BCP Interview – Kiwi Smith, Kurt Lustgarten and Naomi Franquiz talk MISFIT CITY
Next month sees the release of MISFIT CITY, a brand new all-ages series from BOOM! Box, an imprint of award-winning publisher BOOM! Studios.
What makes the series particularly fascinating – aside from its fantastic premise, which we’ll get to in a moment – is the fact that it marks the comic book debut of Kirsten “Kiwi” Smith. Smith, the screenwriter of films like Legally Blonde and 10 Things I Hate About You, has co-written the series alongside Kurt Lustgarten, with Naomi Franquiz providing the artwork.
We obviously wanted to find out more about this “Goonies with girls”, and were incredibly fortunate to be able to sit down for a chat with the entire creative team to find out why we should all want to spend a little time in MISFIT CITY this May.
BIG COMIC PAGE: Firstly, for readers who may not be familiar with the series, can you give us a quick rundown of just what MISFIT CITY is all about?
KIWI SMITH & KURT LUSTGARTEN: Misfit City is about a group of girls living in Cannon Cove, a small coastal town that most people have only heard of because it was the filming location for a beloved kids’ adventure movie from the 1980s. They’re sick of their town and the tourists that come to gawk at them, but they end up discovering a real treasure map, which leads them on an adventure even crazier than the one in the movie.
NAOMI FRANQUIZ: Misfit City is one part moody and dissatisfied teens, two parts Scooby-Doo hijinks and villainy, and a pinch of ’90s nostalgia all mixed up in a small town of local characters and unyieldingly eerie Pacific Northwest forestry.
BCP: How did the idea for the series come about? Obviously there’s some heavy parallels to The Goonies at play here, so I’m assuming that was a significant influence?
KIWI & KURT: We were driving back from visiting Kiwi’s parents on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington. Kurt had always wanted to visit Astoria, Oregon—where they filmed The Goonies, because he’s a massive fan—so we made a detour. As we rolled into town blasting Cyndi Lauper’s theme song from the movie, it got us thinking about what it must be like for kids who grow up in a town famous for a classic kids’ adventure movie—and how many tourists they have to deal with. We started brainstorming and had a pretty strong sense of the story by the time we got home to Los Angeles.
BCP: Kiwi, what prompted the jump from the world of screenwriting to the realm of comic books?
KIWI: Shannon Watters at BOOM! Box reached out to me after we’d been following each other on Twitter, and she asked if I’d ever consider writing a comic. It felt like a dream come true, because I’ve had so many female-driven movie ideas that I’d wanted to launch with a comic, but I literally had no idea how to go about doing it. And then this magical human Shannon appears in my life. We met for lunch and I started tossing out a whole bunch of ideas to her, but the one that really stuck was Misfit City.
BCP: What differences have you found in writing for the printed page as opposed to the big screen?
KIWI: Screenwriting can be politically charged and stressful, and with this, it feels much more chill and creatively pure. I’ve written two novels before, but I’ve really loved comic-writing because I’ve gotten to have a soul-connection with Naomi, as she’s bringing our characters and story to life with her art.
BCP: Tell us a little bit about the inhabitants of Cannon Cove. Who should our readers be keeping an eye out for?
KIWI & KURT: Wilder is basically the leader of the bunch. She’s a very engaged 15-year-old who wants to change the world. Mostly, that means getting as far away from home as possible. She wants to do something important with her life and help other people, but she doesn’t realize that she can do both starting right in Cannon Cove. She yearns for adventure, and she is always trying to get her friends pumped up to get out and do something. She’s not someone who likes to sit still.
There’s Macy, who’s very punk rock and unabashedly sarcastic, and probably the raddest person in the entire town, even though she doesn’t get along with most of the people in it.
And Karma, who’s perpetually upbeat and into auras, crystals, energy readings, etc. She is in many ways the positive force we all wish we could be.
There’s Dot, the bookworm and absolute brains of the bunch.
And Ed, a born hustler and daughter of the town’s biggest land developer.
And there’s Wilder’s rescue dog, Pippin, a special-needs pit bull with no sense of smell, who has a bewildering amount of insight and innate intelligence.
NAOMI: It may be a story about teens, but I always like to keep an eye out for the parents in this type of stories. People are shaped by their parents in one way or another, good or bad. Especially in such a small town, word travels fast and it’s only a matter of time before somebody gets grounded.
BCP: I know it’s a bit like picking your favourite child, but do you each have a favourite character out of the bunch?
KURT: This is always the toughest question. I really love Wilder because of how she keeps the group together and has an infectious passion for adventure; however, I just think Macy is so cool. She’s got this bone-dry sense of humor, great taste in clothes and music, and feels like someone you’d really want to hang out with.
KIWI: I relate to Karma the most, because she’s an innocent optimist. My heart belongs mostly to Pippin, though, because she’s based on real-life Pippin.
NAOMI: My favorite keeps changing the more I work on this story and I learn more and more about each of them. Currently, my favorite is Ed. I do love me an opportunist.
BCP: Naomi, tell us a little bit about the diversity and body positivity you’ve tried to include in your character designs?
NAOMI: With the main cast, the supporting cast, and anyone in the background, I want to make diversity of all types normal (as it really should be in media as it is in life). I never want someone’s race, size, ethnicity, etc. to be the main focus of that character – it’s a part of them, but it’s not ALL of them, and I think the first step to that is normalizing it in everyday scenes.
BCP: Who do you see as being the main target audience for this series?
KIWI & KURT: We created this book with girls in mind, from age 7 to 77, but as it’s evolved we feel it has something for everybody, especially with the diverse cast of characters that Naomi has designed. Guys and girls who grew up on classic kids’ adventure movies, and particularly those that would like to share those kinds of stories with their own kids.
NAOMI: For me, the primary target is young girls – giving them a medium to see themselves reflected in and doing awesome things in. However, the same way I’ve had to enjoy male-targeted media as a girl (movies, comics, videogames, etc.), I think Misfit City is something that everyone can enjoy.
BCP: What would be the one main thing you’d want readers to take away with them after reading this series?
NAOMI: Beyond ambition and self-motivation, I’d love for readers to leave this series with a renewed appreciation for the friends and support systems they have around them.
KIWI & KURT: Get out and explore! Wherever you are, chances are you’re surrounded by lots of things worth discovering… and it’s often too easy to take those things for granted. Whether it’s a new hiking trail, the forgotten streets and corners of your town, the local library or museum (or your local comic book shop!), get out there and mix it up!
BCP: And finally, if you could each say one thing to a reader who was perhaps on the shelf about picking Misfit City up to help convince them to give it a try, what would it be?
KIWI & KURT: If you have ever wanted to set off on an adventure with your favorite group of friends, that’s exactly what you’ll find inside this book.
NAOMI: There’s a very cute dog in this comic. I know because I drew her. I drew her lots, with an extra floppy tongue. If you don’t like adorable, floppy, happy and clever dogs, then… I got nothin’. Good luck with life, buddy.
MISFIT CITY #1 goes on sale in print and digitally on May 10th 2017, and you can preview the first four pages below.
The writer of this piece was: Craig Neilson-Adams (aka Ceej)
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