Q&A with Neil Kleid of Brownsville, The Big Kahn
Neil Kleid first came to my attention as the writer/artist of the Xeric-winning “Ninety Candles,” an innovative graphic novel in which each panel represented a year. Here’s what I wrote about the book in early 2005, naming Ninety Candles one of the best graphic novels of the year:
Neil Kleid’s experimental “Ninety Candles” follows the life of cartoonist Kevin Hall, with one panel representing each year of Hall’s life. The book was done improvisationally, with no pre-existing script — each day represented in the book was created in a day.
Kleid has since created the Jewish gangster story “Brownsville,” coming to the iPhone via Panelfly, and one of the best graphic novels of 2009, “The Big Kahn.” The following is a Q&A with Kleid about those projects.
Matt Price: Tell me about the process of taking Brownsville to the iPhone. Was reformatting involved? Did you have involvement in the process?
Neil Kleid: Not really — basically, NBM Publishing handed off the files to the boys and girls at Panelfly and they went to town, making the classic mob drama available for your handheld electronical telephonic listening devices. Jake and I? We just watched with awe.
The process is definitely exciting. Each and every day another smart phone comes to market—be it iPhone, Pre, Droid or Blackberry—and the comic book industry is matching them stride for stride. The only thing, as a cartoonist or graphic novelist you really need to do is change your point of view, understand that this is the limitless new horizon and get on board.
MP: What do you think makes a comic or graphic novel a good candidate for the iPhone?
NK: There are definitely certain comics/GNS more suited to a smart phone viewer than others. For instance, as a creator who has seen his work shrunk from standard 6×9 pages to digest I’ve noticed the benefits of having pages with fewer panels, lighter dialogue, stronger art. Taking a nine-panel Giffen grid down to an iPhone may not work as well as a four-panel manga (that is, unless you display the story panel by panel…!). Brighter art, easy to read panels, clear transitions —these are all elements needed for optimum smart phone reading.
That being said, I’m the dude that packs 6 panels on a page so maybe my book isn’t the optimum candidate, either. Looks pretty in yer hand-phone, though.
MP: Tell me about the series, for those who might be unfamiliar.
MP: Can you tell me about your artist on Brownsville?
NK: Jake Allen is a prince among men—that is, if those men are all poor, underappreciated inkslingers devoted to the sequential arts and a slave to detail. The man’s work is so refined that he draws every building’s brick, every herringbone in your suit, every shadow, nook, cranny and dramatic detail in a story that asks a great deal from a first time graphic illustrator. And Jake? He delivers.
MP: Of course, this year, your critically acclaimed The Big Kahn graphic novel hit the shelves. Could you describe that for me?
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