Kyle Starks is the writer and artist behind the Eisner-nominated SEXCASTLE, and the first issue of his latest series, ROCK CANDY MOUNTAIN, goes on sale this April from Image Comics.
Naturally, given how absolutely amazing SEXCASTLE was, we simply had to know more about this one – a series which features the world’s toughest hobo searching through post-World War II America for the mythological Rock Candy Mountain, and which is set to include “high action, epic stakes, magic, friendships, trains, punching, kicking, joking, a ton of hobo nonsense.”
Well, we were fortunate enough to be able to sit down for a chat with Kyle about the series, and answer some of our burning hobo-related questions.
BIG COMIC PAGE: What was it about the world of hobo culture that you felt was ripe for the comicbook treatment?
KYLE STARKS: I don’t know if that was really the line of reasoning that I went through but I think we can all agree that it’s past time for a Hobo Revolution. I wanted to tell an epic journey set in America that was a little off the main road, had a bit of magic and mystery to it. It just seemed like the right setting for the story.
BCP: If Sexcastle was a love letter to the action movies of the ‘80s, Rock Candy Mountain almost feels like a hobo version of the classic Martial Arts movies of old. Would that be a fair assessment?
KYLE: Yes! Exactly! I had been watching a ton of old martial arts films, a lot of what they call wuxia films, and I really wanted to do what felt like the westernized version of that because I don’t think it existed? It’s such fun stuff – big stakes journeys, crazy adversaries, tons of fights, a little bit of magic or supernatural elements. That’s exactly what I was shooting for.
BCP: Tell us a little bit about Jackson, our leading man. What’s his story?
KYLE: Well, Jackson’s story is, intentionally, a mystery – his personal story is the book’s story but – he is an amazing fighter, almost impossibly good fighter, a real profesh of a hobo that’s looking for the legendary Rock Candy Mountain, hobo heaven and is maybe crazy? Oh yeah and the Literal Devil is searching for him. Why is he looking for the Mountain? To what purpose? Why does he think it’s real? That’s the book. I mean, along with again a ton of fights and cool hobo stuff.
BCP: It feels like a lot of research has gone into the nuances of hobo tradition for this one. What kind of preparation did you have to go through to make sure the book felt authentic?
KYLE: I’ve read every hobo book I could get my hand on, which is very many, so I think I’ve read most of them. The hobo culture, popularly, is like beat up hats, bindles and half eaten cans of beans but that’s not a realistic depiction of it – hobos were migratory workers. They weren’t dirty homeless – they were men and women who worked their way back and forth across the company free as birds in a life that was super rewarding if you could survive it.
BCP: Much like Sexcastle, this series features both humorous and serious moments. Is it important for you to strike that balance in your writing?
KYLE: Yeah, I think, personally, that you need both to make the other better. I think comics should be fun, so you need a good laugh, but I also want to tell compelling stories that make you feel something – so you need the serious too. I think the funny bits empower the serious bits and vice-versa.
BCP: One thing that seems to be getting a lot of attention in your work is your unconventional and, dare I say, *genius* use of onomatopoeia. Where did that come from, and is there a favourite sound effect you’ve used so far?
KYLE: In Rock Candy Mountain? Ha, I mean, it’s funny because sometimes I do FX that are basically nonsense to sort of just amuse myself, I didn’t realize anyone was really looking. In issue 1 Jackson kicks the head of the Hobo Mafia in the face and the FX is “bitch” which I think is really funny? In Sexcastle someone does a Muy Thai knee and the FX was Ong Bak’d which, again, amuses me to no end.
BCP: You’re working alongside colourist Chris Schweizer on this one rather than sticking with the black and white look of Sexcastle. What prompted that decision, and how has it been working with Chris on the book?
KYLE: I knew if I was going to do a series with Image it was going to have to be in color – and I know my own shortcomings – there’s a reason why my other books have been black and white or monochromatic. Color is not my strong suit. I was looking around and getting test pages and, like I said, color is not my strong suit so I was asking Chris’s advice and in the end he was like “let me do it – here’s what I’d do” and you can see it’s perfect. Chris Schweizer is one of the best cartoonists on the planet so getting him on the book was a best case scenario. I think he should win awards for his coloring on this series. I can’t say enough good things about Chris Schweizer the human or the artist – he’s as important to the quality of this book as anything I do is.
BCP: What can readers expect to see from the rest of the series, and do you have a specific number of issues in mind to tell the story?
KYLE: Oh man, it’s all going to ramp up more and more from here – I mean, I show the Devil destroying a hobo jungle on page one. It’s only going to get bigger and better. Lots of crazy characters, lots of epic encounters, crazy locales, mysteries, heists, jailbreaks, uh…a war? It’s going to be a fun ride. I have plans for a very specific arc that I have a pretty good idea for a certain number of issues. I’m hoping, however, it’s well received enough that I’m able to plan a second arc.
BCP: And finally, what would you say to someone on the fence about picking this one up to help convince them to give it a try?
KYLE: I’d say this – my personal philosophy is that comics should be fun. This comic is fun. Why deny yourself fun, huh?
ALSO? Hobo fights from here to the moon and back. Hobo fight party.
ROCK CANDY MOUNTAIN #1 goes on sale in print and digital on April 5th. In the meantime, you should totally follow Kyle on Twitter, and – if you have a spare few quid – his Patreon is also well worth a look.