), they should definitely give me a follow on Instagram or Twitter or even my personal Facebook page. I know that sounds really self-promotional, but the truth is I enjoy engaging with readers and fans and it’s something I wish more creators did. There’s definitely something to that grassroots approach to making comics, and I’m all about it.
Dead End Kids #1 drops on July 24th. Initial preorders just closed on issue one (and the orders were really, really strong), but I spoke with the publisher and the print run will exceed those order number by a bit, so anyone who’s interested in the book can get a first print copy through reorders still.
The Diamond order code for Dead End Kids #1 is MAY191908
Dead End Kids #2 is currently in Previews and can be ordered with the Diamond order code JUN191916.
Issue two is something special and is definitely my favorite thing that I’ve ever written, so I hope people will check it out.
In terms of conventions, I’ve got Ace Comic Con in Seattle at the end of June and then San Diego Comic Con in July. For those readers who are heading to SDCC and who are collectors, we’ll have a very cool SDCC-exclusive cover for Dead End Kids #1 by Tomb Raider artist Phil Sevy ahead of the book’s release.