I had the awesome opportunity to interview Kurtis Wiebe and talk to him about his recent work Peter Panzerfaust. Bobby did an interview with him and Scott Kowalchuk in 2011 and their work with The Intrepids; it was great hearing from Kurtis again and catching up with his latest project.
Nerdlocker (NL): I know you for your wonderful work with Peter Panzerfaust and Grim Leaper, but please introduce yourself to those who may not be familiar with your work.
Kurtis Wiebe (KW): I’m a comic book writer who’s been working away at projects since fall of 2009 with my first series Beautiful Creatures through Red 5 Comics (Atomic Robo). Since then I’ve been published with Image and Image Shadowline with The Intrepids, Green Wake, Debris and the other two titles you mentioned.
NL: What was your favorite story or tale to read as a kid?
KW: I was always into fantasy stories when I was younger. I remember reading The Hobbit being completely unaware of the entire genre of fantasy and it was a massive revelation. I really could never get enough. I devoured Lord of the Rings and any other related style story. This one book comes to mind now, it terrified me as a kid, pretty sure it was called The Magic Bicycle. Pretty scary, right?
NL: What pulled you in to write stories for comic books?
KW: Warren Ellis and Ben Templesmith’s Image series Fell. A friend had bought me a few comics as a birthday gift in the mid 2000’s and I hadn’t read a comic since I was a kid. I was clueless to the fact that there were comics in genres outside superheroes. When I discovered that, I went to a local comic store and bought a bunch of titles, Fell included. From there I changed focus from short story and novel writing to comics because it was a brand new medium to play in.
NL: What is your favorite genre to write?
KW: You know, I still haven’t figured that out. I’ve been dabbling in a bit of everything in my comic work; horror, fantasy, action/adventure, and comedy. Honestly, it all really depends on my mood and where I’m at in life. That is ultimately what dictates a new project.
NL: Why did you want to be a writer?
KW: I’ve always been involved in creativity in some capacity. I played piano from a young age, became involved in the drama department in high school and wrote short stories and poetry during and out of high school as well. In my twenties I wrote an occasional short work of fiction just for my own enjoyment and found it to be a very welcome escape from normal life. I’m not even sure when it became a pursuit. I think it was just a natural evolution of spending more time putting ideas on paper and getting some pretty strong feedback from online communities. I always assumed it would be done as a hobby and never dreamed of it being a career. So, in a lot of ways, I’m very fortunate.
Still, I did work very hard to get where I am now. I by no means fell into it. I had at least 30 rejection letters before I received any positive feedback, and I think because I was only ever seeking it as a hobby, the rejection didn’t hurt too much. So, I just kept at it.
NL: I know that you write for a wide variety of styles, such as videogames and novels, which is your preferred style to write for? How have writing for each of these styles affected one another?
KW: I like all of them, but comics is still the most enjoyable for a very simple reason: it’s 100% collaborative. Writing the story is just the beginning of an issue in a comic series. Once I’ve contributed my part, you talk with the artist, hand over the script to them and watch their creative mind bring it to life. I think that open minded spirit has benefited my creative process in that it’s allowed for me to take feedback and criticism and apply it to any project without taking it personally. That’s a pretty important skill to have in any creative medium.
NL: What is the most challenging thing about creating a character? How do you decide on naming them?
KW: Well, the heavy lifting was done for me in Peter Panzerfaust as far as naming them, but in my other series I think it’s always a matter of piecing names together until something really catches for the character. Creating characters from scratch is often the most fun for me. Sometimes I build them around a story concept or vice versa. Intrepids came about from a single character idea that expanded into a full blown story whereas Grim Leaper I created Lou Collins to fit into the basic concept of the story.
NL: I don’t think I’ve seen anything quite like your recreation of Peter Pan. What inspired you to put a new twist on the classic fairy tale?
KW: This series goes back three years for me and it all originated in an email brainstorming session with the illustrator, Tyler Jenkins. We’d done a few work for hire projects together and were excited about trying out something new, a series we could call our own. Tyler sent me an email about a story set during the Vietnam War where a group of kids were waging a guerrilla war in the jungles and he added, “something like the Lost Boys from Peter Pan.”
I didn’t take to the idea right away, but I’d been doing some personal reading on World War II and was riveted by HBO’s Band of Brothers at the time. When I began to think about Tyler’s seed of an idea, I started to see a very interesting way that I could take elements of real history and combine them with plots and characters from the Peter Pan mythology. It grew into something larger from there.
NL: How did you go about keeping Peter Panzerfaust new and fresh?
KW: I think it’s tied into how I’m adapting the themes and characters in a slightly off center way. By that I mean I’m not doing a direct adaptation, scene for scene. This is taking the concepts of the Peter Pan story and applying them to war torn France. Most everything has a different meaning, from Peter chasing his shadow to the relationship between him and Hook.
NL: What character is your favorite to write for, and why?
KW: Tiger Lily. I have no idea why she’s been so easy to write but her voice was the most fun to work with since her very first scene. She’s alive with passion, brash but loving and isn’t afraid to show her affection. And she’s got a pretty strange sense of humour.
NL: What advice do you have for others who want to be writers?
KW: Rejection letters don’t mean you aren’t a capable writer. They mean you have improvements to make and, in that sense, a rejection letter can be the best thing to receive. Don’t be afraid of criticism. And, honestly, don’t stop trying. It took me YEARS of failure to find success, and while that isn’t always the case, it is the more common experience. Be prepared for that, but don’t let it taint your love of writing.
NL: What do you hope to achieve in the future?
KW: Just to work full time on my comic projects and not worry about having to do 100 other small projects to pay the bills. That’d be the perfect place creatively.
Thank you, Kurtis, for giving me the opportunity to interview you and get to know the man behind Peter Panzerfaust. Volume one of Peter Panzerfaust is on the shelves, and volume two is going to be released on May 28, 2013. A motion comic is in the works as well, with Elijah Wood, Ron Perlman, Summer Glau, and Dante Basco (RUFIOOOOOOOOOO!). More information on the motion comic can be found on the Image website. If you haven’t started reading this series, now would be the perfect time to start. You can keep up with Kurtis at his blog HERE and follow Peter Panzerfaust updates HERE.