This July sees the release of Dead End Kids from Source Point Press. Written by Frank Gogol, illustrated by Nenad Cviticanin and colored by Sean Rinehart, the series takes us back to 1999 where a group of kids from broken homes join together to solve the murder of their friend. It’s a coming-of-age murder mystery. I had a chance to speak with writer Frank Gogol about the project, the ’90s, and his journey through comics.
James Ferguson: I get a Stephen King vibe from Dead End Kids, between the characters, the setting, and the uneasy feeling. Is his work an influence?
Frank Gogol: Nostalgic coming-of-age stories are some of my favorite stories. The Sandlot, The Breakfast Club, and, yes, definitely, Stephen King. I really enjoy King’s work in general, but especially his coming-of-age stories like “The Body”, which was adapted into the movie Stand By Me, and IT. I’d say both of those works, in particular, influenced Dead End Kids.
The parallels between a group of kids trying to solve a murder in Dead End Kids and the group of kids in Stand By Me who are trying to find the body of another kid who has died, I think, are pretty easy to pick up on.
But I think IT is thematically a bit more in line with Dead End Kids. The kids in Dead End Kids are all from broken homes and really rely on one another for their stability. But unlike the kids in Stand by Me, and most other coming-of-age stories, the kids in Dead End Kids, much like the kids in IT, are tied forever together by the shared trauma.
My friends from childhood and I are still all very close and it’s always felt sort of dishonest–this idea that these groups of friends always grow up and grow apart. That wasn’t my experience and I think this is true for a lot of people, so I wanted to tell that story. A story about how these strong bonds are formed and tested by life.
JF: What is it about the ’90s that drew you to set Dead End Kids during this time period?
FG: About a year and a half ago, I turned 30 and I got really nostalgic. I started remembering those “best years of my life” playing outside, building clubhouses in the woods, and having to be in before the street lights came on.
But then I started to remember that not-so-great stuff. Things in my household and my friends’ households weren’t that great and I remembered how we sort of relied on one another. We couldn’t fix each other’s problems at home, but we could take care of one another and that’s how, I think, a strong friendship was forged.
And I was experiencing all of this in the late 90s, so when I came to the idea of telling this story, it was a no-brainer that it’d be set in 1999.
I really should mention that Nenad, who drew and colored the book, should get the brunt of the praise for just how 90s the book is. There were definitely conversations about the aesthetic of the book and there were bits in the script, but Nenad really went above and beyond to give the book a true 90s feel and he did it without it being too over-the-top. It’s an incredible balancing act, and he nailed it.
JF: You’ve worked with Nenad Cviticanin and Sean Rinehart on Grief before this. How is your collaboration process with the team?
FG: I’d previously worked extensively with Nenad and Sean on my first book, Grief. And that experiences was just so smooth and they’re just so good at what they do that I wrote Dead End Kids with them in mind.
I didn’t know at the time that I’d necessarily get to work with them, but I knew that they were my dream-team for the book if we could line it up, which we were able to do.
From there it was just smooth. Outside of looking over pages and copyediting the script, the whole process was pretty hands-off for me after we got rolling and that’s a testament to the talent they bring to the table.
JF: Grief was originally distributed through Kickstarter and then picked up by Source Point Press. How does it feel to have the publisher behind you from the start with Dead End Kids?
FG: It’s pretty surreal, to be honest. I’ve only been making comics for three years and to have a publisher–and one of the best indie publishers in the game, at that–is so incredibly rewarding, humbling, and, honestly, inspiring.
Knowing that my Source Point Press family has my back lets me take more chances with my stories, which is a real confidence-booster. And I think it makes the work better.
JF: Your journey through comics has been pretty interesting to watch between Kickstarter and your newsletter. If you could go back in time and give one piece of advice to yourself as you were starting, what would it be?
FG: I’d tell myself that hard work and hustle will pay off and to keep going. Making comics is hard, it’s expensive, and it’s time-consuming. There were, and still are, a lot of days that I have to talk myself up and remind myself that it’s all worth it. That I love doing this. Knowing that then, probably would have made the road here a little bit easier.
Dead End Kids #1 is set for release on July 25, 2019 and it’s currently available for pre-order. We’d like to thank Frank for taking the time to speak with us.