First Comics News: What is the storyline in “Dead End Kids”?
Frank Gogol: Dead End Kids is the story of three kids in the late-90s trying to solve a murder. Its Stand By Me meets the Hardy Boys, but more violent.
But at its core, it’s the story of four messed up kids from broken homes and the stability that they find in one another and what happens when that stability is ripped away because one of them is murdered.
1st: How would you briefly describe the personalities of Tank, Amanda, Ben, and Murphy?
Frank: Without giving too much away, I’d say each of them fits one of the personalities most people would recognize from coming of age stories.
Tank is sort of the heart of the group and is the conscience. Amanda is the one who sort of had to grow up too fast. And Murphy is the leader of the group, but he’s also dealing with some really bad anger and abandonment issues.
And while these personalities are pretty recognizable, I think readers will be surprised at how they interplay in the story and the reasons the kids are the way they are. One of the big questions I wanted to explore when I was writing this is whether the things that happen to you, especially as a kid, determine who you become and how much control you have over that.
1st: What binds these kids together as friends?
Frank: While all the kids come from vastly different circumstances, they all fall into the old cliche of from being from broken homes. You see the same sort of thing going on in Stand By Me and definitely in The Breakfast Club.
So the thing that brings them together, honestly, is a need for stability and a feeling of safety that’s lacking at home, and they find those things in one another.
1st: What is the setting for this story in “Dead End Kids”?
Frank: As I mentioned the story is set in the late-90s. 1999, in particular. In terms of location, it’s not explicitly stated to be in any one place, but the local is definitely influenced by the sort of lower-class beach suburbs I grew up in.
1st: How would you describe the art in “Dead End Kids” and who is the artist?
Frank: I absolutely love the art in DEK and think that everything from the lines to the colors to the letters is just right.
On art and color, we’ve got Nenad Cviticanin and on letters, we have Sean Rinehart, both of whom worked extensively with me on my first book, GRIEF.
Getting to work with these guys again was an absolute dream. They’re both so talented, and working with them again almost 3 years after GRIEF, it’s amazing to see just how much they’ve grown as artists.
1st: Which of the kids in “Dead End Kids” are you most like?
Frank: Honestly, I put a little of my personality in each of them. Like Murphy, I was a…trying childhood and was pretty angry. And like Amanda, I had to grow up a little faster than any kid should have to. But like Tank, I stayed optimistic and did my best to roll with the punches.
1st: Where does your inspiration come from?
Frank: All kinds of places. Sometimes, I’ll imagine a character changed I’d like to write and I work backward from there. Sometimes, there’s a genre I’m interested in exploring. And sometimes, like with Dead End Kids, there are questions I want to grapple with.
1st: How did you start your writing career?
Frank: Too late and quickly.
I wanted to be a comic book writer since I was 18 years old and didn’t write my first script until I was 28. So, there were about 10 years when I didn’t do a lot to start my career. So, when the time came, I went all in and tried to make up for lost time.
1st: What is your graphic novel “Grief” about and how will it touch others?
Frank: GRIEF is a collection of horror and sci-fi stories that explore the five stages of the grieving process. There are sort of three experiences that are truly universal for humans: we’re born, we die, and we grieved. But, even though grieving is a universal existence, it’s not something we talk about or engage with very much.
So, I wanted to take a hard look at it, and I think the book I ended up with does a pretty good job of that. I’m not saying there are any answers in the pages in the book, but there’s some hope, and hope is a very powerful thing.
1st: Would you like to write a part two of “Grief”?
Frank: I can neither confirm nor deny the existence of a GRIEF 2. But, it’s definitely something I’ve thought about from time to time.
1st: Which people in comics do you admire?
Frank: Oh, god. There are so many. In no particular order a definitely leaving a lot of people out: Rick Remender, Jonathan Hickman, David Mack, Jeff Lemire, Wes Craig, Daphna Pleban, Ryan Parrott, and so, so many more.
1st: What are you currently working on and when can we see it?
Frank: Well, Dead End Kids #1 drops on July 24 (for those interested, the Diamond code is MAY 191908 and a handful of copies are available at the distributor level). That’s run for 3 issues and I think people will really be surprised by it.
After that, I’ve got a book that’s tentatively slated for next year called The Used (think Buffy the Vampire Slayer if she was a drug addict and had to take on the Lost Boys).
Beyond that, I have a handful of projects that I’m going to drop on Kickstarter throughout 2020 that I can’t quite talk about yet–but anyone who wants to know more can check out my newsletter.
1st: What tips do you have for other writers?
Frank: The most important thing is to just push on and finish things. You can’t sell a book that’s not finished. You can’t get feedback to become a better writer if you don’t finish a script. I unlocked my momentum the day I finished something and I’ve been moving ever since. But had I not finished, I’d still be talking about comics, rather than actually making them.
1st: What do you want to say to fans of your work?
Frank: To anyone–and I mean ANYONE–who’s ever enjoyed anything I wrote, I want to say thank you. If it’s connecting with you and you want more, then I’m doing my job and that’s the most important thing in the world to me.